About Pressure Cookers II

This is a consolidation of information from a very informative website that has compiled data from several pressure cooker manufacturers as well as their own test. I use this site when I add pressure cooker recipes to the site. This post pertains to the use of a pressure cooker.

Pressure cooker info website.

When first starting to use a pressure cooker (this pertains to stove top type which I have), think simple items first, like a side dish or beans. Learn the basics, get comfortable using, and the basic mechanics of how it is used.

For beans, different beans have different times, same applies with dry or soaked beans. As I go through and prepare various types of beans, I will add a recipe here with the verified times. So far I have made pinto and red kidney beans, and the times I state in my recipes are perfect, and from the link provided at the top of this post.

For meats, different cuts have different times, stew beef is a different time from say an entire roast, as well as types of meat may have different times.

Your pressure cooker is a time saving tool, what I hate to see is pressure cooker chili recipes that call for canned beans, yes, canned beans. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose of using a pressure cooker to simple heat a pot of chili. How you should approach this is to use your pressure cooker to cook dry or soaked beans (dry red kidney beans takes 22 minutes on high pressure, and soaked takes just 8 minutes). Now you have flavorful beans for say a pot of chili. Drain the beans, now use the pot to brown your beef, add what ever you like, add the beans and just simmer in the pot without the lid, perfect.

Think about the time on pressure when you come across an internet recipe, does it seem right?¬†When in doubt, check the time on the site at the top of this post. A few days ago I came across a recipe for Rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry. First thing I read is the reviewers comments and see what they say and what they changed. Many people said very bland, mushy, horrible, things they did to make it flavorful, etc. So I read through the ingredients, those seemed ok, and then read through the instructions, and one item seemed very odd “place the lid on the cooker and bring to high pressure for 40 minutes, then reduce to low pressure for another 15 minutes, then allow a natural release of pressure.” That seems extremely long for red kidney beans, that were soaked as well! So when in doubt, double check the time! 40 minutes on high pressure would certainly result in bland and mushy beans. I wrote the recipe to use 8 minutes on high pressure.

You need a liquid in the pressure cooker. Say you want to pressure cook beets, I use 1 1/2 cups of water and as many beets as I want, as long I do not go over 2/3 full on the pot. The liquid provides the steam to lock up the cooker, after that, the heat and pressure do the cooking. When the cooking is done, the liquid amount is nearly what you started with.

There is no taste and adjust using a pressure cooker. Once the lid goes on and on high pressure, go for the time indicated, once the pressure is released, you can taste and adjust, most times you will adjust and just simmer for a few minutes without the lid then serve. If an item is not done, say beets are still not fork tender or beans are not tender, place the lid back on and bring up to pressure again (it is faster this time since the water is still hot) and cook for another minute or two, then let pressure release and check again. This can be caused by the type of heat source, your elevation, misread the time required, and the weight on the vent – meaning 12, 13, 14, or 15 pounds depending on your model of pressure cooker.

Stay near the pressure cooker. I have a Thai family, some are quite curious to see what I am cooking and are lid lifters. Since they cannot open the pressure cooker when it is locked up, I do not want them removing the weight, as that results in serious burns and the contents of the pot on your kitchen ceiling. So I stay near it when using it, I just go about prepping or cooking other items, and keep the family away from the cooker.

Once comfortable with using the pressure cooker and understanding how it works, then work your way to cooking an entire meal, say a stew for example.

About Pressure Cookers I

This is a consolidation of information from a very informative website that has compiled data from several pressure cooker manufacturers as well as their own test. I use this site when I add pressure cooker recipes to the site.

Pressure cooker info website.

I have a good friend I get lots of advice from, as well as the tables on the link above. As I prepare items in my pressure cooker, I add what I find as a recipe. The following info is based on my stove top (old school) 9 liter (9 1/2 quart pressure cooker.

Some info on how a pressure cooker works:

1. Water at sea level boils at 100 C (212 F), a open pot sitting on your stove boiling water will not and cannot get any hotter than 100 C (212 F). As you go up in elevation, the temperature decreases .5 C (1 F) every 500 feet in altitude. At 8,000 feet, water boils at 92 C (197 F). (Science is amazing)

2. At sea level you have approximately 15 pounds (lbs) of pressure on you, and as you go higher in altitude, you have less pressure on you. The 15 lbs is what is called 1 Bar, bar is a measure for atmospheric pressure.

3. Stove top pressure cookers typically work in the range of 13 to 15 lbs of pressure. Some older models the weight used has different openings and can operate at 10 lbs which is considered low pressure, and 13 to 15 lbs is considered high pressure.

4. The increase of pressure, just as you might have guessed it, increases the temperature of water, and the water is not boiling when the cooker is at high pressure, food items can certainly be sticking out of the water or even on a steamer rack. The water in the pressure cooker at high pressure can reach 250 F, VERY HOT and results in serious burns if the cooker ruptures or vents to atmosphere rapidly.

5. Electric pressure cookers, by their design, operate at 10 to 12 lbs, foods cooked in those takes a few more minutes than a stove top pressure cooker.

6. Food is cooked faster with a pressure cooker, and keeps the flavor in the food, not boiled away like in a pot of water on the stove.

Safety with a stove top pressure cooker:

1. Pressure cookers are probably the most dangerous kitchen item ever invented, your model of pressure cooker should have an instruction book and a list of safety precautions.

2. The basic features of most stove top pressure cooker model today are:

  • Pressure vent. This is the working part that has a weight which maintains the constant pressure. The weight normally jiggles and turns as it vents. On my model I have a cover on the pressure vent that is slotted, I remove that cover and hold the vent to a light source and look through it before each use.
  • Seal vents. There is 1 to 2 vents, just slots on the lid that will relieve pressure if the seal (gasket) fails, such as it breaks. The slots will be normally opposite the handle and are designed to direct steam downward and away from you, so keep the handle pointed towards you. Before each use, remove the gasket and feel for cracks, if smooth all the way around, place it back in the lid and continue with what you are going to cook.
  • Soft plugs. Think of these as emergency relief valves. There is normally one or two of these devices on the lid, also away from the user. These can be a popup type that works with a spring or a physical plug that will blow out when the pressure is too high. If a soft plug blows out or lifts, it is very loud, and creates a lot of steam, and pretty much any liquid in the pot will come out of the soft plug. When the soft plugs release pressure the water will boil violently and is extremely hot as well as the steam.
  • Lid lock. On modern stove top models now, most have a device that will lock the lid when there is pressure inside the sealed vessel. Mine is a pin that lifts upward into the lid handle. Some are just a simple pin, some are colored. The main thing to be aware of if the pin is raised, it means there is pressure inside and the handle is locked. The raised pin is NOT an indicator of high pressure, just an indication there is pressure inside.
  • Level of contents. For items like rice, beans, pastas, no more than 1/2 full. The reason is these items swell or foam when cooking, ALWAYS add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to the pot as well to reduce the foaming, if foaming reaches the pressure vent it may block that (foam goes up the sides and across the lid). For items like meats, vegetables, no more than 2/3 full.
  • Use good charts for timing, such as the link at the top of this post or from recipes I have verified times on. Take notes on what works well for you.

Advantages using a stove top pressure cooker:

1. First, less time. Dry beans, soaked beans, whole frozen chicken, fork tender beef and pork, etc. There is Pressure Cooker sub-categories on many of the categories I have listed.

2. Flavor. The flavor stays in the food item, not simply boiled away like an open pot on the stove.

3. Less energy used. With less time, comes less energy. Think of it this way, beets. To cook beets on the stove in a pot of boiling water can take what, 30 minutes, 45 minutes? There is two factors that cause that, the amount of water you need to bring to a boil, and the water, at sea level, never gets hotter than 100 C (212 F). With my 9 1/2 quart pressure cooker, I add 1 1/2 cups of water and place the beets on the steamer tray, bring it up to pressure on high heat, does not take long to boil 1 1/2 cups of water, then the lid lock raises and the boiling stops another 1-2 minutes, at high pressure, then I turn the heat to low to maintain the pressure for 8 minutes, just 8 minutes.

4. Simplicity. With proper use, the only item to replace is the gasket, those are cheap, and some of my friends have operated their pressure cookers for many years with no failure with the gasket. If you lose the weight, that is easily replaced and low cost like the gasket. The advantage, you have a nice big thick walled pot to use without using the lid if you like. The electric models, just too many things to fail on those, and if you lose power, they cannot be used, unlike a stove top model.

Lemon & Lime Juice Measurements

Nearly all the recipes posted here (except for Thai recipes), lemon and lime juice measurements are commonly ‘juice from 1/2 lemon’ or ‘juice from two limes’. For the readers, this works well if you have regular size lemons and limes where you live.

Here in Thailand, however, lemons are not that common, and limes are small, just a bit bigger than a golf ball. So for those viewers in Thailand that want to use a recipe that calls for the juice of a lime or lemon, use this as a guide, you can still use fresh limes and lemons, BUT measure the quantities.

These are average amounts:

1 lemon yields: 3 tablespoons of juice.
1 lime yields: 2 tablespoons of juice.

Minimarts, not all are the same…

I am not talking about 7-11’s or Family Mart’s, I am talking mom and pop minimarts. Not only do they have day to day items you may need, some can be quite surprising with what they offer.

When you get settled into where you are living, go out and check the local minimarts. Nearly all have the basics, cooking oil, sardines, eggs, soap, shampoo, evaporated milk, and coffee (and beer). Depending how rural you are, you may be able to walk to many minimarts or may need to ride a scooter to the ones 1-2 kms away, check them out, it is worth it.

I like to use several minimarts for common items, you are helping each of the families. On a clear day, I will ride my scooter for 1 km to get beer, soap, shampoo, even eggs, but they do not have evaporated milk. So at the minimart right across the road, I get milk, evaporated milk, yogurt (used is many recipes I cook), plus sugar, salt, and the common items when it is raining.

I found one minimart, that is almost on par with a 7-11, flour, baking powder, several types of cooking oil, plastic-ware for storage containers, etc. Any items in the minimarts is just a few baht more than what you would pay for in a Tesco, so use the local minimarts and save yourself a trip to town or to a Tesco. The few baht extra would cost you that in petrol, traffic, time, and on the plus side, you are helping the locals, not a corporation.

Flour Measurements

When baking it is always best to weigh your flour than using a cup measurement. Humidity is a big factor, weighing the flour provides the most accurate way to measure. I use a digital scale for all flour measurements when making bread.

All Purpose Flour

1 cup = 128 grams = 4.5 ounces
3/4 cup = 96 grams = 3.38 ounces
2/3 cup = 85 grams = 3 ounces
1/2 cup = 64 grams = 2.25 ounces
1/3 cup = 43 grams = 1.5 ounces
1/4 cup = 32 grams = 1.13 ounces
1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) = 16 grams = .563 ounces

Bread Flour

1 cup = 136 grams = 4.8 ounces
3/4 cup = 102 grams = 3.6 ounces
2/3 cup = 90 grams = 3.2 ounces
1/2 cup = 68 grams = 2.4 ounces
1/3 cup = 45 grams = 1.6 ounces
1/4 cup = 34 grams = 1.2 ounces

Rye Flour

1 cup = 102 grams = 3.6 ounces

Zip Lock Bags

This may seem like an odd post but I thought this was warranted. Zip lock bags were not available in the town near us for about 3 years, now they are stocked and we get them often. These surprisingly are labeled as 1 Gallon bags, with expanding bottoms as well. Only this size is available here, smaller sizes would be nice but I won’t complain as I have them now.

If you are grinding your own meat, these are a bonus to you, put the meat in, roll up, seal, and label. I keep these at 500 grams of ground beef or pork per package.

Think of marinating some meat for the grill or cooking later, add everything to the bag and the meat, squish it up a bit to mix it in, roll to get all the air out, seal, and refrigerate, easy.

If you buy vegetables on sale, such as bell peppers, dice the peppers and bag what you think would be needed in a recipe and freeze.

Very versatile.

Grams to Pounds

When I started this site it was mainly aimed at expats living here in Thailand so measurements for meat, pasta, cheese I give in grams as that is how we buy it here. Smaller liquid and dry measurements are given in cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons.

To remove any confusion I use the following for meat, cheese, and pasta, think of the following when you read a recipe that states, say 500 grams of beef:

500 grams = 1 pound (actually it is 1.10 pounds, no one will complain).

Once you think like that, easy to remember, the recipes are much easier to follow.

For baking of pastries and bread, weight measurements are more accurate than cup or spoon measurements and may be listed by weight, I have a digital scale for this.

Chili Powder & Red Chili Paste

Chili Powder – When I first started cooking here one of the first things I made was a pot of Chili, good wholesome chow. I make mine with red kidney beans, ground pork or beef, tomato juice, cumin and chili powder. I needed to get chili powder so I went to Tesco in town and bought a small bottle of chili powder, very finely ground, and I would say it is on par with what is sold as chili powder in the states. Worked well.

I have started using a lot of chili powder so I decided to buy it in bulk in a bag. This is not a fine powder, it is course but on the package is “Chili Powder”. So I picked up three of these bags, got home and poured them into a container for the spice and dry goods cabinet. It will clear your sinuses just smelling it! This is real chili powder.

A few days later I made homemade Chorizo, recipe was followed exactly (I always follow exact before I start tailoring things around) and I made 6 patties. The next day I fried 2 to go with my breakfast of eggs and toast. Let me just say, HOT! Great flavor, but very hot.

So my advice is to check the chili powder if you buy a new brand. My tummy cannot take the really hot stuff anymore so I use the good hot brand I bought, I just use less of it in recipes. If not using the fine powder type chili powder and using this type of chili powder, cut back on the amount used until you get a taste of dish you are making, then adjust as needed.

Red Chili Paste – Paste is used to make coconut curries, and for where I live in the south, paste can be used to just flavor a dish, no coconut milk involved. Every mom and pop minimart that has fresh vegetables will more than likely have chili paste, this is homemade and in small bags, usually for 5 Baht/bag. However, there is a difference in ingredients for curry type, and the non curry type, so be clear on which one you are getting for the intended use.

Cooking and Baking

Cooking – think making a skillet dish, an omelet, baking stuffed bell peppers, that is using a recipe.

Baking – think dinner rolls, hamburger buns, breads, pastries, this is using a formula, and there is a difference between a recipe and a formula.

Stated often in the recipes I have listed here on this site is what I call variants, things you can to change up, optional items. And as I state many times, recipes are not set in stone and can be changed on the taste of the user or with what is available or on hand at the time.

Cooking, just volume measurements are adequate and perfectly fine.

Baking, one can get away with volume measurements, but the preferred method is by weight. Digital scales are very reasonable in cost and very accurate. If you have a pastry or bread formula in weight and volume, use the weight measurements if you have a digital scale.

With baking formulas, unless one is a very experienced baker, always follow the formula, reducing one ingredient may have serious affects on another ingredient, and these affects are never good and the end product you are making will not turn out well.

Information provided courtesy of good friend, Garland Davis, US Navy Cook (Ret).
United States.

Stock or Broth?

Odd question that I never really gave any thought to, what is the difference between stock and broth? This was brought to my attention today by a good friend and respected cook, there is a difference.

I made a chicken pasta dish yesterday, 8 Dec 2016, and I mentioned I boiled the chicken quarters then returned the bones to the pot to simmer longer. As it turns out, I made what I will call chicken broth stock.

Broth is from simmering meat, such as chicken thighs and legs.

Stock is from simmering bones, such as the thigh and leg bones I put back into the pot.

Tesco sells chicken carcasses for the sole purpose of making stock which is used in many Thai soups. Chicken carcasses are a common item in Tesco and other grocery stores. In the large cities, one can get pork bones at Tesco also for the purpose of making pork stock.

Anytime I boil chicken, and it is often, I pour the water used through a strainer and reserve the liquid in the fridge for use in recipes, if I have the time, then I continue to simmer the bones for several more hours as well. When I list chicken stock as an ingredient on this site, it will be noted as fresh or from the powder for this very purpose. But what I have been calling stock is actually broth, but for the sake of this site and the recipes listed here, I use the word stock mostly, but feel free to use broth or stock, both are flavorful additions to the dish being prepared.

For the pot of water, I normally just add a onion cut in half and peppercorns, feel free to add some carrot, celery, etc. If you are going to simmer chicken, then skin on and bone in to get the most flavor.

Information provided courtesy of good friend, Garland Davis, US Navy Cook (Ret).
United States.