Cooking

Pressure, Pushing Down on Me(at)

Why you need a pressure cooker in your life
Photo: Tasting Table
Short Ribs

Even the best food could use a dash of ones and zeros. Geek out with us as we explore the intersection of food and technology this month.

What if you could cook short ribs in one hour instead of four? And what if this decadent, fall-off-the-bone tender dish, usually reserved for weekends, could become a weeknight staple? Well, with a pressure cooker, this dream could become a reality.

A pressure cooker is a stovetop or electric sealed pot that locks in steam that would otherwise escape from a regular pot. The trapped steam creates a high-pressure environment, which cooks food faster and at much higher temperatures than normal.

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The high pressure raises the boiling temperature of water—as high as 250 degrees Fahrenheit—which speeds up dishes like braises and stews and those tender short ribs. It's the opposite of the slow cooker, another countertop appliance that happens to be getting a lot of love these days. Though dishes like this Slow Cooker Double French Onion Soup are indisputably awesome, sometimes you want to cook something quickly.

In a pressure cooker, you can cook above sea level's boiling temperature (212 degrees Fahrenheit) without worrying about the violent movement of boiling water. Now, cooking meat in a rolling boil isn't advisable, because the fast-moving bubbles can disrupt the surface of the meat and turn the cooking liquid cloudy. But in a pressure cooker, you avoid this problem, because the water can get so much hotter before turning to a disruptive boil.

The pressure cooker isn't good for only braises and stews either. It's great for risottos, stocks and beans, too. According to Modernist Cuisine, risotto, which typically takes around 25 minutes to cook, clocks in at only six minutes. Serious Eats says stock comes together in just about an hour. And beans? If you cook them in a pressure cooker, you eliminate the most annoying part: the 12-hour soaking, which requires the kind of planning that eludes most of us on a weeknight. Depending on the type of bean, it could take anywhere from six to 40 minutes to cook in the pressure cooker, The Kitchn reports.

Every home cook needs a few shortcuts up his or her sleeve, and the pressure cooker deserves a place at the table.

Bon Appetit recommends the Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Pressure Cooker ($219 for the five-quart model).

Cooks Illustrated recommends the Fissler Vitaquick Pressure Cooker ($279 for the eight-liter model).

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