Why do I still not use a pressure cooker?

It might be because you have heard a horror story about old-fashioned pressure cookers. Trust me pressure cookers today are very different from those outdated aluminum models, and are perfectly safe to use as long as instructions are followed.

I am on a mission to make people around me to think differently about this kitchen equipment that can save both time and money. I know all of us understand the need and importance of green cooking, smart energy saving and cutting our carbon footprint on this beloved planet.

Consider the fact that pressure cooking saves 70% or more energy than conventional methods of cooking. YOU can make a positive difference to the environment and also save considerable cooking time by switching to this method. So, take this small step to help save earth. Watch how easy it is to use one.

I have seen people scared to death with the idea of using a pressure cooker. Often it is the fear of high pressures and accidentally blowing a hole through the kitchen ceiling. For others it may be the sound, which can seem similar to a jet taking off. Or then it might be the geysers of steam shooting out of this contraption that make people uncomfortable .

Despite these seemingly frightening aspects of the pressure cooker, it is an easy to use and effective piece of equipment, and with the right instruction you can definitely get over your “exploding disaster” fears!

Facts about Pressure Cookers:

  1. Modern pressure cookers are all about the safety features, which include a top that locks on securely, a pressure indicator, and a safety pressure release valve.
  2. In terms of steam heat, it is hot, but quickly cools.  It is not as dangerous as cooking something with grease.
  3. Ways of releasing the pressure
    1. Quick release
    2. Running water
    3. Natural release

To get over the fear.

  1. Choose the right model for you. Stove or electric, loud whistle or no whistle.
  2. Read a reliable pressure cooker cookbook that will help you get over some of your safety fears.
  3. Take notes on cooking times, so that you’ll know what to adjust next time.
  4. Take time to get a feel for how it works. Every stove is a little bit different, and every pot is a little bit different, too. There’s a bit of a learning curve. You will soon discover how wonderful it is for cooking things.

What not to do:

  1. Do not add too much liquid -Don’t cook foods that “foam” and don’t fill it more than half way.  Then, don’t worry about it.(the pressure cooker has a very low evaporation rate-about one tablespoon per 10 minutes of cooking vs one cup of evaporation in an uncovered pot). This can be easily fixed by decreasing the cooking liquid significantly. You can even go as low as your cooker’s minimum requirement (which is usually a cup) – check your manual to make sure.
  2. Do not over-cook. The pressure cooker infuses flavours up to a point, after that point the food is over-cooked and the meat becomes tough and tasteless because all of the juices have been squeezed into the cooking liquid – making a delicious stock (if there wasn’t too much water ; )
  3. Do not ignore the manual or do anything they say NOT to do.

Practice by just boiling water until you get the hang of it.  In general, once it starts releasing pressure on its own, just turn it down and “cruise” from there.

Safety features pressure cookers already have

  1. If the top is put wrong – it won’t reach pressure. If you do get it on and do not turn down the heat right away, the valve will release the extra pressure and will activate. If this value is accidentally blocked, a secondary valve (usually a little silicone or rubber stopper) will kick-in. Should THAT fail, the gasket (silicone or rubber circle that seals) will buckle and THAT will release pressure – I have never gotten to that stage but at that point it can get messy and may spray food on your cook top but not the ceiling.
  2. A self-locking handle keeps you from accidentally opening the pressure cooker while the contents are still under pressure.

I hope you consider pressure cooking – not just for the speed but for the flavour, the health benefits and the planet (it’s ridiculous how little energy it needs to operate). I’ll gladly help you navigate the process of getting acquainted with your pressure cooker – just make the decision to buy one!

Meals that can be made in minutes take the pressure off of home cooks who want to make good food but may be pressed for time.

 

How to use a Pressure Cooker?

After the required number of whistles, the stove should be turned off. Once the heat is off, all the steam releases naturally in 5-10 minutes. This is the best way of cooking as it retains all flavours and nutrients. However, steam can also be quick released by using the steam release valve or by gently lifting the whistle (depends on the model of cooker and instructions that came with it). Check out my video to see how steam can be released early before its usual time.

In general, perform these safety checks and you will be good to go:
1. Check to make sure there are no dents or cracks in your pressure cooker or the rubber gasket before using it.
2. There must always be some sort of liquid in your pressure cooker before you close the lid.
3. The pressure cooker should never be more than ⅔ full as there needs to be room for the steam to accumulate.
4. Never try to force open the lid of the pressure cooker when there is steam inside. You can get seriously burnt.
5. Even when it is safe to open the lid, lift the lid away from your face, as the contents will be steaming hot.
6. All pressure cookers have a quick release valve/system. Follow the instructions to make sure you are doing it correctly.

Which Pressure Cooker to buy?

A few quick buying tips:

  1. Go with a spring valve for quieter more efficient operation or finger-tip pressure release that prevents clogging of the steam vent.
  2. You can also go for one with two pressure levels (High and Low) to keep you from pulverizing fish and veggies while you’re infusing them with great flavour
  3. I prefer the black hard anodized stovetop model over the electric one. Particularly because it makes the pressure cooker absorb heat faster making it more energy-efficient. And the pressure cooker stays looking new for years.
  4. Start with a 5-6L (that is the most versatile size) but if you can afford it get a set that uses the same pressure cooking top with a smaller 3-4L pan (for making side dishes, rice for one, pasta sauces, etc).

Are high-end pressure cookers worth the money?

Yes, and no. You get what you pay for and if you pay a lot you get a lot of hard anodized metal, stainless steel, bells & whistles and accessories. This extra metal retains heat like you wouldn’t believe and needs less energy to operate and makes things stick a little less.

No, in the sense that all that extra metal takes a few minutes less to reach pressure. And, as for extra accessories for extra money like a steaming pan,  you might already have it in your kitchen. The end the result is the same: pressure cooked food. Do not let budget get in the way of getting your first pressure cooker!

What is a Pressure Cooker?

A pressure cooker is the only saviour of earth! I am not joking.. the rate at which mankind is currently consuming fuel energy, it is only the pressure cooking that can make a significant difference over time on the carbon footprint that our beloved planet is taking on. One of the main elements of green cooking is using pressure cookers. Pressure cookers not only cook food quickly but also retain the vitamins and minerals that are otherwise lost using other cooking methods.

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Pressure cookers have been in use in most parts of Asia, more so in India and Asia for decades now. Trust me, they are safe. You just need to understand how they work. There can however be a little bit of a learning curve if you’re using a pressure cooker for the first time. It’s important to know how to get started safely. If you know how the basic mechanism works it will be easy for you operate it with ease.

There are a wide variety of pressure cookers available in different shapes and sizes. All work on the same principle. When the pressure cooker is heated by the stove, the heat produces steam which cooks food faster by using the effects of pressure combined with heat.

A pressure cooker consists of the main pan, a lid, a rubber gasket that goes on the lid to seal pressure and a steam release system that includes a whistle and a safety valve. The whistle blows when steam reaches its maximum capacity. This is a way to time the cooking as well as a sign that the pressure cooker is working properly. The cooking time for many of my recipes is measured by the number of whistles that blow!

 

Creativity

1. Try replacing conventional ingredients more often with readily available alternatives. Explore spices and ingredients. You do not have to be the best chef to bring in kitchen alchemy (when ingredients blend to create a luscious result more than the sum of its parts), you just have to be bold enough to experiment. Adding one more or one less pinch of a spice can change the taste and flavour of a dish.
2. There is no standard recipe for anything in this world. The cook is the Queen/King of the Kitchen. Be confident and do not hesitate to test out an alternate method of cooking that is simple, quick and green. The final result may be different but trust me it will be good.
3. Try blending sweetness of peas with bland turnips. Experiment once in a while and add red chili powder into banana bread recipe, ginger to plantain chips and serve hot coriander chutney with a dessert.
4. Make the dish look outlandish and exotic with creative presentation when serving it.

Swift Method

1. Have all ingredients ready before you put the heat/stove on so that energy and time is saved.
2. Use high heat and low heat alternatively to save energy and some creative methods to get unique flavours like smoked, burnt, sautéed and fried. (I will talk about some of these in the coming days)
3. Throw in almost all ingredients together, believe me it really does not make much of a difference if one ingredient is less sautéed than the other in most recipes.
4. Use hand mixer/blender that works right into the cooking pan without having to cool down food and take it through grinder/processor

Quick Ingredients

IMG_01041. Using frozen vegetables can cut short the cooking and process time by 70 to 80%. Frozen veggies lock in both fresh taste and nutritional value. QFP (Quick Freezing Process) retains all nutrients, colour and flavour. It’s good to get fresh vegetables in season but most veggies by the time they reach from the farm to the grocery shelf have lost nutrients and have been ingested with chemicals to make them look fresh.
2. Some frozen veggies that you do not get off the shelf and that take time to peel, grate, or grind for complex and delicious recipes can be readied in advance. Adding ginger, garlic and green chillies takes time when we are preparing a dish and if these are ready in the shape, size, and form that they need to be used, meals can be prepared in a flash.
3. Use whole spices that give original and select flavour quickly to food.
4. A few basic ground spices like red chilli powder, coriander powder, mango powder and a homemade all spice (garam masala) can go a long way.

Quick Cooking, Healthy Eating

Eating healthy, homemade, nutritious food, and cooking meals in a flash do not have to be mutually exclusive. They can easily be managed together if complex looking recipes are no more than a process of Four Steps or Less. Through this forum, I will share some of my famous recipes and show you how to make them in Four Steps or Less.

For this to work, smart people first need to start with four basic concepts:
1. Quick ingredients 2. Right tools 3. Swift method and 4. Bit of creativity.

The icing on the cake is making the cooking sustainable and green – leaving minimal or no carbon footprint. Sounds savvy and responsible at the same time, right? By green I mean using less energy by avoiding oven cooking. Instead, most of my recipes make use of the heat generated by water and the inherent moisture of the ingredients themselves – all in Four Steps or Less.

Over the next few posts I will outline how to go about setting yourself up to work on my recipes by detailing these preliminary steps: Quick Ingredients, Right Tools, Swift Method, and a Bit of Creativity.

That’s Me

My name is Lavina Masand Mehra. I am a Finance and Management professional and have been associated with international humanitarian work for the last 25 years. Since my childhood I have strived to learn new things and lived through my motto that “life is too short”. With my family, I have lived an interesting life in different parts of the world. Each country offered unique and exciting opportunities and challenges that made our family learn a lot of new things.

Four Steps or Less
Lavina Masand Mehra

I have launched this website to share my ideas to make day to day routines quicker, easier, economical, and swift so that time and energy can be saved. Over the years, I have noticed so many of my friends, family and acquaintances spend enormous amount of time in the kitchen to lay a delicious and nutritious meal on the table. To add to this, it hurts when one considers the amount of fuel energy used in time consuming cooking methods like oven cooking where you may be simply roasting nuts for a minimum of 45 minutes. The carbon footprint these cooking methods and appliances leave on the environment seem sinful to me. I am starting the discussion with kitchen ideas that can save both time and energy in terms of oven use. I strongly believe that time saved can, and should, be translated into maximizing quality family time and the energy conserved can make the earth greener and a better place for our future generations.

To start off, I am primarily sharing some recipes and tips to lay a meal on the table that is cooked fast, nutritious, green and delicious. However, I don’t want to limit myself to the kitchen and write only recipes or cooking tips as I really don’t claim to be the best cook. I would rather love to be recognized as an efficient cook. I feel that having an extremely busy professional and personal life for all these years, there were so many things that I had to do swiftly to balance different priorities and at the same time maximize quality time to spend with the family.

There might be some thoughts from these experiences that might be worth sharing and may be useful for friends and readers of this site. I would like to keep the option open of sharing those thoughts at some point of time. So, stay tuned.. more will be coming soon, maybe everyday on this website.

To find out more about my initial thoughts on setting put this project, read my post about finding myself.

Read this for an overview of my basic concepts of Quick Cooking, Healthy Eating.

Here are the posts about each of those four basic concepts:

Please provide any feedback, thoughts, comments, opinions, or advice about my project through my Facebook page Four Steps or Less!