Cooking by use of Pressure Cooker

PRESSURE COOKER is an essential item in any kitchen.

Cooking by the use of pressure cooker:
It is a method of cooking where cooking is done under pressure.
This is achieved by use of a GASKET that seals the cooking vessel and does not allow the steam to escape.
This causes the pressure inside the vessel to increase which increases the boiling point of the water or liquid inside the vessel.
This pressure causes the saturated steam to be forced through the food which results in the food getting cooked faster.

Foods that need to be braised or cooked for a long time to get to the edible stage such as whole grains, pulses and legumes, some vegetables such as potatoes, yam and such other cook much faster in a pressure cooker. Meat too can be cooked using this method of cooking.
Cooking by this method reduces the cooking time by 1/3rd.
Some preparations that take a long time in the oven or the slow cooker can get done in under an hour.

Once the heat has been removed the pressure inside decreases by itself. This may take sometime and if in a hurry to open the pressure cooker the quick release method can be used.

Quick release method of releasing the pressure is useful when there is a need to open the pressure cooker to either add an ingredient or when there is less water inside due to which the pressure build-up is more than required or when there may be fear of over-cooking.
In this method of release, the pressure cooker is stuck under running water. This causes condensation of the steam inside, thereby releasing the pressure.

 ADVANTAGES.Saves time.
.Requires less water for cooking.
.Saves energy.
.Reduces the loss of nutrients.
.Reduces the toxicity in foods like kidney beans, rice etc.
.Kills micro-organisms.
.Useful in cooking at high altitudes.
You can boil potatoes in their jackets in a jiffy.
Make soup in under 10 minutes from scratch.
Boil chickpeas or kidneybeans or any such dried beans in 30 minutes or less.
Boil pulses in 6 minutes.
Steam foods of various kinds in less than 7 minutes.
Vegetables can be cooked with little water as they cook in their own juices. Cooking times of vegetables are very low.
As less water and less time is required for cooking food the vitamin and mineral loss is relatively less as they are not leached away by water.
It saves on the electricity or cooking gas.
As boiling temperature increases above 100 degrees it kills micro-organisms.
It is extremely useful in cooking food at high altitudes as the boiling point of water reduces and the food may remain under-cooked when cooked normally.

DISADVANTAGES.Cleaning of the lid is very important.
The gasket needs to be taken care of and has to be cleaned well after use and the steam release valve has to be checked for any blocks by food debris.  Though the newer versions have a safety valve from which this debris gets ejected.

.Risk of scalding from the steam is always there.
As cooking is done with steam under pressure the amount of water inside the vessel is very important and lack of it may cause the pressure cooker to blast open and may cause burn injuries.
Do not leave the kitchen while the pressure cooker is in use.
.These are heavy and difficult to carry to out-door locations especially when mountaineering though I did see some light-weight ones recently in the market.

TYPES OF PRESSURE COOKERSThere are 3 types of pressure cookers.

.The first generation pressure cooker that uses a gasket and a weight. 
  This is the early pressure cooker that is used even today.
  It is much cheaper than the newer versions.
 The gasket is a rubber ring inside the lid that seals the steam inside the pressure cooker.
 When the steam builds the pressure inside upto a required amount the weight pops up to release the
  pressure. The steam vapour is released during this. It is loud and sounds like a whistle (works on the same
  principle as the piston in the steam engine which also huffs and puffs and then releases the pressure by
  letting out the steam).

.The second generation or the newer versions have a large variety available. They are of the non-stick variety or have a copper base and a spring-loaded valve which may not be visible outwardly.
They may also have two or more pressure settings.
They may use a rising indicator with marks to show the pressure level inside the cooker.

.Electric pressure cookersThese use electricity and have a mechanism that automatically regulates the heat to maintain the optimum
They too have spring-loaded valves and two or more pressure settings.
These have one drawback. They cannot be stuck under running water to instantly release the steam by condensation inside (quick release method) in case of over-cooking or less water inside the cooker.

Safety while using pressure cookers is very important.

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