Pressure cookers have been an integral part of cooking in India and are used almost everyday in most households. But what exactly is a pressure cooker? How does it function? Which is the best pressure cooker for you? This article’s going to answer all of these questions and a lot more. So without any further ado, let’s begin…
There are so many reasons why a pressure cooker is one of the most loved kitchen appliances, but the quick cook time definitely tops the list. From rice, soups, stews, curries, lentils, to veggies and meat, pressure cookers allow you the ease of cooking just about anything! Plus, pressure cookers come in so many different sizes that there’s something perfect for each family out there.
But even with it being one of the most common kitchen appliances out there, I feel like pressure cookers are still pretty underrated as a lot of people are unaware about the full potential of this wonder product. Which is one of the reasons why I am starting summer 2023 with #PressureCookMarch, a new series on the blog! As part of this series, I’ll be sharing pressure cooker recipes along with tips and tricks throughout the month to help you make the most of this amazing kitchen appliance!
First things first, what is a pressure cooker and how does it work?
Pressure cooker is an airtight cooking device that uses steam to cook food quickly. These can either be stovetop or electric pressure cookers, although stovetop pressure cookers are more popular in India. It has a sealed stainless steel or aluminium pot with a heavy bottom, which allows for an equal distribution of heat to cook food properly. Pressure cookers also have a heavy lid with a rubber ring called a gasket to ensure that the cooker seals properly.
Here’s the simple process of how a pressure cookers works:
- Pressure cookers basically work by building pressure. Heat increases the temperature of the liquid in the pressure cooker, which builds a lot of pressure and creates steam inside.
- The whistle on the lid allows for the removal of excess steam and controls the pressure inside the pot. When the whistle goes off, it’s the pressure cooker releasing the excess steam and pressure.
- The ring around the lid, also called a gasket, seals the vessel completely and prevents the steam and pressure from escaping.
- This steam combined with the heat is what softens and cooks the food at such great speeds.
- Once you turn off the flame, the pressure and steam slowly start to release. Once it’s completely released, the safety valve goes down or the whistle is ready to come off. This is an indication that all the pressure in the cooker has been released and the lid can be safely removed.
Why you should use a pressure cooker?
- Time saving - The biggest benefit of using a pressure cooker is the quick cook time. Pressure cooking greatly reduces the cook time (by almost 70%), making it absolutely perfect to make meals on busy days.
- Healthy - The food cooked in a pressure cooker is healthier because it’s cooked in a sealed vessel that doesn’t allow any steam to escape. Plus, it also cooks the food very quickly, thereby retaining most of the food’s nutritional value as compared to other slower cooking methods.
- Versatile - From one pot meals to curries, sabzis and stews, there are so many different things you can make in a pressure cooker. It is truly one of the most versatile cooking tools out there.
- Less cleaning - A lot of pressure cooker recipes are mostly one pan, meaning that you’ll have lesser utensils to clean later.
- Highly durable - Stovetop pressure cookers are usually very well-made and are a great investment that will last you a long time.
How to use a pressure cooker?
Pressure cooker is easily the most used appliance in my kitchen. Thanks to its quick cooking time, great flavour and nutrient retention, and not to mention the versatility and ease of use, I end up using my pressure cooker on almost every weekday night. From the humble khichdi, different types of dals, pulav, mashed potatoes, to chicken and mutton curries, I doubt there’s anything I haven’t used my pressure cooker.
Even though it is very easy to use a pressure cooker, it is also very easy to overcook your food, especially if you are a beginner. But don’t worry, I have got you! Here are my top tips and tricks to help you make the most of your pressure cooker
- Avoid overfilling the cooker with food and water and keep it only about half to two thirds full. This allows the pressure cooker enough space to build pressure and release steam. An overfilled pressure cooker could lead to water or food coming out.
- Alternatively, make sure to add enough water to fill at least ¼th of the pressure cooker. Don’t skimp on this.
- For lots of extra flavour, make sure to saute and brown your food in a little oil before adding in the liquid.
The biggest question, are pressure cookers safe to use?
Yes, absolutely! Most modern-day pressure cookers come with a lot of safety features and are designed in a way to prevent accidents. As long as you allow the cooker to release pressure naturally and do not try to open it while it’s still releasing steam, your pressure cooker is absolutely safe to use.
Some new pressure cookers have lock knobs on the lid, like in the picture below. These double-safety features have made pressure cookers completely safe!
Does the food cooked in a pressure cooker taste just as nice?
The food cooked in a pressure cooker doesn’t just taste nice, but can also taste richer and have more flavours. This is because a pressure cooker uses steam to cook in a sealed pot. It requires very little cooking time and there is hardly any moisture loss, thereby ensuring super tasty and flavourful food.
How to take care of your pressure cooker?
Most pressure cookers have a sturdy build and with just some basic care can last nearly forever. Here are my best tips to clean and maintain your pressure cooker:
- Avoid leaving food inside for long periods of time to prevent heavy duty cleaning.
- Always wash your pressure cooker thoroughly with some dish soap and water, and allow it to dry completely.
- If the inside of your pressure cooker is turning black, fill it with a water + vinegar + baking soda solution and leave it overnight. Rinse it with water the next morning to get rid of it.
- Avoid scrubbing your pressure cooker with a metal scrub, especially if you have a non-stick pressure cooker, as it could damage the coating.
- Remove the gasket and whistle before washing the lid to make sure everything is squeaky clean.
- Apply a thin coat of vegetable oil to the gasket to make it last longer.
Which Pressure Cooker should you get?
There are a lot of brands selling great pressure cookers at almost every price point and cooking capacity. I use a 3.5L Stahl Pressure Cooker, perfect for a family of 4. So it’s very easy to find something that suits your specific needs. Some popular pressure cooker brands in India include Hawkins, Prestige, Pigeon, Stahl, Butterfly and Bajaj.
I personally use the Stahl pressure cooker and absolutely love it. It is sturdy and is really easy to use. Made using triply stainless steel, this pressure cooker is a great investment and is really durable! I would highly recommend it!
Pressure cooker recipes
The number of pressure cooker recipes already on the blog stands testimony to how much I actually use my pressure cooker. But out of everything I have cooked, here are some of my favourite pressure cooker recipes:
- Instant pot garlic mashed potato
- Easy lamb curry
- Dhaba style chicken curry
- Dal makhani
- Pressure cooker veg pulao
- Thai ginger carrot soup
I honestly think pressure cookers are a great time, energy and effort-saving appliance that everyone needs in their lives. The flexibility to cook so many different things, coupled with the quick cooking time, makes life so much easier especially on busy weeknights. This is easily on most appliances in my kitchen, and I find myself reaching for it at least once a day. This is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that there are a lot of pressure cooker recipes on the blog for you to try. Simply type ‘pressure cooker’ in the search bar and you’ll be able to find all of them there!