Pressure cookers offer simple, safe way to prepare dishes

Adrienne Freeman, Contributing Writer Originally Published February 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 27, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
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Apricot Barbecue Pork Roast prepared in the pressure cooker can shave hours off mealtime preparation. The pressure cooker is simple and safe to use — just follow the basic guidelines.

Just as fruitcakes and liver get a bad rap in the food world, pressure-cooker horror stories keep many cooks from utilizing a fantastic tool in the kitchen. Pressure cookers use small amounts of liquid with beans, beef, pork, poultry or even fish to quickly cook and tenderize the food. The liquid inside the sealed cooker turns to vapor, which expands and creates a lot of pressure. The pressure is trapped inside, pulverizing the protein, making it very tender in a short amount of time.

When it comes to creating juicy, tender, flavorful meat dishes, the pressure cooker has no equal. Even budget cuts of meat that usually require slow, moist-heat cooking will turn out succulent and savory in very little time in the pressure cooker.

To avoid the mishaps that can occur when ignoring the rules of pressure cooking, spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the basic rules. Do not overfill the cooker; use a timer; make sure all parts — especially the seal — are in proper working order. If you follow the directions, you can prepare a fantastic pot roast for dinner in less than an hour. If you are using an older cooker and don’t have the equipment instructions, many manufacturers have manuals online. Newer electric models are available and equipped with additional safety measures.

An important step when preparing meat in the pressure cooker is to sear meat to a crispy brown on all sides to seal in natural juices. This can be done right in the cooker; then add stock or water before sealing. The remaining juices can be thickened for gravy afterward. You can even prepare partially frozen meats — you just want to defrost them long enough so that you can sear the surface, and you should increase the cooking time by about five minutes per pound.

Favorite recipes are easily adapted to the versatile pressure cooker. Even though the pressure cooker is best suited for cooking foods that require long cooking times (soups, stews, beans, etc.), you can cook almost anything in it. The following are a few hints for adapting conventional recipes for the pressure cooker:

• Prep ingredients as called for in the conventional recipe.

• Make sure you use enough liquid to create steam (usually a minimum of 1 to 2 cups).

• Try to match the conventional recipe to a similar pressure-cooker version, and adjust the ingredients and cooking time accordingly.

• Cut back on the cooking time at least 25 percent, up to 50 percent.

• Remember, you can always go back and cook the food longer if need be, while overcooked, mushy food cannot be saved!

So pull out that pressure cooker and enjoy succulent spareribs, fork-tender roasts, zesty corned beef, and savory stews and soups in record time.

Pressure Cooker Roast Beef

(Adapted from the Presto manufacturer manual)


3-pound beef pot roast

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups water or beef broth

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, chopped

1 bay leaf


Pour oil into cooker. Brown roast well on all sides; remove roast. Pour liquid into cooker. Place roast on rack in cooker. Season roast with salt, pepper, onions and bay leaf. Close cover securely. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 45 minutes with pressure regulator rocking slowly. Let pressure drop of its own accord. Remove bay leaf and thicken gravy, if desired.

Apricot Barbecue Pork Roast

(Adapted from the Presto manufacturer manual)


3-pound boneless pork roast

1/2 cup ketchup

1/2 cup teriyaki sauce

1/3 cup apricot preserves

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 large onion, sliced

2 cups water


Place pork roast in a large plastic bag or glass dish. Combine ketchup, teriyaki sauce, preserves, vinegar, brown sugar, red pepper, mustard and pepper. Mix thoroughly and pour over pork.

Refrigerate overnight. Remove pork; reserve marinade. Brown pork on all sides in pressure cooker over medium heat; remove.

Place cooking rack, half of sliced onion and water in cooker. Place pork roast on rack in cooker and arrange remaining onion evenly on top of roast. Close cover securely. Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and cook 60 minutes with pressure regulator rocking slowly. Let pressure drop of its own accord. Place reserved marinade in saucepan and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally.

Remove roast and onions from pressure cooker. Add onions to thickened marinade and serve with sliced pork. Onions may be puréed before adding to sauce and served with rice or roasted vegetables.

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