Modern pressure cookers are easy to use and generate the results of a crock pot in a small fraction of the time, but many feel they need help understanding them. Learn how to use both a countertop and a stovetop pressure cooker with ease, and the many ways to get more flavor out of pressure cooker meals without adding calories
Do the words "pressure cooker" conjure a picture your grandma with an explosion of spaghetti all over the ceiling? Most people still think of pressure cookers as they were in the 1960s, when explosions occurred all too often—and most home chefs' attempts yielded mushy messes rather than delicious dinners.
While using a pressure cooker instead of a crock pot is a growing trend for those looking to save time, it's still one that many people still find daunting. It doesn't have to be! Modern pressure cookers are easy to use and generate the results of a crock pot in a small fraction of the time.
Let's talk through the basics, then get to a couple great pressure cooker recipes.
Types of Pressure Cookers
Stove Top: This version is a regular pot—the special part, though, is the lid that pressurizes. You sauté your ingredients over medium high heat, then add liquid and put the lid on. Once it pressurizes—which you'll know by a knob or other small piece that bounces up—you turn it down to simmer. This is a great choice for people who are more advanced home cooks.
Counter Top: These are very similar to slow cookers. (In fact, they usually come with a slow cooker feature!) To use them for pressure cooking, you sauté your ingredients on the "brown" or "sauté" setting, then add liquid, close the lid and switch the setting to "high pressure." Often they have a timer for you to set as well. Then, you're good to walk away: the temperature is controlled by the machine itself, and it turns off once the time runs out or you hit "cancel."
Once it's done, you can wait 20 minutes for the pressure to release on its own, or you can de-pressurize it by turning the knob and letting the steam out.
- If you have the time, letting the pressure cooker de-pressurize on its own is the most stress free way to use it
- Never de-pressurize under a low surface: the hot steam can get trapped there, which means in can make walls wet or get too close to you; de-pressurize under a vent or fan if possible
- Cook times begin once the cooker is fully pressurized; you will know when this occurs by the knob popping up, and counter top versions with timers will begin the countdown on their own
- Use dried beans, not pre-cooked ones
- Cuts of meat on the bone yields more flavor and richer broth than cuts off the bone
The two recipes below highlight meat on the bone, whole spices, and flavorful liquids, because those ingredients will make for the tastiest pressure cooker dishes.
Haitian Chicken Stew
This chicken stew is rich from the chicken breasts being cooked on the bone, and apple cider vinegar is used to keep the flavor bright. Smoked paprika is an easy way to add a barbecue feel to your meal without firing up the grill!
What you'll need:
- 3 bone-in chicken breasts
- 3 cups cabbage, sliced into 1/2 inch wide strips
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp neutral oil such as grapeseed
- 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
What you'll do:
- Heat oil in pressure cooker, then add chicken breasts skin side down and sauté until golden
- Add remaining ingredients and sauté for several minutes, until everything is coated with seasoning
- Add enough water to nearly cover ingredients, and put lid on
- Cook for 40 minutes on high pressure, then let cool; shred chicken with two forks once cooled if preferred over whole breast pieces
Cinnamon Baked Apples
As delicious as apple pie, but much lower in calories because there's no crust, this healthy dessert also makes a great snack or guilt-free breakfast. Using whole spices infuses the apples with a deep aroma and flavor. Pressure cookers are the ideal place for cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, and other whole spices!
What you'll need:
- 6 whole Granny Smith apples, cores removed
- 1/2 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup orange juice
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 whole star anise
What you'll do:
- Place apples, juice, and spices in pressure cooker, topping with sugar
- Add just shy of an inch of water and put lid on
- Cook for 10 minutes on high pressure, then let cool