I received an electric pressure cooker for Christmas, from my daughter Adriel and son-in-law Nate, and two cookbooks. I’ve been excited, and a bit nervous, to try out this old method of cooking that has become new again. This evening, the shiny cooker came out of the box!
Pressure cooking is a method of cooking food using water, or another liquid, in a sealed container. Pressure cookers cook food faster and use less energy. Pressure is created by boiling a liquid inside the closed cooker. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure and allows temperatures to rise.
The first pressure cooker was invented in 1679 by French physicist Denis Papin, known for his studies on steam. Various inventive people adapted Papin’s design over the centuries. In 1938 Alfred Vischer presented his invention, The Flex-Seal Speed Cooker, in New York City. His pressure cooker was the first one designed for home use. One year later, National Presto Industries introduced its own pressure cooker at the New York World’s Fair.
The first pressure cookers were stove top versions, and they were considered noisy and somewhat risky. Later generations of cookers have become more and more safe, with built in safety features. Today’s electronic pressure cookers, introduced in 1991, have a digital control panel and programmable features.
I remember my mother using a pressure cooker when I was a child. Although I don’t remember that she ever had an incident, or explosion, I have had an uneasiness about these cookers. However, I have been reading about how wonderful electronic pressure cookers are, via social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. I was excited to receive one, and even more excited to move beyond any apprehension about using one.
The two cookbooks that Adriel and Nate gave me have many mouthwatering, plant based recipes in them. For my first experience, I decided on preparing pinto beans. Normally, I use a slow cooker to prepare a pot of beans, which can take up to 9 hours of cooking time on the low setting. To prepare beans in under 30 minutes seemed amazing!
Since I don’t use any meat to flavor my beans, I add half of a chopped onion and two minced garlic cloves. I ran the pressure cooker through a test run, as per the manufacturer’s instructions, and then added 3 cups of pinto beans, that had soaked all day, and the chopped onion and garlic. The recipe suggested 3/4 cup of water for every cup of beans.
The pressure cooker beeped after just 5 minutes of cooking time. This is where I messed up. I didn’t understand about naturally releasing the pressure versus a quick release, using the valve on top of the cooker. I released the pressure. And sampled the beans. They were not quite done. What I discovered, after more carefully reading in the Vegan Under Pressure cookbook, was that I needed to let the pressure release naturally, which takes 15 minutes or so.
I got it right, eventually! After a little more cooking time, and allowing the pressure to dissipate on its own, the beans were perfectly cooked. I am learning! And it was worth the lesson. These pinto beans were the best tasting beans I have prepared, since beginning a plant based diet.
I am looking forward to trying many, many more nutritious recipes. And I love trying new things. Even better, is when I try something new and dissolve a fear at the same time. The electronic pressure cooker was easy to use and didn’t feel risky at all.
Next up will be cooking a pot of brown rice…and then…well, the possibilities are endless!