From Maria: After a long day at work or chasing your kids, spending an hour over the stove sounds about as enjoyable as stepping barefoot on a Lego. Instead of reaching for the takeout menu, consider investing in a pressure cooker—it’s my personal secret for making delicious food with minimal effort.
Stovetop pressure cookers look similar to a regular pot, except for the lid, which completely seals to the pot and has a valve to let out steam. Food is cooked quickly by the pressure that is built from the steam. This appliance is not to be confused with a crockpot, or slow cooker, which cooks foods on a low temperature for hours and hours. Whereas you’d have to throw ingredients into a crockpot before work, in order to have dinner on the table when you get home, with a pressure cooker, you can have a meal on the table shortly after throwing the ingredients in, after work.
Not only does a pressure cooker make meals incredibly fast, but it also intensifies the flavor, so it only seems like you spent all day in the kitchen.
Consider the following five reasons why you should use a pressure cooker:
1. It’s a time-saver
Pressure cooking cuts down the cooking time of a wide variety of dishes—from grains and veggies to beans and meat—often by 50% or more, making it your weekday savior.
2. Foods retain their nutrients
By drastically reducing the cooking time, an ingredient’s nutrients are better maintained, compared to longer cooking methods. They are also less likely to lose their color and flavor as can often happen when cooking foods, especially vegetables, for long periods of time.
3. Beans become easier to digest—and faster to make
Home-cooked beans are infinitely better tasting than those in a can, but typically take hours to make. Not only does the pressure cooker cut cook time down to about 10-15 minutes, it also makes them easier to digest.
4. More flavorful meals are a given
Pressure cooking tends to intensify the flavor of whatever you’re cooking, so even though you didn’t spend a lot of time or effort cooking, it will seem like you did.
5. There’s less clean-up
Grains, vegetables and meat can all be cooked together in a pressure cooker for a flavorful, one-pot meal—and that means you only have one pot to clean! The lid prevents any splashes or splatters, keeping your stovetop cleaner, too.
And while pressure cookers of yore are notoriously loud, and even dangerous, the modern iterations have built-in safety features and they’re much more quiet and user friendly.
The key to pressure cooking correctly is to make sure you use the right amounts of both ingredients and liquids. Always follow recipes and cook times precisely to get the best results. There are thousands of recipes on the web (check out hippressurecooking.com as a start) and even a number of cookbooks (like The New Pressure Cooker Cookbook and Vegan Under Pressure) that focus solely on pressure-cooked meals.
Do you have any favorite pressure cooker recipes? Share them in the comments—and see one of mine below:
Mediterranean Mushroom Quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup quinoa
1 ½ cups water
10-15 Kalamata olives, sliced
5 ounces baby spinach
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
Using a stovetop pressure cooker:
Heat the pressure cooker pan to medium heat. Add oil, onion and mushrooms. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add quinoa, water, olives and spinach. Secure the lid, set to high pressure and raise the heat up to high. Once the pressure cooker has reached high pressure (a knob will pop up), reduce heat to medium/low and cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the pressure release naturally, about 10 minutes.
Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste, and serve.
Download recipe card here