Pressure Cooking 101, steps 5 through 8

Step 5: Read through the manual and identify the various parts, get a general idea of how to operate your cooker.

*This may lead you to wonder what people have against broccoli. Eight minutes in a pressure cooker? I don’t even steam broccoli for that long, so at first I thought they just didn’t know anything about cooking vegetables, but… then I read how long to cook Brussel Sprouts. Four minutes. Probably accurate, but seriously who cooks Brussel Sprouts for less time than broccoli? The resulting limp, army green broccoli is exactly why people think they don’t like it.*

Step 6: Having thoroughly read the owner’s manual attempt the water test. Fill the pressure cooker with 2 cups of water and bring to pressure. This will tell you whether your particular pressure cooker is functioning or not.

Interestingly, you take the cooker up to pressure over high heat and then if you have a gas stove top you lower the heat to maintain pressure, but if you are cooking on an electric range you may need to use two burners. One would be set on high and the other on a low heat (or medium as needed) because electric burners tend to take longer to cool down. That said, I’ve heard some people have no problem using just the one burner even on an electric stove top.

Step 7: Start to play around with the minimum amount of water required to achieve and maintain pressure. My manual says 1/2 cup, but my pressure cooker will hold pressure with only 1/4 cup of water. I suppose this step could be optional, I would never have tried it except forthe fact that Jill Nussinow recommends doing so in my “textbook”, The New Fast Food, since some of her recipes call for fairly low amounts of water.

Also, as recommended in Jill’s book, I tried the quick release method of lowering the pressure. Wherein you run cold water over the lid, as most likely illustrated in your users manual.

(Steps 6 and 7 will also help you overcome any residual fear of pressure cookers you may be harboring.)

Step 8: Actually cook something! Pick something simple, one ingredient. And, I would recommend something that cooks quickly for your first time through. I made banana squash, cubed (large cubes) and with about 1/2 cup of water added to the pressure cooker, it took 3 minutes at pressure to cook! I’m half in love already. In addition to being super speedy it was cooked to perfection, something that frankly doesn’t usually happen when I cook squash in the oven. I didn’t use the quick release method, since it was winter squash and I wasn’t worried about it overcooking. Instead, I just waited for the pressure to decrease naturally while I finished our salad dressing. Seriously, loving this!

*Disclaimer – I have not actually tried cooking broccoli in a pressure cooker for 8 min. so maybe it doesn’t really result in limp, soggy, army green, and unappetizing broccoli. But, I’d be surprised if it didn’t.