Do you have fond memories of your mother or grandmother loading a pressure cooker to make homemade soups, stews or even for canning? The unmistakable spit and whistle of an old-school pressure cooker can transport a person back to childhood days when mom could create the perfect hot soup to combat a cold day. Of course, there were always lots of safety warnings that came with the use of a pressure cooker.
The first pressure cookers date back to 1679 when French physicist Denis Papin invented the steam digester to help cook his food a bit faster. It wasn’t until 1938 that the Flex-Seal Speed Cooker, made for home use, popularized the fancy new appliance. The basic premise of a pressure cooker involves capturing all the steam from food or liquids inside. That trapped steam raises the internal pressure in the pot, which helps cook food faster while maintaining the flavor. Most foods that can be steamed or cooked in liquid will cook faster inside, and it’s a great way to get a braised flavor without hours and hours of slow roasting.
New pressure cooker designs have popped up in stores, recipes are making the rounds in cooking magazines and grocery stores now feature sections for instant-cook meals. Programmable pressure cookers, like the uber-popular Instant Pot, are much safer and faster than its old-school counterpart. It’s what Crock-Pot did for slow cookers. Opening a pressure cooker early releases pressurized steam sure to burn on contact. These modern cookers promises 10 levels of safety mechanisms built into the pot, including a lid lock, high temperature warning and excess pressure protection.
So what can you make with a programmable pressure cooker like the Instant Pot? Just about everything. Soups, stews, broths and stock are always a great staple. Beyond the basics there are recipes for everything from homemade dog food to rice dishes, meat dishes and even pasta.
Here are two easy examples of the kinds of meals you can prepare with a pressure cooker. If you already have one, these are still a great introduction into the range of cooking beyond the basics.
Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
If you’ve ever made a traditional oven roast, you’re used to the three to five hours it takes to get that great slow-roasted flavor. This version does it in half the time with just as much punch as the slow-roasted variation. Add any veggies you like and prepare to impress your family. Adapted from the Umami Pressure Cooker Pot Roast recipe at instantpot.com.
- One large chuck roast (about two inches thick)
- Three cloves garlic, chopped
- One medium onion, sliced
- One cup chicken stock
- Two tablespoons soy sauce
- One tablespoon olive oil
- One pinch each of rosemary and thyme
- Two bay leaves
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper
- Potatoes (and any other vegetables you like)
- Preheat your pressure cooker to sauté.
- Pat the roast dry with a paper towel.
- Season the roast liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pot and add the seasoned roast.
- Let it brown for 10 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add onion and garlic.
- Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Stir and cook for about one minute until garlic is fragrant.
- Add mushrooms and cook for another two to three minutes.
- Pour 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar into the pot and scrap the bottom to get up all the fond.
- Add chicken stock, soy sauce and remaining seasonings. Taste as you go and salt as needed.
- Place the roast back into the pot with all the juices. Close and cook at high pressure for 45 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let rest for 25 minutes, then open lid and remove the roast.
- Once the roast is done and resting, you can add any vegetables you like. Carrots and potatoes are great with this roast.
- Close pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for four to five minutes.
- Remove the veggies and slice the roast against the grain. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Creamy Rice Pudding
How about dessert? A warm rice pudding is a great option for a cold winter night and your Instant Pot or pressure cooker can whip up an amazing rice pudding before you know it. This version is slightly adapted from the Creamy Rice Pudding recipe found at PressureCookingToday.com
- Two cups Arborio Rice
- One cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 cups milk (use 1% or 2%)
- Two large eggs
- One cup half and half
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch cinnamon
- Combine rice, sugar, salt and milk in your pressure cooker or Instant Pot.
- Sauté until it comes to a boil.
- Stir until sugar is dissolved.
- Cover and seal. Press the “rice” option on your cooker.
- While that cooks, in a separate bowl whisk the eggs, half and half and vanilla until combined, set aside.
- Let the rice cook for 15 minutes and remove the lid. Stir egg mixture into the pot.
- Press Sauté button and cook uncovered until mixture boils.
- Chill until ready to serve. Pudding will thicken as it cools.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.