Paul has been passionate about preparing, cooking, and eating healthy food for over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida.
I've been using pressure cookers for almost 40 years and wouldn't wish to be without one. They are great devices for creating easy, healthy and tasty meals in a short amount of time. That said, they do also have their limitations and challenges.
This article looks at the pros and cons of pressure cooking.
Pressure Cooking: 8 Advantages
1. Reduced Cooking Time
Perhaps the biggest positive is that cooking times can be reduced by around two-thirds. Pressure cooking is faster because much more steam and energy is trapped inside, whereas with regular pots, the energy escapes. (Stovetop models also tend to be quicker than electric pressure cookers, a point I address below).
2. Nutrients Are Retained
Fewer of the food's nutrients and vitamins in food are lost during the pressure cooking process, making meals healthier than those made with conventional pots and pans. This is because pressure cookers lock in more of the goodness than regular cookware.
3. Less Mess
One pan means that you have less cleaning and washing up to do afterwards than with regular cooking, where multiple pots (and utensils) are typically involved. The lock-down lid also means that there can be less spillages to deal with.
4. Save Energy
Pressure cookers use heat in a much more efficient way than regular pans, meaning that energy is saved. As well as resulting in lower energy bills, which will save you money over time, this also makes them more environmentally friendly.
5. One-Pot Meals
I love being able to throw all my ingredients into one pot, set it going, and hey presto, in a matter of minutes I have a meal ready. I use mine for dishes such as stews, beans, soups, curries, stocks, lentils, mashed potatoes, chicken, or anything involving tough cuts of meat.
6. Stovetop Cookers Are Durable
A quality pressure cooker is a great investment. A solidly constructed model that's well looked after will last you many years. The only part that you might need to replace at some point down the line is the rubber sealing ring, but other than that, these pots are almost indestructible in my experience.
7. Flavors Are Conserved
Taste is an indispensable element of cookery, and pressure cooking helps to lock in all of the flavors that can so easily be dissipated using conventional cookery. That makes pressure-cooked meals extra delicious.
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There's no doubt that the associated technology has advanced significantly over the decades. The pressure cookers that I started out were loud and had a tendency to build up too much steam, sometimes resulting in the top blowing off if people didn't know what they were doing! Modern models have multiple safety features to prevent such problems.
Pressure Cooking: 5 Disadvantages
1. Foods With Different Cook Times
One major downside of pressure cooking is that you have to cook every ingredient for exactly the same amount of time. This means that in practice it just isn't possible to cook every element of a meal together, and you have to use separate pots and pans in addition to the pressure cooker.
2. Can't Open to Check for Readiness or Seasoning
As much as I love my pressure cooker, I do find it frustrating that I can't just open up the lid and check what's happening with the meal. Cooking is an inexact art form and often the best way to know if the food's ready is to look at it or try a sample. Achieving the correct level of herbs, spices and seasoning is also easier if you can add as you go.
3. Takes Some Time to Learn to Use Them
While I wouldn't let it put you off investing in one, the truth is that using a pressure cooker effectively does require some learning. It's a very different process relative to cooking with a regular pot. However, it's not that difficult and most people do pick up the technique quickly.
4. Only Good for Certain Meals
While they are great for certain sorts of meals, such as stews and soups, they are not suitable for many others, one example being meals that require high-temperature roasting. You can't cook a steak in a pressure cooker.
5. Overcooking Issues
It's very easy to overcook food, especially when you are learning, as cooking times are so much shorter with pressure cooking. I ate a lot of overcooked food when I first started out, just a couple of minutes too long can make a big difference. You also have to be aware of which ingredients you use, as it's easy for certain foods to be cooked well, while others are overdone. I would recommend using a pressure cooker recipe book for beginners, certainly until you get used to the timings.
Stovetop vs. Electric Pressure Cookers
Here are five of the main differences between the two types in my experience.
- Stovetops tend to be better at browning than electrics.
- They also generally cook quicker than electric models.
- Stovetop models tend to be louder, due to the sound of the steam that they vent during the cooking process.
- Electric models are usually more versatile. They are preferable for cooking rice.
- They are also generally easier to use and monitor than stovetops.
© 2021 Paul Goodman