I know that a lot of people are intimidated by the pressure cooker and I can understand being cautious around a pot that cooks food at very high pressure. It can be dangerous if you're using an old pressure cooker and you don't know what you're doing, but most modern pressure cookers have safeguards in place to ensure that mishaps don't occur in your kitchen. Bayonet locks, tight rubber gaskets, and other safety features make pressure cooking relatively simple and easy with no fear of explosions or injuries. My pressure cooker won't even open if there is any pressure in the pot.
I like using the pressure cooker because it's a huge time saver in the kitchen. It normally takes between 45 and 60 minutes to make a pot of barley on the stovetop. And dried beans (except for lentils) take even longer. With a pressure cooker, however, I can cook a pot of dried beans and/or whole grains in less than fifteen minutes. Even big beans, like garbanzos, will be cooked and tender in about twelve minutes at high pressure. See what I mean about it being a time saver?
Tonight I utilized some of that leftover ham from yesterday and made a big ol' pot of split pea soup. I used dried split peas and it only took ten minutes on the stove. Ten minutes! It only took ten minutes of cooking and our dinner was served.
I like my pressure cooker, but I don't use it for much more than making beans, whole grains, and soups. What do you like to prepare in a pressure cooker?
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Split Pea Soup with Ham
1 brown onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, peeled & diced
1 lb dried split peas
2 cups chopped or diced ham
*1/4 cup canola oil
7 cups of water
**Seasonings to taste: salt, black pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, crushed red pepper flakes
In pressure cooker, cook onion, celery, and carrots until barely tender. Rinse and sort split peas according to package directions. Add split peas, ham, canola oil, and water to the pressure cooker. Fasten lid, set pressure cooker to the high pressure setting, and turn up the heat on the burner to high. ***When steam first begins to escape, turn heat to low. Begin timing now; if your pressure cooker doesn't lose steam and it will take about ten minutes. Allow the pressure cooker to naturally lose pressure if you can wait another ten minutes or so. Season the soup, stir, taste, serve.
*You do need the oil - don't skip the oil.
**Salt tends to toughen dried beans so hold off on seasoning the soup until the dried split peas are cooked.
***If you have an electric stovetop (like I do), you have to realize that your burners retain heat long after you turn them down. I avoid overcooking problems by beginning on one burner set on High and moving the pot to a burner set on Low once pressure is attained in the cooker.