My electric pressure cooker - I used to be scared of using it. Everyone seems to have a story of one blowing up.

This morning I had no intention of posting about pressure cookers, but I was reading Mother Earth News (love it) and saw a link to a brief introduction to pressure cookers (link) had one of those moments where you say to yourself, "Oh yeah... I forgot about my pressure cooker!"  Poor thing.  My kitchen is such that it lives in a bottom cupboard that is out of sight and out of mind so much of the time!

A lot of people have a regular stove top pressure cooker, however I do not.  Mine is an electric version and it's the only kind I've ever personally cooked with so it's what I know.  I have to admit - it's so easy because it does all the timing and work for me that I don't know if I'll ever purchase or use a more traditional, stove top version.  But... more on that in a minute. 

The electric pressure cooker I personally have is the Manttra Chef-Xpress.  My husband bought it for me in November of 2004.  I was so intimidated by the memory of seeing pieces of chicken, celery and onion splattered on the walls, curtains and ceiling of my childhood kitchen home that I actually let it set in the box for almost a year before I even took it out of the box!  I had no idea how to use a pressure cooker and although my Mom used one for 20 years without incident, that one time she had chicken blow up all over the kitchen was the memory that stuck out in my head!

Working outside the home, rushing around to 3 kids schedules including kids in 3 different schools, 10 miles apart from each other, dance, band, choir, every sport under the sun known to man...  well, one evening I had frozen chicken breasts and whole, raw potatoes in front of me and I remembered the pressure cooker.  It was time to try.

I laugh now... but I really did this;  Set it up on the kitchen counter, read directions every step of the way, re-read them about 15 times, made sure the pressure cooker was on an area of the cupboard where if it exploded, it wouldn't hit and damage the cupboards, and then stood 15 feet away from the kitchen, in the family room with the kids, and watched it.  The whole time, sure it would explode. 

It didn't.

The electric version of a pressure has a base, the pot, an inner metal basket and a sealing lid.  You place the pot on the base.  Add water according to your recipe, insert the basket, the food, and put the top on aligning the arrows and ensuring a tight seal.  Lock the safety lock and you simply press the timer for how long you want it to cook and hit the "START" button.

With a traditional stove top version you heat your burner, bring the pressure cooker up to temperature, set your timer, then turn the heat down and time the depressurization time and then open your dish.  With the electric version there is none of that.  You don't babysit it at all because after the cook time it automatically goes into a lower state to release pressure and then into a warming state to hold it until you open it.  I simply turn it on and wait for the beep to let me know it's finished and ready to open and serve.

It takes approximately 20 minutes to put raw, whole baked potatoes in and have them cooked to perfection so often, it's potatoes in the pressure cooker while I make the main entree'.  Chicken breasts take about 17-20 minutes.  I've cooked frozen roasts and frozen chickens as well - walking in the door at 5:30 only to discover I have nothing thawed or ready for dinner.

If you are interested in a basic overview of pressure cookers, check out the link at the top of this post.  If you are interested in electric versions, there are a few different versions and models; many more programmable than mine as mine is 10 years old now.

The point?

Don't be scared.  For saving time, saving energy, getting dinner on the table in 1/3 the time it would take with another way of cooking it, and for the flavor you get by cooking quickly at a high temperature, I'd say it's worth checking out a pressure cooker and see if you like them.  However: DO NOT TRY CANNING IN ONE.  There is a difference between pressure cookers and pressure canners.  Don't mistake one for the other.

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