Pressure cookers are some of the best modern tools for a modern kitchen to have. Chances are that if you own one, one of the things that you love the most about your pressure cooker is how quick and efficient it is. Plus, if you see cooking as a chore, a pressure cooker can help you prepare meals, even those containing a mixture of ingredients, fast and evenly.
When you have different ingredients to incorporate in one meal, you only need to add the ingredients at the right time and in the right amounts and leave it to your handy pressure cooker to do the rest. Aside from giving you an edge time-wise, pressure cookers also allow you to churn out delicious meals that have a high nutritional value, which is something that is often difficult to achieve with other traditional cooking methods.
Phased Pressure Cooking
A lot of inexperienced pressure cooker novices are only aware of one technique of using a pressure cooker. Typically, this method involves filling the pressure cooker with water 2/3rds of the way up before throwing in the different ingredients into the cooking liquid. After this, the only thing to do is wait for the cook to food past the recommended cooking times. Although this method works for most cooks, there are other several methods that can be utilized to make pressure cooking both fun and rewarding.
Phased cooking is a technique that involves phasing in various ingredients based on their cooking times. Recipes that call for phased cooking usually start the process with the ingredients that require the longest cooking times and then the pressure-cooking method is interrupted to add faster cooking ingredients. Phased cooking ensures that the end result does not constitute mush or overcooked ingredients.
When phase cooking using your pressure cooker, you want to interrupt the cooking process by using a release method that will help you to drop the pressure so that you can add your array of ingredients according to the times that they require to cook fully. You can use your preferred release method more than once in one session especially when dealing with ingredients such as tender meats and veggies. But it is very important that you use the right method if you are to avoid ending up with rock hard ingredients or limp vegetables. The most common release methods for phased cooking include:
The Quick Release Method
The quick release method is also commonly sometimes referred to as the normal release method. When pressure is released all at once from the cooker through the release valve, you are said to be using the quick release method. The release button on your pressure cooker opens when the knob is turned to release pressure quickly. This process can take up to 4 minutes, which is great when you need to add your ingredients or check on the status of the food to see whether it is done.
The quick release method is great for using when dealing with vegetables and any other quick-cooking foods as well as meat stews. However, it should be avoided when dealing with some types of legumes, rice, and recipes that consist of fruits. If you are using a weighted or jiggly pressure cooker, it may not have valves that will allow you to use this method so you might have to rely on another technique to add your ingredients.
The Cold Water Release Method
The cold-water release methods involved carrying a stove top pressure cooker to the sink and turning on the water to cool the lid. The trouble with this method is that it had to be done without wetting the lid of the pressure cooker or its safety valves. Because this is an almost impossible task to achieve, the cold-water release method is no longer used today or recommended. Using this method can cause the valves to block as well as cause a reverse suction motion to occur that can potentially damage and bend the metallic surface of the pressure cooker. unfortunately, there are modern recipes and manuals that still call for the cold-water release method. If you come across one, simply use the normal pressure release method instead.
Slow Normal Release Method
As the name suggests, the slow normal release method released pressure slowly. It works in an almost similar way as the normal release method except that the pressure has to be released slowly and carefully through the pressure release valve. The slow release method can take anywhere from 5 to 6 minutes to release the pressure depending on the brand of pressure cooker that you are using. The slow normal release method can be used at any instance but it should be saved for those occasions whereby it is impractical to use any other method.
The 10-minute Natural Pressure Release Method
The 10-minute natural pressure release method only takes 10 minutes and then, if there is any more pressure to be released after the 10 minutes have passed, the slow normal release method is then applied. If the pressure in the cooker is eliminated before the full 10 minutes are up, the lid of the pressure cooker must be kept closed for the entire duration before it can be opened to mix in the rest of the ingredients. The 10-minute natural pressure release method is not used often, but it is a great method to use when dealing with grains.
The Natural Pressure Release Method
The natural pressure release method takes the longest time to accomplish usefully. This method can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the brand of pressure cooker that is in use. The natural pressure release method allows pressure to be released slowly one the cooker has been turned off. It is often used when preparing foods that foam up or expand when cooked such as legumes, grains and certain types of fruits. It also works well when preparing foods that need to be cooked over time such as braided and steamed meats or desserts.
Beef Stew Using The Phased Cooking Method
|Phase 1 - The Beef and Broth||Heat cooker, add oil. Dredge meat in flour and brown it in small batches. Set aside on paper towels. Brown the onion, caramelizing to a deep brown. Deglaze the pot with cola, scraping up all the tasty browned bits on the bottom. Return meat to cooker. Add salt and pepper, sage and garlic powder, red wine, broth, and Worcestershire sauce. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to maintain pressure. Cook 12 minutes. Cool cooker at once using the quick or cold water release method.|
|Phase 2 - The Vegetables||Place the potatoes, celery and carrots on top of the meat. Add enough water to cover. Close cover securely and return to pressure, cooking an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method. Open the lid when the pressure has dropped.|
|2 Tbls Cornstarch||If the stew seems too thick, add more water to reach the desired consistency. Mix the cornstarch in 1/4 cup water and stir into stew, simmering as it thickens, but do not boil. Adjust seasonings to taste.|
Use the recipe above with any flavorful, but cheap cut of meat like round steak or chuck. These tough cuts will be great for the pressure cooker, and using the Cooking Time Charts you’ll see that stew meat needs to cook about 15 – 20 minutes, but the vegetables need much less. If we add the potatoes and carrots at the same time as the meat they will be mushy baby food by the time the meat is done. This is why we use the phased cooking method.
So lets brown add the meat first in a little hot oil, add the seasonings to develop the flavor for the rich broth, and partially cook the meat. Then interrupt the cooking before the meat is done to go the next phase and add the vegetables. Then return to pressure so that everything will be done correctly. With some recipes you may interrupt the cooking several times to add and/or remove ingredients.
Use the quick release button as the preferred method to interrupt the cooking because is doesn’t cool the pot and you can return the cooker to pressure quickly after other ingredients have been added. Don’t worry, if your cooker doesn’t have this feature, the phased cooking method will work with the cold water release method too, it will just take a bit longer to come back to pressure.