There are no hard-set rules for using a pressure cooker; however, we hear complaints about ‘not getting it right’ and food not cooking properly with the pressure cooker. The principles by which a pressure cooker works, using steam pressure, ensures your results are always satisfactory. If this is not happening for you, then you may be a victim of some of the mistakes we will be discussing in this post.
The pressure cooker can be used to cook a wide range of foods. One of the common foods you can cook in this effective kitchen tool is meat; the steps are quite easy to follow to cook meat. For other foods such as beans, vegetables, and whole grains, you can get the desired results by following a recipe from your cookbook or online.
The first step to using a pressure cooker is reading the manual. It is always helpful to know all about your pressure cooker, regarding its parts and their functions. All this information is in your user manual.
So let’s go ahead to discuss some mistakes that can ‘ruin’ your food when it is cooked with a pressure cooker.
Common Mistakes In Pressure Cookery
1. Wrong timing
The pressure created inside the cooker is very high. For this reason, chefs who publish recipes online or in cookbooks ensure the timing is clearly stated to help people who use the recipes avoid ruining their foods. The common cause of overcooking when using the pressure cooker is wrong timing. It would be best if you never assumed the timing for a particular food, many times; your guess will be wrong. Also, get recipes from reliable sources to avoid using the wrong information when cooking your food.
2. Wrong cooking methods
There are options when you have to use a pressure cooker. For example, the cooker comes with a rack you can keep foods above the water with this rack. In this case, your food will be cooked by steaming. For other recipes, you may need to submerge your food. Do not be confused about this; many people erroneously think all foods that are cooked with the pressure cooker must be submerged in water. To get it right, this is what you can do; take a few minutes, or more, to study the recipe you want to use. It should be indicated whether you need to steam cook your food or immerse it in the water.
3. Wrong cooking methods for meats
One of the common problems users of pressure cookers experience regarding preparing meats is overcooking. Generally, pressure cookers are used to cook tough parts of meat to make them tender. The tenderness will depend on your cooking methods and timing. A simple way to avoid overcooked meats is by getting the timing right. Fortunately, some basic timing charts can be found online as a guide to help you get the right timing.
These tips will also be helpful- the average pressure range for cooking roast meats in a pressure cooker is 15 psi. The standard timing for cooking the meat should be twenty minutes, with an option of adding an extra ten minutes if you notice the meat is not as tender as you want. If you notice the texture of cooked meat becomes tougher, this means it has been overcooked.
4. Tough and dry meat after pressure cooking
You may have read about this experience online or experienced it while cooking meat in a pressure cooker. It happens because the fats and oil have been forced out from the meat due to overcooking or when you use a wrong method to release the pressure from the cooker after reaching the timer.
The solution for tough or dried meat is cooking it for a little longer. This is what you can do, return the dried pieces of meat into the pressure cooker and cook for ten minutes. After this time, use the release mechanism to allow pressure to escape normally. Your meat should be ready and perfect. You can do this for roasts or larger pieces of meat.
Some reasons to avoid overcooking include the following; your meat will become tough and difficult to cut or eat. The dryness is caused by the removal of a large part of the juices in the meat. This means your meat will probably have a bland or no taste.
It would be best if you also avoided cooking already overcooked meat for too long to correct the mistake. This action can entirely ruin the meat. Some people make this mistake when they try to cook meat until it is very tender. They need the tender meat to start falling apart as strips that can be added to soups or for sandwiches. But there are specific guidelines for cooking meats to a tender state; it will help if you find these recipes and follow them.
5. Releasing pressure too quickly
Some pressure cookers are designed with standard and quick release mechanisms to get rid of the pressure. The choice is made based on the type of food you are cooking. When cooking some vegetables, you may need to use the quick release mechanism to reduce the steam pressure as fast as possible and prevent your vegetables from overcooking. Regarding cooking meats with a pressure cooker, the standard technique is to allow the steam pressure to slowly escape from the cooker. If you get it right, your meat will hardly come out looking tough or dry, except you have overcooked it already.
The point to note here is that the rate at which steam pressure escapes from your cooker can alter the texture of the food.
6. Overcooking foods in pressure cookers
The main reason we stress the need to avoid overcooking foods is to prevent the food from becoming tasteless. This often happens when meat is overcooked in a pressure cooker. Your goal should be to cook your meat and preserve all the juices and fats that can be used to make sauces or add flavor to your soups.
Overcooking foods in a pressure cooker can be avoided if you follow the instructions in your recipe carefully. This careful approach to cooking will also help you save energy and prepare a healthy meal for your family with all the nutrients intact.
Do the old recipes still work? Finding recipes online has become sort of a hobby for many people. It is interesting to see what other chefs have created and how the cooking methods have worked. Let’s not forget that recipes have also been passed down from the past generations. These recipes worked perfectly in those old days, suddenly, you use them, and your food is overcooked and almost ruined.
This is what happened; old recipes worked because the pressure cookers used at that time were designed to generate a different level of pressure, most probably lower than 15 psi, which we have now. This means you cannot get the same results. You are cooking with a pressure cooker that can generate more than 15 psi, so it is best you find recipes from other sources where the chefs have used similar pressure cookers. Then you will get good results.
7. Putting food in the pressure cooker
Considering the functionality of these cookers and how fast they work it is tempting to put in all your foods at once. If you plan to save time you may not achieve this goal because the food will get ruined and you have to spend more time making amends. Consider this, different foods such as meats, vegetables, beans, and other foods cook have different timing when cooked in pressure cookers. Placing meats and vegetables in a cooker will surely end with the vegetables overcooked because they require as only five minutes or less when pressure cooking.
A timing chart is a great tool for chefs who use pressure cookers often. These charts have been created after so many experiments. If you get a timing chart from the right source, you can depend on it for the best results. Timing charts are used even by the best chefs, so you must never feel less capable when using one of these illustrations. The best timing charts show the duration of different types of foods and recipes.
It is easier to monitor the time when you use a digital timer while cooking. These devices are portable and have alarms that alert you when the timer counts down. The digital timers can be worn like a necklace or kept in your pockets. The alarms are helpful when you are making different meals at the same time.
8. Discoloration of foods
Have you ever been shocked when you removed your food from the pressure cooker because of its color? Discoloration of foods happens when wrong cooking methods have been used. You cannot predict the changes that can happen to foods when they are cooked under high pressure for too long. Discolored foods can ruin your meals, people will avoid the food, and it can be wasted. Some foods that can lose their normal color when over or undercooked are meats, vegetables, peas, among others.
To avoid discoloration of foods when using a pressure cooker, you should learn how to manage pressure in the pot while cooking. There are many tips to achieve this; you can keep the heat source steady after achieving a particular temperature. Alternatively, releasing some pressure from the release valves can help to manage the pressure in your cooker.
To avoid overcooking, which causes your food to lose its normal color and nutrients; you can interrupt the cooking process. This is done by removing the pressure cooker from your heat source just before the set time is reached. Next, use the appropriate pressure release mechanism to allow the steam escape. Then check the temperature of food; if it has reached or exceeds the required temperature for normal cooking, it should be ready for consumption.
9. Cooking foods at very high temperature
Cooking foods at very high temperature can leave you with burned food. There are other reasons you should avoid cooking foods at a very high temperature with the pressure cooker. Your pressure cooker has been designed to withstand heat energy as high as 140 0C. Exceeding this temperature can destroy the gasket in your pressure cooker. That will cost some money to replace, and you wouldn’t want it to happen very often. Excessively high temperature can also cause the outer surface of your pressure cooker to lose its color.
The common reason amateurs set the temperature of their electric cookers too high is because they want the food cooked quickly. This decision can be retrogressive and set you back a few paces instead of helping you save time. To avoid these issues, learn about your electric burners to know how heat energy can be managed within the normal temperature.
If you are using one of the later models of pressure cookers, it is easier to avoid overheating your foods. These newer models of pressure cookers have indicators that show the pressure generated. When you find out the required pressure have been reached, you can regulate the heat source to maintain that pressure and avoid overheating your food.
If you have a pressure cooker with a jiggle top, here is a tip to avoid overheating your foods due to excessive pressure. Observe the jiggle regulator while cooking; if it starts jiggling, you need to lower the heat because the pressure that has been generated in the pressure cooker is too much and needs to escape. This way, you can maintain a normal pressure and ensure your food is not ruined.
10. Cooking tomato sauces in pressure cookers
These sauces are a common feature in many recipes; however, they do not turn out well when cooked in pressure cookers. This is because the thickness of the tomato sauce reduces the impact of the steam pressure. Consequently, the bottom of your pressure cooker will become scorched with the tomato sauce. This is what you can do in such a situation. If you are cooking a recipe that involves the use of tomato sauces, you should plan to add the sauce last after other ingredients have been cooked.
For example, you can prepare your vegetables, and herbs, add the spices to make your mixture first, then slowly add the tomato sauce in a way that it forms a layer over the other ingredients in the cooker. Please note that this mix should not be stirred, to keep the tomato sauce at the top level.
The steam pressure will cook the other ingredients below the tomato sauce layer, forming a base to keep the sauce at the top. The ingredients will hardly mix because everything is being cooked by the steam pressure the way the ingredients were put into the cooker.
After cooking in the pressure cooker, you can remove the lid and stir the sauce in low heat. The outcome will be perfect and your cooker safe from scorching.
11. Wrong techniques used to release pressure
After cooking your meals, you must release the steam pressure in the cooker before it can be opened. There are many options to perform this action. You can use the quick release valve on your cooker or the standard release mechanism which allows the steam pressure to escape slowly. Your choice is dependent on the food you are cooking and instructions in the recipe. If you use the wrong technique to release the pressure from your cooker, you may end up with overcooked food. This is how it happens. Foods such as vegetables need to be removed quickly from the pressure cooker because the heat inside the cooker, even after the steam pressure has been released keeps cooking your vegetables. If they are left in the cooker longer, the vegetables will be overcooked. In the case of meats, the slow release mechanism is more effective because your meat keeps cooking without any fear of overcooking when you have released the pressure at the right time.
Another method that can be used to lower the temperature of your cooker quickly to prevent overcooking is running some cold water over the pressure cooker after releasing the steam pressure. This method can only be used for the jiggle top pressure cookers because water can damage the panels and controls on electric cookers.
12. Wrong cooking methods
Pressure cookers can be used in different ways to cook food. They come with racks that can be used to steam cook some foods while you may need to submerge other foods in water while cooking. Using the wrong cooking method can ruin your food and eliminate all the nutrients. It is therefore important that you follow the instructions on the recipe carefully to get the best results. Here are some of the pressure cooking methods; boiling, steaming, cooking with flavored liquids and infusion cooking.
13. Cooking foods with too much or little liquids
Thankfully, the new models of pressure cookers have markings to guide you when putting in liquids. These are manufacturer settings that must be followed carefully to get the best results. Making assumptions can lead to overcooking or discoloration of foods. If you are using a pressure cooker that has not been pre-marked, here is a tip; the jiggle top pressure cookers can cook basic foods with about half a cup of water. This quantity should be sufficient for fifteen minutes. If you don’t get the desired results, you can add some more water and cook a little longer. Also, recipes indicate the quantity of water you should use for cooking different meals.
Try to avoid submerging all foods in water when using a pressure cooker. Find out the recommended quantity and stick to the instructions.
If you read your user manual carefully, you will notice the manufacturers stress the need to avoid filling your pressure cooker to the brim with liquids or food. There must be some space between the foods in the cooker and the lid. This is why manufacturers mark the interior parts of the cooker to guide users when putting in water. The space between the lid and the food cooking accommodates the pressure generated; this is how your food is cooked. Without this space, there can’t be a build-up of pressure and your food will be undercooked.
The standard for most pressure cookers is filling it with water to two-thirds its volume. This is how to measure two thirds easily. Fill up your pressure cooker. Then share the water into three containers equally. Next, pour water in two of these containers into your pressure cooker. That is two-thirds its volume.
14. Wrong methods of preparing foods
Before putting your food into the pressure cooker, it must be well prepared. Frozen food such as meats or vegetables should not be cooked in a pressure cooker. Raw foods should also be properly washed and prepared before you cook the food in pressure cookers. If your food is frozen, it must be defrosted properly before cooking. Let’s talk about sizes; foods should be cut to appropriate sizes before cooking. The size of foods cooked in pressure cookers can determine the length of cooking. Foods that need to be peeled should also be properly processed before cooking in a pressure cooker.
The mistakes and tips discussed in this post work. They can help you get the best results when you cook foods with your pressure cooker every time. What’s more, you can protect your cooker and make it last longer. Parts of the pressure cooker such as the seals in the gasket will also last longer. Follow these tips, and you will be happy with the results.