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Your Cooking Questions Answered

JoyLynne in Ask The Community asks: "I just bought a new electric pressure cooker, but it came with very little information. Any suggestions?"

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker | Photo by Meredith

Congratulations on your purchase, JoyLynne!

Electric pressure cookers have been around for years, but have yet to go mainstream in America. That's really unfortunate as these little fellas do more than just make pot roast in under an hour. Most of these will take the place of other appliances as well, with functions that turn them into slow cookers, rice cookers, and even yogurt makers! This top-of-the-line model (pictured above) even comes with built in Bluetooth, so you can program the appliance directly from your iPhone, and monitor it as it cooks!

Well, enough with the sales pitch, you already bought one.

Put your new friend to work with one of the Pressure Cooker Recipes from allrecipes.com. I wrote an article a while back singing the time-saving praises of pressure cookers, and identifying particularly good recipes. Check it out here: Pressure Cooking: Your Stovetop Time Machine.

Start with recipes specifically written for pressure cooking to get a handle on how your new cooker works. Once you're comfortable with it, you can start adapting non-pressure cooker recipes. A few tips to keep in mind as you convert standard recipes:

  • Sear in the flavor - Meat will not brown in the moist heat of a pressure cooker, so you'll need to brown it first. Stews, pot roasts, and pork chops will benefit greatly from the additional flavor browning provides.
  • Reduce the quantity of liquid in your recipe - The tight-fitting lid only allows a minimum amount of water to escape as steam. Reduce the liquid used in soups by about 1-2 cups. Similarly, you'll need only 1-2 cups of liquid for braised meats such as pot roasts and chicken.
  • Not too thick! - Don't use a thick sauce as your cooking liquid without thinning it down first. It might seem like a good idea to use straight BBQ sauce to cook your pork shoulder, but it's gonna burn! The electric pressure cooker goes from 0-60 FAST! A sugary sauce like BBQ is going to burn before it's thinned out by juices from the meat. [Ask me how I know.]
  • Don't cook longer than you need to - As I said, these things are fast! Overcooking by even a few minutes could turn your beans to mush. Undercook by a few minutes, and meat will be chewy. Use pressure cooking timetables to determine the correct amount of time for your converted recipes.