I think we’ve all heard the urban legends about pressure cookers. The one that always comes to my mind is the pressure cooker that exploded and permanently disfigured the cook before burning down her whole neighborhood and the city of Chicago. This may be an exaggeration, but at the very least thinking about pressure cookers usually gives most cooks a knot in their stomach.
Some time ago I went to a cooking class that was all about pressure cooking. For my own protection I took a seat as far away from the action as I could just in case the top decided to blow off and kill everyone in the room. The teacher stuffed the cooker with a beautiful piece of beef and an assortment of aromatic herbs and good red wine. He secured the lid, turned it on and let her rip for about an hour or so.
After the cooking time, he ran some cool water over the top to ease the pressure inside the cooker and gently loosened the lid (this is when I hit the deck). He then removed the meat and set it aside to rest while he prepared a silken mahogany colored sauce from the juices left in the bottom. The result of this fast and easy preparation was one of the best pot roasts I have ever eaten.
I was so impressed that on the way home I stopped and picked up my first pressure cooker. Since then I have made several delicious meals with it. If you live at a high altitude this is especially helpful for speeding up the cooking time of dried beans and tougher cuts of meat, but even if you live at sea level, this is just an incredible time saver for busy cooks.
Cooking with steam and pressure is nothing new. The “Steam Digester” was first developed in France in 1769. Inventor Denis Papin built this air-tight cooking vessel as a way to cook foods faster. By 1941 the modern Presto giggle top pressure cooker was present in almost every home in America. It held a place of importance until the 1980s when it was rivaled by the microwave as the king of speed cooking.
Between the invention of the microwave oven and tales of kitchen injuries, seasoned home cooks packed their pressure cookers away, and young cooks mostly turned their backs on these once loved kitchen helpers. I never even witnessed anyone using a pressure cooker until my cooking class a couple of years ago.
A few weeks ago I was asked by the folks at IMUSA, USA if they could send me one of their many products to review. I combed through their extensive website of cooking products, and it was really a hard decision, but I kept coming back to their electric digital pressure cooker. Although I already had a pressure cooker, this one looked to be light years ahead of mine with its sleek new design and multiple functions. I just couldn’t resist it.
When the UPS man delivered my cooker a few days ago, I carefully unpacked the box, drinking in the intoxicating aroma of a new kitchen appliance. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this affordable unit (priced under $100) is not only a pressure cooker, but it also browns, steams and slow cooks. It has a roomy, non-stick interior cooking pot which is also removable for ease of cleaning. It comes complete with a cool touch exterior, a lid that snaps firmly and securely into place and a whisper quiet operation. And to top it all off, it is super easy to program, even for those of us who read instructions only as a last resort.
For my first dish in this new cooker I decided to make a family favorite, carne guisada which translates to “stewed meat” in Spanish. Most often made with inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat, it normally requires hours of cooking to break the meat down until it is fall apart tender.
After browning the meat and adding the Mexican herbs and spices, I programmed my cooker for 50 minutes on high pressure and left it alone to do its stuff. My result? A delicious and tender main course that was ready to eat in about an hour. This was so easy that I am already planning our next pressure cooker meal of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s day.
2 pounds chuck roast, cut into 1” cubes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 Poblano pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium size chopped chipotle pepper plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 bay leaf
2 medium size Roma tomatoes, chopped
12 ounces beer (Dark beer if possible. Personally I love Shiner bock)
1 tablespoon beef bouillon granules
Toss the chuck roast and flour together; set aside.
Heat oil in the bottom of a pressure cooker set to brown or in a large stock pot set over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides; stir well. Add the onions and peppers and cook for another 5 minutes or so before adding the garlic and cooking for one minute longer. Sprinkle any flour leftover from dusting the meat over the top and stir well. Add the cumin, chipotle, cilantro, bay leaf, tomatoes, beer and bouillon; stir well and bring to a boil.
At this time if you are using a pressure cooker, turn the browning setting off. Cover the cooker with the lid making sure it is properly sealed. Set the pressure to the high setting and cook for 40 – 45 minutes. At higher altitudes, increase cooking time to 45 – 50 minutes.
For the conventional stove top method, cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook (stirring occasionally) until the meat is fall apart tender, approximately 2 – 2 – 1/2 hours.
Serve in warm tortillas with your choice of avocado or guacamole, cilantro, sour cream, cheese or salsa.
After thoroughly reading the instructions, I seared my meat cubes in the pot set on the “Brown” setting.
I combined the meat, spices and liquid, closed the lid and set the timer.
In about an hour our Carne Guisada was ready to eat.
One of the best Carne Guisada tacos I’ve ever eaten. We like ours with avocado, corn salsa and maybe just a little bit of shredded cheese.
In addition to giving me this great new appliance to review, the generous folks at IMUSA, USA is also giving me one to give to one of my followers. To enter you must be a public follower and leave me a comment saying you’d like to be entered.
Please leave a separate comment stating each entry or they will be counted as one. Random.org will choose my lucky winner (so sorry, US residents only) on March 15th. Good luck everyone!
*IMUSA, USA provided me with this product and the one to be given away at no charge. Although very generous of them, the opinion expressed here is entirely mine and completely objective.