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Pressure cooking is a way of cooking food in liquid using a gasket-sealed pan to retain steam and build pressure. By increasing the pressure inside the pan, the boiling point of the liquid in the pressure cooker is raised to 215˚F - 250˚F, which is much higher than normal sea level boiling point. The increased temperature of the water and steam causes the fibers of the food to break down more quickly. This process saves energy since the cooking times are shortened by up to 70%.
Since most second generation pressure cookers require very little liquid, using one prevents the loss of many water soluble vitamins. It also helps to retain colors when preparing vegetables. Another benefit to high pressure is that it pushes flavor deep inside the muscle fibers of even the toughest cuts of meat. The moist heat in a pressure cooker is also an ideal environment for preparing stocks and many egg dishes. The heat in the cooker is much gentler than the dry heat of a typical oven. The liquid creates a water bath which insulates delicate custards and cakes.
Pressure-Cooking Time Tables cooking times for common vegetables, beans, legumes and meat.
Basic Guide to selecting a Pressure Cooker (Adapted from Good Eats):
1st Generation Pressure Cookers - Your Grandma's pressure cooker - uses a weight that jiggles to maintain pressure, many are made of aluminum which is weak, reacts with acids and requires constant finessing, they are loud, not as many safety features, lots of moisture loss but inexpensive, around $30-40.
Modified 1st Generation Pressure Cooker - uses a spring loaded valve instead of a weight to maintain pressure, less noisy, less moisture loss, moderately priced around $60-70
2nd Generation Pressure Cooker - uses a spring loaded rod to maintain pressure, generally made from stainless steel, includes additional safety mechanisms, low moisture loss so requires less liquid, precise, quiet, less attention needed, often more expensive at around $80-250
Manufacturer Recipe Books/Manuals:
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