By Kelley Herring
Before the newest generation pressure cookers came along, using these old-fashioned (and potentially explosive) kitchen tools was enough to scare anyone out of an apron.
Fortunately, the days of unsafe pressure cookers are long past. The electric pressure cooker has taken all the glory of this almost 400-year-old tool and revolutionized the way we cook. To understand why pressure cookers are so handy, it’s important to first understand how they work.
Make the Most Succulent Meats Ever to Grace Your Mouth
Ovens can get really hot.
And while that can be a good thing when it comes to getting food on the table, research shows that high temperatures and long cooking times can reduce nutrients and create harmful cancer-causing byproducts (like AGEs, LOPs and acrylamide).
Oven cooking can also cause extensive moisture loss over time, turning what should be a juicy roast into a tough and less-than-appetizing dinner.
The culinary conundrum of how to retain moisture has frustrated home cooks for centuries: How do you achieve succulent, moist meats that are fall apart tender… and don’t dry out?
Enter the pressure cooker. This tool uses the power of liquid pressure, to create a steamy sealed oven that cooks food faster than any other method.
Aside from the obvious benefit of a quicker meal, you also get more nutrients and flavor with this “fast food” technique. While the heat inside a pressure cooker is able to exceed the boiling point, thanks to the high-pressure environment – it still remains relatively low, compared to an oven.
That means heat-sensitive nutrients are able to survive. And you avoid the dangerous high-heat conditions that can lead to carcinogens. The moisture helps break down tough fibers in meats, yielding not only succulent roasts… but a dinner that is easier to digest!
Avoid the Mushy, Warmed-Over Results of Slow Cookers
While the slow cooker and the pressure cooker are both great tools to have in the kitchen for big, hands-free meals, some stark differences separate them.
Both help cook tough meats to tender perfection, but with a pressure cooker, you don’t need much planning time. Instead of setting up shop before you leave for the day, you can crank the pressure while you help with homework, get your workout in, or cozy up with a good book.
And it’s not just about being prepared. If you set up your slow-cooker before work or falling asleep, there’s a good chance your food will cook longer than the desired 4-6 hours. A frozen chicken might turn out just fine. But any veggies would turn into an unappetizing mush that’s likely lacking many of the once-present nutrients. Pressure cookers work so quickly, on the other hand, that vegetables retain their nutrients while becoming more flavorful and fork-tender.
Choosing a Pressure Cooker
For us, there’s no debate over which tool to turn to for stews, soups, roasts and daunting vegetables, like winter squash. And if the ease wasn’t enough to “wow” us, the bonus and hidden features won our hearts.
While there are a number on the market, the Instant Pot and all its settings has proven to be the most efficient. Stove-top pressure cookers need to be monitored as a hot stove left alone is a recipe for disaster. The Instant Pot is a one-stop shop you can plug, press and forget.
It even has a sauté feature, so you can sear veggies or meat before pressure cooking to seal in flavors (and without adding another dirty pan to dish duty). It has a “warm” setting to keep food plate ready without overcooking.
With 12 safety features, even the most novice cook can use it safely. And the compact shape takes up no more space than a typical stew pot under the cupboard. It’s easy to set up and cooks food faster than we ever imagined. And it’s not just roasts and stews…
Nine Bonus Tricks You Can Do with Your Instant Pot
Once we mastered a whole chicken roast and turned out authentic pork carnitas for taco night, we couldn’t help but wonder what other secrets this Kitchen Magician had up its sleeve. Turns out, it can do much more than you might think! From homemade yogurt to fresh, jarred vanilla extract, here are 9 cool hacks you can try…
- Gelatin-Rich Bone Broth
Move over boxed chicken stock!
The pressure inside an Instant Pot reaches deep to extract the nutrients from bones and joints that no stovetop stew pot or slow cooker ever could. And it creates a dense, flavorful broth, perfect for soups or a morning cup, in a matter of hours, not days!
And not only does it take a fraction of the time, but gone are the days of your whole house smelling like… bones. (If you’ve ever made your own bone broth, you know.)
Enjoying a cup of gelatinous bone broth can curb your appetite, heal your gut, help your joints and even boost your immunity and energy! And with the Instant Pot, you can create cups of this miracle food with just grass-fed marrow bones, knuckle bones and chicken feet along with some high quality sea salt, onion, celery and carrots.
- The Best Boiled Eggs
You could argue that between the time it takes to come to pressure and the cooking time, hard-boiling eggs in a pressure cooker doesn’t seem like much of a time saver. But the results are worth the switch.
The pressure forces the egg whites away from the shell lining, making a cooled egg easier to peel than a banana. What’s more, using the handy timer you can dial in your egg preferences – three minutes for a jammy, soft boiled egg and six for hard-boiled.
Bonus? The Instant Pot locks in the classic hard-boiled egg smell!
- Defrost in a Flash
One of the best features of pressure cookers is that you can make enough food to freeze some for a future meal.
But when it comes to reheating, you lose some of that fresh-from-the-oven taste. You also have to dedicate time to stirring your frozen block around the pan. And forget microwaving! You can kiss vital nutrients, like vitamin B12, goodbye.
The Instant Pot defrosts in a jiffy. Just throw your meal in on “steam” and lock the lid. No more panicked delivery orders or expensive, last minute dinners out. This frozen-to-table-in-a-flash feature works great for bulk cuts of meat as well. Dinner in a hurry – without the worry!
- Pesky Vegetables
Winter squashes can be daunting. Due to their size and tough exterior, peeling and chopping a raw butternut or spaghetti squash can be a dangerous feat.
And getting winter squash on the table in time for dinner takes advanced planning. But the Instant Pot cuts the time (and the toughness) for you. In fact, you can cook a whole winter squash (without pre-cutting!) in less than 30 minutes.
- Purest Purees and Soups
From peas to pumpkins, you can preserve flavor while creating your own nutrient-rich purees and soups in a flash…
Turn frozen cauliflower to mashed “no-tatoes” in minutes, for a low-carb side dish that rivals Grandma’s cooking. Cook whole pie pumpkins for a homemade pumpkin pie that tastes better than any diner’s. Create smooth and creamy loaded baked potato (or cauliflower) soup… authentic Mexican tortilla soup… or velvety lobster bisque in minutes!
- DIY Soaked Nuts, Nut Butters and Nut Milks
But to create these delicious nut milks, butters and cheeses – you have to plan ahead and soak overnight. The Instant Pot speeds up this hydration step – making the creamiest Almond Milk you’ve ever had or perfectly soaked almonds – in a mere five minutes.
Transform those nuts into a nut butter, dairy-free ricotta, yogurt or even a “cheesecake.”
- Simple (Infused) Syrups
Bartenders, step aside! You’ve seen the jars behind the bar full of herbs, sugar and water to make flavor boosters. The citrus peels sitting patiently in vodka for days on end… But if you’re looking to add oomph to your cocktails, or just boost your morning tea with some office-approved ginger syrup, the Instant Pot can provide just the remedy.
For quick, infused, simple syrups, just add herbs or ingredients of your liking, a couple cups of water, and your sweetener of choice to taste. Once up to pressure, these syrups can be ready in just 10 minutes. Mojitos, anyone?
- DIY Vanilla Extract
Yet another “aha” moment for the Instant Pot…
A quality vanilla extract can be one of the most expensive items on your baking list. But you can make it yourself for a mere fraction the cost of store-bought.
Some simple vodka or vegetable glycerin and vanilla beans in bulk will make this your new favorite gift at pot-lucks, holidays or simply a delicious addition to your avocado mousse.
- Features on the Front: Beans, Yogurt, Rice and more!
These aren’t exactly “hacks” for your new tool, but they’re bonuses worth noting. This power machine transforms not only into a speedy rice cooker, it can help strip dangerous lectins and phytic acid from quinoa and peas.
If you’re keen on beans, you can cook raw beans without soaking in just half an hour. Unlike a slow-cooker, the pressure won’t overcook and turn your beans into mush. But if hummus is what you seek, you’re just moments away from fresh dip – at a quarter of the cost. Homemade Greek-style coconut yogurt? After a quick whisk and simmer of a few ingredients, the Instant Pot does the work for you – keeping your probiotic creation at the right temperature for the right amount of time for creamy and authentic Greek yogurt (sans dairy).
Save Time & Money Making Healthier, More Delicious Meals
Revolutionizing your kitchen, as well as your diet, is incredibly affordable with the Instant Pot. You can order this tool on Amazon for around $100. And when you take into consideration the time and money you’ll save, this “kitchen magician” will pay for itself many times over!
Grab a copy of Kelley’s new free book, Instant Pot Keto Dinners, where you’ll learn how to make 7 delicious, whole-food meals your family will love. Get your free copy here.