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pressure cooking

it's late and i'm tired, but i need to write quickly about dinner today.

a while back i became the recipient of a pressure cooker. it was a realm of cooking i've never explored, and thus it was (and still remains) somewhat intimidating to me. i think the main reason is because with what i'm adept at (cooking over a stove with a frying pan or a wok), i'm used to being able to make adjustments on the fly based on what i see, what i smell, what i taste, etc., and i've done it for so long that it comes natural to me, enough that i'm not afraid to experiment.

but with a pressure cooker, all that is out of the window. You put the stuff in the cooker and close the lid, and that's it. you can't see or check your contents in the middle of it. you can't do a taste test in the middle to see if you need to add something. you just set the timer, monitor the pressure, release the pressure when the timer goes off, and then open up the lid hoping that what you put in comes out in a form that's edible.

(in other words, it's like an accelerated form of baking and i've never been the greatest at baking things.)

i tried it for the first time today with some help and moral support from katie. What we ended up doing was taking a beef chuck dish i learned from my mom and translated it from oven to pressure cooker. When cooking it in the oven, it requires about two hours of cooking at 350 degrees. With the pressure cooker, the total cooking time was about twenty minutes, and it came out just as well, notwithstanding some liquid miscalculation.

i'm still not sure what to make of it. don't get me wrong - the food came out great, but it still feels wildly unnatural. When you're watching a cooking show and they're walking through the recipe and they have a step that's like "bake for one hour at 400 degrees", typically they'll keep the show rolling by either a) doing a time cut, or b) having ready a duplicate of the dish that's already gone through the baking part. This felt a lot like that - uncooked material and ingredients go in, close the lid, wave the magic wand, open the lid, and voila.

regardless, i may start to do it more often. it's supposed to be much healthier for you. The flavors are better preserved in the food. And it's pretty painless if you can accept the fact that if you get it slightly wrong, you have to keep it in mind for how you adjust it the next time you cook it.

i hope this entry came out intellgently. my brain feels pretty fried. good thing i napped earlier.

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Comments

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zqfmbg
Nov. 26th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
Pressure cooking doesn't always preserve flavours. The basic idea is that you're raising the boiling point of water inside the pressure vessel, so things like soups and stews actually cook at a higher temperature and thus cook faster. The higher temperature means certain things like acids dissipate faster, so you have to compensate afterwards.

Don't know enough to comment on the healthier aspect, except for the preservation aspect -- the higher water boiling point thing makes for faster and more effective canning.

Wikipedia lists "hygenic" as one of the advantages of pressure cooking. I don't know about that. 212 F already does a pretty good job, and in the case of frying, you're cooking the surface to a much higher temperature than that anyway.
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