With the holiday rush upon us and our schedules filling up with everything from shopping to school programs to Christmas/Holiday parties and travel it’s even harder to find the time to get everything done. One of the first things to suffer is meal preparation, and before you know it you’re in line at the drive-thru.
A year or so ago, we invested in an electric pressure cooker. I have an enormous old-fashioned one for canning, of course, but getting that thing out to prepare a meal for the two of us is more than a little over-kill. Every time I use my electric one, however, I grow to love it more. It’s amazing the number of tasty meals you can prepare in an hour or less – things that used to take an entire afternoon – and they still taste like you spent hours on them.
The key to making the most of your pressure cooker, whether it’s traditional or electric, is to have a really good pressure cooker cookbook.
As you’re probably aware by now, I’m not much for following recipes – for me, they’re more of a suggestion, but when it comes to using a pressure cooker, there are a few key things that you need to know, regardless of what you’re planning to cook, and a good cookbook will pull it all together for you. First, how long will it need to cook, second, how much water will you need to include and third, do you need to depressurize rapidly or allow the pressure to decrease slowly as the food continues to cook. I am a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen and their methodical approach to sorting things out. I looked through several pressure cooker cookbooks, but this one was definitely the sort of thing that would allow me, as always to adapt the ideas into whatever I was trying to accomplish.
When dealing with a pressure cooker, ALWAYS BE VERY CAUTIOUS AND FOLLOW SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AND ALL MANUFACTURERS DIRECTIONS! I can not stress this enough. If you don’t believe me, search YouTube for “Pressure Cooker Explosions”. A pressure cooker is not something you can risk leaving unattended or forgetting you left on. This is the other advantage to the electric models. They have their own cook timers and will turn themselves off should something urgent distract you.
There are lots of other things that are more recipe-specific, of course and you’ll learn the quirks of your cooker and some of the finer points related to the size of the items you’re cooking and the melding of flavors, but that comes with experimentation and learning what you like.
One of our favorites is country style ribs. For years, I’ve done country style ribs in the oven, awash in BBQ sauce, covered with foil and cooked at a relatively low temperature for at least 2 and a half hours. Having seen several chefs on TV making short work of tender ribs in their pressure cookers, I felt challenged to see what I could do with mine.
The directions: (Because I struggle to call anything this simple a recipe.)
Salt and pepper your country style ribs liberally.
Put about a tablespoon and a half, maybe two (depending on the size of your pressure cooker and how much meat you have) of olive oil in the bottom of your pressure cooker and heat it up over medium high heat for a traditional cooker, or use the “Brown” setting for your electric cooker.
Brown the meat on both/all sides.
Add one cup of hot water, one and a half tablespoons of dried, minced onion** and an entire bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Rinse the bottle with another half cup of hot water and add all of that to your pressure cooker.
Seal your lid and cook, under pressure, for 40 minutes. (Make sure that you do not start your cooking time until the cooker reaches pressure.) Turn off the heat, release pressure per your cooker’s safety directions and serve.
**My severe intolerance to raw/undercooked onions leaves me using the dried ones most of the time. Please feel free to enjoy the fresh ones!