What I've Learned About Pressure Cooking

I've been working on low carb/keto pressure cooker recipes. To be honest, I started doing this because I was getting requests for low carbohydrate, LCHF pressure cooker recipes at an increasing pace. I'd seen the infomercial about the Power Pressure Cooker XL — who hasn't? — and I confess I was not drawn in. What they called tender or succulent looked kinda overdone to me.

But the requests kept coming, and, as I have long said, I do not write recipes for me, I write recipes for you. So I went on Craigslist and found a barely-used Power Pressure Cooker XL for $50 (and a 90-minute drive to Louisville). I have also heard great things about the quite similar Instant Pot.
pressure cooker recipes. There has been a modest learning curve, but not too steep. Here are some things I have learned:

There are many similarities between pressure cookers and slow cookers (indeed, the modern electronic pressure cookers can be used as slow cookers, as well). Both don't do everything but do what they can do quite well. Both can only turn out moist foods, nothing crisp or crunchy. Both can, if misused, turn out meat that is not just tender but falling apart. This is sometimes what you're looking for, but not always. The big difference, of course, is the time factor: While slow cookers slow down the cooking process, pressure cookers speed it up.

Also like slow cookers, pressure cookers allow for no evaporation, sealing in not only whatever liquid you add to create steam, but also any liquid that cooks out of the food. This can make for insipid sauces unless you compensate for it. This can be done by using double-strength broth, by adding bouillon concentrate*, or by reducing the sauce after the dish is done. My Power Pressure Cooker XL quickly brings sauces to a boil and reduces them rapidly, so this is no problem.

The similarity to slow cookers continues: Searing the meat before pressure cooking often improves both the flavor and texture of the final dish. Again, the Power Pressure Cooker XL allows you to sear right in the pressure cooker, obviating the need to dirty a skillet. It does not have a separate cycle for searing, so I have to use the poultry/meat setting with the lid off. I have learned this is at its hottest during the preheating phase; once it kicks into the timed cycle which, if the lid were on, would be the cooking time, the temperature drops and I have to restart the preheating cycle. I understand that the very popular Instant Pot has a saute cycle which serves this purpose.

Unlike slow cookers, vegetables cook quite rapidly in the pressure cooker. In my slow cooker recipes, I usually recommend placing the vegetables, especially any root vegetables, beneath the meat, because for some inexplicable reason they take a long time to cook, longer than meat. This does not appear to be true of the pressure cooker — I did an excellent beef stew last night, with radishes, my new favorite potato substitute. They, like the chunks of beef, were perfect in 20 minutes time.

My pressure cooker requires about 1/2 cup of liquid to operate (as a pressure cooker, that is — remember, it can also be used as a slow cooker). This is different from a slow cooker, which, despite common use, does not absolutely require added liquid — I've used my slow cooker to bake things from cakes to sweet potatoes, and it works fine. But pressure cooking requires steam, and that requires liquid.

All told, I am having fun learning to pressure cook, and have been turning out some recipes I'm truly proud of. I'll let you know when the ebook is out!

*I use Better Than Bouillon paste bouillon concentrate; both the beef and chicken flavors are staples in my kitchen. Unlike the granules or cubes, BTB actually contains some of the meat listed on the label. However, if you don't care to use commercial bouillon concentrate, there's an easy solution: Make a big pot of bone broth or stock in your chosen flavor. Then, on a day when you're going to be puttering around the house, put it in your slow cooker, set on low, with the lid off. Set the kitchen timer to remind you to check on it every hour or so. When it's cooked down so far that it is syrupy, scrape it into a jar or snap top container and stash it in the freezer. Congratulations! You have just made all-natural bouillon concentrate.