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NMSU teaches pressure cookers are quick way to prepare nutritional food

ALBUQUERQUE ? Pressure cookers are finding their way back into the kitchen as people want a way to quickly prepare nutritional food.

Woman with hand on cooking pot lid handle.
New Mexico State University Bernalillo County Extension home economist Corina Chavez demonstrates the proper way to seal a lid on a pressure cooker. The class was included in the Kitchen Series, in which Chavez will teach a variety of topics on how to use appliances while cooking. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

?We have had many calls regarding how to use a pressure cooker,? said Corina Chavez, New Mexico State University home economist at the Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service office in Albuquerque. ?This class is included in our Kitchen Series where we will do a variety of classes.?

People are finding their mother?s, or grandmother?s pressure cookers while clearing their homes and they remember how much the cooker was used in the past prior to the introduction of microwave cooking.

?People are afraid of using pressure cookers because of the stories they have heard about the pressurized steam burning someone, or the food exploding from the vent pipe on the lid,? Chavez said. ?But using a pressure cooker is easy and safe.?

Chavez conducted a cooking class during her Kitchen Series at the Bernalillo County Extension office recently where she demonstrated the use of pressure cookers, including a modern electric cooker.

?Many people use it for preparing just one type of food, such as pinto beans, but it can be used to cook all types of vegetables and meats,? she said.

Using a pressure cooker will help reduce cooking time by 50 percent or more compared to conventional cooking techniques. This helps decrease energy usage and keep the kitchen cool.

?You are able to boost the nutritional value of the food by locking in flavor and color,? Chavez said. ?You can make great-tasting food with or without added fat, and you can use less expensive cuts of meat because pressure cooking will tenderize the meat.?

With the pressure cooker, a flavor-packed meal can be prepared in minutes that tastes like it took all day.

?A good rule of thumb is that an ingredient will cook in one-quarter to one-third of the time it takes with another method,? Chavez said. ?The reason is simple. Putting the contents of the pot under pressure by trapping the steam raises the boiling point of water.?

The key to safety is timing and cooling the pot before opening the sealed lid.

?Foods cook quickly in the pressure cooker so precise timing is important to avoid overcooking,? Chavez said. ?Cooking pinto beans can take eight hours in a crock pot, but under pressure it takes 50 minutes.?

An entire meal can be prepared in 30 to 60 minutes depending on whether the main course is poultry or meat.

Where many unsuspecting cooks have found disaster is when they do not cool the pot prior to removing the lid.

?The pressure cooker has an air vent/cover lock that will not allow the lid to be released until the pressure is released,? Chavez said. ?Disaster happens if the cook removes the pressure regulator before the pot has been cooled properly.?

Whether the pressure cooker is a manual or electric, Chavez said reading the instructions prior to using it, and following the recipes precisely is the key to turning the meal from boring to delicious.

A brochure regarding cooking with a pressure cooker is available at bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu/documents/pressure_cooking_booklet.pdf

For other cooking classes being offered by the Bernalillo County Extension office visit bernalilloextension.nmsu.edu and view upcoming events.