How does a pressure cooker work?
Pressure cookers work by harnessing the power of steam heating to rapidly cook food. They feature airtight lids that prevent steam from a boiling liquid from escaping the pot, allowing pressure to build up inside. This pressure then pushes the temperature of boiling water (or another liquid) and steam past 212°F to up to 250°F. The temperature and pressure limit depends on the model.
Another distinction between a pressure cooker and slow cooker is that, aside from being airtight, the lids on pressure cookers also feature a steam release valve. This is an integral part of the design as it regulates the pressure and allows the steam inside the pot to escape when cooking is completed.
Before navigating how to use a pressure cooker, it’s important to distinguish the different types. Like slow cookers, there are two styles of pressure cookers:
● Stovetop pressure cooker – These models have been around for years. They’re placed on your stovetop and use heat from the burners to boil liquid and create steam. With stovetop models, you’ll generally have to adjust the steam valve yourself to release the steam after cooking is complete.
● Electric pressure cooker – An electric pressure cooker is a countertop appliance that plugs into an electrical outlet. Electric pressure cookers come in a variety of designs and have a variety of cooking capabilities. Most also feature enhanced safety settings like automatic, hands-free steam release valves.
Modern-day pressure cookers are extremely versatile kitchen appliances that allow you to cook almost anything your heart desires, from meat dishes like pot roasts and short ribs to vegetables, pasta, and even dessert.
How to choose between a slow cooker vs. pressure cooker
Slow cookers and pressure cookers are handy appliances that can help streamline home cooking—but which is right for you? When it comes to pressuring cooking vs. slow cooking, here are a few factors you should consider:
● Cooking volume – How much food do you intend to cook per meal? Slow cookers and pressure cookers come in a variety of sizes up to eight quarts, but pressure cookers need extra room inside the pot for the steam to accumulate, which limits the batch size. If you have a large family or plan on making soups and stews you can store for later, you may be better served by a slow cooker.
● Meal planning – With slow cookers, you’ll need to plan out your meal in advance. If you enjoy prepping your meal in the morning and letting it cook all day so that it’s ready by dinner time, go with a slow cooker. Conversely, a pressure cooker might be the better option if you want an easy way to make healthy meals without much planning.
● Cooking time – How long do you have to cook a meal? If it’s a busy weeknight and you need to get dinner on the table quickly, few things are as convenient as a pressure cooker. On the other hand, using a slow cooker to have a meal ready and waiting for you at the end of a long day is its own time-saving convenience.
● Versatility – Pressure cookers and slow cookers are both fairly versatile in enabling you to make different dishes. That said, most modern pressure cookers are actually multi-cookers. This means they perform a range of cooking functions, from steaming, searing, and sauteing, to braising, baking, and more.
● Energy use – Energy use is another factor you should consider when deciding between getting a slow cooker vs. a pressure cooker. If minimizing your energy consumption is important, a pressure cooker is an ideal choice—you’ll be shaving hours off of the time it takes to cook a meal.
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