While suffering from a tarnished image lately, the pressure cooker continues to be a valuable piece of equipment in the kitchen and one of my favorite time savers! You can prepare anything from brown rice to pot roast, beef stew or frozen green beans in a fraction of the time it would take with more conventional cooking methods.

Pressure cookers

Because food is cooked in a sealed vessel preventing steam from escaping, pressure cookers cook food faster than other methods while saving energy in the process.

Pressure is created by boiling a liquid, either water or broth, inside the closed container. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure. As the pressure rises, the boiling point of water increases, allowing the food to be cooked at a higher temperature than it would in an open container.

After use, the pressure is slowly decreased allowing the pressure cooker to be safely opened.

Pressure cooking can be used to simulate simmering or braising in a shorter time period. Almost any food that can be cooked in liquid can be cooked in the pressure cooker.

This method is particularly suited to shorten long cooking items like roasts, stews and whole grains. It is also ideal for tougher cuts of meat that require lengthy heating to become tender.

Most pressure cookers operate at 15 pounds per square inch (psi). At 15 psi it takes approximately 20 minutes to cook a whole chicken when the pressure is allowed to drop naturally after cooking. Stews can be prepared in under an hour with even shorter cooking times if food pieces are cut smaller.

Karen Tempel, an aspiring chef since she could reach the countertops, has been delighting friends and family for most of her life. She is the owner of Everyday Gourmet, a custom caterer in the Aiken area. Visit www.LetKarenCook.com or email Karen@LetKarenCook.com.

Easy pressure cooker pot roast

This recipe is so quick, it makes pot roast a possibility for weeknight meals.

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 (3 pound) beef chuck roast, fat trimmed off

ground black pepper to taste

1 (14.5 ounce) can beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 large onion, cut into 4 large wedges

4 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

Heat oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides (2-3 minutes per side) and season with pepper.

Add broth and onion. Seal the lid and bring up to pressure. Reduce heat to low, maintaining full pressure, and cook for 30 minutes.

Use the quick release method to release the pressure. Add carrots and potatoes, seal the lid and bring back up to full pressure. Cook an additional 15 minutes. Release pressure using the quick release method again.

Transfer pot roast and vegetables to a serving platter.

Serves 6-8

Cooker Trivia

• In 1679, French physicist Denis Papin, better known for his studies on steam, invented the steam digester in an attempt to reduce the cooking time of food.

• In 1938, Alfred Vischler presented his invention, the Flex-Seal Speed Cooker, in New York City. Vischler’s pressure cooker was the first one designed for home use.

• First generation: Also known as “old type” pressure cookers, these operate with a weight-modified or “jiggly” valve, which releases pressure during operation. (This is the one you may remember your grandmother using.)

• Second generation pressure cookers operate with a spring-loaded valve that is often hidden from view in a proprietary mechanism.

• Electric pressure cookers, called “third generation” pressure cookers by their manufacturers, include an electric heat source that is automatically regulated to maintain the operating pressure.

Source: Wikipedia