How it Works
Pressure cookers are so much more than the sum of their parts. It's amazing that a pot with a pressure valve and a semi-sealed, lockable lid can produce fall-off-the-bone ribs or quickly cook beans to the ideal toothy texture. Here's how it works: building steam increases the pressure inside the pot, which raises the boiling point of water (from 212F to as high as 250F) and significantly decreases the amount of time it takes your food to go from ingredient to table.
Pressure Release Methods
Ready to take the pressure off? Not so fast! Learn more about the three ways to properly open your pot before chowing down. Your pressure cooker recipes should tell you which method is preferred, helping you avoid undercooking or overcooking your food. Another way to help ensure food is cooked evenly is to cut vegetables that take longer to cook into smaller pieces and leave vegetables that cook faster in larger pieces.
- Cold Water Release: The fastest way to release the pressure, this method uses cold, slow-running tap water over the edge of the lid. It only takes around 20 seconds for the pressure cooker to cool down enough to be opened, so this method is most suitable for foods with short cooking times. Be careful not to immerse the pressure cooker in water, and avoid water spilling onto any valves or outlets on the unit. Some models may advise against this method (for example, it's not advised for electric pressure cookers) or offer different instructions. So, always check your manual first.
- Manual, Normal, or Automatic Release: Sometimes called a quick-release, this method involves lifting a valve, pushing a button, or turning a dial to create a quick release of pressure. It's suitable if you need to stop cooking to add an ingredient—for example, adding some vegetables to your beef stew—because it doesn't cool down the pressure cooker. It should not be used for foods that foam and froth while cooking (scalding contents could spray outward when opened), and steam should be released with caution. With this method, you'll wait about two minutes before the lid can be opened.
- Natural Release: This method takes the longest—about 10 to 15 minutes, or possibly longer—and is done simply by removing the pressure cooker from the heat and allowing pressure to lower on its own. Many units have an indicator pin that lets you know the pressure's gone. It's perfect for those foam-inducing foods (like rice and legumes). This method can also help improve the texture and tenderness of meats, and it's best for dishes that take longer to cook (dishes with shorter cooking times might become overdone).
What to Make
Your options are almost endless. Pressure cookers are known for their ability to cook almost everything—and fast! From beans and vegetables to meat and potatoes, the variety of preparations you have to choose from is sure to keep your hungry crew happy.
- Boil: Cover the food halfway with water for a perfect boil.
- Braise: Great for tougher cuts of meat, browning it first and then adding wine, broth, water, or milk will result in a tender, flavorful dish.
- Brown: Most recipes begin—or end with this step. It's the key to the nutty flavor in your risotto or the most tender, juicy pressure cooker pot roast.
- Canning: This can be done two ways—using hot water without pressure, or steaming the jars on the steamer basket and opening with the natural method.
- Juicing: Place the fruit in a steamer basket with a container underneath and the pressure will squeeze the juice right out!
- Reduce: After the lid is safely removed, you can simmer the pan juices to create a savory sauce or gravy.
- Rice: For a fluffy, no-fuss side, follow the package directions for the amount of rice and liquid, bring to pressure, remove from the heat, and remove pressure (about 10 minutes) before opening.
- Roast: Add your meat, veggies, and about 1 to 2 cups of cooking liquid. Once you've tried a pressure cooker chicken made this way, you'll never turn on your oven again.
- Steam: Most pressure cookers come with a steaming accessory or basket that allows your food to cook to perfection above 1/2" of boiling water. Hard-boiled eggs are a dream to peel after using this method.
- Stew: An easy technique for a weeknight dinner, just toss in your ingredients, attach the lid, and begin the countdown to deliciousness.
- Water Bath: Insert the steamer basket and 1 cup of water, followed by a heat-resistant bowl covered in aluminum foil.
Tips & Tricks
- Safety First: Pressure cooker horror stories are a thing of the past. Thanks to a plethora of safety features, you won't be ducking from flying lids, scraping dinner off the ceiling, or cowering in the corner as your old stainless steel pressure cooker chugs and hisses away. Recent models contain lids that have to be locked before the pressure starts, an expanding rubber gasket that won't let you open the pot until the pressure's gone, and over-pressure plug or back-up vents to prevent too much steam from building up.
How it Works
Countertop convenience. If you've never used a slow cooker or Crock-Pot in your own kitchen, you've likely encountered one keeping something delicious warm at the office potluck or family holiday party. They're an easy way to prepare a home-cooked meal (or appetizer--or even drinks and desserts) when you're busy with other things. And, really, who has time to spend all day in the kitchen? Programmable slow cookers allow you to add all (or most) of your ingredients at once, and just set it and forget it for about four to eight hours. All that's left to do is enjoy the smell of a slowly simmering chili, barbecue ribs, or mulled cider filling your home.
Slow cookers and Crock-Pots have come a long way in terms of features and style, but they still have the same basic functionality. They're available in sizes from 1 quart to 8-1/2 quarts, so it's easy to find the size you need to fit your space or your family. When following a recipe, be sure to follow the size it recommends—or adjust the quantities accordingly—so it cooks properly.
What to Make
While you might think that you're limited to a few slow cooker chicken or slow cooker pot roast recipes, it's really perfect for anything designed to simmer. In addition to staples like soups, spare ribs, pulled pork, and baked beans, the list of delicious and easy slow cooker recipes you can make includes spiced wine, spinach artichoke dip, dinner rolls, and even French toast or chocolate cake!
Tips & Tricks
- There's no escape…for liquids in your slow cooker. So if you're using a recipe not designed for a slow cooker, reduce the liquid it calls for by 1/3 so your main course isn't floating in broth or sauce.
- Too much of a good thing. Make sure you only fill your Crock-Pot 1/2 to 2/3 full so food cooks properly.
- Levels of flavor. Food on the bottom of your slow cooker will cook the fastest and be the moistest because it's immersed in the simmering liquid. Along the same lines, make sure you layer the foods just as the recipe calls for. Most vegetables need more time to cook and should be placed at the bottom.
- No peeking! Or stirring! Every time you remove the slow cooker lid, you'll need to add an extra 20 to 30 minutes of cooking time. If your Crock-Pot has a clear lid, just spin it until condensation is removed and you can see your dish clearly.
- OK, you can remove the lid…if you want to reduce the liquid or thicken a sauce. Just take the lid off and cook on high for the last 30 minutes.
- Never place a cold inner pot inside your slow cooker. If you've kept the dish in the fridge, allow it to come to room temperature before cooking.
- Don't throw away that manual. Slow cooker models vary a great deal, so it's helpful to follow the manufacturer's suggestions for temperatures and cooking times.
- It's high time! Rice and pasta dishes cook the best at the highest temps and shortest time. Rinse well first to remove as much starch as possible for the best results.
- Skin is NOT in. Removing the skin from poultry and excess fats from meats will actually result in better-tasting food. Excess fat will make foods cook too fast and will alter the taste of your dish—and not in a good way.
- Don't blow your budget on meat. Cheaper cuts are less fatty and actually work best in a slow cooker. For example, throwing a chuck roast in your Crock-Pot, along with some onion soup mix, beef broth, and veggies, makes a quick and easy dinner with some of the most tender, flavorful beef you've ever tried.
How it Works
The multi cooker is exactly what its name implies: one device that can replace several kitchen appliances--your fryer, electric cooker, and steamer, to name a few. Just by changing the settings and cooking method, you can boil, bake, fry roast, stew, or steam. Did you know that you can even make bread and yogurt? With so many different functions and possibilities, you can just add your ingredients, select the correct function, and go about the rest of your day while the cooker does all the work.
What to Make
Multi cookers have a function for almost every dish. Here are some of the most common you'll encounter:
- 3D Heat: This mode ensures the heat surrounds the food completely, helping to preserve vitamins and minerals in your dish.
- Keep Warm: After your selected program ends, this mode can keep your meal hot for hours. Generally, your food will stay at 140F or higher, so you don't have to worry about harmful bacteria developing.
- Reheat: Have leftovers that you want ready a little later? This mode will ensure everything is perfectly heated in time for plating.
- Time Delay: Set it and forget it. If your recipe doesn't require any stirring or add-ins later in the process, choose this mode to be welcomed home to a perfectly prepared meal at the time you desire. To use this method, be sure that your ingredients are safe to stay at room temperature for a few hours until cooking begins.
Tips & Tricks
Below are some ways to make the most out of every function your multi cooker has to offer.
- Bake: Forget the oven, and enjoy biscuits, casseroles, cakes, and pastries made simple.
- Cook: This mode brings your food to a boil and maintains it for the time you select. It's ideal for soup, broth, oatmeal, rice, and grains.
- Fry: Prepare for perfect chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, and hot wings with this mode. Most multi cookers can fry with the lid on or off.
- Pasta: With this mode, the multi cooker heats to boiling and then pauses when it's time to add the ingredients. Once you add your noodles, dumplings, eggs, or sausage, the cooker brings it to a boil again until your desired time limit.
- Pilaf: This mode brings broth to a boil, then raises the temperature a bit and bakes for several minutes so your signature add-ins are perfectly cooked.
- Rice/Grain: This mode heats to a boil and then maintains it until the liquid is gone. From white rice to quinoa to black beans, this mode will be a weekly go-to.
- Soup: Experiment with this mode to go beyond the bowl. It can make killer drinks, too!
- Stew: Once your food comes to a boil in this mode, it continues at a slightly lower temperature until time's up. In addition to stew, it's perfect for steamed veggies, meat, and seafood.
- Steam: Whip up a quick broccoli side or lemon-pepper tilapia with this mode.
- Yogurt: This mode allows you to show off your culinary skills while making something nutritious for your family. Proofing dough is also a convenient use of this mode.
Want to put your pressure cooker, slow cooker, or multi cooker to work with a new recipe? Watch David Venable's video to learn how to make a pot roast three ways.