Cooking with pressure

Sometimes we may feel like we are cooking under pressure when we have tight deadlines and hungry mouths to feed. But in this case I’m referring to cooking with pressure — an electric pressure cooker to be exact! Two years ago for Christmas I received an electric pressure cooker as a gift, but it saw only limited use for most of the year.

The person who gave it to me told me that it made great rice and so I gave that a try. The rice did turn out very good; however there was no way that I needed that quantity of rice, nor did I think it was necessary to pull out a gadget to make something as relatively simple as rice. In addition, I didn’t have much experience with using a pressure cooker. My mom did have a pressure cooker that she used when I was a child and she used it mostly for canning garden produce. It seemed temperamental to use and rather dangerous and so I never did spend much time learning how to cook with it.

That style of pressure cooker was used on the stovetop and had a steam regulator, a safety valve and a pressure-activated locking mechanism that would provide protection from overheating and explosion. Today’s new version of pressure cookers are electric and self-contained with a built-in microprocessor controlling the pressure and temperature. They are safer and easier to use now and so after the holidays I have worked on figuring out how to put this new gadget to use in my kitchen.

There are definitely benefits to cooking with steam with the top benefit being that it saves time and energy. Compared to other cooking methods such as baking, boiling or steaming, pressure cooking can reduce your cooking time and energy by more than 50 percent. It is also a great way to retain nutrients. Boiling and steaming can cause water-soluble vitamins to leech out of food, whereas pressure cooking may allow foods to retain up to 90 percent of those water-soluble vitamins. It can also preserve a food’s appearance and taste and retain the bright colors of food and enable the flavors to develop faster.

Of course, practice makes perfect and this is definitely a gadget that I am going to have to practice with. The first recipe I attempted was a soup and from that experience I learned that you do not turn the steam valve manually to relieve the pressure right after it has finished cooking. Upon doing so, I had a large amount of liquid spray up from the valve and all over the curtains and wall which resulted in quite a bit of extra energy spent cleaning up. From that I learned to let the pressure go down on its own and not expect to serve it as soon as the cooking process is done!

So far I have experimented with several different combinations of meats and vegetables. Last weekend I experimented making a pork tenderloin in the cooker and was very pleased with how it turned out. It took about 10 minutes of preparation and it cooked for about 8 minutes and then when the pressure was released and it was ready to come out, it was moist, tender and tasty!

I have a way to go in mastering the use of this gadget, but I think I am getting the hang of it. Following is the pork tenderloin recipe I followed using the pressure cooker. I figure we might as well do our experimenting and playing in the kitchen now in the winter because its way too cold outside to do much out there!

Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

1 cup low sodium chicken broth

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 lb. pork tenderloin

Rub or seasoning of your choice

Glaze:

2-3 tbsp. honey

1 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. corn starch

Method:

• Place trivet or rack in pot. Add chicken broth and balsamic vinegar.

• Sprinkle top and bottom of tenderloin with rub of your choice.

• Place seasoned loin on the trivet in the pot. Place lid on the pot and turn the valve to sealing. Select Manual (high pressure) and set timer for 7-8 minutes for fresh pork. (Increase time for frozen meat.)

• When the cooking time is complete, turn the pot off and let pressure release naturally for 8-10 minutes. Open the lid and remove the trivet with the pork and cover loosely with foil and let it rest 5-10 minutes while you make the glaze. Do not drain the liquid out of the pot.

• While the meat is resting, turn the pot to sauté and add the honey and ketchup. Stir together the water and corn starch and whisk it into the pot. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes until thick and bubbly.

• Slice tenderloin and serve with glaze as desired.

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.

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