Sunday, November 26, 2017

Pressure Cooking Rice on the Induction Burner

One of my family's so-called "poverty meals" that turned out to be a favorite even in prosperous times is chili rice. Yep, rice with a can of chili and some fixings added to it.

I hadn't tried rice in the pressure cooker yet, so I decided to go all in and try the pressure cooker and the induction burner. Now, my Presto pressure cooker advises that you cook the rice in a bowl, but I didn't have a bowl big enough for two cups of cooked rice that will fit in the pot, so I decided to cook it in the pot itself.

Because you don't lose water (much) during pressure cooking, you don't need much to begin with. Since I was a child, I've always used the formula 2 parts of liquid per one part of rice. But with the pressure cooker, you need only 1 1/4 cups of liquid per one cup of rice (kind of).

I toasted the rice for a while, then added the liquid. I stirred for a bit until the dish reached a simmer, then locked the lid, set it on 212F while the water came up to a boil, then set it on 248F to come up to pressure.

Now here was my problem: I can either set the burner at 212F, which is not enough to jiggle the rocker, or at 248F, which is violently jiggling the rocker. So I tried to compromise, and alternated every minute or so between 212 and 248. Then the phone rang when it was set at 248, and, well . . . a few minutes later I noticed that the noise from the rocker had ceased. The formula I had said to set the timer for 18 minutes but it still said 6 minutes to go.

So I turned off the burner, waited for the lid to release, and held my breath to see what had happened.  (That's the part I hate about pressure cooking--not being able to see what is going on!) The rice turned out beautifully, and here is the finished dish:

Gorgeous, right?

And the moral of the story is: do your homework, but remember at some point you're going to have to improvise!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Omelets, Cast Iron, and the Induction Burner

With the Nativity fast coming up, it's time to clean out the fridge. I had a dozen eggs laughing at me, so I decided to try omelets in the cast iron skillet on my induction burner.

I decided first to try the traditional method of cooking in a hot pan (well, 284F). That worked fine, but then I remembered reading that eggs cook at 160F. My induction burner has 140F and 176F, so I tried 176F (low and slow, like for tough meat).

Note: When I make omelets, I add lots of salty ingredients to the filling, so I don't add them to the eggs.

The low and slow method produced eggs that were just as good as the hot pan, plus I got the chance to try flipping the omelet (which worked great, thanks to the nonstick qualities of well-seasoned cast iron). The eggs flipped out the pan without sticking (I couldn't blow them out because I had three eggs in the pan). Additionally, I got the eggs done without being too browned on the bottom (just a tiny bit for the Maillard effect).

If you don't want to try flipping, put a lid on the cast-iron pan.

Next I'm going to heat the pan and see how evenly it heats on induction with my laser thermometer. I don't know what the results will be, but that's the fun of science!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Pressure Cooker + Induction Burner, part 2

So we had a cold day here and I happened to look at the weather forecast in time, and I had a pound of black beans on hand, so I decided to make black bean soup. I soaked the beans for approximately 24 hours (draining the bean soaking liquid into my garden) and then added the soaked beans to the pressure cooker, added water and spices to the level of the beans, which made it just to the halfway mark on my 4-quart Presto pressure cooker, and put it on the induction burner to heat at 212 degrees. After four minutes it was simmering, so I increased the heat to 284 degrees and put on the lid. It took about seven minutes to come up to pressure, then I reduced the heat to 248 degrees and set the timer for four minutes.

And here's the result:

Yep, perfectly cooked, tender beans. I have the feeling I'm going to be doing a lot more of this this winter!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pressure Cooker + Induction Burner

So those of you who have been following my adventures in pressure cooking know that I have tried pasta in sauce to great effect. Well, last week I acquired an induction burner, so you know I had to try this out!

First off, let me say that the dish turned out exactly as I intended. I had read about pressure cookers and induction burners earlier, so I chopped mushrooms and opened the jar of sauce (okay, I was in a hurry to get dinner done). I added oil and turned the burner on. In 15 seconds the oil was hot, and I sauteed the mushrooms. That took about a minute.

Then I turned off the burner to add sauce, pasta, water, and wine. I stirred the pasta for a bit until it was all coated with the sauce, then turned the burner on to 248 degrees F and let it go until the sauce was bubbling, stirring all the while. When the sauce started to simmer (about a minute) I popped on the lid and turned the burner to 284F. The pot took about four minutes to come up to pressure, and then I turned off the burner and waited.

At the end I stirred in some leftover kale salad and here is the result:

Well, it was good enough that I'm eating the leftovers for breakfast!

So, a point: the food gets hot really fast, so have your prep all done first. If you don't, be prepared to turn off the burner and wait. I always used the heating the pot time to do my prep, but there isn't any heating the pot time.

Also, I just used the minimum heat necessary to get the pressure. Anything more is overkill. Many of us start the pan off screaming hot and then turn down the heat. Instead, set the temperature on your induction burner to just enough to bring the pot to pressure. After all, the food needs time to cook; especially with foods that have to absorb liquid, give it that little extra time.

Monday, April 3, 2017

So This Post Was Inevitable . . .

It's Lent, which means no meat or dairy, which means pasta, among other things. And once I experimented with cooking pasta in its sauce, and then I got a pressure cooker, well, you can guess the next step: pressure cooker pasta in sauce.

Sorry, I was hungry and forgot to take pictures. Next time.

First off: yes, it works. I used Kroger whole grain pasta; a can of diced tomatoes; some seasonings; a little wine (because it was a weekend, and I'm trying to use up the last of a box); and a little water.

Of course I had made a few attempts already that had gone wrong, so here's what worked. In the stovetop, I added pasta, diced tomatoes, seasonings (in that order) and then filled up the cooker with wine and water until the level of the liquid was almost to the top of the pasta.

I turned on the electric burner, set the cooker on it, and let the liquid reach a fast simmer, stirring all the while. When the liquid reached a fast simmer, I put on the lid. Once the cooker had reached full pressure I let it go about a minute and turned off the heat and walked away, leaving the cooker on the burner.

When the lid unlocked, I had perfectly-cooked pasta in sauce. Total burner time: 6 minutes.
This may not seem like much of a big deal, but with summer coming, you don't want to heat up the house, so instead of waiting for a pot of water to boil, and then cooking pasta for another 8 minutes, and cooking sauce in a separate pan, you'll be reducing your cooling bills significantly. And while this method may not be any faster (you still need the cool-down time), it's a lot less hands-on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Perfect Pressure Cooker Potatoes

Okay, I think I've nailed it. It took me three tries to get the recipe perfect but I'm thrilled.

  1. Slice small potatoes in half lengthways (for maximum surface area). Heat a little olive oil to shimmering in the pressure cooker and add garlic and black pepper. Place potatoes cut side down and brown.
  2. When browned, flip potatoes over (skin side down). Add rosemary or italian seasoning, and for one pound of potatoes, a half cup of water. Put the lid on the pressure cooker.
  3. Wait until the rocker begins to rock, then turn heat down until the rocker slows. Set your kitchen timer for three minutes.
  4. When timer dings, remove pot from heat and release pressure. Place potatoes in serving dish and salt to taste.

The mouth-watering result:

Sorry for the weird bluish tint—there's something weird going on with my cell phone camera. As you can see, these came out beautifully!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Experiments in Pressure Cooking

I finally got brave enough to order and use this pressure cooker from Presto. Following the recommendations from America's Test Kitchen, I got a stovetop model in stainless steel (for the far-off day when I get an induction cooktop).

So far, I've cooked pasta, potatoes, and lentils in the cooker. With those experiments, I'm ready for a few recommendations.

  • Don't accidentally knock off that little part in the center unless you want steam shooting up 8 feet in the air.
  • If you're using a pressure cooker to save energy or time, it's best used for things that take a long cooking time rather than a shorter cooking time. There may be other reasons to cook Brussels sprouts in a pressure cooker, but you won't save time. Think pot roasts, stews, soups, stocks, etc.
  • Experiment with small amounts of food and short cooking times first. 
  • Read a bunch of blogs and other people's advice, but remember, Your Mileage May Vary.
  • Read the instruction book.
  • Read the instruction book. (This bears repeating.)
  • Don't believe everything you read.
If you want pasta in the pressure cooker, you need to put in much less liquid than you would for cooking pasta in sauce, because, remember, almost all the liquid gets retained and goes into the pasta. You'll still probably need to drain some out.

Potatoes came out great. I used potatoes that were 1-2 inches in diameter, cooked perfectly in eight minutes (but there was a little too much liquid left in the pressure cooker at halfway up the potatoes, as originally advised. I tried browning the potatoes in a little olive oil first; I don't think I let them brown long enough the first time. There's a little bit of discoloration on the bottom of the pressure cooker from that, but hey, in my kitchen, stuff gets used.

I let lentils cool naturally and I think they were well beyond overcooked at 3 minutes. Also they were a little watery, but then I used soaked lentils instead of bone-dry ones.

I'll keep everyone updated as I try more things after the holidays!