You arrive home from an appointment much later than planned and discover that you have nothing for dinner but the pot roast you took out to thaw this morning when you actually thought you’d be home in time to cook it…
Five o’clock rolls around, and after a busy day of cleaning house or working in the garden, you realize that you’ve completely forgotten to defrost something for dinner. All you can come up with are stiff, frozen blocks of meat that experience tells you have great potential, but whose present appearance is anything but promising…
You come home from work/school at dinnertime five days a week to face the unwelcome task of preparing the evening meal. You’ve tired of hamburger dishes, hot dogs, and packaged convenience foods, and you feel that your family deserves better nutrition than many of these quick, easy meals provide…
What should you do? Drop everything and run to the store? Serve canned soup and sandwiches? Order a Pizza? Put the family on a diet?
Though each of these choices would solve the immediate dilemma (with varying degrees of success)–and though each is a fine strategy to fall back on occasionally–there is a better solution. Just dig out that pressure cooker that’s been sitting in the back of the kitchen cabinet gathering dust! If you don’t have a pressure cooker lurking in the shadows behind the roasting pan (and any of the above scenarios sounds familiar to you), perhaps you should consider investing in one.
A Modern Classic
The pressure cooker has been around for a very long time, and yet most of us are unaware of the many, significant advantages of owning–and using–one. In our fast-paced modern world, we are programmed to expect instant gratification. So, we don’t often think of something as basic and (let’s face it) old-fashioned as a homecooked meal made from scratch–much less one made by such an archaic method as pressure cooking. But, in addition to convenience, this handy device can lower your grocery and fuel bills, provide better nutrition for your family, and significantly increase your mealtime enjoyment–all worthwhile goals, as you seek to not only maintain, but actually improveyour quality of life.
The convenience it affords makes pressure cooking a highly desirable alternative to conventional cooking methods. Drastically reduced cooking time is the most obvious–and perhaps the greatest–advantage of the pressure cooker. Its lid clamps down so tightly that the steam created during cooking cannot escape. As this trapped steam builds, it exerts such great pressure that it penetrates into the food very quickly, causing foods that generally require long hours of cooking–such as dried beans and tough cuts of meat–to become tender in a fraction of the time they would take to cook using conventional methods.
Your pressure cooker can even handle that piece of meat you forgot to defrost. The cooking time will be slightly longer, but your entree will be as tender and appetizing as if it had thawed all morning and cooked all afternoon.
The pressure cooker is also ideal for preparing foods in combination, which makes things easier for you, the cook. These one-pot meals require less work during both preparation and cleanup. Not only is your job simpler, in that you must oversee only one pot, but there is also no need to brown meat or saute vegetables before cooking with pressure, which saves you steps. You simply combine your choice of ingredients, cover, seal, build and stabilize pressure, and almost before you know it, your meal is ready to eat. And when the meal is over, there is, of course, only one pot to wash. What could be easier?
Economy is another factor that makes the pressure cooker a worthwhile investment. While the purchase price of the average pressure cooker can range from about $50-$120, you will receive many years of dependable service from yours, and the cost is less than that of its more modern counterpart, the microwave oven, making the pressure cooker an ideal choice for those on a budget. One reason for this cost discrepancy is that the microwave oven that could be purchased for a comparable price would be smaller than average and therefore not very suitable for preparing family-sized meals. (Realistically speaking, though, most modern families will likely prefer to own both.)
In addition, this relatively low price will be more than compensated for, as prolonged use of your pressure cooker yields continued savings on food bills and home energy costs. Since it will be more practical than ever for you to use less expensive cuts of meat; dried beans, peas, and lentils; barley; and more economical fresh vegetables, you’ll discover firsthand that these foods can be combined in various interesting ways to make countless appetizing meals while saving you money!
You’ll feel freer to shop the sales and stock up on lower-priced staples, regardless of whether or not they can be cooked quickly by conventional methods. In fact, when you own a pressure cooker, you can buy almost anything that’s on sale, because there is virtually no limit to the number of delicious meals you can create by combining a little imagination with whatever other ingredients you happen to have on hand!
Besides saving money on your grocery bill, the pressure cooker makes more efficient use of energy than conventional cooking methods. Therefore, it also costs you less to prepare your meals. The drastically decreased cooking time insures that you will use much less energy than it would take to cook the same meal by steaming, boiling, braising, or roasting. Add to this the fact that you are using only one burner for an entire meal, and this could add up to substantial fuel savings for you. (If you are a person who makes frequent trips to the supermarket to pick up quick-cooking foods, you can save even more by letting your pressure cooker help you cut down on transportation costs–inaddition to the savings you’re already realizing by avoiding the purchase of so many packaged convenience foods.)
Nutrition is still another important aspect of meal planning and preparation, and your pressure cooker can be of great value in achieving or maintaining a balanced diet for you and your family. The majority of the meals prepared in a pressure cooker can quite easily be made to contain foods from three of the four basic food groups (meat, vegetables, grains), and since some broths and gravies are delicious when made with milk, a little dry milk powder added after cooking can make these dishes contain all four of the major food groups.
Similarly, many dishes are made much more appetizing by the addition of cheese, which can be cubed or shredded and mixed into the food immediately after cooking. Additionally, the flavor of most soups is greatly enhanced when they are poured, steaming hot, over cubed cheddar, Monterey jack, or American cheese, with perhaps a little sliced avocado and/or chopped chives or green onion added to improve the taste still further.
An added nutritional asset of pressure cooked meals is that they are often lower in fat than foods cooked by other methods. Since there is no need for browning meats or sauteing vegetables, the addition of extra fat to these dishes is eliminated. Similarly, much of the existing fat can be removed from the meal by careful trimming of meat before cooking and skimming of the broth afterward.
Finally–and of equal importance–your pressure cooker can increase your family’s enjoyment of meals. By adding other options to your present menu choices, it can add variety to a regimen which might otherwise become familiar and unexciting. Once you’ve become aware of how delicious so many foods can be when prepared by this method, you’ll be inspired to experiment, periodically using your pressure cooker to prepare meats that you generally fry, roast, or broil (i.e., chicken, turkey parts, ribs, and even roasts.)
As you become more familiar with the use of your pressure cooker, the many flavorful culinary combinations you’ll discover will both surprise and delight you (and your family, too.) You’ll learn such secrets as adding one or more kind of dried beans to a meat-based vegetable soup for a new twist; adding barley–perhaps with potatoes or rice (preferably brown, which is more nourishing and stands up to longer cooking)–to any dish containing beans, as well as to many meat dishes and most soups, for improved flavor and nutrition–and you’ll acquire many more secrets of your own.
You’ll also discover that your pressure cooked meals are more flavorful than many other dishes because the cooking liquid (containing the meat and vegetable flavors) is not discarded after cooking.
An All-Around Good Deal
Pressure cooked meals are hearty, satisfying meals. When made with the proper ingredients, they are high in protein and rich in both vitamins and minerals for health and energy production. In short, pressure cooked meals are substantial meals that you and your family with thoroughly enjoy.
For comparatively little money, a pressure cooker can give you the advantages of greater convenience, lower grocery and energy bills, better nutrition, and increased enjoyment of your meals for many years to come. Does that sound like a bargain to you?
Then, what are you waiting for?
*Note: Before using your pressure cooker, be sure that you are acquainted with its safe operation. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as steam under pressure can be dangerous if not properly controlled.