Welcome back to my Pressure Cooker Basics series. In Part 2 I will be sharing some tips and hints to keep in mind when you’re trying to adapt your existing favorite recipes for use in the pressure cooker. These are just basic principles that I’ve picked up during my adventures that will help you feel more empowered to branch out beyond just recipes that are written specifically for the pressure cooker. I’ve also included an example of a recipe that I have adapted for use in the pressure cooker.
So you’ve got a pressure cooker and now you want to use it to cut down on the cooking time of some of your favorite go-to recipes? Me too. Before you jump right in, there are several things to keep in mind when converting recipes for use in the pressure cooker.
- I would highly recommend trying (or at least reading) several pressure cooker recipes before you branch out on your own. Pressure cookers are great for what they’re good at, but they also have their limitations. This will give you more experience and familiarity with how pressure cooking works, and will hopefully help you avoid a discouraging flop that results in ordering pizza and swearing off pressure cooking altogether. There are a lot of websites devoted to pressure cooking, and there are some great cookbooks available now too. I really like Pressure Cooker Perfectionby America’s test Kitchen and this one that is geared toward the Instant Pot specifically.
- Reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe by quite a bit. Keep in mind that you need to use 1 cup minimum of liquid. For recipes with a cook time of more than 30 minutes I use 1 ½ cup, and more than 45 minutes I use 2 cups liquid.
- Add dairy ingredients after pressure cooking, as milk curdles when cooked under pressure. For example, when making macaroni and cheese in the slow cooker, you would add the noodles, water, and seasonings to the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure with a quick-release until pasta is not quite done, and then add the milk (evaporated milk works really well in this instance, just be sure to use whole or lowfat but not nonfat) and use the sauté function to simmer until sauce has thickened and pasta is tender before adding the cheese.
- Fresh garlic’s flavor fades during pressure cooking if you just add it to the pot raw. My preference is to sauté it first. You could also add it at the end and sauté it or use garlic powder or dehydrated garlic instead.
- Meat and poultry needs natural pressure release so it doesn’t get tough.
- Not every recipe or ingredient is well-suited to pressure cooking. In my opinion, fish is not a great use for your pressure cooker. Since it is already a quick-cooking ingredient, it is better suited to searing/baking/frying/grilling. The same goes for quick-cooking vegetables such as asparagus. It cooks so quickly already that you’ll waste time by waiting for the pressure cooker to reach pressure, only to let it cook for 1 minute and then quick release.
- Searing meat before pressure cooking gives a more interesting flavor and texture than just putting it straight into the pressure cooker. This is where the sauté function really makes a big difference over using a slow cooker, since I sear my meat before putting it in the slow cooker anyway.
- Add alcohol after cooking and simmer it, or cook it beforehand. Just pouring wine in the pot and cooking it under pressure can result in a sharp, somewhat bitter flavor in my opinion. For example, when making a roast or beef stew I find that it works great to brown the meat, then remove it and add onions, garlic, and herbs and sauté them for a few minutes, then add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan before adding the broth and other ingredients and pressure cooking it.
- Reduce cook time by roughly 60% compared to stovetop/oven cook times. When trying to gauge the amount of cooking time needed, look to your ingredients. (You can find a chart of common cook times for vegetables, meats, and poultry here) If you’ve got poultry/meat and potatoes that you want to cook together, you’ll need to prep them so that they have the same cook time. For example, if you’re cooking boneless chicken thighs and potatoes, you’ll want to cut your potatoes into 1 or 2-inch chunks so that they’re done when the chicken is cooked. If you need to cut down on the cook time of the meat to match your potatoes, just cut the meat into pieces or you could use larger/whole potatoes. This works for roasts too. You can cut down on cook time by cutting a roast into 2-3 big pieces if you like. The cook time is not affected by how full the pressure cooker is. (Just don’t fill it past the max line.) It is affected by the size of the ingredients.
- Add thickeners, such as corn starch after pressure cooking by making a slurry with a bit of the cooking liquid and simmering it with the sauté function after the pressure cooking has completed.
- Always make very sure that if you’ve used the sauté function prior to pressure cooking, you MUST be sure the bottom of the pan is free of any burnt/stuck-on bits. You need to scrape it well to loosen up those delicious browned bits to avoid scorching the bottom of the pot during the cooking process which can also inhibit the ability of the pot to reach pressure. (This is where a wooden spatula is my BFF.)
- Troubleshooting: Food is undercooked- use the sauté setting to simmer until cooked through, adding liquid if needed. You can also bring it back up to pressure and cook for a few minutes more. Sauce is too thick- add additional liquid. Sauce is too thin- simmer until desired thickness is reached by using the sauté setting.
- Above all, be patient. Don’t expect every attempt to turn out perfectly on the first try. Pressure cookers work differently than any other kitchen appliance, so there’s a big learning curve. Don’t get discouraged. Just make notes for yourself about what worked and what didn’t so that you can do better next time.
Here is an example of a slow-cooker recipe that I adapted to the pressure cooker:
The only changes to the ingredients that I made was that I only used half the wine as I did in the original recipe. The rest of the changes were simply in the method.
Roast Beef with Red Wine Sauce: (click here for original recipe)
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoy using your pressure cooker, and also that these tips could help you in the process. Be sure to come back next week for Part 3 in my Pressure Cooker Basics series!
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