Once lauded as beacons of culinary convenience, pressure cookers fell out of favor as prepackaged foods began filling grocery store aisles and frozen, microwavable meals became de rigueur in homes across America. In fact, many generation Xers and Millennials grew up not really knowing what a pressure cooker does, though fans of competition cooking shows can’t miss their integral role on programs like Top Chef.
Forced to innovate under severe time crunches, the wiliest contestants use pressure cookers to beat the clock, creating tender braises and flavor-packed stocks in the space of an hour while their panicky cohorts tinker with oven temps and stovetop burners, praying for a miracle.
The conditions on such shows may be extreme, but most of us struggle with the same essential issue as those chefs-turned-TV-personalities: we’re so often short on time. Lazy Sundays are a lovely opportunity to slowly transform beef chuck into a tender pot roast, but as the week wears on, it’s trickier and trickier to assemble a great meal. And here’s where a pressure cooker comes in handy. These locked-lid pots are specially designed to drastically shorten the cook times of slow-poke food like grains, legumes, potatoes, tough meat cuts, soups and stews. Food requires very little oversight, freeing you up to pay a few bills or chat with your kids until dinnertime. And they’re a great toy for the modernist mad scientist as well. You can soften pine nuts, for example, to give them a yielding, grain-like texture, combine vegetables with a little baking soda to break down their structure to create a super-silky purée, or caramelize fruits and vegetables to deepen the flavors of classic dishes.
Microwavesand their ability to cook dinner in five minutesmay have surpassed the pressure cooker as the go-to no-fuss kitchen technology, but no culinary instrument rivals these pots when it comes to creating truly delicious, healthy food quickly. Visit chefsteps.com to learn about the history of pressure cookers and how they work, then get cracking with a host of recipes from our development kitchen. In this era of packed schedules and relentless expectations, every evening can feel like a Quickfire challenge. Equipped with a pressure cooker, you’re going to win it every time.
ChefSteps is here to make you a better cook. Drawing on our years of combined culinary experience, we create hands-on online classes and original recipes that are both informative and entertaining. We don’t tell you how to sharpen your knife or make macarons from scratch, we show you. Whether you’re a home cook, a professional chef, or just love watching cooks work, we can help you cook smarter.