Monday, February 2, 2009

Cooking Under Pressure

On a whim...

...I bought a pressure cooker a few days ago.

From Random Food Porn

I had read and heard that pressure cookers were great for cooking sub-prime cuts of meat; pork loin, pork belly, lamb shank, etc. The shtick is that they significantly cut down the cooking time needed to turn these cuts of meat into something softer than butter.

Tonight I had my first pressure cooker experience. I found some beef shanks. A few years back I tried to make ossobuco using a regular stewpot. It didn't come out so well. I couldn't resist a rematch.

I kept it simple.

- a half an onion;
- two pounds of beef shanks;
- a small can of tomato paste;
- five cloves of garlic;
- quarter cup of water;
- quarter cup of cheap red wine that was lying around in the fridge;

I browned the shanks, threw them into the pressure cooker. I threw some wine into the pan I cooked the shanks in to deglaze it, threw that deglazed wine & beef shmutz into the cooker. Browned the onions, threw them into the pot. Dumped the tomato paste, wine, and water, into the cooker. Put the top on, and turned on the heat.

As you can probably tell -- this was NOT an elegant process. The product also wasn't exactly pretty either.

From Random Food Porn

The cooker came with all these warnings. Make sure it's properly shut, turn the heat down when the pressure valve starts to move, don't put to much water in, don't pop it open while there is still pressure, etc. I got paranoid cooking with it. I feared that I didn't put enough water in, that the steam would bleed out. So I kept on screwing with the heat.

I need not have worried. I turned off the heat after 35 minutes of cooking. I couldn't pop the top though for another 15 minutes. Too much pressure. Just for kicks I put a chopstick into a valve on the handle -- steam violently shot out. I played a little with the pressure valve -- more steam shot out. If could made steamed milk for several cappucino's.

Friends who own these things, as well as the online recipes, said that the cooker would turn the toughest cuts of meat into butter. But I still wasn't prepared for what was waiting for me.

From Random Food Porn

The pictures don't quite capture how tender the meat had become. I couldn't use a fork or tongs to grab the meat. Even using a ladle to scoop the meat out, the stuff fell apart on me. The core bones of the shank fell right off and back into the pot. In the picture above you see all these random light colored streaky bits. That used to be skin, cartilage, and tendon. The pressure cooker demolished them.

Also -- I chopped up half a large yellow onion and threw it into this thing. You don't see any chopped onions do you? That's because the cooker liquified them.

I think for my next trick I'm going to throw a hunk of pork belly into the cooker with a pint of guinness, the holy trio of celery/onion/carrot, and then down it with another guinness.

Or maybe a Vietnamese style pork shoulder, braised slowly with rice wine, lemongrass, fish sauce, lime, and ginger.

Or maybe beef short ribs with carrots, chili paste, and soy sauce.

The possibilities are endless.


  1. I LOVE my pressure cooker. It is the best way to make stews.

  2. Hmmm, I could imagine couple of CSI episodes where sure a pressure cooker could figure prominently...