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Pressure cooking is often used as a way to cook foods prior to storage, and this method can also be used to help tenderize tougher cuts of meat. The process can be tricky, but there are some tips that help in avoiding some of the pitfalls. Having a user’s manual for the cooker being used is crucial to successful pressure cooking. It is also important to use only recipes designed specifically for this type of cooking and to follow the recipes exactly. There are also some safety hazards associated with steamed cooking, so extra care should be taken to be sure that these concerns are addressed.
It is probably a good idea not to purchase used pressure cookers, especially if they do not include the original user’s manual. Different cookers will typically have unique instructions specific to one particular model, and without these instructions, it will be difficult to be sure that the unit is being used in a safe, effective manner. In some cases, manuals can be ordered from the manufacturer, but since this is not always possible, it is probably better to purchase a new unit, complete with everything needed for operation.
Slow cookers and pressure cookers both cook foods by sealing in steam, but that is where the similarities end. Recipes for Crock-Pots® and other types of steamers do not typically adapt to pressure cooking. The amount of liquid required will usually be much less, as will the cooking time. Numerous recipes are available designed especially for pressure cooking, and ideally these are the only ones that should be used.
Once a recipe has been chosen, it is important to follow it exactly, because with pressure cooking there is little room for error. Pressure cookers cannot be opened while cooking, so it is not possible to test seasonings by taste, nor can recipe corrections by made while cooking is in progress. Miscalculations in the quantity of salt, seasonings, or liquid can permanently ruin dishes that are pressure cooked. Make sure that proper measuring utensils and a reliable timer are on hand.
Cooking with highly pressurized steam can result in steam burns, and this hazard exists primarily when cooking time has elapsed and it is time to open the cooker. One good way to avoid being burned by the escaping steam is to submerge the cooker is cold water for about 20 minutes prior to opening. Newer model pressure cookers have safety release valves so the steam can be released slowly; however, many older models are designed so that steam is released only when the lid is opened. Regardless of what model is being used, extra care should be taken when opening the unit, and children should be kept well away from the process.
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