In perfect time for hearty cold weather dinners, KitchenwareDirect sent me a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker. My memories of pressure cookers are of the old-school stove-top one my grandma used to use cook anything from whole chickens to vegetables to abalone for Chinese New year dinner. I was absolutely terrified of it as a child and stayed away from the kitchen whenever it was in use – the little metal weight on top of the lid would jiggle and rattle alarmingly while the cooker hissed and blew steam, and I always thought it would explode. Do any of you have similar pressure cooker memories (or nightmares)?
I’m pleased to report that this electric pressure cooker is nowhere as scary as my pressure cooker memories!
Pressure cookers work by trapping steam and creating an internal pressure that cooks the food faster, at a very high temperature. The Cuisinart electric pressure cooker is pretty easy to use. Once you’ve added food and liquid as required to the cooker, you lock the lid in place and then select Low or High Pressure. If the dish you’re cooking requires browning, sauteeing or simmering, the cooker has those settings too.
Once the food’s been cooked, the Cuisinart pressure cooker automatically switches to Keep Warm mode so you can release the pressure that’s built up during the cooking. You can either use Quick Release, where you flick a valve to allow the steam to escape quickly, or Natural Release, where you leave the cooker on Keep Warm and let pressure drop “naturally”, which, according to the instruction booklet, takes 12 to 30 minutes. During this time, the food inside will keep cooking, so the Natural Release method is recommended for certain meats and dishes.
The Cuisinart electric pressure cooker includes seven safety devices to ensure it is safe and reliable to use. For example, the cooker won’t start pressurising until the lid is closed and locked properly, and you can’t open the lid when the cooker is under pressure. There’s a pressure limit valve that releases steam automatically if the pressure inside exceeds the preset temperature. For someone like me forever traumatised by childhood fears of pressure cookers, this is all very reassuring.
The first dish Jac cooked in the pressure cooker was a chunk of pork shoulder. She adapted one of the recipes in the booklet that came with the pressure cooker – I’m sorry, I don’t have her modified recipe to share – in typical Jac style, she came up with her own version of the flavours without writing anything down. She used the Browning setting to brown the pork in the cooker, which took 20 minutes or so. The meat cooked for around 45 minutes plus 15 minutes for the Natural Release of pressure. In the recipe booklet, there’s a chart listing different meats, their cooking time and recommended release method. The cooker did make noise when releasing steam, but it was nowhere as volatile and terrifying as my grandma’s stove-top pressure cooker!
The tender meat fell apart as Jac sliced and shredded it for serving. She spooned over the juices, which were full of flavour with soft, sweet pressure-cooked chopped carrot, celery and onion.
We ate the pressure-cooked pork with a crispy green salad made of raw shredded cabbage, cucumber and English spinach and buttered fresh bread rolls. Jac shoved pork into her buttered roll to make herself a pulled pork sandwich.
I couldn’t help salivating as I placed the leftovers in a container. I could drink up those juices like soup. I hope Jac cooks pork like this again soon.
Most recently, Jac cooked a beef casserole in the pressure cooker, with carrots, red capsicum, onions, peas and garlic in red wine. This time, she browned the beef pieces separately on the stove. I think she prefers to use the wok to brown meat – the pressure cooker provides a smaller space to work in. The recipe booklet recommends that beef in 4-5cm cubes is cooked for 10 minutes, but Jac cooked ours for a little longer – 15 minutes. I thought the meat could’ve been even softer, but it was delicious and full of flavour. Jac served it on buttery fluffy mashed potato. The leftovers were fantastic too.
Overall thoughts and impressions
The Cuisinart electric pressure cooker is pretty easy to use. Jac’s still having fun experimenting and finding out what she can cook with it. I think soup is next on our list.
6 Litres is a good size for the two of us – a decent dinner plus leftovers. It may be on the small side for a one-pot meal for a larger family.
I’m going to enjoy pressure-cooked dinners this winter.
- RRP AU$189 – currently available at Kitchenware Direct for AU$159
- 6L capacity
- Digital thermostat
- Programmed temperature settings – Low and High Pressure, Browning, Saute, Simmer and Keep Warm
- Recipe booklet includes cooking guides for different meats, vegetables, beans and rice
- Limited 3-year warranty
- Visit KitchenwareDirect at www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au
- Get more info on this and other pressure cookers.
- KitchenwareDirect’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/KitchenwareDirect