Monday, February 14, 2011

Cooking Under Pressure

I have to admit that the title of today's post has a double meaning. When something happens that causes the lights to go out over a long-term period (could be an earthquake, hurricane, ice storm, etc.), the pressure is on to continue life as close to normal as possible. And that's when cooking under pressure becomes especially important.

Using a pressure cooker to prepare meals does two good things:
  • Uses less fuel to accomplish the cooking
  • Produces more nutritious meals than cooking the same food by other means
If there's a power outage, one alternative for cooking is the use of a propane stove. When that happens, you'll have to be very careful about conserving the fuel, because you won't know how long the emergency is going to last. This brings to mind sailors who cruise the world, off the grid (so they are essentially living under the same conditions as you would during a massive power outage) using a limited supply of propane for everything from space heating to running the refrigerator to cooking. They typically use small pressure cookers to make everything from bread to stew. And the reason they use a pressure cooker rather than a normal pot is because the cooking times are so much shorter, and that translates into fuel savings.

A couple days ago, we prepared a 4-pound lamb roast smothered with baby carrots, onions and quartered new potatoes in our small pressure cooker. What would have taken more than an hour to prepare in the oven was done to tender perfection in half that time. The meat was so tender and the vegetables so tasty that it made me wonder why everyone doesn't cook this way.

The second positive about pressure cookers is that they retain the moisture and nutrients that are lost when cooking for more prolonged times in pots and pans that are not pressurized. Not only that but the food just plain tastes better. All the flavors stay with the food, and it's nothing short of amazing how much better the same recipe tastes when cooked under pressure.

There is no question that a pressure cooker offers a lot of advantage for day-to-day use when cooking major meals (I don't use one for my morning bowl of oatmeal), but in a crisis situation the fact that it cooks faster and uses less fuel is a huge advantage. They aren't expensive, and they are safe to use if you follow the simple instructions that come with the unit. The old stories of "exploding pressure cookers" are not reality with today's equipment. Become familiar with the operation of this fantastic piece of equipment, experiment with recipes, enjoy better tasting meals, and along the way you'll be learning a better way to cook under emergency conditions.

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