What it’s Like Cooking with Pressure Cookers

Cooking with the pressure cooker is fast and healthy. It allows you to make delicious dishes in less than half the time, while preserving the vitamins of the food. Learn about cooking times, recipes and safety tips.

The pressure cooker or pressure cooker is a fundamental element in any kitchen today, which allows us to deal with the lack of time that we all suffer in order to cook traditional dishes, stews and other recipes reducing time and maintaining flavors. But its use comes from much earlier as we will see.

The great social change that brought about the incorporation of women into salaried work began during the First World War, in 1914, and was accentuated during the Second World War, due to the absence of male workers, who were working as soldiers. This fact, in addition to revolutionizing the role of women and their rights, led to numerous changes in the society of that time and, among many other things, led to an increase in the sale of household appliances, which made it easier and faster to carry out household chores, as told by the philosopher and sociologist, Joaquim Sempere, in his book ‘Better with less: Needs, consumerist explosion and ecological crisis’.

Cooking with the pressure cooker
This helps us to understand the revolution that the appearance of the first pressure cooker meant for households. In 1919, in Spain, the first patent for what was called the pressure cooker was granted to José Alix Martínez; in 1938, the German Alfred Vischler presented his Flex-Seal Speed Cooker; and in France, “it was the SEB Group (Société d’Emboutissage de Bourgogne), a French company specialized in small household appliances, who, in 1953, launched its pressure cooker after two and a half years of research,” explains Mikel Cárcamo, Brand Manager at Tefal.

The evolution of pressure cookers
This container with a lid has an airtight seal, which means that no air or liquid can escape unless it is at an established pressure. When the boiling point is reached inside, the pressure increases and this causes temperatures that exceed 100 ºC to be reached, reaching up to 130 ºC. These extraordinary temperatures are what allow food to cook faster, reducing ordinary cooking times by three to four times.

The pressure cooker is composed of a large, wide container where the food is poured and a lid with a hermetic manual closure in the form of a crank or screw, which contains two air outlets. One of them is fitted with a valve that emits a sound when the steam starts to come out. The other is the so-called safety valve, which is activated when the other valve is obstructed or does not work properly. If this happens, it will let the pressure escape slowly to avoid accidents.

Since the appearance of this utensil in the market, different models were released, but it was in the 1970s when pressure cookers took the preponderant place in kitchens around the world, with improved safety mechanisms.

Today, the most modern cookers reduce cooking times even more – up to 70% of what it would take to cook in a conventional way – and, consequently, save on the consumption of supplies (gas, electricity…). “Thanks to continuous innovation, pressure cookers increasingly incorporate better features: opening and closing with one hand, timer, folding handles for easy storage, different cooking programs, and even accessories that complement its use as is the basket for steaming, “says Mikel Cárcamo, Brand Manager of Tefal.

Types of fast cookers
Like so many other things, fast cookers have evolved over time. Thus, as described in this excerpt from the book ‘Cocina en olla exprés’ (Cúpula) by Claudia Ferrer, even their name has changed: express, pressure, fast and super-fast cookers. All these terms refer to the same concept or basis of operation. The big difference between these cookers is the type of closure and the pressure that is achieved with them. Thus, traditional pressure cookers (those with a bar at the top that is hooked at the ends) achieve half the pressure of the most current pressure cookers (in which you turn the lid and, in doing so, you seal the entire perimeter). By achieving a higher pressure, a higher cooking temperature is also achieved and, ultimately, a reduction in the cooking time of the food.

Cooking with a pressure cooker
If we focus on the majority of fast cookers on the market today, we can distinguish between two main types: fast cookers and super-fast cookers (the top-of-the-line cookers on the market, mostly German and Swiss brands). The difference between one and the other is the sealing system: in the super-fast cookers it allows a perfect seal, so that none of the steam generated escapes, so that the pressure achieved is as high as possible, which allows faster cooking and greater savings in time and energy.

Benefits of the pressure cooker
As we have seen, cooking with a pressure cooker has several benefits:

It has the particularity of closing under vacuum, so it saves heat and cooks food faster.
This in turn causes less energy consumption, with the consequent lower economic cost in our electricity and gas bills.
Thanks to the steam produced inside, food is cooked in its own juice, preserving all its nutrients, which means healthier cooking.