The production of pressure cookers by eleven major manufacturers was tightly regulated during World War II, as aluminum was needed for the war effort. Many cooks held onto their pre-war cookers and often several families shared a single cooker. In a time when fuel and food were carefully rationed and shortages were commonplace, the pressure cooker became a necessity rather than a convenience. In 1945, with the war ending, the pressure was on for more pressure cookers (Forgive the pun. I couldnt resist.) Soon there were eighty-five manufacturers and because of the overwhelming competition, production methods favored quantity and not quality. These inferior cookers flooded the market from the late 1940s through the 50s. Cooks suddenly found exploding bombs in their kitchens and word quickly spread about accidents, resulting in a decline in their use. Marked with a bad reputation, pressure cooker usage seemed doomed, and coupled with newer, modern cooking methods such as the arrival of the microwave oven, the art of pressure cookery nearly disappeared in the United States.
While American cooks were storing their pressure cookers in basements and attics, Europeans were content with their old prewar cookers and never experienced the problems of their American counterparts. European and Asian manufacturers developed new valve systems, safety features and improved pressure release methods. Americans soon began to adapt the new designs, although the jiggle top still remains the US standard. Millions of European and Asian cooks continue to rely heavily on pressure cookers. In countries where the cost of fuel, natural gas, propane and electricity is very high, they have become an economic necessity in every home. India, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and Germany manufacture several brands of pressure cookers that are exported daily to the United States.
New pressure cookers, with their multiple safety features and improved vent systems, are once more catching on in The United States. These vessels offer a choice of a quick-release option, taking even less time to finish that meal and without the need for the water to cool down. Busy cooks with hectic schedules, demanding jobs, an active family and little spare time are looking for fast, economical ways for preparing home-cooked, nutritious meals. Television ads market overpriced cookers with fancy new names, touting the "latest, greatest new invention" to cooks who would never have considered buying a pressure cooker. Wide spread advertising has brought with it a resurgence of interest in pressure cookery, and now this old fashioned cooking method is suddenly new again!
The moral of the story is a moot one indeed. If you get a used pressure cooker, it is crucial to make sure that the gaskets (rubber seals) are still in the top of the pressure cooker. (Those that were a part of my first cooker probably ended up with the peas somewhere on my ceiling.) You must also make sure that the steam vent works properly. If you opt to buy a new cooker, keep in mind that the 6-quart size is the standard for most recipes. Select a cooker with a detachable pressure regulator that can adjust the pressure to low, medium and high. The higher the pressure, the higher the internal temperature and the less cooking time required. The safety valve automatically vents steam. (Thats the plan anyway.) Choose a pot with heat resistant handles, a locking lid that is easy to maneuver and a heavy bottom of stainless steel construction so that the same pot can be used to do preparatory sautéing.
I am including a recipe for Pot Roast that is said to work every time. It comes from a cookbook entitled Crockpot Cookery by Mabel Hoffman and was originally designed for preparation in a crockpot. Kim Tilley adapted it in her new book entitled Crockery Cookery. Proceed at your own risk and remember that only you can prevent forest fires!
Favorite Pot Roast
3-4 pound beef rump or chuck roast (you can also use arm roasts)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1-tablespoon instant minced onion (can substitute onion powder, but use half as much)
1 cup beef stock
For Pressure Cooker
Increase beef stock to 2 cups
Makes 6-8 servings
In a bowl, combine salt, seasoned salt, pepper, paprika and minced onion. Rub all sides of the meat with this mixture. In a slow cooker or crock-pot, combine seasoned beef with onion and bouillon. Cover and let cook on low for 8-10 hours (50-60 minutes in pressure cooker) or until meat is tender. 4. Remove from pot; slice.
Favorite Pot Roast (adapted for the pressure cooker)
For the pressure cooker, more liquid is needed. Double the beef bouillon in the recipe. When converting crockpot to pressure cooker, the cooking time is cut way down. 8-10 hours on low in the crockpot is about 50-60 minutes in the pressure cooker under 15 pounds of pressure and a little longer under 10 pounds of pressure (perhaps an hour and 15 minutes).
In a bowl, combine salt, seasoned salt, pepper, paprika and minced onion. Rub all sides of the meat with this mixture. In pressure cooker, combine seasoned beef with onion and bouillon. Place lid on pressure cooker, lock down and cook under 15 pounds pressure for 50-60 minutes. Bring down pressure either naturally or use the water method. Meat should be tender when you open the cooker. (If not, you can put the lid back on and pressure cook for another 10-15 minutes). Remove from pot; slice.
If gravy is preferred you can thicken juices with flour dissolved in small amount of cold water. Just bring the pressure down, open the cooker, and then add flour and put on low-medium heat until everything thickens (you can remove the meat first and just thicken the juices if you like). If desired, vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, white onions, celery, mushrooms or turnips may be added with the bouillon and cooked at the same time with the meat.
Enjoy, but dont say that I didnt warn you! Good luck!
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