Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A customer of mine this week had a question and I realized that I may as well answer it publicly because it’s probably fairly common. He was shopping for a pressure cooker and wanted some info. My pressure cooker is one of my dearest cooking implements, right behind my grill(s), smoker, and big-ass frying pan. Back when I was young enough to be drug to church, I remember my mother making the Sunday roast beef spread in her pressure cooker and every time I break it out, I feel a bit of tasty nostalgia.

Pressure cookers rock, they cook fast, retain moisture, and have some sort of voodoo magic going on that makes everything tasty. The science is pretty 8th grade, remember Boyle’s Law? By trapping the steam, the cooker increases the atmospheric pressure inside so that water boils at a higher temperature than normal. So instead of simmering your food at 100°C you can simmer it at 125° or higher. Moisture is locked in, the higher temperature cooks everything faster, everybody wins.

If you are shopping for a pressure cooker it might pay to check some recycle shops, I picked up a good heavy-duty model for 4000 and when I went online to see if there was a user's manual discovered it was 25,000 new. You can buy a new one for a couple thousand yen and it will do the job but it’s worth it to check out the “pro” models. The problem with the cheaper ones is that if you put it on the stove, notice that you've run out of beer, pop down to the conbini, when you come back you'll have a mess and a ruined cooker (hence my trip to the 2nd hand store). With the pro-ones you can do this over and over again and the valves don't get messed up.

Anything tastes good in a pressure cooker but tougher cuts will taste better. The reason why some cuts of meat are tough and other's tender has a lot to do with how much collagen is in the meat. Muscles that are used a lot like from the hind and fore quarters have more collagen, the loins have less. With heat and time collagen breaks down into gelatin (which gives the meat a rich flavor) and that's what a pressure cooker does quickly. So beef flanks, the eye of round, beef cheeks, brisket, etc. are better in the pressure cooker. The striploin, the cube roll, tenderloin, etc. are better in the oven or on the grill.

I use my pressure cooker at least 2 or 3 times a week, I often just fill the bottom half with some potatoes, carrots, and whatever other veggies are on hand, throw in a pack of our beef cubes straight out of the freezer and rock hard. Over the top a can of cut tomatoes, a half glass of wine, about a tablespoon of steak spice. Crank it up, stand on the deck and have two tallboys and four cigarettes, turn it off, make a salad, dinner's done.

1 comment:

C.S.Magor said...

Lay off the cigarettes, we can't have you dying of lung cancer and leaving us suffering in Japan without good meat.