15 Electric Pressure Cooking: Step One ~ Getting to Know Your Cooker

There is a universal fear when it comes to using pressure cookers.  With a little bit of education and experience, I believe anyone can overcome that fear!  What you see above are my two pressure cookers.

The T-Fal on the left, is a 4.5 liter (4.75 quart) stove top pressure cooker.  The Cuisinart on the right, is a 6 quart electric pressure cooker.  Safety features are included on both cookers which are nice.  There are some pros and cons of each, which I'll point out as I go along.

First, this electric cooker is huge.  Much larger than my traditional stove top cooker.  It will take some considerable storage space....somewhere.

As the note says on the top of the box, make sure you read all the instructions before starting.  Fortunately, the instructions include pictures for the visually inclined (like me).

This is a good time to pull out your cooker, touch it, feel it, otherwise, get to know it!  This is a moisture collector, which simply clips on to the side of the cooker.

The cooker comes with a removable nonstick insert.

 These are the easy to read liquid levels.  It is extremely important to stay under the 6 quart line.

My mom made beans in her stove top pressure cooker and overfilled it.  What happened next is not pretty.  The beans foamed and the extra liquid pushed the weight off the pressure cooker and sprayed bean foam everywhere! No, the lid did not come off, or explode...

This is the weight that is snapped into place on the top.  Make sure that the pressure "circles" line up.

Place the lid on the cooker.  You may want to practice this a couple of times.  It should settle into the grooves evenly...

Rotate the lid to the left...that is counter clockwise for the analog clock users...you will hear a click.

See this pin?  When it is sticking OUT, it is UNlocked.

When it in IN, it is locked.  That's a safety feature of this cooker.

It comes with a rack that goes inside.  I haven't used it yet, but I am pretty sure it is to keep foods, such as meat, away from any liquids in the bottom.  One Cuisinart recipe uses it for supporting an 8" ceramic crock for corn pudding.  My stove top pressure cooker has a steamer pot for veggies, which this electric one doesn't have....
It has two pressure levels: Low and High.  I believe the low pressure setting (below 10 psi) is for more delicate vegetables, such as spinach, whereas high pressure (15 psi or higher) is for meats and hardier vegetables.  It also comes with a browning, saute, simmer and keep warm settings.  These settings are NOT available on my stove top pressure cooker.  Pushing the MENU button will take you through each setting.

I decided to try a simple recipe from the Cuisinart Recipe book. 

I filled up the cooker, locked the lid and set it on HIGH pressure (push the MENU button twice).

Set the timer for 60 minutes.  I just pushed the TIME button the number of minutes needed.


You will hear a little "hiss" of steam through the weight, and this little red button will rise up and the hissing will stop.  It can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 40 minutes for the cooker to come to pressure, depending on the recipe and if you use HIGH or LOW pressure settings.

I touched the sides of the cooker.  It was cool to the touch.  Nice!

I touched the top of the lid.  It was also cool to the touch.  I'm impressed!

When the timer is done, you will hear an audible "beep" and the cooker will automatically go to the KEEP WARM setting.

At this point, your recipe will give you two choices.  One, you can allow the pressure to come down naturally on its own, or two, use the Quick Pressure Release method.  Cuisinart recommends using the NATURAL release when cooking beef or boneless pork.  The QUICK release method is recommended for chicken, soups, vegetables and grains such as rice.  Using the natural release method for these foods will result in a very soggy, overcooked product.

To do a QUICK release, use a pair of tongs to turn the weight to the right (clockwise).  It will only take a small nudge.

The BURST of steam initially made me jump back, thinking that the weight was going to fly off (remember my mom's foaming bean spray?).  I quickly realized that the weight was "snapped" on and I just needed to give it a little nudge and held it there....

till the RED button dropped.  That is my cue that it is safe to open the lid.

Turn the lid to the right (clockwise) to open and LIFT the lid AWAY from you to avoid getting more than a steam facial...

So there you have it!  I love this cooker!  Think of this as a crockpot on steroids!

Size can be considered a pro or a con.  Pro for cooking larger amounts and a con for storage.  Another con is that it cannot be used in a power outage.  (I can use my stove top pressure cooker on my gas stove)  Everything else is a pro: ease of use, stay cool exterior, non-stick interior, browning, sauteing, keep warm settings and ease of clean up.  This cooker feels like a "set it and forget it" cooker, whereas my stove top cooker needs to be watched...timed...and removed from the burner.

My next electric cooker post will feature a browned beef stock that took me 30 minutes to make and the ease of cleaning this cooker.  Stay tuned!

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