Experimenting with an Electric Pressure Cooker

Are you afraid of pressure cooking?  I know that I was.  Many of us have grown up with family stories of grandma’s pressure canner exploding all over the kitchen–and let’s face it, that’s enough to turn anyone off of a technique!  When I got into canning I conquered my fear of pressure canning. . . after about a year.

That’s right, my husband bought me a pressure canner and it sat there for a year before I worked up the guts to try it.

Once I did, I was hooked.  Today’s pressure cookers and canners have many safety features that our grandmother’s unit didn’t.  Seriously–you don’t have to worry about explosions!  But that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to pay attention.  You do have to watch it come up to temperature, adjust the heat so that it maintains the temperature, and you really aren’t supposed to leave the room with it going–just in case.  So I had never really taken the next step and gotten into using a pressure cooker for cooking meals.

I’ve meant to.  I’ve wanted to, but I just hadn’t.  Then Walmart offered me the chance to try out an Power Cooker electric pressure cooker that they sell in store and online for $79 .


Power Cooker Electric Pressure Cooker

I was totally intrigued.  With an electric unit, you can select the pressure and the cooking time and it does the rest for you–brings it up to pressure, times the cooking and then turns itself off.  That sounded so easy!

But wait, before we get into using it–you might be wondering “Why?  Why use a pressure cooker?”  According to Wikipedia (and you KNOW they are always right) there are 5 benefits of a pressure cooker:

  • Cooks faster
  • Requires less water then boiling
  • Uses less energy then boiling, steaming or oven cooking
  • Retains more vitamins and minerals (less water and shorter time)
  • Sterilizes

How does it do all this?  Well boiling water can only reach a temperature of 212 degrees–but steam under pressure can get hotter then that, and because it’s steam it’s a moist, not drying heat.  Here’s the very infomercial-esque video explaining how the power cooker works.  (note: I love how tough they make regular cooking look.  The pathos!)

To me the two biggest benefits of a pressure cooker are the speed (it’s fast so you can get dinner on the table quickly AND use your electricity for less time to do it) and the fact that it tenderizes meat so well–you can use a cheaper, tougher cut no problem!

For my first experiment with the cooker I bought an inexpensive chuck roast.  Of course they didn’t have that specifically in the cook book that came with the cooker so I winged it–threw some veggies on top, added some broth etc.  (note: you are cooking with steam-so you need to start with some liquid!)

Power Cooker Beef Collage

In just over an hour (it does have to build up pressure for a little bit) it beeped that it was done.  I used a long handled spoon and following the directions in the manual I carefully pushed on the vent release–first giving it a couple of short bursts and then leaving it open to vent the rest.  Once it’s completely vented the Power Cooker would finally let me unlock and open it.  The meat was cooked–you can see above how some layers of it even started pulling apart!

Next was the test:  Cutting it open.

Powercooker Beef Collage 2

As you can see, it was still a bit rare in the middle, and it wasn’t quite as tender as I had hoped.  I think the problem was my kinda winging it on the time and using such a large piece of meat.  It was quite tasty and not super tough or anything, but it wasn’t the melt in your mouth goodness I had been hoping for.

A neat extra benefit–there is a “brown” setting on the pot so folks can brown meat in the pot (which gives extra flavor) before pressure cooking it.  Well I added some extra broth and a cornstarch slurry and used the brown function to bring it to a quick boil with the rest of the liquid left from cooking in order to make a gravy.  Simple, and all in the same pot!

So I decided I had to give the pot a second chance because by not following the directions I didn’t really get a good feeling for what it could do.  This time I decided to see how it worked on frozen solid chicken breasts–make it a real challenge!

Powercooker Frozen Chicken Collage

So following the directions (this time) I tossed in 3 breasts, 2/3 C broth and set it for the 15 minutes.  In 20 min (remember–it’s got to come up to pressure) it was done.  I vented and viola!  Perfect tender chicken!

That’s an awesome time saver–being able to walk in the door after work, a busy day in the garden, running errands, soccer games. . . well, whatever challenges you have in your life and within 20 minutes have chicken go from completely frozen to juicy and tender!

I can’t wait to try it with some winter soups and stews, the kind I usually leave cooking all day in a slow cooker. . .


****This is a sponsored post****
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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  1. PW says

    I was so glad to read your pressure cooker trial. I too remember the old pressure cooker my mom used, and although it never happened, the possibility of a food explosion. About 5 years ago I got the electric Cuisinart pressure cooker and it is my passion. I love it. First time I used it I put it in the detached garage in case of an explosion. Oh my it is easy to use, fast, safe, easy to clean and saves me hours. I also sous vide cook and bounce back and forth. I work full time and on weekends have my pressure cooker going, my crock pot and often the sous vide and then I bag everything in my vacuum bags. Huge time saver to eat very good nutritious meals, inexpensive. Thumbs up

  2. says

    I can’t get this thing open . I’m trying to use it for the first time and I can’t even get it open this is hilariousany suggestions thank you

  3. GrandmaSal says

    I just went through the “first use” process for the second time in two days… on two separate cookers. Yesterday I did it with my DIL’s cooker and today when I got home, mine had been delivered, so I had to get mine prepped and ready for my first meal tomorrow. The top opens with ease once the pressure is gone. We started yesterday with black eyed peas… it was New Year’s Day. They turned out awesome. After those were done DIL couldn’t wait to do her pork roast she had been planning to put in the oven. She adjusted the time on the cooker for the roast and when it was time to open, it was also awesome.

  4. Joan says

    One of the best tips is to always let the pressure go down on its own when cooking meat. Don’t use the quick release. I have had excellent results with both beef and pork roasts using this tip.

  5. becky says

    Do I have to use the pressure adjust to set the pressure first or just cook it and the pressure will set it by itself?

  6. Laura Clang says

    I bought one of those cookers and I am totally confused about setting the timer. When I select stew it comes up for 30 minutes and I can’t find any way to change it. The change time button does NOT change it. Can you tell me WHEN and HOW to set the timer?? The instructions that came with it are practically useless, no real instruction. If I don’t get some help soon I’m taking it back.

  7. Dawñ says

    I was wondering if there’s a way you could help me get this started. I don’t actually have a cooker. My 81 year old father has a power cooker but cannot understand the directions for use. The power cooker is not in front of me. Its at his house so I cannot play around with it to figure out how to use it. The instructions sounds a bit tricky. If I was going to cook dry pinto beans would I plug the unit up, add water and beans, then the pressure of 70 to cook it and how long? It says if I put press cook that it will cancel the pressure adjustment. Do I even push cook at all. Do I just press the pressure adjustment to 70. Help!!! Any basic instructions would help greatly. Thanks, hope to hear back!

  8. Kayla K says

    I LOVE MY PRESSURE COOKER. The only problem I’ve noticed is sometimes when it releases it spits out some of the liquids in side. Example. Last week i made pork chops with cream of mushroom soup and when it released mushroom soup was all over everything!

  9. Magnolia 754 says

    Someone said if you can some of your food you can use this to vacuumed seal the jars. Is that true? Has anyone done it?

    • says

      This is not an approved way to can your food. The USDA does not have approved directions for a pot this small for canning–that means the center of the food might not come to a high enough temperature to kill botulism spores.

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