According to Wikipedia, pressure cooking is the process of cooking food, using water or other cooking liquid, in a sealed vessel, known as a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are used for cooking food faster than conventional cooking methods, which also saves energy.
Pressure is created initially by boiling a liquid such as water or broth inside the closed pressure cooker. The trapped steam increases the internal pressure and temperature. After use, the pressure is slowly released so that the vessel can be safely opened.
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Pressure cooking can be used for quick simulation of the effects of long braising or simmering.
Almost any food which can be cooked in steam or water-based liquids can be cooked in a pressure cooker.
According to National Center for Home Food Preservation, modern pressure canners have removable racks, an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent pipe (steam vent), and a safety fuse. Use only canners that have the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approval to ensure their safety.
Today’s pressure canner may have a dial gauge for indicating the pressure or a weighted gauge, for indicating and regulating the pressure. Weighted gauges are usually designed to “jiggle” several times a minute or to keep rocking gently when they are maintaining the correct pressure. Read your manufacturer’s directions to know how a particular weighted gauge should rock or jiggle to indicate that the proper pressure is reached and then maintained during processing. Dial gauge canners will usually have a counterweight or pressure regulator for sealing off the open vent pipe to pressurize the canner. This weight should not be confused with a weighted gauge and will not jiggle or rock as described for a weighted gauge canner. Pressure readings on a dial gauge canner are only registered on the dial and only the dial should be used as an indication of the pressure in the canner. One manufacturer now makes a dual-gauge canner; read the manufacturer’s user manual for information on when and how to use either the weighted gauge or the dial.
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Pressure canners come deep enough for one layer of quart or smaller size jars, or deep enough for two layers of pint or smaller size jars. The USDA recommends that a canner be large enough to hold at least 4 quart jars to be considered a pressure canner for the USDA published processes.
According to the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, here are the main differences:
- Pressure cookers or pressure saucepans are used to cook meats, vegetables and other foods rapidly for a family meal. But they may not maintain adequate pressure, and they heat and cool too quickly to use them to pressure can foods safely.
- A pressure canner has either a dial or a weighted gauge. Pressure canners are necessary to safely can foods such as meats and vegetables that are low in acid.
This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.