Are you considering asking for — or giving — an electric pressure cooker as a holiday gift?
Sales of pressure cookers, both traditional stovetop models and the new electric “multi-cookers,” are up more than 25 percent in the last year, according to Consumer Reports magazine. The first electric pressure cooker to hit the market now has more than 630,000 followers of its official Facebook page. And websites devoted to pressure cooking are another indication these cookers are gaining a new audience.
The main draw of pressure cooking is faster meal preparation, according to Consumer Reports, but the versatility of the electric cookers is enhancing their popularity. Here are three reasons why an electric pressure cooker might be a consideration for your kitchen:
1. Options, options, options. Electric pressure cookers are built with a number of cooking options. Some brands can serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, saute pan and warmer. But beyond what the electric pressure cooker can do is the short time it takes to do it. Pressure cooking with pressurized steam raises temperatures above the boiling point of water and makes the cooking time much faster. The versatility allows the cooker to be used for every course of the meal from appetizers and main dishes to side dishes and desserts.
2. Set it, then step away. Traditional stovetop pressure cookers like the one my mom used when I was growing up always have given fast, tender, delicious results. But they require more attention in the kitchen to regulate. With the new electric models, the guesswork and monitoring is gone. A variety of built-in safety features — ranging from locking devices to digital timers to pop-up indicators — allows the cooker to do its work while the cook can do something else.
3. Quick clean up. Many of the meals prepared in the electric pressure cookers are one-pot meals which greatly reduce cleanup time. Even if using accessories like a steamer basket or small liner pan, clean up is limited if much of the meal is prepared in one appliance. Be aware, however, the electric parts of the cooker cannot be submerged in water and must be cleaned by hand.
Are you interested in knowing more about pressure cooking and the new electric pressure cookers? Find the Consumer Reports article at www.consumerreports.org/kitchen-appliances/electric-vs-stovetop-pressure-cooker/.
Utah State University Extension also has published a brand comparison of electric pressure cookers that might be helpful. Go to www.extension.usu.edu/publications and use the search function to search for publication “FN/FoodPreparation/2015-01pr”.
Our Extension pressure cooker demonstration next week is already full. If you would like handouts from the program, contact the Hays office of the Cottonwood Extension District at 601 Main, Ste. A, in Hays, or call (785) 628-9430.
If you were not able to attend the Hays program, or if you’re surprised with an electric pressure cooker for Christmas and need the information later, the Cottonwood Extension District will repeat this program on the evening of Feb. 6 in Barton County. Watch for more information about the repeat session from the Cottonwood Extension District offices in Hays and Great Bend.
Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.