Cooking Under Pressure

Foodie Friday

Mar 18, 2011 by

This section has the lovely and catchy name of “Foodie Friday”, but I feel a disclaimer is in order for my contributions.  I don’t know that I am a  “Foodie”, so much as a “Mad Kitchen Scientist”.  My kitchen has seen many experiments, including such things as attempts to cook mystery farm share vegetables without finding out first what they are and flourless cookie tests that include control groups.

Recently, I got curious about my pressure cooker. Pressure cookers are very useful here in the mountains.  The air pressure is low at this altitude and water doesn’t get as hot before boiling, making it difficult to cook some things without extra pressure.  I am frequently teased by friends at sea level for being able to accomplish seemingly complicated feats like making my own yogurt while a fully cooked bowl of rice is completely beyond me.

Though it’s useful, like many people I was terrified of my pressure cooker because I believed it would explode if I even looked at it wrong.  My late husband had bought one and tried to dispel my fears, but it has languished in the cabinet for over a year.

I decided to get it out because it takes too long to make chicken stock.  I have a freezer full of little stewing hens from a local farm and stewing hens are too tough for anything but stock.  I had found Mark Sisson’s recipe that takes 35 minutes in the pressure cooker.  How could I resist testing this?

I got out a stewing hen and some vegetables, set it all up and started cooking.  After about 15 minutes, since it seemed to be going fine and my housemate was in the kitchen, I adjusted the temperature and went outside to check on my chickens.  I mean the live ones scratching around in the backyard.  It was approaching Chicken Bed Time, and they like their routine.

I was delayed by some routine, hilarious chicken behavior and when I came back inside the cooker sounded … well, a bit different.  I turned it down a little, but it was too late!

It began to explode!

Luckily, the modern pressure cooker doesn’t just blow up.  It starts to leak its pent up energy in a very controlled fashion.  It’s so controlled that you can actually read about it in the instructions.  First, soup came out of the pressure valve, like milk out of the nose of a laughing child.  Next, it came out around the valve housing.  Finally, it began to jet out of the sides, like a chicken-scented dancing mall fountain.

Soup was everywhere, but I am pleased to report the house is still standing. The moral of this story is, “If you have enough towels to clean up the mess, try a pressure cooker!” A real Foodie might have been put off by this incident, but for the Mad Kitchen Scientist it was a fantastic learning experience (not to mention a good story)!  I can’t wait to see what happens when I try pressure canning.

About the Author

Bonnie Simon Has Written 35 Articles For Us!

I am an urban homesteader in Colorado Springs, CO where I raise chickens, make my own yogurt and am learning to grow some food, all within sight of downtown in a 1950s era neighborhood. I am starting a small business designed to fill the gap between local farms and local dinner tables.
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  1. I’m certainly no pressure cooker expert! I’ll leave it to those better equipped to discuss how to properly use it. My intention here was simply to share a funny incident in my kitchen.

    Perhaps you can give us some hints on how to tell when a pressure cooker is getting too hot. Mine was not unattended in the incident I describe. My housemate, a very responsible woman, was in the kitchen at the time, but the warning signs were so subtle that she wasn’t alarmed. I doubt I would have noticed it was getting too hot until it was too late, even if I had not stepped out to tend the chickens.

    After this experience, I don’t know that I would use it again unless I had 35 minutes of undivided attention to give it, but I certainly am more comfortable knowing it won’t burn the house down if it overheats! Thanks for posting your website link. I’m happy to know readers will have someplace to go if they want to try their own pressure cooker experiments!

  2. I’m glad that you are introducing people to pressure cooking, including how new pressure cookers react when overheated (they release excess pressure by any means possible) as opposed to the old-style “explosions”.

    That being said, a pressure cooker should only be left unattended at a distance where you can hear if anything changes. Personally, I would never leave my house with a burner running in the kitchen, much less with a pressure cooker on it!

    I hope that you will consider contributing more positive articles about the benefits of pressure cooking – not just “the mess they make when used inproperly.”



    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

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