Monday, January 4, 2010

Fear Not: The Pressure Cooker

Michelle Obama made a special appearance on last night's highly publicized episode of Iron Chef America. The First Lady emphasized American's growing desire for sustainable, local food sources as she announced a secret ingredient having "national importance": any item in the White House Garden.

A portion of last night's episode also highlighted the contestants' reliance on pressure cookers- an underutilized kitchen tool that allows for the preparation of healthy, flavorful dishes in a fast and efficient manner. I found this part of the episode particularly interesting because, until recently, I considered pressure cookers to be mysterious, dangerous tools. This uninformed sentiment is shared by many, including one of last night's judges. While being interviewed by Food Network native Ted Allen, judge Natalie Coughlin (recipient of eleven Olympic medals) stated that she is intrigued by, and afraid of, pressure cookers- a tool she has never used. Natalie agreed to try pressure cooking at home after Ted informed her of 2 facts every home cook should know- the new generation of pressure cookers are safe (thereby assuaging any fear of explosion- a concern I shared with Natalie until I saw firsthand how easy and effective a pressure cooker actually is), and their use is necessary during the 60 minutes contestants spend cooking in Kitchen Stadium because they speed up the cooking process.

I believe people are afraid of the unknown. In my opinion, before they began to regularly appear on popular cooking programs, pressure cookers were generally unknown to the average home cook. I credit, and thank, shows like the Food Network's Iron Chef America and Bravo's Top Chef (a series that has also showcased the use of pressure cookers) for bringing this incredibly useful, versatile kitchen tool into the homes of everyday Americans and teaching them (even if it is an abridged lesson) there is nothing to be afraid of.

Tommy Kurpradit adding kale, collard greens and apple cider to a pressure cooker

Locking the lid in place

The contents of the pressure cooker were combined with additional ingredients from the White House Garden and became collard green tamales topped with tomatillos

Local pork butt, vegetables from the White House Garden and stock in a pressure cooker

Iron Chef Bobby Flay continues to work on other dishes as his pork butt cooks in a pressure cooker

As a result of the pressure cooker's functionality, Team Flay was able to produce barbecue pork in less than an hour. The pork sat atop cabbage from the White House Garden, and was finished with slaw and sour orange


  1. Oh, where would I be without my pressure cooker? I've been teaching pressure cooking to people for almost 15 years, and I think that more of them are catching the PC bug. It works wonders with beans, whole grains, vegetables, soup, stew, chili and, of course, meat (but that's not my domain). Happy to see that use on Iron Chef is heating things up.

  2. Actually, indian cooks have LOVED pressure cookers for years and it is considered one of the few "standard" wedding gifts given in India.

    Still not sold on Bobby Flay though . . .


  3. what make is that pressure cooker bobby is using?