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Pressure cooking one of hottest cooking trends today, is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Laura Crouse has become an electric pressure cooker whiz, whipping up healthy family meals for her family. This week, she has made healthy baked ziti and Pozole Verde, following recipes she sourced online.
Laura Crouse has become an electric pressure cooker whiz, whipping up healthy family meals for her family. This week, she has made healthy baked ziti and Pozole Verde, following recipes she sourced online. - Contributed

“I love my Instant Pot! As a single mom running my own business, I can make healthy meals quickly and it has become a life changer for me,” says Karen Pollock of Kentville, N.S.

Pollock is not the only convert to using electric pressure cookers. While there are a wide variety of brands on the market, the Canadian-developed Instant Pot is at the forefront and was one of the top-selling appliances in 2018. For people like Laura Crouse, who grew up in Aylesford, N.S., but now lives in Ottawa, it’s “a magical appliance.” She says it literally does everything from bread to yogurt, allowing her to get meals ready in under half-an-hour.

The biggest appeal of the electric pressure cooker is the convenience and that no planning is required.

“Waking up and remembering to start the slow cooker was always a pain, then realizing dinner is in an hour, when I haven’t yet taken any chicken out of the freezer,” says Crouse. “But with an Instant Pot, I can have an entire meal cooked from frozen within half that time. You can’t beat it.”

This healthy baked ziti was easy to put together using an Instant Pot, says Laura Crouse. - Contributed
This healthy baked ziti was easy to put together using an Instant Pot, says Laura Crouse. - Contributed

Electric pressure cooker gurus like Crouse say they are now eating a lot healthier than before, as most of the recipes she sources call for fresh ingredients.

Seana Collins, a resident of Port Williams, N.S., adds the cooking method also retains the nutritional value of all the ingredients. 

“For us, it’s healthier because the ease of use and the fast cook times provide a better option than hitting a drive thru on the way home,” says Kate Trevors, of Coldbrook, N.S. “We save money that way, also.”

Andrea Harvie, who came to Canada from Costa Rica, says her culture always used pressure cookers, so switching to an electric one made life even easier.

“I mostly cook the recipes that my culture has been preparing for ages, of course, instead of hours, it takes minutes,” says Harvie.

Harvie says the same is true for her friends with Indian heritage, who say their curries are better in the electric pressure cooker.

Vegans, vegetarians, busy families, culturally diverse people all seemed to have jumped on the electric pressure cooker bandwagon.

Despite all the rave reviews about the electric pressure cooker, there is still a large contingent of people who are still leery and cannot see what all the hype is about. Belinda Manning, of Coldbrook, N.S., says she doesn’t want to use an electric pressure cooker because she fears accidents or explosions.

Regular users dispute this concern, pointing out the top locks on and can’t be opened until the pressure releases, making them safer than the stovetop models used years ago.

Where to begin?

Heather Swetnam has owned an electric pressure cooker since November, but the Kentville, N.S. woman says it’s yet to come out of the box.

Laura Crouse used recipes she found online to make pozole verde.- Contributed
Laura Crouse used recipes she found online to make pozole verde.- Contributed

“I’m definitely intrigued by it and all the yummy recipes I see,” says Swetnam. “But yet, it remains in the box because of a combination of the time it takes to learn a new appliance, and I read it’s not really a time saver at all because you have to wait for the pressure to build up and release.”

Heidi Tattrie Rushton, Fall River, N.S., agrees, saying she knows she’s in the minority when it comes to not loving her electric pressure cooker. Although she has tried many recipes, in the end, she says many meals take the same amount of time or longer with it.

“I didn’t realize how long it can take to come to pressure before the cook time started and then the natural release time can take up to 20 minutes while I’m pacing around the kitchen with hungry kids,” says Tattrie Rushton.

A 10-minute cook time could realistically be 40 to 50 minutes when building and releasing pressure is taken into account, and Tattrie Rushton says she can cook most weeknight meals in that time anyway.

Another problem, she says, is that most recipes are not one-pot ones; there are steps like regular cooking, so cooks need to hang around waiting for it to depressurize to do the next step.

Lara Ingles, of Coldbrook, N.S. agrees with Tattrie Rushton, saying users need to look closely at the recipe for actual times, as most don’t account for the warm-up time of the pressure cooker.

“The recipe may say a 30 minutes cook, but it has to warm up before the 30 minutes start, or longer if you’re starting with frozen meat,” says Ingles. The depressurizing time is more often written in the recipe.

But Crouse urges electric pressure cooker newbies not to give up. When you look at it, she says, it seems there would be a learning curve, but once you’ve used it once or twice, you realize every recipe can be made using the manual button, just adjusting the time according to your recipe. Making sure the vent/sealing button is in the proper position is literally the only thing that it takes getting used to, she says.

“You can just set it and then forget it,” she said.

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