I have a confession to make: right now I am loving my pressure cooker even more than my slow cooker. Don't get me wrong, I still love my slow cooker (actually, I have a new slow cooker recipe coming soon), but these days I use my pressure cooker far more often. I know, it may seem a little retro, and I know that there are lots of scary stories about exploding pressure cookers (yes, this really did happen on occasion with the older models).
For me, though, I am often making something last-minute, and my pressure cooker just helps me get dinner on the table so darn fast - often 1/3 of the normal cooking time. It also does a great job of turning a tough, inexpensive cut of meat into something tender and juicy, with a slow-cooked flavor. It allows me to put a meal on my table that smells and tastes like what my mother and grandma used to make. A plate of tender pepper steak over fluffy white rice, swimming in peppery tomato gravy, just says home to me.
Meat is not the only thing I use my pressure cooker for. It makes quick work of dried beans, and homemade stock that I can then pop in the fridge or freezer to use later. There are even larger models that can be used for pressure canning meat and garden vegetables for pantry storage. Keep in mind, though, that while a pressure canner can be used for cooking, models that are smaller 6-8 quart pressure cookers should never be used for canning (for reasons that I eventually intend to cover in future canning posts). In fact, if you are looking to buy a pressure cooker, a 6-8 quart, stainless steel model will serve you well.
Although pressure cooking is becoming more popular again, after falling out of fashion for many years, there are still many that are afraid to give it a try. These days, though, there is no reason to fear the newer models of pressure cookers. They are much more safe than our grandmother's old models, and have lots of safety checks to prevent them from blowing their lids. (You still need to follow the instructions for the particular model you are using, of course.)
Now I understand that many are forever loyal to their slow cookers, and I totally get that - I'm not trying to make converts. I do want to encourage people to give pressure cooking a try. It's another good money-saving, time-saving tool, that has a place in any home-cookin', budget-minded kitchen. Here is my recipe for pot roast-sliders that are melt-in-your-mouth tender. Growing up, we called this "Italian Roast Beef", but since I have no idea if these are authentically Italian, and since this is more like a pot roast than roast beef, I just call it Italian-Style Pot Roast. It is good as a sandwich, a slider, or just with some potatoes. It makes a big batch, so it's great for a crowd, but it also freezes beautifully.
This recipe easily serves 10-12 people. If you are using a pressure cooker that is smaller than 6 quarts, cut the recipe in half, or make it in a slow cooker or Dutch oven instead.
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
4-5 pounds beef pot roast, cut into 3-4 large chunks (your choice of pot roast cut of beef)
12 ounce bottle of beer (optional – can substitute more beef stock)
1 cup beef stock
1 (14.5-ounce) can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 (12-ounce) jar sweet and spicy hot pepper rings, divided (I like the Mt. Olive brand)
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1. Before beginning to cook, do a visual inspection of your pressure cooker. Make sure the gasket is intact, and that the valves and vents are clean and working properly. If you are new to pressure cooking, make sure that you understand the manufacturer's instructions for your model of pressure cooker before you use it.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil, over medium-high heat, in the pressure cooker pot (lid removed). Brown the pieces of roast on each side, then remove to a plate. In the same pot, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and the sliced onions, and sauté for a few minutes, until the onion starts to brown a little bit. Add the garlic, and sauté for 1 additional minute. Stir in the beer, scraping up all of the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in the tomatoes, ½ jar of peppers, and the beef stock, then put the meat back into the pan. It is ok if the meat is not submerged, but make sure that the meat and liquid together do not exceed 2/3 full in your pressure cooker (or whatever the manufacturer recommends for maximum capacity). Add the Italian seasonings, sugar, and a big pinch each of salt and ground black pepper.
3. Put the lid on your cooker, and lock it in place. Turn the heat on your burner up to high, and allow it to come up to pressure. You want to use the high pressure setting on your cooker, which is usually 15 psi. If you are using a model with weights, the weights will begin to rock when pressure is reached, and other models will have some kind of indicator to let you know. When pressure is reached, immediately turn your stove burner down to the lowest setting that will allow you to maintain pressure. For me, this is usually around medium heat. If you are using an electric cooker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for building and maintaining pressure.
4. Allow the beef to cook for 55 minutes, then remove from heat, and allow the pressure to come down naturally (do not use quick release because you want the meat to continue to cook a little longer as it cools.)
5. When the pressure comes back down completely, it’s safe to remove the lid. Remove the pieces of meat, and shred it with two forks. Pour some (or all) of the juices into the shredded meat. Season to taste.
6. Serve on a slider roll (or a full-size roll) with some of the leftover pepper rings. You can also top with some provolone or mozzarella.