Pressure cooking is just a few centuries old method, but Last century’s industrial revolution has made it quite popular throughout the world. Pressure cookers never used to be considered safe for cooking, because of so many explosion stories related to it. But most of these concerns have been take care of, thanks to 2nd and 3rd generation utensils with sophisticated functions and extra safety.
Some people still consider pressure cooking unhealthy. Here are few points raised by traditional foodies against pressure cookers:
- Pressure cookers are hard on nutrients
- Pressure cooking utilizes abnormally high temperature, something our ancestors don’t use. They prefer slow cooking on fire.
The second argument looks quite convincing. Most of us live and stand on what our ancestors taught us, and food making is one important part of our teachings.
On the other hand, a group of people favoring pressure cookers tend to prepare even better food with just the right kind of feel and taste with the help of modern-day cookers. You must have noticed:
- The food prepared in pressure cooker always takes a quarter of the time, yet the quality stays better than slow cookers.
- The broth prepared in the pressure cooker is always gelatinous, unlike the one prepared with traditional method.
Think about it; if pressure cooker’s not good with nutrients, how come it prepares such tasty and jellylike broth all the time? This post answers every concern related to the quality of food prepared by pressure cookers. But before you move on, it’s better to take a look at the pressure cooking process.
Two Noteworthy Things about the Pressure Cooking Process
Almost every kind of food – meat, poultry, fish, fruits, grains or vegetables take certain amount of water to cook. Cooking is the method of transferring heat from one source to the food, causing molecular changes to the food, and eventually get the cooked food.
Primarily, it’s the temperature of water that’s responsible to deliver the heat and cause that molecular change in food.
#1. Boiling Point of Water
The boiling point of water has an important impact on how long food takes to cook. If you live in high altitudes, the boiling point of water will be lower due to the lower pressure. Similarly, if you live in a low altitude zone, the water will boil at a higher temperature due to the higher pressure.
These temperature differences for boiling water, in turn, affect cooking times. So, without the assistance of something like a pressure cooker you will find that cooking times must be increased in high altitude areas.
#2. Increasing Pressure Increases the Boiling Point
Now, think about the low altitude, you can lower your cooking time by increasing the pressure of the utensil. High pressure increases the boiling point of water, and eventually the food will take less time to cook. This is the principle followed by pressure cookers.
Now let’s find out whether pressure cookers cook healthy food or you’re just being fooled by the manufacturers.
Is it Really Safe and Healthy?
That’s the biggest argument raised by the people who haven’t tried this mechanism, or are more into traditional cooking. But, there hasn’t been any real proofs of it being unhealthy or bad on nutrients. In fact, studies on pressure cooking reveal interesting facts:
- Pressure Cooking Preserves Nutrients Better Than Normal Cooking
- Through boiling, you retain 40 – 75% of the vitamins in food
- Roasting can retain 53 – 90% of the vitamins in food
- If you steam your recipe, you can preserve 75 – 90% vitamins available in food
- With pressure cooking, you can retain 90 – 95% vitamins in food
Moreover, research suggests that pressure cooker preserves beta-carotene and ascorbic acid in amaranth and spinach. If you want to know how, read further.
- Reduced Cook Time
High temperature does not destroy nutrients; otherwise heat-sensitive nutrients would be vanished in other forms of cooking as well, as boiling, steaming and roasting are all high-temperature processes.
The real trick lies in cooking time. The more time spent in cooking, the more will be the chances of nutrient loss. Pressure cookers take far less time than other methods, and end up preserving more nutrients.
- Less Water Usage
Do you know, health experts prefer steaming vegetables rather than boiling them? That’s because nutrients dissolve in water and dumped out while you serve them.
Pressure cookers, in this context, are more suitable due to the less utilization of water. They can be seen as steam cookers, because they secure the steam under the lid. At the same time, as the water inside is turning into steam, there is less chances of nutrient loss in water.
If you allow your cooker to cool naturally, more steam will turn into liquid and settle back onto the food, preserving more nutrients.
- Pressure Cooker Prepares Legumes and Grains Better
That’s true! Pressure cooker makes legumes and grains more digestible as compared to boiling. It does so by reducing lectins and phytic acid found in grains and legumes.
Phatic acid prevents human body to use minerals and nutrients inside grains and legumes, because it binds them tightly. This is the reason why these food sources are too difficult to digest.
A study on peas indicates, boiling soaked peas reduced phytic acid content by 29%, while pressure cooking reduced the content by 54%. That’s almost double the amount!
Lectin is another anti-nutrient found in grains, and it can be best treated with pressure cooking.
- Formation of Acrylamides and Carcinogens
You may raise a question that high temperature could cause the formation of unhealthy compounds such as Carcinogens and Acrylamides. These compounds are mostly formed while cooking potatoes on high heat.
With pressure cooker, these compounds are not formed at all. The reason is, acrylamides are formed in dry-cooking, such as roasting, grilling or deep-frying. Due to the consistent presence of steam in pressure cooker, these compounds cannot build.
In a study conducted by Swiss researchers, they found negligible amount of acrylamide while pressure cooking potatoes for 20 minutes. When the cooking time was reduced to 10 minute, there wasn’t any sign of these radicals.
- Denaturing of Protein
All cooking methods are intended to denature protein so that the food can be made digestible. A human body cannot assimilate protein without breaking it down into small particles.
When you intend stew the meat and make it tender enough to eat, you’re actually denaturing the proteins in it. In short, you cook your food to break down the proteins in it.
Pressure cooking is arguably the best way to achieve perfectly digestible food. By pressure cooking soaked peas, you can increase protein digestibility up to 84%, while boiling can make it up to 81%.
You can go through more proofs with other foods. Such as:
Pressure Cooking is Not Traditional or Unnatural? What?
Pressure Cooking is Unnatural
If you think pressure cooker is unnatural, what about the oven, the toaster, the blender? All of these items make the process simpler and much more convenient. Pressure cooker, in their own ways, are also unnatural but they’re far better than traditional cooking methods.
The Mechanism and Process is Different
In fact, the process is better than traditional cooking process. The steam is forced to stay inside the cooker as the pressure is increased. It makes the boiling point of water to move up, meanwhile the food cooks in less time.
If you think that’s unnatural or not traditional, think about two differing altitudes.
- If you roast your food in Miami and do the same in La Paz, the amount of entire process will take different durations to complete. Miami’s at sea-level while La Paz is above sea-level. Roasting takes less time in Miami compared to La Paz.
- Here, the difference of time does not affect the nutritious value or digestibility of the food. All you need to care about is, whether the food is cooked properly or not. The food in one altitude takes more time to evaporate the water, compared to another altitude, yet the end result remains the same.
Now, apply the same rule in pressure cooker. Think that the internal atmosphere of the pressure cooker as Miami’s environment, while the external atmosphere is like La Paz’s environment.
In pressure cooking, food takes less time to cook compared to traditional cooking, but the amount of nutrients, the digestibility and food quality remains the same, or even better than conventional methods.
What You Should Really Care About is Not The Cooking Time or Temperature?
By the time you reached here, your concerns about cooking time and temperature will have been removed, or have reduced. Even if they remain as it is, think about all the evidences and research conducted by food experts and scientists.
- Pressure cooking is much better in preserving nutrient, especially heat-sensitive nutrients compared to other cooking methods
- Pressure cooking is healthier than other methods
- Pressure cooking creates difference in boiling point just like the way two different atmosphere do.
Having mentioned the health benefits of pressure cooking, it is also advisable that you should pay attention to the entire process, and be very careful about the temperature indicated in the recipes; otherwise the vegetables turn into mush.
When you see these benefits, you’ll definitely be more careful to achieve them
- Pressure cooking reduces ample amount of cooking time
- Pressure cooking makes food more digestible
- Pressure cooking preserves more nutrient
- Pressure cooking makes better food with jellylike broth on top
- It is best alternative to cook last-minute meals. So, doesn’t matter if you’re a bad planner. You can hide this weakness with pressure cookers.
So, if you’re getting the same food in less than normal time, you should be proud rather than being skeptical about its quality and nutrients. It’s just the technology and physics involved in the process that makes it possible to bring that high pressure inside the cooker, while actually the external pressure remains what it is.
You can see:
- 13 DO’s & DON’Ts to Pressure-Cook Your Food with Induction
- Electric Pressure Cooker: Benefits, Tips and Tricks
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