The Secret Weapon of Quick Cooking

Easy, speedy, and made in a single pot: That's what we call a dinner triple threat. One way to achieve the mealtime trifecta is to use a pressure cooker, which utilizes steam and a tightly sealed lid to create a high-pressure environment that accelerates the cooking process. It's like pressing fast-forward on your favorite dishes: Most can cook in a third of the time they would need in the oven or on the stove top. That means slow-cooked dishes, such as braised short ribs or pulled pork, are possible even on a weeknight. Unlike their vintage predecessors, modern pressure cookers are very safe, thanks to mechanisms that prevent the lid from opening until all of the pressure has been released. Lighter, quick-cooking foods, such as fish or delicate vegetables, can easily overcook, so save pressure cooking for heartier fare like large cuts of meat, sturdy root vegetables, and dried beans.

How It Works
When heated, some of the liquid turns into steam in the tightly sealed pressure cooker. With no place to escape, the steam increases pressure and raises the temperature in the pot so it's hotter than ordinary boiling water.

Quick Tips for Pressure Cooking
Do Your Homework: Every pressure cooker operates a bit differently, so be sure to read the manual before using yours for the first time.

Leave Some Room: Don't fill your pressure cooker more than two-thirds full. That remaining space is needed to build up pressure.

Just Add Water ... or Broth, or Wine: No matter what type you choose, pressure cookers require some liquid to create steam.

Start Your Clock: The cooking time begins once the pressure has been reached.

Play It Safe: Always err on the side of undercooking. Check for doneness once the pressure is released; you can always clamp the lid back on and cook longer.

Plus: Five-Ingredient Recipes

Get One
If you don't already have a pressure cooker, consider buying one. There are stove top or electric models. Here are a few of our favorite, easy-to-use finds.

Fagor Rapid Express 6-Quart Pressure Cooker
$70, bedbathandbeyond.com

Emeril 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker by T-Fal
$120, hsn.com

Ingrid Hoffman 6.3-Quart T-Fal Stainless Pressure Cooker
$80, amazon.com

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Try This Recipe: Pulled Pork Tacos
Quick-pickled red onions cut through the richness of pork. To make, toss some thinly sliced red onion with red-wine vinegar and let sit until softened, about 15 minutes.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
Coarse salt and pepper
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2-inch pieces
Corn tortillas, pickled red onions, sour cream, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges, for serving

Directions
Combine garlic, oregano, cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss with pork and place in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Add 1/4 cup water and secure lid. Bring to high pressure over medium-high heat; reduce heat and cook until meat is fork tender, about 40 minutes (adjust heat to maintain pressure). Remove from heat, vent pressure, and remove lid. Using two forks, shred pork and serve with tortillas and desired toppings.

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