Probably one of the most misunderstood cooking devices, the mention of a pressure cooker conjures in the minds of many, images of kitchen walls plastered with obliterated food remains. In reality, the pressure cooker is safe and simple to use, facilitates the preparation of money-saving and nutritious foods such as grains and dry beans, reduces cooking time by up to 75%, and retains more of the taste and nutritive value of the foods which are cooked in it.

The myth of the exploding pressure cooker dates back to antiquated times. Modern pressure cookers are equipped with emergency release valves, and the only safety precautions which must be remembered are to rinse the components after each use with a quick splash of warm water in order to clear away any residue that could potentially clog the components; also, to never cook food with less than 1/2 cup water in the cooker. Although they are more expensive than pots and pans-- they start at around thirty dollars and can run upwards to a couple hundred--you will find that the investment quickly pays for itself, given that cooking beans and grains from scratch saves considerably over the prepackaged varieties. It is important to buy your cooker new and not depend on the goodwill bins or some obscene thing.

The first step of pressure cooking involves putting the appropriate amount of foodstuff and water in your cooker. The proportions are roughly the same as for pot-boiling, but check with the owner's manual. Next, put the lid on, making sure that the rubber rim is in place under the rim. Line up the handles of the lid and pot and snap the lock into place. If you are using a manual pressure cooker, as I imagine you would if you are looking for an inexpensive one, then you move the dial to the cook position. Next you put the pot on the stove on medium-high heat and cook unti the pressure indicator, which on a manual cooker is a button that pops up when the food has reached pressure, rises. Then turn heat down to medium low and cook for the amount of time required. For most grains, this is 20 minutes. For beans, which must be soaked for two hours (not 8 hours as they would be with pot-boiling), the cooking time is around 10 minutes. For fruit and vegetables, around 6, unless you desire applesauce or brocollisauce or something of that variety. As far as cooking meat goes, I don't play in that sandbox but my grandmother does and reports that they have advanatages for preparation of carnivorous foods. Note: For gas cooking, rather than changing from medium high to medium low, you stay at medium the whole time. After this short time, during which time you may hear the hissing sound of the cooker and which isn't even long enough to watch an episode of the Smurfs, you simply turn the heat off your stove and wait for the pressure indicator to drop. You're now safe to open the cooker and enjoy your meal. For a real treat, try cooking ghetto juice with white rice.