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Every time I try to cook beef in my pressure cooker it gets dry and inedible.

Today I tried with 2 x 450 g (2 x 1 lb) beef, with .5 l (2 cups) water and 25 minutes.

The result was very dry and there were .7 l (3 cups) liquid.

What I was hoping for was the meat would be so tender that it would pretty much fall apart when trying to cut it.

I have seen charts like this one, but that would cover the meat in water. Can that be right?

I suppose that .5 l water is way too much, as I ended up with .7 l afterwards.

Question

Have anyone experience with beef in pressure cookers, and can guide me on what the problem could be?

Should I have fried the beef on a pan before putting it in the pressure cooker?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I use a pressure cooker quite often and its all about the cut of the meat. Much like slow cooking, using a often cheaper, fatty cut with lots of connective tissue - a chuck roast for example, yields much, much better results. Lean cuts of meat are make for fast searing and that's about it. If you try to coax them to be fall apart fork tender, you'll fail - those are the cheap, fatty cuts that go that way.

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Exceeding interesting! To get the fall apart fork tender result, do you cover the meat in water, or do you just add a small amount, so it it the steam that cooks the meat? – Sandra Schlichting Feb 22 '12 at 23:28
    
I used a slab of chuck and it still came out dry and hard. I once read somewhere that dry and hard means you cooked in the pressure cooker too long and wet and hard means you cooked too little. Is that true? I cooked it about 45 minutes for a 1.5 lb single piece of chuck. – highBandWidth Mar 1 '13 at 23:17

Most cuts of beef are not really suitable for the pressure cooker

If your want moist and fall apart texture you need a slow cooker, or covered in a slow (low temperature) oven

A slow cooker cooks at less then 100°C (210°F), while a pressure cooker cooks above 110°C (230°F)

Corned beef (whole piece cured with salt and nitrate) works in a pressure cooker. Make sure to add a little acid to react with the salts e.g. vinegar. With corned beef, you can do this from frozen with acceptable results

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I also thought that a pressure cooker couldn't possibly replace a slow cooker - but then I did a bit of quick searching, and found things like this: allrecipes.com/recipe/pressure-cooker-beef-stew – Jefromi Feb 20 '12 at 1:42
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In my experience you never get that real fall apart texture with the pressure cooker. You can make casseroles since the fluid loss is acceptable as the fluid is part of the dish, but only with certain cuts – TFD Feb 20 '12 at 2:11
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I can attest personally, that stews like that and larger, fatty roasts do fall apart in the pressure cooker. I use it quite regularly for such. – rfusca Feb 20 '12 at 20:07
    
@Jefromi Is a "slow cooker" a piece of equipment or a term? – Sandra Schlichting Feb 22 '12 at 23:34
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@SandraSchlichting: It's a piece of equipment. – Jefromi Feb 22 '12 at 23:45

You just figured out what the problem is with "overcooking" something in the pressure cooker - basically, all of the liquid from the meat went into the cooking liquid and made a pretty delicious stock. No amount of additional pressure cooking is going to put the liquid back in the meat leaving just a hunk of tough, dry fibers.

There are a couple issues that gave you tough dry meat from the pressure cooker.

The first problem is the cooking time - the 25 minutes recommended on the site you linked to excessive. You didn't specify what cut of meat you used but you gave the cooking time they recommended for a beef steak - I recommend pressure cooking this cut of meat for just 10-15 minutes.

Another important part of figuring out how long to pressure cook something is to understand what pressure your pressure cooker can reach, and for what pressure the time chart you are using is written for. There are no indications on the chart you linked to for what pressure that cooking time is recommended. That's not helpful.

Usually the best source for the right cooking time is your pressure cooker's booklet- most include common cooking times. Next time, I would look there first.

The second problem is using too much cooking liquid. It sounds like you wanted to make a "braising" type recipe and ended up with boiled meat. The way to braise meat in the pressure cooker is to use the minimum amount of liquid your pressure cooker needs to reach and maintain pressure (also called minimum liquid requirement). You'll find what that quantity is in your manual, too. But generally it's 1 cup for stovetop and 1 1/2 cups for electric pressure cookers.

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I have a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker, and I used their recipe for Beef Brisket 2 LB., and it turned out perfectly cooked and I was able to pull it with two forks easily. 2 LB beef brisket. 1 & 1/2 cups liquid. 55 minutes on high pressure, then natural pressure release. It was juicy, tender and delicious. I did the same thing with a larger 4 LB bone-in pork shoulder roast, and it turned out the same - tender, juicy and delicious, and pullable with forks. Generally, i agree with others here that the smallest recommended amount of liquid is best, and it makes a difference whether you use natural or quick pressure release. Generally, for most meats, you want to use natural.

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By the way, the instruction booklet for my cooker says to use 1 cup liquid if cooking your dish for 45 minutes or less, and 1 and 1/2 cups liquid if cooking longer than 45 minutes. Also, just as with regular cooking, when you cook meat, it is important to rest the meat for some period of time (usually tented with foil) before cutting into it. If you cut the meat without resting it while it is still extremely hot, all the juices tend to run out on your cutting board - leaving the meat dry. You generally want to let it rest at least 15-20 minutes before cutting, and longer for larger cuts. – Kelly yesterday
    
...and remember to cut your meat against the grain to help with tenderness if you aren't shredding/pulling it. Good luck! – Kelly yesterday
    
Finally, cook times for pressure cooking start after pressure has been fully built. So, it will take some time for the pressure to build, then your cook time, followed by the time it takes for pressure to release. So, your dish will actually be cooking longer than just the cook time. If you are counting your cook time from the time you close the lid to the time you stop the heat, you may actually be under-cooking. – Kelly yesterday
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