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I've been looking into getting a pressure cooker since it works on the premise of increasing the boiling temp of water thereby cooking things more quickly. Operating on the premise that a pressure cooker is an enclosed system, is there a way besides following the time recommendations of a recipe to find out if it's "done", or is it like Schrödinger's Cat where you only know for sure when you open it and release the pressure.

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+1 for Schrödinger –  Bob Dec 1 '10 at 18:36

4 Answers 4

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It is also like Schrodinger's Cat in the sense that hopefully whatever is inside is not still alive. But seriously: the main thing is time. You start with the recommendations from your manufacturer (since all cookers vary somewhat in terms of pressure and therefore temperature) and then keep good notes as to whether you prefer slightly more or less time. For example, I've learned that with my cooker, if I'm making pinto beans without soaking, for whole beans I like about 35 minutes, but if I'm going to puree them, 40 is better.

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Thanks. I'll try to keep track of my cooking times (and I definitely won't be cooking any cats!) I also won't be cooking any beans though since they give me uncontrollable flatulence. –  Frank Pierce Dec 2 '10 at 3:32
    
I would just add that nothing's stopping you from adding a little water, putting the lid back on and giving it more time if you find that your stuff isn't cooked. –  bikeboy389 Dec 10 '10 at 5:03

With respect to this kind of pressure cooker:

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My suggestion would be to count the number of whistles rather than looking at the clock. These cookers produce loud whistles which you can't miss even in sleep.


For the tender lentils like:

W.R.T above conditions, it takes 3 whistles to get them done.
At first the gas flame has to be on high. After the first whistle, it is necessary to put the flame on simmer.


For the hard lentils like:

  • Kidney beans
  • Chick Peas
  • Bengal gram (Chana Dal)

    1. You need to soak them for 12 hours.
    2. You need to add a little less than half table spoon salt in the cooker.

W.R.T above conditions, it takes 7 whistles to get them done.
At first the gas flame has to be on high. After the first whistle, it is necessary to put the flame on simmer.


For white rice (without soaking) it takes 2 whistles to get it done.

For the rice, the flame is to be kept on high till 2 whistles.


After the specified number of whistles you are supposed to turn the gas off and keep the cooker as it is on the gas itself for 15 minutes.
The inherent heat from the gas stove and the steam formed in cooker will do their job in next 15 minutes.

My suggestions above are based on my personal experiences with this cooker.

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I'll add the information about water quantity in the cooker in a few days. –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 6 '12 at 4:51

In some cases, you can slosh the pressure cooker around to get a sense of the ratio of liquid to solids inside. This gives rough estimates of progress for things like rice, beans, etc, but takes some practice.

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Smell.

Every time the whistle of a pressure cooker blows, you get a mild aroma of the food along with the escaping steam. The aroma is usually a good indicator of how good the food has been cooked.

Besides smell, the only other thing is time.

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I may need to enhance my sense of smell because it's difficult for me to tell the difference sometimes - I guess it's going to come down to practice. –  Frank Pierce Dec 2 '10 at 3:34
    
I agree smell can be a clue, though everything smells more intense when cooked in the pressure cooker - it really extracts a lot of aroma. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Dec 2 '10 at 5:34
1  
Too often these days, people are cooking by a formula. It's a great start, but I definitely believe in tasting/smelling plenty along the way. –  zanlok Dec 2 '10 at 23:21

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