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My mother uses a 5 liter pressure cooker to cook chicken pieces.

She heats it for 10 minutes, switches off the stove and waits for the steam pressure to go down before opening the lid.

Even though this is done, some chicken pieces, although seemingly cooked; when you chew it, it feels like chewing gum and does not 'disintegrate' well enough to be swallowed. Same way you don't feel like swallowing a chewing gum because it does not 'disintegrate' into tinier pieces, for example, the way cooked rice 'disintegrates' into a mushy semi-solid before we swallow it.

There are other pieces of the chicken which do get fully cooked, and they are not like chewing gum. They 'disintegrate' and can be swallowed comfortably.

I asked her to cook it for longer. She cooks it for 15 min now-a-days, but the result is the same. Some pieces end up like chewing gum.

She believes that since it is cooked in a pressure cooker, the heat and pressure should be even, and therefore all pieces should get cooked evenly. So even though I proved to her that it isn't evenly happening, she still remains stuck with the belief that it should cook evenly, and she's doing nothing to solve the problem.

So:
1. Is the food (especially meat) cooked in a pressure cooker really supposed to get cooked evenly?
2. Is boiling the meat in a pot (instead of pressure cooking it) the only other alternative?

UPDATE: From the answers and comments. Yes, Mom says that first we wait for the steam to come out of the pressure cooker's vent, then we put the weight over the vent and that's when we start counting the time taken for cooking. We can't really depend on the number of whistles, coz it varies among pressure cookers.

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    Well... chickens aren't homogenous the way rice is... so are you really certain that this is a pressure cooker issue and not simply an issue of chickens having different sorts of meat/sinew/cartilage? Also... why would you think boiling meat in a pot would be the only alternative? There are thousands of ways to cook chicken. – Catija May 3 '16 at 17:48
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    I suspect that the meat in contact with the bottom of the pot may be getting overcooked. Cooling down the pot in cold water might help, as it'll reduce the amount of time that the lowest pieces are in contact with the conductive heat from the pan. You might also try lifting the food off the very bottom with a steamer basket or similar. – Joe May 3 '16 at 18:09
  • Chicken cooked at home yesterday had some properly cooked pieces and some "chewing gum" pieces. I noticed the chewy pieces didn't get heated very well in the microwave, which leads me to believe they don't get cooked properly because of a lack of water content in them. Any corrections to this theory are welcome. – Nav Jun 19 '17 at 7:34
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As a couple of commenters already mentioned, the base of the pressure cooker gets hotter than the rest, and chicken is no homogeneous size.

I would like to add that besides the size difference between pieces of chicken, there is also a difference in tenderness. Breast meat is more tender so it will pressure cook faster, while legs and wings will be tougher and take longer.

There is actually a way that you can take advantage of this knowledge to have evenly cooked chicken - by stacking the chicken pieces.

Place the darker, tougher, chicken pieces at the bottom of the pressure cooker (closer to the hottest part) and lay breasts and any other tender meat on top of that. Add just enough liquid to meet the cooker's minimum requirement (usually 1 - 2 cups). The breast will steam on top (and cook more slowly) while the legs & ect. will boil on the bottom (and cook faster).

Stacking chicken for even cooking is a technique that I published five years ago, as part of my pressure cooking lessons series.

  • Conveyed this to my mom, and she says the only problem she'd have with stacking, is that it's tough for her to figure out which piece is which, because the guys in the shop take a live chicken, de-feather it, clean it, chop it into pieces, dump it into a small plastic cover and hand it over to us. Your advice is useful though. Thanks. – Anon May 5 '16 at 2:55
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    The tougher "dark meat" have larger bones going through them! – Laura P. May 5 '16 at 4:27
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Because steam is hotter than water, any pieces of chicken submerged in the cooking liquid will take longer to cook, and pieces surrounded only by steam will cook faster. In either case, cooking proceeds from the outside in, so larger pieces of chicken will take longer to cook than smaller pieces.

You mentioned that your mother heats the pressure cooker for 10-15 minutes and then turns it off. It's important for the timing to begin only after the cooker reaches the desired cooking pressure. The time for that to happen can vary greatly, depending on the temperature and volume of the cooking liquid, and the food being cooked.

So, wait until the pressure cooker begins letting off steam, and then begin timing. At this point, you also want to turn down the heat so it stays at that pressure and only lets off little bits of steam.

Ten minutes at full pressure should be more than enough time to cook chicken pieces, so I suspect your problem is simply not waiting until it reaches cooking pressure before starting to time.

Here's a useful reference of pressure cooking times:

       Pressure Cooker Timing Charts

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    BTW, Liquid TRANSFERS heat more evenly and quickly than steam. – Laura P. May 3 '16 at 18:31
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    Steam is not hotter than boiling water. – Catija May 3 '16 at 18:41
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    I'm sorry, @Catija, but water boils at 212F/100C, changing phase to become steam. Ice is colder than water, and water is colder than steam. In a pressure cooker at 15psi, the temperature of the steam will be 250F. That's the whole point of using a pressure cooker — to get the steam up to a higher temperature. Even at atmospheric pressure, vegetables cook faster in a steamer than by boiling. This chart shows the temperature of steam as pressure increases - it starts out at 212F and goes up from there simetric.co.uk/si_steam_imp.htm – ElmerCat May 4 '16 at 0:47
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    ...and the "boiling water" IN A PRESSURE COOKER AT 15 PSI will ALSO be at 250F. That's the way pressure works. – Ecnerwal May 4 '16 at 15:21

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