3 pressure cooker nutrition myths that just won’t go away… ’till now

UPDATE: Visit our new section on pressure cooker nutrition, too!

pressure cooker vitamins
We read available scientific literature and even contacted the researchers directly to find the latest data on the pressure cooker’s effects on vitamins and minerals to de-bunk three common pressure cooker nutrition myths.

MYTH: Pressure cooking destroys vitamins and minerals.

FACT : More vitamins and minerals are retained by pressure cooking vegetables as opposed to boiling and steaming. Saving and re-using the cooking liquid ensures the highest vitamin retention.

With a few exceptions, one which we note below, scientific data supports pressure cooking as one of the cooking methods that preserves the most vitamins1.

It’s important to note that, to date, we have not found a comprehensive study on the vitamin and mineral retention on a significant selection of pressure cooked vegetables.  None of the studies we did find addressed steaming those vegetables in the pressure cooker – only boiling them under pressure.  Research on the pressure cooker’s effect on food is a hodgepodge of studies conducted in different countries, laboratories and conditions, using just one or a few select vegetables that measure the effect of pressure cooking on just one vitamin, mineral or antioxidant.

A well done 2007 study published by The Journal of Food Science2 measured Vitamin C retention in broccoli using five cooking methods. The researchers pressure cooked broccoli at high pressure (15PSI/1 bar or 250F/121C) for two minutes and found that 92% of the vitamin C was retained compared to 78% retention for conventional steaming.

“Boiling and steaming caused significant vitamin C losses, 34% and 22%, respectively, while with the other treatments [pressure cooking, microwaving and microwave pressure cooking]  more than 90% retention was observed.”

These findings contradict an earlier study published in the same journal3 that documented a high loss of antioxidants in broccoli after pressure cooking. However, the authors of this earlier study conceded that these nutrients were not actually lost but, instead, transferred to the cooking liquid.

Always keep and re-utilize the cooking liquid – it’s not only healthy, it’s delicious.

Pressure Cooker Health Benefits

MYTH: The high temperatures in the pressure cooker create carcinogens like frying or grilling.

FACT : Pressure cooking, unlike other high-heat cooking techniques, does not produce acrylomide or other harmful compounds.

Carcinogenic compounds develop in starchy foods, like potatoes, when cooked at temperatures above 120C/248F. Even though a pressure cooker could easily go over this temperature by 1-3 degrees C when operating in over-pressure acrylamides still do not develop- the pressure cooker’s moist cooking environment is the key.

A Swiss research team4 found that potatoes pressure cooked at high pressure for 20 minutes formed almost no acrylamides compared to other high-temperature cooking (25 versus 1500 μg/kg). And, by the way,  potatoes need only 10 minutes at high pressure to be fully cooked- so, you’re safe.

Read More: Pressure Cooking Potatoes Turns Bad Starch Good

Leaving pressure cooked food in the cooker overnight

MYTH: Pressure cooking sterilizes food so there is no need to refrigerate leftovers that will be eaten the next day.

FACT : Bringing a pressure cooker to pressure will not sterilize its contents.

The pressure cooker has the ability to sterilize, but it takes time. Clinical sterilization can only be  achieved by running a pressure cooker that reaches 15PSI at high pressure for 30 minutes5 – pressure cookers that do not reach 15PSI, like most electric models, will require even more time.  Few pressure cooker recipes actually need 30 minutes of cooking time.

Pressure cooking food for less than 30 minutes is not going to kill any more bacteria than bringing food to a boil (212F/100C). However, just like boiling without pressure, bringing a cooker to pressure will kill most bacteria responsible for cases of  food poisoning like, Salmonella6, Campylobacter7, Lysteria8 and E.Coli9.

But, seriously, don’t turn the contents of your pressure cooker into a bacteria petri dish!  Follow the same safety guidelines for handling and storing pressure cooked food as for conventionally cooked food.

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1Tips to Prevent Vitamin Loss; NutriPro: Nestle’ Professional Nutritional Magazine (Food N2 6/06; pg8) Retrived from http://www.nestleprofessional.com/united-states/en/documents/nutripro/2808_nutripro_2_cooking_meth.pdf
2Galgano, F., Favati, F., Caruso, M., Pietrafesa, A. and Natella, S. (2007), The Influence of Processing and Preservation on the Retention of Health-Promoting Compounds in Broccoli. Journal of Food Science, 72: S130–S135. doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00258.x
3Vallejo, F., Tomás-Barberán, F. and García-Viguera, C. (2003), Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking.; Journal of Food Science, Agric., 83: 1511–1516. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.1585
 4Methods for Determining the Potential of Acrylamide Formation and Its Elimination in Raw Materials for Food Preparation, such as Potatoes; Official Food Control Authority of the Canton of Zurich; Retrieved from:
 5Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008; Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC)Centers for Disease Control; Retrived from http://www.cdc.gov/hicpac/disinfection_sterilization/13_0sterilization.html
6V. K. Juneja, B. S. Eblen, H. M. Marks; Modeling non-linear survival curves to calculate thermal inactivation of Salmonella in poultry of different fat levels; International Journal of Food Microbiology 70 (2001) 37-51.
7Al Sakkaf A, Jones G.; Thermal inactivation of Campylobacter jejuni in broth; Journal of Food Protection 2012 Jun;75(6):1029-35.
8L. R. Beuchat, R. E. Brackett, D. Y.-Y. Hao, D. E. Conner; Growth and thermal inactivation of Listeria monocytogenes in cabbage and cabbage juice; Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 1986, 32(10): 791-795, 10.1139/m86-145