When I pressure cooked my first roast, I was so excited. I quickly opened the pressure cooker and I looked inside and it was beautiful and moist and it smelled really good. I couldn’t wait for my family to see it. So I put it on the serving platter, called them up to dinner, and… I couldn’t recognize what was on that serving platter! The roast had shrunk down to this brown, tasteless, hard thing that did not even resemble a roast, anymore.
The roast misadventure set me on a mission to find out why this would happen. So I searched and searched, and I found this little bit of physics knowledge about how the higher the temperature of a liquid is, the faster it evaporates! Let me explain that a little bit and how I applied it to pressure cooking to reveal the fourth secret of marvelous pressure cooker meat.
Why Pressure Cooked Meat Dries
Cold – Let’s start with a cold piece of meat out of the refrigerator. It does not have any significant evaporation because it is not being cooked.
Conventional Cooking -Then, let’s look at a piece of meat from the oven or a pan. When it’s cooling it will have some evaporation but it won’t be a significant amount.
Slow Release – A piece of meat that is pressure cooked, but opened with a slow pressure release, like my recommended Natural Pressure Release, will evaporate slightly more moisture than the one that was conventionally cooked – but, not a lot.
Fast Release – And, finally, let’s see what happens to a pressure cooker roast which was pulled out of the pressure cooker as fast as possible using quickest pressure release, such as Normal pressure release. The meat is really, really hot and a majority of the moisture begins evaporating away super quickly.
And that’s why for most recipes I recommend using the Natural pressure release. It gives the meat’s juices enough time to lower their temperature slowing the evaporation.
Taking Advantage of Accelerated Evaporation
On the flip side, there’s a way to take advantage of this accelerated evaporation and use it for good. It won’t work for steamed meats, and it won’t work for braised meats, but it WILL work for boiling stew-type recipes. That’ where the meat is covered in cooking liquid and the goal is to reduce it to concentrate the flavor. For these recipes, it’s OK to use a faster pressure release. The liquid insulates the meat and keeps it from losing moisture. While the cooking liquid evaporates to concentrate the remaining flavor.
So, that’s enough talking and illustrating, now. Let’s try it out and put everything we’ve learned to work.