The pressure cooker can tenderize the most stubborn cut of meat and turn tough chewy fibers into gelatin, but a few wrong moves can turn meat into a shriveled tasteless lump. Here are my do’s and don’ts for getting the most flavor out of your pressure cooked meat.
DO brown or broil it. Either give your meat a quick all-around sauté before starting a braise or tumble pressure steamed or boiled meat on a heat-proof platter and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes to add a beautiful I-‘ve-been-cooking-in-a-blasting-hot-oven-for-hours finish.
DON’T drown it. Liquid is your meat’s number one flavor-sucking enemy, but it’s your cooker’s best friend. That’s because there is almost no evaporation during pressure cooking- just 3-5% versus 30% evaporation during conventional cooking. While you may cover meat almost completely for a conventional braise, use just enough liquid for the cooker to reach pressure – during pressure cooking the meat will release it’s own juice and braise in that flavorful liquid, instead.
DO use fresh herbs. Whenever possible use fresh! Pressure cooking has a tendency to infuse the flavor of every ingredient in the cooker together. Herbs should give their fresh oils and water to your recipe, not absorb it. Toss fresh herbs in the cooker whole, stems and all, before closing the lid -the pressure will take care of the rest!
DON’T use thickeners. Flour, starch (potato or corn), and ingredients in prepared sauces and canned cream soups (agar, carrageeanan, modified food starch, etc.) should be added after pressure cooking . Otherwise, the cooking liquid will thicken the liquid the cooker needs to reach pressure making it difficult for it to boil and either scorch the bottom of the cooker or prevent it from reaching pressure altogether (or both). Add the thickener and simmer it into your dish when pressure cooking is finished.
DO take your time. Use natural release for most meat-centered pressure cooker recipes. It will slowly (10 to 20 minutes) bring the temperature of the super-heated meat down and prevent all of the high-temperature-juice inside from evaporating away in a aromatic cloud and leaving behind a nearly inedible and definitely tasteless hunk of fibers that used to be meat. Oh, and by the way, natural release means to just turn the heat off and forget about your pressure cooker for about 10 minutes while the pressure comes down all by itself.