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Last year, Saint Petersburg’s International Academy of Agricultural Education published a paper1 that studied how boiling, pressure cooking, roasting and microwaving chicken would affect the meat’s proteins.
Dr. Shehap measured both the essential and non-essential amino acid content of both chicken thigh and breast meat of raw chicken, and meat that had been boiled for 30 minutes, pressure cooked for 20 minutes, roasted in an oven at 180°C (350°F), and microwaved for 20 minutes.
hip info: amino acid ABC’s
Amino acids are molecular structures that work together to build proteins. These proteins are vital for the human body’s functions such as: breaking down food, repairing body tissue, growing and many other body functions. They are divided into two main categories.(more info)
essential amino acids – cannot be made by the body, they can only be acquired from food or supplements. The 9 essential amino acids are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
non-essential amino acids – can be made by the human body, they do not need to be acquired from food. Nonessential amino acids include: alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid.
Unsurprisingly, the researcher found a decrease of all amino acids once the meat was cooked -don’t worry she doesn’t recommend eating raw chicken – this was expected and was only reported as a unit of measure for the sake of comparison.
So, if you can’t get most of your protein-building nutrition from eating raw chicken, what is the best cooking method?
it’s more nutritious
The researcher found that pressure cooking chicken meat retained the most protein while roasting retained the least. Dr. Shehap concluded that…
The chicken breast and thigh meat samples cooked by pressure retained the highest percentages of total essential, non-essential and total amino acids, followed in a decreasing order by boiling, microwave and roasting methods (P < 0.05).
The data tables in the paper show that pressure cooking chicken breasts retains 92% of their essential amino acids and 90% those found in the thighs, while oven roasting only retains 88 and 84% respectively.
also, it’s easier to digest
Meanwhile, a research group in Thailand2 looked into digestibility of protein from chicken breasts after different heat treatments. They cooked the meat two different ways for varying amounts of time: heating in a water bath (sous vide) at 70 °C for 30 minutes or 24 hours; and, autoclaving (pressure cooking) at 121°C for 15 or 60 minutes. Then, Dr. Sangsawad’s team processed the cooked meat through an “in vitro digester” which is a laboratory simulation of human digestion to measure how easily the protein can be utilized by the human body.
The researchers found that the not only was the 15 minute pressure cooked chicken more digestible but it maintained its antioxidant activity as well. They concluded..
Thus, the digesta of KC [Korat crossbred chicken] breasts subjected to AC-15 [121°C for 15 min] provides not only nutritional value but also antioxidant activity at the cellular level.
Interestingly, the 60-minute pressure cooked breast developed certain compounds (ROS) that would actually make digestion more difficult.
Protein digestibility decreased upon the extreme thermal treatment of AC-60 [121°C for 60 min].
plus it’s more tender and less fatty
A much earlier study3 compared the effect of various cooking methods (boiling, simmering and pressure cooking) on chicken with and without salt. They checked for cooking losses, degree of tenderness in the breast meat, and amount of fat remaining in the thigh meat.
Even though the pressure cooked chicken thighs released more of their fat in the cooking liquid (7% fat left in the thigh for pressure cooked meat compared to 11% boiling and 10% simmering) the pressure cooked chicken meat retained more moisture overall (63% compared to 61% for boiling and simmering) making it more tender. Their conclusions were that..
Pressure cooking gave significantly lower Kramer shear force values of the cooked breast meat than did either boiling or simmering.
The thigh meat of pressure-cooked carcasses was found to be significantly lower in fat than the thigh meat of birds which were either boiled or simmered.
Pressure cooking chicken retains more protein than other cooking methods, the high heat makes the meat more digestible without compromising the food’s natural antioxidant activity during digestion, it makes the meat less fatty, extra moist and tender.
If you’re going to making a chicken stock, just be aware that any left-over shreds of meat aren’t going to be that nutritious (they make great pet food though, my neighborhood strays inhale it).
And, from over a decade of experience, I would like to add that pressure cooked chicken is more flavorful, too! Ready to try it?
pressure cooker chicken recipes
Here are our hip suggestions to making the most scientifically-proven nutritious and tender chicken ever using your pressure cooker.
- Visit the Pressure Cooker Nutrition section of this website, where we report on the latest research!
1. Shehab, Thanaa. “EFFECT OF COOKING METHODS ON AMINO ACIDS COMPOSITION OF CHICKEN MEAT.” Journal of Science – Kostanay branch of the International Academy of Agricultural Education, Issue 25, Volume 1, (2015).
2. Sangsawad, Papungkorn, et al. “Chemical and Cellular Antioxidant Activities of Chicken Breast Muscle Subjected to Various Thermal Treatments Followed by Simulated Gastrointestinal Digestion.” Journal of Food Science (2016).
3. Kahlenberg, O. J., and E. M. Funk. “The cooking of fowl with various salts for precooked poultry products.” Poultry Science 40.3 (1961): 668-673.