another aspect of pressure cookers to consider too.
Steam penetrates food easily under pressure. So connective
tissues in cubes of beef for soups or stews soften in
15 minutes or less, and a pot roast will be medium-rare
in 30 minutes.
Be sure to follow instructions carefully; at this speed,
it's easy to overcook things in mere minutes. You may
find that flavors aren't as fully developed as when
tough meat simmers in a slow braise But you do save
a lot of time.
A slow cooker is a countertop appliance—basically
an electrified pot with a lid that's designed to cook
at low temperatures for long periods of time. Though
very different from a pressure cooker, slow cookers
are also good for tough cuts of meat. It's best to begin
on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking
(to raise the temperature quickly) and then reduce the
setting to low. Slow cookers work well for soups and
stews where less-tender cuts of meat are cut into chunks
or small pieces. They are not appropriate for large
pieces of meat such as roasts, as the heat penetrates
too slowly to ensure safety.
So how does slow cooking tenderize? Broth, water, or
juices are always added along with the meat. The moist
heat they provide softens the connective tissue that
binds the muscle fibers in the meat, helping it to fall
apart more easily. And when the heat is kept low, as
it is in slow cooking, the proteins in the muscle are
less likely to overcook, so the meat stays moist as
well as tender. Flavors are also more developed, but
the process takes considerable time.
If you have a pressure cooker and a slow cooker, we
encourage you to try both. We'd be interested in your
results and comments, as would many members of our Forums.
Anne and Sue