Pressure cooking is once again in vogue, thanks to the rise of the electric multicooker. This technique cooks food incredibly quickly, and the tightly sealed pot traps volatile flavor molecules, producing dishes with exceptional depth. Another benefit is that flavorful browning happens inside the 250-degree pot that wouldn’t occur during a regular stovetop simmer. As a bonus, the sauté function of a multicooker means that there are fewer dishes to wash, and because it’s electric, you don’t even have to turn on the stove. Finally, most multicookers also have built-in timers, making it supereasy to accurately control cooking times.
To showcase these capabilities, I came up with two one-pot meals: a lightning‑quick chicken and potato dish and a deeply satisfying short rib braise.
For the chicken recipe, I would employ a classic Provençal trio—tart lemon, briny olives, and punchy garlic—to enliven the meat. I selected bone‑in, skin-on thighs, as I knew that the collagen-rich meat would emerge moist and tender from the high-temperature cooking process. After using the sauté function to brown the skin side of the thighs, thus developing a robust fond that would form the foundation of the sauce, I transferred them to a plate and sizzled several cloves of smashed garlic in the rendered fat.
Next, I deglazed with just ½ cup of broth. To avoid a watery result, it was important not to add too much liquid, as the chicken would release juices and there wouldn’t be any evaporation. Finally, I returned the chicken to the cooker along with a thinly sliced, thin-skinned small lemon (thick-skinned lemons have a lot of pith that could turn the sauce bitter) before arranging fingerling potatoes on top. Fingerlings were ideal because their diminutive size and oblong shape would allow them to cook through in the short time needed to finish the chicken. What’s more, placing the potatoes on top of the thighs kept them out of the cooking liquid, which otherwise permeated them and turned them mushy, even bursting a few.
Quick versus Natural Pressure Release
Quick Pressure Release
This method allows you to stop the cooking right away, helping ensure that foods don’t overcook. You can immediately release pressure by turning the pressure regulator knob to “steam” or “venting” as soon as your recipe is done. (Make sure to point the steam vent away from you.)
Natural Pressure Release
This method allows food to continue cooking in residual heat as the pressure drops (to allow tough collagen to convert to silky gelatin, for example). If you do nothing when the cooking time ends, the pressure in the pot will drop back down naturally in 15 to 30 minutes.
After some tests, I found that the chicken was tender and succulent in a remarkably short 9 minutes. At this point, the garlic and lemon had partially melted into the chicken juices to produce a savory, citrusy sauce. I tossed in a handful of halved green olives for tang, along with chopped parsley for freshness and color, and dinner was served.
For my next one-pot meal, I again went for a Mediterranean spin, enhancing boneless beef short ribs with fennel and rosemary, which both grow wild throughout southern Italy. I portioned the ribs into 2-inch pieces so that they would be easy to serve, and, as I had for the chicken, I browned the meat well using the sauté setting before making room for a sliced onion and thick wedges of fennel.
Once the vegetables were softened, I added minced garlic and licorice-y fennel seeds to echo the fresh bulb, followed by a splash of broth. But after I’d returned the beef to the mix and cooked it at high pressure for 35 minutes, a quick pressure release like I had used with the chicken yielded tough, dry meat. The next time around, I let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes. This gradual drop gave the abundant collagen more time to convert to gelatin, producing supple, melt-in-your-mouth meat. Defatting the braising liquid was all I had to do to produce a rich, aromatic sauce to pour over the beef and vegetables.
The only issue was that the fennel pieces were a bit too broken down and jammy, so the next time around I left their cores intact to help them maintain their shape and texture.
The Importance of Careful Prep
Pressure cooking happens fast and in a closed environment, so it’s important to prep food carefully so that it doesn’t over- or undercook.
- Buy the right size proteins and weigh and measure them accurately. (Hint: Use a scale and a ruler!)
- To ensure that vegetables cook in the same amount of time as the protein, take care to cut them as specified in the recipe.
Lastly, in a nod to the Italian wine I planned to drink with this meal, I quick‑pickled some halved red grapes to sprinkle on top of the short ribs along with some of the feathery fennel fronds. This combo not only added vibrant color to the deep, dark braise but also contributed freshness and lovely sweet-tart pops of flavor.
If you’re among the legions who already own a multicooker, I hope you’ll enjoy adding these dishes to your repertoire. If you’ve yet to take the plunge, perhaps they will entice you to join the fun. Already own a stovetop pressure cooker and prefer to keep it old-school? Worry not, these recipes work equally well when prepared using a stovetop cooker.