Pressure cooking is the process of using steam pressure, built up inside a sealed pot, to significantly increase cooking temperature, which in turn reduces cooking time and energy. The original models, dating back to the 1600s, used a heat source like a stovetop to create heat and pressure. Nowadays, you can choose between the classic stovetop or newer electric models, which come with useful features like digital timers and built-in sensors used to automatically adjust the pressure while cooking. Many pressure cookers also function as a multi-cooker, integrating other appliances like a rice cooker, slow cooker or steamer, making it an appliance that certainly earns its keep in the kitchen.
Successful pressure cooking requires a liquid which can then be turned into steam. For this reason, recipes that rely on baking, roasting or frying are not suitable for pressure cookers. Any searing or browning should be done prior to pressure cooking (this can often be done in the same pot - however, avoid using the pressure cooking option until browning is complete). Soups, stews, rice dishes or any other meal that can be prepared using a broth or liquid are perfect candidates.
There are many ways to prepare chicken in a pressure cooker. You can keep it simple and cook the whole bird, unseasoned, to be used in other recipes, or you can completely customize a dish with seasoning and flavour.
Cooking a whole chicken in the pressure cooker
Cooking a whole chicken is remarkably simple. All you need is your pressure cooker, the trivet or steamer basket that comes with it, a cup of chicken broth or water and a whole chicken.
Place the cooking liquid in the bottom of the pressure cooker and then lower in the steamer basket. Prepare your chicken by cleaning it and patting it dry. You can add flavour by stuffing your chicken with onion and lemon or by adding a seasoned rub to the skin. Next, lower the chicken into the steamer basket. Secure the lid and set cooking time accordingly for the size of the chicken. As a general guide, a 3 lb. chicken requires 18 minutes of high pressure cooking. Add 6 minutes of cooking time per additional pound.
Note: You can submerge your chicken directly in the cooking liquid, especially if you want to make chicken stock. However, the steamer basket method ensures crispy skin and won’t wash away the seasoning.
Chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks
Individual chicken pieces can be cooked in much the same way as a whole chicken. By placing cooking liquid in the bottom of the pressure cooker and placing the chicken in the steamer basket above the liquid, you are guaranteed tender, moist chicken every time.
However, you can also use the cooker to make a sauce and cook your chicken submerged in flavour. The method is similar to making a pan sauce. Begin by browning the meat in the pressure cooker (be sure to do this on the appropriate setting). Remove the chicken and sauté your aromatics. Next, add your cooking liquid and add the chicken back in, and set the cooker to a high pressure setting until the meat is cooked through.
Another, simpler method is to submerge and cook your chicken pieces in a liquid marinade. This allows the chicken to absorb all that flavourful goodness in a short time. Because the pressure cooker requires liquid to cook, the sauce should be quite runny. It can be thickened to the desired consistency after pressure cooking is done.
Whichever method you choose, pressure cooking is a great way to prepare a delectable chicken dinner in no time at all.