A pressure cooker is found in every Mauritian kitchen. I am aware many cooks are wary of this cooking vessel: it makes noise; the pressure release valve is alarming; the inability to stir is stress-inducing; etc etc etc. I get it. My roommate Lucy nearly fainted when I first used my pressure cooker in our apartment.
However, if used properly and safely, a pressure cooker will speed up cooking time and even enhance flavor.
HOW IT WORKS Cooking with a pressure cooking is simple. Uncooked ingredients are placed in the pot with water or stock. The pot is sealed and the pot fills with steam, cooking the food at high pressure. Because the pressure and heat is so high, the food cooks between 25-50% faster than its normal rate.
When the pressure in the pot gets too high, the pot releases some steam though a nifty valve on the top. The steam release usually makes a (loud) hissing noise that can catch family pets and human co-habitants off guard.
When the cooking time has been reached, you simply release all the pressure from the pot and unseal the lid.
HOW TO RELEASE PRESSURE
The scariest part of cooking with a pressure cooker is releasing the pressure. Opening the pot before releasing all the steam could mean the pot explodes and can cause severe burns but modern pressure cookers will not open unless the pressure inside the pot is fully released (great feature!).
There are two main ways to release the pot's pressure:
Run under water — Bring the pot to the sink and run cold water over the pot. When the pot makes a characteristic "pop" noise, the pressure is safely released. You can return the pot to the stove and open it.
Manual release: most pots have a valve at the top that can be lifted to release pressure. Using a wooden spoon, hold up the valve and let all the steam escape. When the steam is gone, you will be able to release the lid.