Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Parable of the Pressure Cooker -- the Sequel

The pot’s still black. My beloved pressure cooker (sob!).

It started with a gift of a hunk of moose meat. I eat meat, but I don’t cook it. I’m a vegetarian + fish cook, so while meat-eaters would probably call it a roast, to me it was a big ole hunk of meat. I had to check Google to see what to do with it. There I discovered “Pressure Cooker Pot Roast,” which was exciting because I could get to use my pressure cooker. My basically-beans pressure cooker could experiment with meat. This would be a New Thing.
The recipe – for umami pot roast – called for fish sauce, which would also be a New Thing. I went to the Asian grocery, and there were LOTS of fish sauces, which it turns out, is anchovy juice. It was my kind of recipe; it came with instructions like “pressure cook for 36 minutes” and “add 1 tablespoon.” I’m a chemistry lab cook; I need very explicit instructions. It even had a video.
First step: get my pressure cooker “as hot as it can be,” then add oil and my roast to “promote Maillard reaction and prevent excessive moisture loss.” I had to look that up, but it had to do with browning my meat to kick in flavor and aroma. I could do that. The recipe said to do it “for exactly 10 minutes on each side.”

I should have watched the video again.

Their video shows a happily sizzling roast in the pan. I set my timer for 10 minutes. After about 5 minutes, the dining room was filling with smoke. At 8 minutes, I opened the windows. At 10 minutes, the bottom of my pot was black. I was following the recipe; I thought this was what meat did!

I added all my onions and garlic and mushrooms. I was then up to “deglazing,” which (after further Google research) means “scrape up all the good stuff stuck to the bottom.” I was supposed to do this with a wooden spoon. Which is pretty much impossible when the bottom is thick, black, and impenetrable. When the bottom looks like hardened lava from a volcanic eruption. Something was not right here….

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Even now, I can’t figure out what I did wrong. Was I supposed to go less than exactly 10 minutes or have my pressure cooker not as hot as it could be?

In the end, the meat was cooked just right, the potatoes and carrots done to perfection. Flavor good … for meat. Tim liked it.

But the bottom of the pot was totally, unrelentingly black. I, of course, returned to the Internet.

This is like the time I checked Google for what to put on burns. I sunk down the rabbit hole of blackened pot remedies. Since then, my pot has experienced:
  • Boiling with dish soap in it
  • Boiling water and equal parts vinegar (with and without the addition of baking soda)
  • Baking soda paste
  • Coca-Cola
  • Massive doses of elbow grease
  • Steel wool, which some YouTube videos promote and some decry because it scratches the steel – hey, we are well beyond worrying about scratches….
Tim offered to put a steel brush on his drill and have a go at it, but I have yet to add the OxiClean or the dishwasher powder or the tomato sauce. My friend Riki suggested Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser, whose miracles I have chronicled here, so he’s next on the list. The YouTube people try their remedies and show off newly sparkling pots, but I have also followed poor Peter’s efforts, who – with the help of loyal commenters – seems to have run the gamut of tips on his pot, too.

One loyal commenter told Peter to just accept his pot as “seasoned.”

And so the pressure cooker teaches me yet another lesson for life in The Parable of the Pressure Cooker: What can’t be shiny and new is … seasoned.


  1. Your pressure cooker now has "character." Better yet, it has a story!

  2. Take some 3 percent hydrogen pyroxide solution (the sort that is sold in every drug and food store) and dump a bunch into the pot. Boil for ten minutes. The black carbon should lift off like paint.

    1. This was miraculous! At first, I thought it hadn't done anything, but when I turned the faucet on, the black spots just floated away. You are my hero!


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