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Learning to use electric pressure cookers

UI Extension class helps citizens learn how to cook with electric pressure cookers

Becky Hutchings purchased her first electric pressure cooker nearly four years ago — a few years before Instant Pot became a trending appliance.

And even though she’s a family and consumer sciences educator for University of Idaho Extension, she was still intimidated by the appliance.

“When I first got mine, I took it out of the box and then I put it right back in for six weeks before I pulled it out again,” Hutchings said.

Electric pressure cookers are not a new concept, but the development and marketing of the popular Instant Pot has thrust this versatile appliance into the spotlight in recent months. But with the rise in popularity comes the need for citizens to know how to properly use their cookers — and not be intimidated by them.

Cooking class participants at UI Extension, Minidoka County office
Participants and UI Extension Educator Becky Hutchings at the Nov. 16, 2017 class

Hands-on Cooking

When Hutchings joined the UI Extension, Minidoka County office in 2016 she noticed a lack of adult cooking classes in the area. But a quick survey in the community showed demand for the courses was high. Hutchings wanted to go beyond cooking courses and equip clients with tools and tips to create healthy meals easily and quickly.

“Pressure cookers are a quick way that you can make healthy meals, so I thought it would be a good class for working parents, or even stay at home parents, so they could have quick meals that are also healthy to help alleviate frequent trips to fast-food or sit-down restaurants,” Hutchings said. “This way, people know exactly what is in the food they are eating since they are the ones doing the cooking. I think with pressure cookers, people are scared that it’s going to blow up. Once they use their electric pressure cooker they will realize how easy and fast it is. They wonder how they ever lived without it.”

Hutchings launched the Cooking Under Pressure class in June 2017 as an intimate environment where participants could learn more about electric pressure cookers through hands-on activities. Hutchings takes the class through all the features and buttons on the cookers, describes the step-by-step process of a recipe and then allows the participants to cook the recipe in class.

“It’s a less scary process because they have someone that’s experienced there in the room with them,” Hutchings said.

The classes are two hours long and cost $10 per person to cover the cost of food and a small booklet that Hutchings created featuring tips, tricks and starter recipes.

The most popular recipe in the class has been the New York cheesecake.

“The cheesecake is what brings people in,” Hutchings said. “To make cheesecake in a normal oven takes about an hour and a half to two hours, and in a pressure cooker we can do it in about 25 minutes. It’s easy — you just walk away from it.”

Child and grandparents at cooking class
Eli Cook joined his grandparents, Dan and Sherry Cook, at the Nov. 17, 2017 class.

About Pressure Cookers

Pressure cooking is a method of cooking in a sealed container that doesn’t allow steam to escape, allowing the liquid in the cooking pot to rise to a higher temperature before boiling. The electric pressure cooker was first introduced in 1991 and includes built-in technology that allows users to put all ingredients in the cooking pot and set the pressure cooking duration for the type of food to be cooked. As technology has advanced, so has the ability of electric pressure cookers to do even more, from simmering to braising, all programmable through the pot.

In High Demand

Hutchings first eight classes reached 120 participants, and she has a waiting list for additional classes. She offers evening classes at the UI Extension, Minidoka County office at 85 East Baseline in Rupert and also has partnered with the MC Fitness Center in Rupert to offer day classes.

Hutchings presented the class to other UI Extension educators who are taking the curriculum back to their local communities to implement across the state, and she has conducted three sessions on Facebook live to reach a broader audience. In these classes, she focused on healthy lunch options and make ahead freezer meals.

Declo resident Wendie Redman attended a class with her husband and ended up purchasing two pressure cookers after the experience.

“My husband and I decided to take that class because we’d seen on Facebook all the hype about the Instant Pot and how easy it was to cook with,” Redman said. “It was really nice instead of going to class and someone lecturing about it, actually getting to prepare the meal and then eating it afterward.”

Sally Edgar of Rupert decided to attend a class after receiving an Instant Pot for Christmas.

“I enjoyed that she taught us all the tips and tricks, little tips that I wouldn’t have thought to do,” Edgar said. “I use mine three to four time a week now, if not more. It’s made things so much more simple and quick. Becky is wonderful and she is really trying to bring something good into our community.”

Hutchings will continue with her Cooking Under Pressure classes to meet the local demand and is hoping to develop additional lessons focused on one pot meals, homemade yogurt and homemade pure vanilla extract.

“People should join the class, so they won’t be intimidated by their pressure cooker,” Hutchings said. “They can get it out of the box, they can use it, they can feel comfortable using it, then in turn they can make more healthy meals in a quicker amount of time and not eat out as much and have a healthier lifestyle.”

Participants learn how to use an electric pressure cooker in class.
Mike Redman, Wendie Redman and MaryLou Freeman make brown rice at the Nov. 17, 2017 Cooking Under Pressure class.
Participants follow a recipe in cooking class.
Don Freeman, Janelle Ahern, Kay Saurey and Vicki Edgar work on a lemon butter chicken recipe at the Nov. 17, 2017 Cooking Under Pressure Class.

Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Article published in March 2018.

University of Idaho Extension

Physical Address:
E. J. Iddings Agricultural Science Laboratory, Room 52
606 S Rayburn St.
Moscow, ID

Mailing Address:
University of Idaho Extension
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2338
Moscow, ID 83844-2338

Phone: 208-885-5883

Fax: 208-885-6654

Email: extension@uidaho.edu

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Barbara Petty