Kitchen appliances: boon or bane? The Friedchillies Kitchen puts the pressure on… well, a pressure cooker to see if it can work wonders.
” Under pressure! “
Life is fast paced and can often get hectic in our struggle to juggle work and home. It’s no wonder that a lot of people eat out: come in, eat, pay, go out. A lot of working people we asked are often too tired or couldn’t be bothered to man a stove once they get home. The ones that do cook, however, always place convenience as a priority.
Enter modern cooking appliances. All of them are designed with the express purpose of making cooking and cleaning faster and easier. But how well do these appliances perform? Well we’re trying out an electric pressure cooker, courtesy of Philips Malaysia.
At first glance, the Viva Collection Electric Pressure Cooker (RRP: RM499) looks like a copper plated rice cooker. The price isn’t too bad as it’s well designed with a hefty, solid feel. We sort of dig the retro looks. It adds a classy touch to an otherwise mundane appliance. The unit comes with a sturdy pot that can fit up to about 2 litres of liquid.
On top of the screw on lid is the pressure release valve so you can vent the steam that gets built up during cooking. Just aside the pressure release valve is a ‘float’. That is used as an indicator to know if the pot is pressurized. Simple: if the float is sticking out a bit, the pot is under pressure. The float will drop once the pressure has released. Aside from that, you get some accessories included as well: a measuring cup, some scoops and of course the power cable.
Functions wise, the cooker comes with several presets: fish, chicken, beef, even duck! You can adjust the pressure holding time manually too(although still within limits set by the manufacturer). In addition, there’s a mode switch so you can cook or bake foods without a liquid. Just press the ‘bake’ button and turn the pressure valve to bake mode. So in useability terms, this pressure cooker aces it. It’s about as idiot-proof as you can get. Choose a function, press the button, and just wait for the timer to count down. Easy as pie.
Pressure cookers work by maintaining pressure inside a sealed vessel. This enables liquid/moisture to get super-heated to above 100 degrees celsius. In turn, foods cook faster, maintain juiciness and also tenderizes much more quickly compared to conventional cooking. Indeed, according to an encylopaedia (cough, wikipedia, cough) pressure cooking is the most efficient form of cooking as it saves energy and time while yielding good results.
So with that said, we tried out two recipes normally known for long, slow cooking: a simple Chi Kut Teh, and a spicy Oxtail Soup to see if the Philips pressure cooker does what it says on the box.
Chi Kut Teh
The best thing about using the pressure cooker is that there is minimal prep involved. Just get all the items below ready and chuck it in the pressure cooker:
– 4 pcs chicken drumsticks
– 4 cloves garlic
– 1 packet Herbal Soup Seasoning Mix (store-bought)
– ½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms
– 1 tbsp oyster sauce
– 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
– 1 tbsp light soy sauce
– 1.5L water
– Some dried goji berries for garnish
For this recipe we used the ‘Chicken’ preset, which cooked the soup and chicken under pressure for 15 minutes after reaching cooking temperature. We just chose the preset, pressed start, and waited. Once the machine beeped, we let the pressure ease out of the cooker.
The Chi Kut Teh was cooked excellently. The chicken was tender and flavourful while the soup itself had developed wonderful flavours from the dried herb mix, garlic, mushrooms and sauces.
We wolfed it down hungrily then got to the next recipe.
Spicy Oxtail Soup
Oxtail is notorious for needing a long, slow simmer to tenderize so this is a good recipe to put the pressure cooker to the test.As with the Chi Kut Teh, this was a matter of chucking everything in together and pressing the correct function button.
– 300g oxtail, ready cut
– 1 carrot, roughly cut
– ½ large yellow onion, roughly sliced
– 1 potato, diced
– 3 cloves garlic, crushed
– 1 bunjut (local soup spice mix, store-bought)
– 2 – 3 cili api, smashed
– 1 packet enoki mushrooms, roots removed
– Lime juice, salt an pepper to taste
For this recipe we pressed the ‘Beef/Mutton’ option. The machine indicated a 30 minute pressure holding period. So ‘beep’ and off it goes.
We finished it with a squeeze of lime, salt and pepper. The soup was flavourful from the spices and vegetables (which were cooked excellently).
The oxtail however was not as tender as we had hoped. It was tender enough that it made pleasant eating, but still retained a degree of chewiness. So perhaps tough cuts like oxtail needs a little more time in the cooker. About 45 minutes would probably have made a difference. Still damn good soup though.
The manual warns you to not release the pressure valve manually if cooking soups or liquids as the pressure will cause the very hot liquid to spurt out. This is true because we tried it ourselves just to see. Hot soup did indeed spurt out. So when cooking soups = let the cooker release pressure on it’s own.
Don’t use the cooker to fry foods as well, as it’s not designed to handle the extremely high temperatures that oil can reach. Yes, we know that the Colonel ‘pressure fries’ his chicken but that requires a dedicated appliance. This is not it.
So what did we think about the Philips Viva Collection Electric Pressure Cooker? Well it certainly works as it should. We like the retro design and the ease of use. In addition, there’s minimal moving parts so cleaning is pretty hassle-free as well. Good price, too.
However there’s also the fact that some recipes might need tweaking on cooking times. We say take the time to experiment a little and this machine can do wonders for you! Other than that, an electric pressure cooker is certainly something that can come in handy. Especially for you folks out there that just wants to dump things in one pot, get busy doing something else, come back later and eat.
Thanks to Philips Malaysia for the loaner!