Monday, January 20, 2014

Pressure Cooking - Chapter 5

I am here today to humbly acknowledge a pressure cooking failure.  :'(  It's ok.  I rescued it, but I want to tell you what happened so you will avoid my mistake.

On the third Sunday of each month, our congregation at Church has a potluck dinner after our 3-hour block of meetings.  Saturday evening, about 7 p.m., I suddenly gasped and said, "Oh!  Tomorrow is the pitch-in lunch!"  Fortunately, it was early enough in the evening that I could make some food to take without having to stay up half the night.

I made a triple batch of chocolate brownies, without walnuts, because our grandson is allergic to walnuts.  I also made a batch of WHITE "Jiffy Buns" from the wonderful Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook.  Mine was published in 1981 by La Leche League. There are more recent editions available.  That recipe calls for whole wheat flour and makes wonderful buns, but for this occasion I decided to make white flour buns. Oh, my goodness they were soft and lovely.  It only takes an hour from start to finish.  Fabulous when you are in a hurry, and the dough can be used to make buns, rolls, cinnamon rolls or bread or whatever you like.

I had a large pork sirloin roast.  I decided to make pulled barbecue pork for sandwiches.  That is why I made the buns.  However the roast was frozen solid.  I thought... "Aha!  I could cook this in the pressure cooker real fast!"  THAT was a Big Mistake.  I cooked it, on the trivet, with 2 cups of water for an hour at pressure.  Still raw in the middle, so I gave it 30 more minutes.  Still not done enough and the outside was getting overcooked.  What to do... what to do... so I put it in the crockpot and poured the cooking liquid and quite a bit of barbecue sauce over the top of it and cooked it on low overnight.  In the morning, it was nicely done.  I did have to discard some of the very very done bits from the outside, but the rest of it was fine.  I pulled it apart, added barbecue sauce, and it was yummy.  No One Complained and it was All Gone at the end of the meal, as were the buns.

So, don't do what I did.  If your roast or large piece of meat is frozen. please thaw it first if you wish to pressure cook it.  OR, just do it in the crockpot from the start.

Here is the frozen roast.

Here is what it looked like after 90 minutes of cooking.  Still not done enough.


  1. I have been enjoying your pressure cooking series, this sounds like something I might try - at least once! PS thanks for the shout out on the biscuits!

  2. This has been a fascinating series. I never knew of pressure cooking beyond canning. When we go camping we use a grid that fits into our kettle called a bake-packer. You can cook jiffy mixes on top of it over boiling water and they turn out very moist...only time we use them.

  3. Hi there, its me again - I'm the one who told you you could pressure cook a whole frozen chicken and other frozen meats which is what started you on this particular path. I'm glad you were able to recover the pork loin roast, but I wanted to explain why it didn't work and what would have worked better, because you've misunderstood what went wrong, or how it could have been "fixed" or still cooked in the pressure cooker. You didn't get the results you did because the meat was frozen, but because it was not the best cut of meat to cook in a pressure cooker in the first place.

    Let me explain. Pork loin roast is a very lean cut of meat with very little connective tissue. Because of that, its not particularly well suited for the pressure cooker (there are things you can do to compensate for that, which I'll explain later, but you're not starting out with the best cut of meat for the cooking method, or the desired end result, pulled pork). Traditionally, for pulled pork, you'd want to use either pork butt or pork shoulder, both of which have more fat in them, as well as connective tissues (those connective tissues include collagen, which under heat converts to gelatin, which gives your dish a richer feel in the mouth). If you're not sure whether a cut of meat is best suited for the pressure cooker, look up a diagram of the meat cuts on the internet: cuts which come from weight bearing or walking muscles, that is, the neck, the shoulder, and the legs, are generally best for the pressure cooker, and those that come from the middle of the animal generally aren't best in the PC.

    That's not to say you couldn't cook a pork loin roast in the pressure cooker, but you'd have to do some preparatory work for best results, and you'd have to be very careful about it. Brining the meat for at least 24 hours before cooking (or before freezing), that is, soaking it in a salt water solution, would have helped the meat retain moisture. Cutting it up into a few large chunks, instead of one big piece, would also have helped. It sounds like even though you had a raw or pink center to the meat, you had already seriously overcooked it during pressure cooking, long before it got into the crock pot. In your place, I probably wouldn't have cooked it for more than 30 minutes total, then I would have cut it into several large pieces, put the pink side down in the pressure cooker, then finished it off in the pressure cooker, but not under pressure (simmering it gently) until the pink parts were done.

    If you want, I can explain some of the science behind the difference in how the cuts cook, and why it probably came out so tough, but for future batches of pulled pork, I'd use either pork shoulder or pork butt instead, and go ahead and do it in the pressure cooker - up to 5 lbs. in large chunks will take about 50 minutes at high pressure, using natural pressure release (don't force pressure release manually).- those are the best cuts of pork for pulled pork, you'll get better results, and even better, its cheaper per pound than pork sirloin roast, so its a win win.

  4. Forgot to add, next time you have a pork sirloin roast and its frozen but you need to cook it, you could also use the pressure cooker to "defrost" it and then cook it conventionally. Assuming its whole, and completely frozen, pop it in the pressure cooker for perhaps 10 minutes on high pressure, let it depressurize naturally, and then proceed with cooking it per your conventional recipe, reducing the cooking time perhaps 5 - 10 minutes.

    1. Thank you for all of the wonderful information! I bought the pork sirloin because it was only 98 cents a pound. :) In fact, I bought 4 of them. I will try your suggestions. Thanks!

  5. Oh you did get a good deal, no wonder you stocked up! I'd love to hear how it comes out next time. (And for future reference, when corned beef goes on sale both before, and even more after, St. Patrick's Day, its an EXCELLENT cut for the pressure cooker. I bought a whole bunch end of last March for 99 cents a pound, I bought as much as I could fit in the freezer)


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