Unlike many other kitchen gadgets, electric pressure cookers are not intuitive items; it takes some time to figure out how to use these incredibly functional gadgets appropriately. Nevertheless, most cooks learn basic steps easily. But, what about electric pressure cooker accessories? What is a trivet used for? Do you need a steamer basket? Let’s move forward to enhance your food preparation experience with an electric pressure cooker!
Trivets & Racks
A pressure cooker trivet is basically the way to steam foods in a pressure cooker without a steamer basket. A trivet is used to keep heat proof containers or foods from touching the pressure cooker’s base. Also, other foods like a chicken or roast can be raised in order not to be in a direct contact with the bottom of the pressure cooker. Like a steamer basket, a pressure cooker trivet is used to create multiple levels inside the cooker. In case you don’t have a trivet and you want to use a substitute for a trivet (several items might be suitable), make sure it is made of heat resistant and food-grade materials.
One of the oldest substitutes for trivets is the larger metal lid of a jar. However, a steamer basket, upside down stainless steel or ceramic bowl, the food mill screen and a stainless steel cookie cutter can also be used as suitable substitutes for a trivet. In fact, even a real trivet, if it is appropriately sized, can be used in the pressure cooker!
You can also use a trivet to remove a whole chicken cooked under tender pressure. If you cook a whole chicken, you can even insert a trivet in the bird and, when it is time to remove it, simply insert the hook in the bird’s neck cavity and lift it out.
A steamer basket are used for steaming veggies, fruits, fish as well as eggs. And, yes, you can use them when preparing meals in your electric cooker. If you use compartmentalized or multi-level streamer baskets, you are able to cook several different foods simultaneously. Of course, in that case, make sure you put the items which require the most cooking time at the bottom to make them the nearest to the heat source. Logically, the foods that need the least cooking time, should be put on the top of the basket. Steaming starts with water, but it does not have to end there; you can flavor steaming water with wine, vinegar, herbs etc.
If your electric pressure cooker doesn’t come with a steamer basket (also called a “perforated insert”), you might consider buying a stainless steel steamer, but a collapsible type which opens and closes like a flower. Since these steamers come in many sizes, I would recommend buying the biggest one that fits in your pressure cooker; this way, the size of the flat area is maximized. What are suitable substitutes for steamer baskets? For example, you could use a heat-proof colander or wire mesh basket instead of a steamer basket. If your cooker has non-stick interiors, when shopping for a steamer basket, choose those made of silicone in order to avoid scratching your kitchen gadget.
If, however, your cooker comes with a steamer basket and it also includes a trivet (usually, either both a steamer basket and a trivet are included or none of these accessories), use both of them together. This is recommended for one simple reason: most steamer baskets provided by the manufacturer of electric pressure cookers don’t have feet and therefore cannot be raised out of the steaming liquid. So, basically, you use a trivet to raise the basket and enable it to fulfill its purpose.
In addition to steaming veggies and other foods, you can use a steamer basket in your pressure cooker to, for instance, cook foods on different levels at the same time. Of course, if you opt for this food preparing method, make sure you follow the same rules you would if you prepared your meal using a trivet (what should be the nearest to the heat source and what should be furthest from it).
You can use a pressure cooker to prepare cakes, puddings, flans, fish and rice too. However, it’s vital to put these foods in heat-proof containers before. Although recipes do vary, usually it’s recommended to fill the electric pressure cooker with (at least) the minimum water required and, in case of really delicate ingredients, to cover the container tightly with foil for keeping the steam at bay. Of course, the container should be placed on a trivet or a steamer basket.
If you’re using ramekins or small containers, they should be placed in a steamer baskets. If a cooker is very tall or the containers are low, you can stack them in multiple levels, like a pyramid. Smaller containers should be removed from the cooker with glove-covered hand or tongs. A larger container can be lowered onto a steamer basket or a trivet. If it doesn’t have handles, it’s recommended to construct a foil sling to make it easier (and safe) to put the container in and remove it from the electric pressure cooker. To make sure the foil cover doesn’t dislodges and the foods don’t interfere with the safety systems, the height of a steamer basket and the container shouldn’t exceed the maximum fill line of your electric pressure cooker.
What are suitable heat-proof containers you can use for preparing foods in a pressure cooker? Logically, these containers have be made of heat-proof materials, such as Pyrex and other heat-proof glasses, ceramic, aluminum, stainless steel, copper and silicone. Any non-tempered glass shouldn’t be used, nor plastic containers. Each suitable material has its own properties; for instance, a ceramic container will heat up slower than an aluminum one, so it’s crucial to adjust cooking times accordingly. When you use large rectangular or square heat-proof containers, it’s crucial to measure the diagonal of the container in order to ensure a good fit.
In some recipes, you need heat-proof containers to be covered. Nevertheless, don’t use anything that seals hermetically; these containers aren’t designed to let you know when the content is under pressure nor to equalize the pressure internally. For that reason, opening a pressure cooked hermetically sealed container is rather dangerous. But, if a recipe calls for a covered top, use tin foil instead.
When buying heatproof containers to be used for pressure cooking, make sure you measure your kitchen gadget and take measurements of both interior height and width with you. Don’t forget to subtract the height of a steamer basket or trivet too.
Yes, you’ve read this right. Let’s present you one of the best ways to protect an electric pressure cooker, as well as your kitchen surfaces. Let’s face it, you probably use your pressure cooker in not ideal conditions and that’s something that could be changed by using a simple ceramic pizza plate. Why are these plates perfect as the surfaces for pressure cookers to sit on? First of all, they are flat all the way to the edge, while electrical plugs don’t interfere with the short ridge on the outside. In addition, pizza plates are water and heat proof too.
So, use a ceramic pizza plate to serve and eat pizza, but also as a base to the pressure cooker; not only will you protect your pressure cooker from less than ideal conditions, but you’ll also be able to have your cooker constantly available for cooking (you don’t have to store it in the kitchen cabinets).