The Faster, Smarter Way to Cook Those Long-Simmered Winter Stews

Using this type of pot can be a huge time-saver for any chef.

Pressure cooker. (Photo: JoePhoto/Flickr)

Jan 19, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Shaya Tayefe Mohajer is TakePart's News Editor.

You might have seen reality-television judges cooing over deeply developed flavors on cooking shows—even when the chefs have little more than an hour to prepare their dishes. Celeb chefs often rely on pressure cookers to quickly concentrate flavors and to speed the cooking process and breakdown of tough meats.

Take the classic beef bourguignon recipe that was introduced to most Americans by Julia Child. The cookbook with that recipe—which is the classic Julia Child recipe—has sold more than 2 million copies. The dish requires about an hour of stovetop cooking, to brown the meat a bit, and then three-ish hours in the oven.

According to handy calculators, for the stovetop that means using 2 kilowatt hours, and that long simmer in the oven expends another 9 kWh. So it takes about 11 kWh to cook one (very fine) Sunday supper.

By comparison, if you brown your meat, to get the flavor and sear in the juices, and then skip the long simmer and opt for cooking in a pressure cooker for about 35 to 40 minutes on the stovetop, it could save about 7 kWh per supper.

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That’s not a huge amount of electricity when it comes to American lives—the average customer in the U.S. uses 30 kWh a day, according to the federal government. To give you an idea, one kWh can be used to watch four hours of television, and the average refrigerator uses about 4.3 kWh a day.

The difference becomes most significant when you compare what little savings in the U.S. would mean to people on the other side of the world. A four-hour TV binge in the U.S. expends as much electricity as two Kenyans use in an entire day. In Nigeria, the average person uses 137 kWh per year, or 0.37 kWh daily.

The long-simmered Sunday supper may be a tradition that requires a big pot of food to sit on top of the stove for hours, bubbling away. We romanticize cooking the slow way a lot, but when the recipe tastes the same either way, doesn’t it make sense to cut back on the time we spend cooking and conserve? There is a faster and more energy efficient way to cook that meal.

(Infographic: Lauren Wade)