The saga of the blind woman running away from the stove but trying to cook continues. In this post, I had written about some kitchen appliances that I had learned about and found interesting, and in this other post, I mentioned how I had purchased an air fryer and an electric pressure cooker on Black Friday. I'm happy to say that both of them have arrived! ... The only problem is that, even though they aren't the biggest capacity ones (3.2 liter and 4 liter for the air fryer and the pressure cooker respectively), they're a bit big for our small kitchen. Well, somehow, we'll have to adapt...
Below are pictures of the two appliances. Own pictures, taken with a digital camera (and help of a sighted person, obviously :P ):
I've heard nice things about the pressure cooker of the Instant Pot brand, but that brand isn't available here in Brazil :( . Instead, both my air fryer and electric pressure cooker are of a Brazilian brand called Mondial. Even though I've heard complaints about some of their products, I've heard great things about their air fryers and other electric pans. And their air fryers were the only ones I found whose basket isn't like a grid (it has holes for residues to drip, but isn't like those "wire grids") and should be easier to clean.
The air fryer has manual controls with only two buttons. One is to control temperature (up to 200°C, 392°F), and the other one is to control the time (up to 60 minutes). Meanwhile, the pressure cooker has digital controls with function buttons like "Rice," "Beans," "Soup," "Meat," each one with a preset number of minutes, as well as a button to increment the minutes.
For now, I'm still relying on sighted help while using the machines until I get the hang of using them. I'll have to memorize the order of the pressure cooker's buttons and the preset minutes for each one. And for the air fryer, I'm considering to glue something to mark the most commonly used times and temperatures.
For both appliances, I washed their internal pots, seasoned the pots with oil and heated them in the machines for a few minutes (standard procedure before using nonstick pans for the first time, to help the nonstick last more, or so they say...). Then I washed the pots again, and they were ready for use. Then it was time to test them and learn to use them.
The first air fryer test was with some breaded beef that we'd have for lunch. I just put a minimal amount of oil on the beef and placed it into the air fryer for around 12 minutes. It came out good enough. The meat was nicely cooked inside. The breading of the side facing up came out rather crispy, but not the side facing down, either because I really skimped on the oil on the bottom side, or because I didn't bother to turn the beef over at half of the time. And likely for the "skimped on the oil" reason, some of the breading stuck to the air fryer's basket, though it came out very easily when I washed the basket.
The first test with the pressure cooker was with cooked beans, a very common dish on the Brazilian tables, but not so much on ours because we can't seem to get them right! ... And this time, I didn't, either. Every recipe I checked said 40 pressure minutes for not soaked beans and 20 for soaked beans. Since I had soaked the beans overnight, I went with 20 pressure minutes. However, it was too much. The beans overcooked, and came out exactly the way I don't like them. Almost like a puree... at least the taste wasn't bad (the only problem is that I don't like melting beans). In the end, those beans lasted us a few days, and my mother ended up making a bean soup to use up the beans quicker :P .
Only after the fact, on closer inspection, we noticed that the package of said beans is the only place ever recommending 10 pressure minutes for soaked beans. Could the cooking time depend on the brand? I don't know. All I know is, next time, soaked beans, 10 pressure minutes.
A few days later, we decided to try something different and went for another air fryer test. French fries seem to be the first thing people usually test their air fryers with. Once again, a food that's very common on the Brazilian tables, but not on ours.
We happened to have some potatoes lying around, so it's what we decided to use. Since french fries are so common, I thought preparing them had no secrets (at least the recipes that came with the air fryer didn't have any). So, we did just the obvious process with the potato. Peel, cut into sticks, rinse, dry, brush with oil, preheat the air fryer and throw the potato sticks in it for 25 minutes. The result? French fries that tasted like... french fries! :P (or, like they should), and without the excess oil. I liked it! ... except for one problem. Only the thinnest pieces were crispy...
And a few nagging questions cropped up. What was the problem? Was this the expected result because it was made in an air fryer? Or was it lack of oil? ... Or did we miss something somewhere?
research time! I looked into recipes to try to find out what could've gone wrong, and apparently, it's the last option (we missed something)! I had thought preparing french fries had no secrets, but it has! There's an important step we missed, after peeling and cutting the potatoes and before drying them. Instead of just rinsing them, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes to remove the excess starch from the potatoes (adding a bit of lemon or vinegar should also help). It's said that this should make the potatoes crispy outside and soft inside, as well as not stick onto each other. I'll definitely apply this trick next time!
We had some chicken that we needed to cook, and decided to do it in the electric pressure cooker. I tried to adapt this recipe for the Instant Pot, which involves poaching the chicken by gently cooking it in water and without pressure (using only the pressurizing and depressurizing times to cook, and not really letting it cook under pressure). However, only this wasn't enough. I don't know if this would work only for pressure cookers of the Instant Pot brand and not for electric pressure cookers in general, but it didn't work in my pressure cooker's case and the chicken was still hard at the end of the process. I ended up leaving it cooking under pressure for 10 minutes, and the chicken came out soft, just the way we like it. Phew. At last one recipe that came out exactly the way we wanted...
I'm still in the testing phase and learning how these electric pans work. Even though the results so far were far from perfect, I can say they were a good start. Still not good enough for pictures, though. I had hoped I could post some food pictures, but this won't happen just yet. Maybe something interesting enough will come out once I get the hang of using my two new toys, who knows!
Overall, the appliances are delivering on their promises. The appliances are approved! Though the cook is not :P , but I'm determined to improve and eventually get those foods right! Which is already something, considering it's coming from someone who isn't much into cooking. Just for the "motivation" factor, I believe these purchases were already worth it!
... Unless the electricity bills explode and make using these appliances prohibitive. Since I've used the appliances only a few times so far, I still don't know their impact on the electricity bills (electricity is expensive here in Brazil), but I hope it won't be that bad. My plan is to make balanced use of these machines so that the electricity bill doesn't explode. Since we mostly live on leftovers anyway, I'm thinking we can use the appliances to cook things that last us a few days so that we don't need to use them much, and adjust the use frequency accordingly depending on the impact in the electricity bills. We shall see how it goes.
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