Are you afraid of the pressure cooker? Are you so terrified that you don’t even own one and the thought of that thing in your kitchen gives you nightmares? I am here to help you out. As 99.99% of Brazilians, I grew up used to its noise a couple of times per week, making sure we never ran out of black beans, a staple in any Brazilian kitchen. Looking back, I am forced to admit that my Mom’s pressure cooker was scary. That thing had zero safety features and relied on the experience (and perhaps a little luck) of the user not to blow up. A wimpy-looking closing mechanism, a gasket that would definitely be worn out in a few months, and a tiny valve that danced the dance of the steam on top, but seemed ready to fly off any second. Basically, Mom’s pressure cooker was like a bomb in waiting. But, apart from one incident in which black beans tainted the kitchen’s ceiling, nothing serious ever happened.  Having said all that, today’s pressure cookers have absolutely nothing to do with the ones from my past. They have safety mechanisms in place that prevent building excessive pressure, and the lid simply will not open unless the pressure in versus out is equalized.  I don’t even hesitate to grab mine whenever I want to make black beans, but truth is, they are incredibly useful to cook many types of food, from soups to sauces, from meat to grains, veggies, and even desserts! But, let’s start with a favorite recipe of mine, Pulled Pork. An American classic made in a classic Brazilian cooking vessel, the one and only pressure cooker!

Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork22

(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into large chunks
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider

Place the chunks of meat in the pressure cooker, add water to just barely cover them, then add the bay leaves, and all other ingredients. Mix gently to dissolve the salt and incorporate the apple cider.

Close the pressure cooker and turn the heat on high until it builds pressure, then lower the heat and cook it for 45 minutes.  When the time is up, turn the heat off and allow the pressure cooker to come down naturally, it should take about 15 minutes, maybe a little less.

Open the pan once the pressure is equalized, and transfer the meat carefully to a baking dish. It will be very tender. You can save the cooking liquid, put it in the fridge to make it easier to remove the layer of fat that will form, using it as a base for sauce.

Shred the meat with two forks, discarding any fatty pieces or gristle. You can use the meat right away or save it for several days in the fridge.  When ready to use, you can saute it in olive or coconut oil to crisp up the edges, or warm it up gently in a pan and then spread the pulled meat on a layer and run it under the broiler (my favorite method).   Serve with tortillas, or over steamed rice and black beans, incorporate in sauces, improvise a Tex-Mex lasagna with it…  and…


to print the recipe, click here


A word about pressure levels:  these days you can find regular pressure cookers and also electric ones. Many models will have two levels of pressure, the lowest around 6 psi (pounds per square inch), the highest from 13 to 15 psi. My pressure cooker delivers a single, powerful level of pressure of 15 psi. If yours doesn’t reach this level simply cook the meat 5 minutes longer. I have no experience with electric pressure cookers, but from what I see around they require longer times in general, perhaps 30% or even longer cooking times.  Use the specifications provided in the instruction booklet you have somewhere, or let google do the research for you…

Pulled pork is definitely one of our favorite meals, I’ve made it many, many times, as Phil’s kids also used to love it. My default recipe is in the blog and it is fantastic. However, I must say this one pleased me even more!  Something about the moisture retained by the meat cooked under pressure, and the way the seasoning is more uniformly present instead of concentrated on the charred surface made this dish a complete winner in my book…  The meat won’t look gorgeous as it comes out of the pressure cooker, so don’t be discouraged when you open the pan. Trust me on this. Get the meat out very gently, pull it and try a little piece… even without browning on a pan or under a broiler you will be amazed by how wonderful it is.

I like to serve mine over Romaine lettuce leaves, a bit of guacamole, shredded Queso fresco…


But, of course, you can opt for a more authentic presentation that will include corn tortillas, and a serving of refried beans on the side…  It’s all good!


And you know what I love the most? Leftovers for lunch, so easy to put together… a quick saute of the meat, some tomatillo salsa, half an avocado, Queso fresco for good measure, and a nice sprinkle of the world’s best hot sauce, Sriracha!  Tell me, isn’t this a great lunch?


I hope I convinced you to lose your fear of pressure cooking.  Pork shoulder is very forgiving and probably one of the best types of meat to inaugurate your pressure cooking adventures.  Second best type? My vote goes for chicken thighs.  Stay tuned, I’ve got a nice curry coming up sometime soon. Well, you know… soon enough.


before I leave you, a little picture of me and Mom, who doesn’t cook anymore, but I am sure remembers fondly the days in which she prepared the best black beans in the known universe for her family! As this post is published, I’ll be almost leaving Brazil to fly back home…


ONE YEAR AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

TWO YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic


FOUR YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

FIVE YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

SIX YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo


  1. This looks delicious! I’ve always wanted to own one and the only reason I haven’t bought one is that my husband would give me a hard time for bringing another gadget into the house! I just gave my daughter one of my slow cookers (I know) so now I have a spot for one! Thanks for this!


  2. Sally, I just have to share a story about my poor, dear Mother, the FIRST anti-cook. As you know, that sweet lady was the world’s worst, and most reluctant, cook. But one year she decided we were going to have linguine with clams and red sauce for Christmas Eve (although my family has no Italian BLOOD, both parents grew up around LOTS of Italian families and had lots of Italian friends, so the Italian-American influence on our family goes back a long way, and is powerful–I was brought up on my father’s incredible, garlicky red sauce and can hardly stand any other kind). Okay, great, tradition. IdaMae decided to make it in the pressure cooker. This was sometime in the late 1960s.

    Yeah, this was a baaaaaaad idea. She also had one of those old pressure cookers whose valve jiggled and wiggled and looked really scary–and remember, ZERO talent for culinary matters.

    So there we all sat, in the living room by the fire, with my daddy’s lovely tenor voice softly singing “Silent Night” and my grandmother sneaking me an early present, when . . . hissssssssssssss . . . hissssssssssss . . . BAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM!!!! The thing blew SKY HIGH, scattering clams and God knows what all OVER that galley-style kitchen in a very typical postwar Southern California suburb.

    My poor daddy said when they sold that house in 1969, he was STILL finding shards and bits of clamshells from Mother’s one and only attempt to make Christmas Eve dinner “the easy way” in the pressure cooker.

    (Yes, of course Daddy rescued dinner. We had lasagne.)

    But your pressure-cooker story, especially the first paragraph, brought back a sweet, warm memory for me.

    Lots of hugs, jill


    • Ok, 6 and a half years of blogging and your comment gets the prize, number 1 for the funniest, most entertaining comment in my blogging life!

      ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS!!!!! Methinks you need to write a book, as I know plenty of your stories already and you have unique talent for sharing them 😉


  3. The pulled pork dish sounds tasty. I think my mom’s old pressure cooker is in the basement … or did I give it away? I can’t remember. I know I’ve never used one in any case. Hope your visit was good one.


    • Last full day in Brazil today. Unfortunately won’t be able to see Mom because we need to be at the university, but tomorrow we have a lunch together and then… airport and fly home


  4. I am certain the pulled pork is lovely and have not heard of a pressure cooker ‘incident’ in decades [tho’ personally can do without] . . . BUT what a beautiful keepsake of a photo of you and your lovely Mother: you look so relaxed and happy and she has a definite twinkle in her eye . . . so glad all went well . . .


  5. I love that photo of you and your mother. I have a pressure cooker sitting on the shelf in the storage room with other gadget I rarely use but had to have. I shall bring it out and try it. I love pulled pork! Safe journey!


  6. Pressure cookers are so helpful, used two back in July to execute Boeuf Bourguignon for 30 in celebration of DW’s 65th. Use them often in my clients’ homes to expedite my day! Pulled pork will definitely be added to the PC repertoire! Hope you had an amazing visit with Mom!


  7. I could extol the benefits of the PC and encourage cooks to curb the fear factor but there is a book, Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass that does it much better. While the PC recipe for pulled pork might suffice during cold months and provide a bevy of economical meal combinations, sorry, it can’t replace the summer version of a slow smoked, highly spiced pork butt on the grill. There is something sacred about smoke and pulled pork. What I would love to see however, is your Mom’s recipe for black beans ‘under pressure’. Could you share the family recipe? Now I can’t get black beans and smoked ham hocks out of my mind.


    • black beans brazilian style has been on the blog for a long time, IIRC on my first six months of blogging

      look in the index or do a quick search, I am in a total hurry right now just wanred to let you know 😜


  8. adorei a postagem, cresci assim como você com as panelas de pressão sem nada de “safe”, tivemos acidentes como praticamente em todas as casas, mas cresci respeitanto e a amando cozinhar na pressão, tenho 4 uma para cada fim, uso sem dó nem piedade, para doces, polentas, carnes, grãos, até para o arroz vermelho e integral de cada dia. acho uma pena a moçada tem tanta resistencia ao uso da pressão. bjs


    • Que delicia de comentario, Angela! De fato creio que ter nascido e crescido no Brasil da’ uma certa vantagem em termos de panela de pressao… mas, quem sabe com posts sobre o assunto eu acabe “convertendo” algumas pessoas?


  9. I love the photo of you and your mom Sally! It’s priceless! I don’t have a pressure cooker and never have really even seen one. For the longest time I thought they were the same thing as slow cookers. Gasp! They do intrigue me now though. Maybe I’ll pick it up one of these days! I hope you had an amazing time in Brazil!


    • I am curious to know the proportion of households in the US in which we can find a pressure cooker – in Brazil it is definitely over 90%, even in the homes of newly weds, I bet. A small pressure cooker is a nice wedding gift, and makes sure black beans will be on the menu without problems 😉

      We are back, arrived yesterday so today there’s a lot to do around the house, but life is back to normal – pups are delighted, as you imagine….

      Liked by 1 person

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