My take on the pressure cooker broth controversy.
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Fagor Splendid 10-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner
A short time after we started GAPS my husband came across a stainless steel pressure cooker while we were shopping at Costco. It is the one shown above. I had been talking about possibly getting a pressure cooker so he snapped it up and brought it home to me. As soon as I got it I began to look into how they worked and discovered that Dr. Campbell-McBride and Sally Fallon both said that they are not a good idea. That they damage foods and make them less nutritious. So I put it on a high shelf and only pulled it out when I had forgotten to thaw any meat for dinner and it was either pressure cooker or go hungry. This meant we used it a couple of times a year.
Recently, I had a very busy week and I realized at the start of it that I was completely out of broth! I keep a perpetual broth pot going for much of the winter but our winter had ended rather abruptly about a month before and we were having quite warm and even hot weather. A pot simmering on the back of the stove and heating up the kitchen was not sounding appealing to me. Broth had become one more thing to remember to do and I forgot. It was 90+ the day that I realized we were completely out of broth and the idea of starting up another pot (and then dealing with it in my busy week) did not appeal to me at all, so I decided to make a pot of pressure cooker broth.
It doesn’t take very long (2-4 hours) to make broth in a pressure cooker. Also my 6 st pressure cooker doesn’t make very much. That sounded manageable and even if it wasn’t the best broth ever, it was better than no broth at all I reasoned. I did a quick Google search to find out how long to cook it for and any tips I could glean and discovered that there is a significant controversy about making broth in a pressure cooker among WAPF cooks with apparently little to no scientific evidence on either side of the argument. I felt better about the experiment I was about to embark on already. Then I made the broth.
My first batch of pressure cooker broth was chicken broth. This was made from pastured chicken bones from my freezer that I was saving from previously roasted chickens for just such an occasion. I also threw in some feet. I cooked it at high pressure for 2 hours. When it had cooled I opened it up and examined the bones. I could easily break them in two with my fingers. It usually takes about 48 hours of simmering on the stove to get them that brittle. I was impressed! I only got about 2 qts of broth from this batch but it looked very dark and rich. The next day I took it out of the fridge and it was as solid as a Jello jiggler! I figured one cup of this broth would be equal to 2 cups of more of the broth that I had been making in mineral content and gelatin content. I also noticed that the fat had a very mild smell and taste. Sometimes after a long cooking time the fat on the top of a pot of broth smells rancid and has an off taste.
I began to think that this experiment might evolve into a way of life but I needed to do more research before I switched over to pressure cooker broth completely. Like any
lazy good researcher I turned to Google. What I have found is a lot of speculation and debate but no evidence. The arguments on both sides have merit but perhaps they simply balance each other out.
On the con side is the idea that the broth is being cooked at an unnaturally high temperature. The interior of a pressure cooker reaches approximately 260 degrees while under 15lbs of pressure like I had been cooking my broth. This is significantly higher than the boiling point (212) and while an oven may heat its air to 350 degrees the food in the oven is usually much cooler with a chicken being done when it reaches 160-180 degrees. This high temperature will destroy enzymes and may also damage proteins.
On the pro pressure cooker side is the argument that longer cooking times are also destructive to proteins and that enzymes are all killed in the making of broth at more normal temperatures as well. Plus there is the fact that is saves energy, reduces how hot my kitchen gets in the summer, takes far less time, and produces a superior product (as far as consistency and taste are concerned).
Neither side produced any evidence to support the idea that they were right and that pressure cookers are bad or not bad and so I am left to come to my own conclusions. One thing that I have observed with longer cooking broth times (necessary to extract the minerals from bones) is that those broths tend to be less firm and often are completely liquid. Also the fat on them often has an off or rancid taste. However this broth that I made in the pressure cooker had obviously extracted a significant amount of minerals from the bones (as evidenced by how fragile they became) and yet also had a strong gel and the fat had a pleasant flavor.
I am currently convinced that making broth in a high quality stainless steel pressure cooker is a healthy choice and the only drawback I can see is that my pressure cooker is too small to make much at one time. I am very open to evidence that consuming foods that have been processed in a pressure cooker is detrimental to health. I want to do what is best for me and my family but so far I can’t find any evidence that pressure cooked foods are less healthy than foods cooked in other manners.
So how about you? Do you make broth in a pressure cooker? What do you think of it? Do you have any proof that it is bad for consumption?
Updated: I now have the 10qt pressure cooker pictured above and am in heaven! I can make about 4 qts of broth each time I use it and am currently drinking delicious broth that is from bones that were just used to make broth for the 3rd time! I can’t believe how much better tasting the broth is when I use a pressure cooker to make it and I love how fast it is done!
Don’t miss my new book. Broth: Elixir of Life