Many of the meals in the U.S. rely on the delicious addition of pasta or rice to soak up all of the great meat juices or gourmet sauces. Pasta is a great filler for a meal, is loved as a comfort food for many, and is a significant part of the recommend 350 pounds of grains, per person per year that self-reliant persons have on hand for their family. The problem, though, is that the preparation of pasta usually requires a significant amount of water and fuel to make properly. While few of us would ever consider this thought when cooking among running water and on the modern appliances we enjoy in our kitchen, this fact presents a challenge if we are ever in need of making some drastic modifications in these cooking and eating habits in the future.
Pasta is a great way to get quality grains into the body and it’s very familiar to most families. In a time of challenge, familiarity and nutrition is essential. But storing enough water for cooking it in the traditional way may pose a problem for over 90% of those who are actively attempting to become more self-reliant—yes, that’s 90% of the “good guys”, folks. So, rather than making those who are trying hard feel like they aren’t doing enough in the planning and water department, I thought it would be better to share with you how you can cook rice and pasta efficiently with a minimal amount of time, fuel, and water.
Friday night was a perfect example. As I had just returned from being out of town for almost 2 weeks, my poor husband was left to fend for himself while I was gone--eating nearly nothing that he would have, had I been home to cook. This meant that he would regularly eat prepared foods or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. More times than not the man hardly eats when I'm gone. (At least I know I’m still useful to him after 12 years of marriage. *grin*) So I promised him Friday that I’d make dinner with real food; however, I got so caught up in catching up on work I forgot to take the pork roast out of the freezer and it was nearly 4 o’clock p.m. No problem. That’s what pressure cookers are for. I threw the 5 pound frozen roast in the pressure cooker along with about 2-3 cups of water and a little pork seasoning, brought the pressure cooker up to high pressure, turned it down to low to stabilize, and then went back to work for the next while. About 45 minutes later I remembered dinner. The roast was cooked perfectly tender—no knife needed. I removed it from the pan and placed it on the plate to rest and then took a taste of the yummy meat juices in the bottom of the pan. Perfect. No additional seasoning required. Then I put in dry, wide egg noodles in the pan—just enough so that the leftover juices barely covered the noodles. (If you don’t have as much juice left over as you need for noodles to feed the family, just add a little more water—just enough to barely cover your noodles.) I then put the lid on the pressure cooker, brought it back up to high heat quickly, and then stabilized it to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. While the noodles were cooking I shredded the meat with a couple of forks and grabbed some frozen peas and threw them in the microwave. Within only 3 to 4 minutes the noodles were perfectly cooked—not mushy—and they had soaked up the delicious flavors from the seasoned pork roast. I added the peas and the shredded pork and served a slow-cooked pork and noodles taste in less than an hour—most of which time I was working elsewhere. It was delicious and my husband was grateful to have “real food again.”
Cooking Rice in a Pressure Cooker
Rice cooks very much the same way in a pressure cooker with just a few little changes. I first will sauté the rice grains in a tablespoon of butter and olive oil til they are coated. Then I will put water and rice in the pot using a one-to-one ratio plus another ½ to ¾ cup of liquid; bring it up to high pressure, turn down the heat to stabilize that pressure, and set the timer for 7 to 10 minutes depending on whether or not I’m cooking white rice or brown rice. When it’s finished cooking I slowly release the pressure (if you do it quickly with rice or pasta you’ll get a lot of foam coming out of the top of the pressure cooker. The oil also helps to minimize the foam.) The rice always turns out perfectly and that’s more than I can say for my rice cooker which I got rid of after realizing that the pressure cooker was so much easier to use.
With either of these two grains, cooking foods in the pressure cooker helps in our self-reliance in many ways. It requires very little fuel to bring it up and maintain high pressure, and it requires a minimal amount of water because it’s constantly recycling the steam inside the sealed pan. This also means that flavors and nutrients aren’t escaping in the steam. Rather than cooking your rice for 30-45 minutes or your pasta for 10 to even 20 minutes, you’re done in a jiffy. Even better, if you have some thick towels, once you bring your pressure cooker up to full pressure, you can completely remove it from the heat source--thus conserving your fuel--wrap the pressure cooker up in the thick towels or blankets, and your food will continue to cook for up to an hour using this insulated method—way longer than necessary for rice or noodles, by the way. Either way the pressure cooker will dramatically shorten the time necessary for cooking pasta or rice and it’s sooooo very helpful in making your cooking needs easy, yet masterful, in so many other ways. (Search this blog for “pressure cooker” and find several other articles which discuss other great dishes made in minutes and guidance as to which kind of a pressure cooker is best for your needs.)
Ok. So that’s one method. The other one? The other method is with a solar oven, though it does require more time. If you’re making a dish which has pasta or rice in it, such as a casserole or soup, you can simply add a little bit more liquid along with your dry pasta or rice and slow cook the grains in the dish. They will absorb the flavors and will be so delicious.
For example, I make a lazy man’s lasagna using egg noodles instead of lasagna noodles. I put in all of my ingredients, such as tomato sauce, ground beef (which I’ve canned), tomatoes, cheese, and seasonings, and I also put in my dry noodles added to a liquid equal to 1/3 the amount of my pasta. For example, in the lazy man’s lasagna I would put in 10 cups of egg noodles and add 3.3 cups of tomato sauce or tomato juice, so as not to water down the flavors. (Yes, that’s ten cups of pasta because my husband LOVES this dish, even as leftovers.) I stir all of the ingredients well in the pan* and then place it with it’s lid on in the solar oven for a couple of hours in direct sunlight. The pasta absorbs the juices slowly so as not to get mushy and its a delicious add-on to the dish.
Cooking Rice in the Solar Oven
I do the same with the rice I’m cooking. Whenever I can, I try to cook the pasta or rice in the juices or liquid ingredients that I’m already using in a dish. This requires less water and adds great flavor to the dish. And there you have it. Considering that both the pressure cooker and the solar oven are worth the investment for umpteen other reasons, I’d definitely look at getting comfortable using them in your everyday life. You can never burn or scorch something you cook in the solar oven and you can make even the toughest, cheap cuts of meat taste good in the solar oven or pressure cooker as well. Enjoy!
*Dark, thin-walled pans with lids are best to use when cooking in a solar oven, but are not absolutely necessary. For example, I use my regular bread pans when I make bread in the solar oven, it just cooks a little longer than it would in dark colored pans which attract more sunlight/heat.
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Kellene, here's another method I've used to reduce cooking time for rice, although I haven't yet tried it with pasta: For each cup of rice, let it soak overnight in 3/4 cup of water to allow it to absorb the water, then cook it the next day when you need it. It slashes the cooking time drastically.
There is another way to cook
There is another way to cook rice- you put the brown rice in a saicepan with NO water- you stir continuously until it POPS and then you add boiling water - watch out for the steam!!! and then you boil in normal way - this cuts cooking time of brown rice - it is great
I inherited some older "sauce pan" type pressure cookers from a neighbor; I didn't know what to do with them. I will have to try this out! Thanks for all your wise uses.
Thank you so much for all your wonderful tips. I have a pressure cooker and a solar oven in storage but have never used them. I am going to get them out this week and start learning how to cook in them.
To save cooking fuel if you don't have a pressure cooker, bring the water to a boil, add the pasta, then cover and remove from the heat. Let it stand.
Although I would guess in that kind of situation one would be making fresh pasta out of flour and water, not necessarily opening boxes.
Works wonderfully with spaghetti (break into pieces), egg noodles, and elbow macaroni.
Loved this article and it reminded me of the insulated thermos cookers I was looking at a few months ago. I thought of buying one for when we did all day family outings. Boil it, put it in an insulated container and eat it at lunch time on the go. I think I'll try it with the pressure cooker instead. I could even make an insulated container for the pressure cooker.
google wonderbox cooker. i'm making one.
Thermos cooking is the way to go! Buy one for each family member and use them to conserve both water and fuel.
If I could only purchase 1 pressure cooker, what type brand and size would you advise? Thanks for the awesome article, they never get old..keep them coming!
That's covered in previous pressure cooker articles--but as a short answer BRK or Kuhn Rikon. BRK is made by Bosch and you get a lot more for your money than Kuhn Rikon, but KR really is the absolute best, which is why I've invested in those over the years.
Thermal cooking, retained heat cooking, thermos cooking, and haybox fireless cookers are extremely efficient ways to cook meat, pasta, grains, and beans.
Nearly every Japanese home has a suihanki, which translates as boiling rice device because they are foolproof.
Keep in mind that for purposes of preparedness, having multi-purpose items are ideal. Tho I loved my suihanki, I got rid of it since my pressure cooker is so wonderfully multi-purpose.
Towels to hold in heat so contents continue to cook; hmmm... Sounds like a fireless cooker as described by Cresson Kearny in "Nuclear War Survival Skills"
best brand, capacity, style for 2????
My answer is still the same as previously--Kuhn Rikon or BRK. There's just the two of us but I still have three pressure cookers because sometimes I want to do a whole meal such as a meat and artichokes and risotto, so I use three for that.
When you talk about using a pressure cooker for a meal, are you refering to the type of pressure cooker without the gauge or the kind with a gauge? I have both.
I think I will take mine camping next time.
There are two things that folks get mixed up sometimes--a pressure cooker and a pressure canner. You can cook in a canner but you can't can in a cooker as there's not enough space for the suitable pressure for canning to build up.
Thanks for the great idea! I'm always worried about having enough water. I've been cooking in my solar oven almost every day, but I haven't tried it with the pressure cooker yet.
If anyone is interested, I've been posting the recipes I've tried in the solar oven & how they turned out.
Just to be clear, you can't cook with a pressure cooker inside of the solar oven.
Hi dont know how i missed this post. I have to say i have come up with a good way to do the pasta. I boil up about three lbs of it at a time. then I dehydrate it in my dehydrator. I know this sounds lame cooking it then drying it. But I assure you it works great. To rehydrate I just put the pasta I want in a cintainer big enough with a few inches taller than the pasta. i pour in cold water to cover it with maybe an inch or two more than the pasta and either leave it on the counter or put it in the fridge and go to work. when i come home or in as little as 1 1/2-2 hrs it is completely rehydrated and as good as new. Now I have tried ziti,bow tie pasta , mini wagon wheels,large elbows and the vegetable rotini and plain rotini. the rotini and ziti were perfect. The bow ties were good too. The wagon wheels broke easy after rehydrating ,the elbows were ok not my favorite though. I plan on trying long pastas and lazagne eventually. I made macaroni salad out of it and brought it to a party. I waited until everyone tried it and then told them it was my dehydrated pasta. They couldnot believe how good it was. "You would never know" is what they said. I store the cooked pasta in mason jars with oxygen packets I have no idea on shelf life but its been a couple of months and I have not seen any change in the pasta. this works well on cooked barley too. it rehydrates well in just cold water. I can't tell you how convenient this is when you just want to toss a dinner together. I have to keep reminding my self to leave it alone for storage.
I always cook more pasta & rice than I need and either freeze or refrigerate it, so I won't have to waste the time, energy & water to cook it again.
Have you tried the "quick-cook" pasta from ronzoni? The box says it cooks in 3 minutes. I have several boxes but haven't used any of them yet. I'm wondering if you couldn't just soak them in some form of liquid rather than cooking them. It sounds like the pasta is already parboiled if it cooks so quickly.
Unless I get my pasta for free, I don't bring it home. I haven't seen any coupons combined with sales sufficient to make the pasta free quite yet. However, I'm certain you could just soak them in how water, even in the solar oven.
The solar over does pasta and rice perfectly. The solar oven was the best investment I made this year. I put dinner in the pot (last week I did pork chops with chili verde and a baked potato) out at 8am when I went to work and came home at 5pm and it was perfectly done and delicious.