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Pressure cookers drastically shorten the cook times of traditionally slow-cooking foods.

Looking to create a tender braise or a flavor-packed stock but short on time? Meet the pressure cooker! Once lauded as beacons of culinary convenience, pressure cookers fell out of favor as prepackaged foods began filling grocery stores and frozen, microwavable meals became commonplace in homes across the U.S. And that’s a shame. These locked-lid pots are specially designed to drastically shorten the cook times of traditionally slow-cooking foods, like grains, legumes, potatoes, tough meat cuts, soups and stews.

So how long have pressure cookers been around, and how exactly do they work? Our friends at ChefSteps are here with all the answers. Originally invented way back in the 1680s by French-born physicist Denys Papin, the pressure cooker wasn’t available commercially until over two centuries later, when it was introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Consisting of a metal pot outfitted with a pressure regulator and pressure-relief valves, the pressure cooker has a special lid that locks into place on the pot, creating an air- and steam-tight seal. Water in the pressure cooker stays liquid at a higher temperature than its normal boiling point of 100 degrees Celsius. As a rule, for every five degrees that the temperature rises above 100 degrees, the cooking time is cut in half.

Got all that? Either way, take a look at the video below. It’s got some basic yet informative insight about this oft-overlooked device that just might have you running out to your nearest kitchen-appliance store before dinner tonight.

ChefSteps comprises a team of award-winning chefs, filmmakers, scientists, designers and engineers focused on revolutionizing the way people cook by inspiring creativity and encouraging expertise in the kitchen. The site is currently offering a free online class called Cooking Sous Vide: Getting Started, as well as a $10 class called Cooking Sous Vide: Beyond the Basics.

Check out these ChefSteps videos on Food Republic: