Are you planning to buy a pressure cooker, or do you already have one, but you are afraid to use it? Probably you still remember how your grandmother's pressure cooker spewed a meal all over her beautiful ceiling.
However, today I bring you good tidings; you don't have to be intimidated by the amount of steam pressure in your pressure cooker anymore!
Modern pressure cookers come equipped with safety features, unlike the pressure cookers our forefathers used, and therefore, you have no reason to fear.
In this guide, I will start by introducing you to the pressure cooker concept. Afterwards, I will provide you with several tips on how to cook safely using a pressure cooker.
So, without wasting time, let's go deep!
Table of Contents
What is a Pressure Cooker?
As its name suggests, a pressure cooker refers to a cooking vessel used to cook food under high pressure.
You can use a pressure cooking pot as a rice cooker. Also, you can use this vessel for cooking beans, meat, and many other foods.
One thing to note about these pressure cooking pots is that they have been around for more than 300 years now.
However, the old pressure cookers had many troubles; they brought many accidents to humans. As a result, many people shied away from these cookers.
But today, things are not the way they used to be. The modern pressure cooker has safety features and better construction to deliver excellence to your pressure cooking process.
Let's look at a few exterior features of a modern-day electric pressure cooker.
Image source: Google Scholar
100 – stainless steel outer casing
104 - lid
150 – opening on the lid
600 - controller
Safety Features in Modern Pressure Cookers
We have seen how a pressure cooker looks on the outside; let's now go deeper and see the safety features in this cooker that will make you trust it.
Pressure release valves
A pressure release valve regulates the high pressure in the instant pot to ensure the pressure remains at an acceptable level.
For example, the steam release valve will open when too much pressure is in the cooker and allow the extra pressure out.
A pop-up pressure indicator is another feature in most modern electric pressure cookers. The work of this indicator is to update you on the pressure levels in your cooker.
The cooker's lid holds this indicator while the stem of the indicator stands in the pressure cooking chamber.
Gasket release aperture
Besides the float valve, the lid comes with a gasket release aperture.
When the pressure in the cooker exceeds a specific limit, the aperture moves upwards to allow the excess pressure to exit.
Every modern pressure cooker comes with a locking feature on the lid. This lock will only open when the pressure in the inner pot has decreased to a safe level.
In addition, you can carry this kitchen appliance by its handle without the fear of it getting opened, thanks to its interlocking lid.
Imagine that your food has now fully cooked, and you want to move the pot to the serving table. Good handles will ensure safety as you carry the hot pot and its hot content.
Modern pressure cookers come with cool handles that don't heat up during the pressure cooking process. Also, the handles are firm to help you carry the loaded pot.
Encapsulated even heat base design
The status of the base of your pressure cooker can determine how long your cooker will last. But why is this so?
Most old pressure cookers have hotspots at the base. These hotspots result from the heat being directed at one spot of the pressure cooker. After a short while, these hot spots wear out, meaning that you can't use your cooker anymore.
However, modern electric cookers come with a three-ply encapsulated base design featuring an aluminum layer sandwiched between two stainless steel layers.
The encapsulated design ensures that heat is evenly distributed in the cooker base, thus ensuring there are no hot spots.
Like Pit Boss 1150, a pressure cooker also uses a temperature probe to monitor the temperature in the cooker.
Image source: Google Scholar
You can run a temperature probe on the hole marked "150" in our previous diagram. So, the sensitive part of the probe (202) will be in the cooking chamber of your electric pressure cooker while you connect the other end (206) to the exterior controller.
The part marked "220" on the above temperature probe sits in the probe hole as a seal to prevent unnecessary pressure leakage while the other parts go to the inner pot.
The probe will help you know whether the food is cooking at the right temperature or when done.
Materials such as copper and aluminum heat up very fast, which can burn food. That's why the aluminum material in the cooker's base, as we have seen above, is held between two stainless steel surfaces.
That said, stainless steel makes most of the parts of an electric pressure cooker. Stainless steel is light in weight and strong, meaning that it can hold a large quantity of food without complaining.
Also, stainless steel is easy to wash and dishwasher safe. In addition, this metal gives an elegant look to your cooker.
How to Cook Safely With a High Pressure Cooker
Here are six simple steps to follow when using a pressure cooker:
1. Add food and cooking liquid to the pot
2. Close the lid and ensure the pressure valve is in the correct position
3. Choose pressure setting
Electric pressure cookers – select cooking method and cooking time
Stovetop pressure cookers – place the pot and content on the stovetop, select the pressure setting, and turn on high heat
4. Allow the pressure to build up in the kitchen appliance
5. Monitor the cooking time
Electric pressure cookers – cooking time countdown displayed on the screen
Stovetop pressure cookers – lower the heat for a slow cook and set a timer based on cook time
6. Allow the high pressure to exit and open the pot when safe.
Pressure Cooker Safety Tips
Here are a few tips to ensure a safe and successful pressure cooking experience when using a pressure cooker.
Check your pressure cooking vessel
Remember to inspect the parts of your electric cooker before using it.
One of the parts you need to inspect includes the rubber gasket (the rubber ring on the cooker's lid). Check if the rubber gasket has tears or debris.
Manufacturers recommend that you replace the rubber gasket annually. But, in case the gasket is worn out, maybe due to frequent use, you can replace the rubber gasket immediately.
Other inspections you can do on your instant pot include:
● Checking lid for cracks
● Check if handles are firm
● Examine vents for obstructions
Don't overfill the pressure cooker
For most foods, you can fill upto two-thirds of the cooker with food which helps to keep food particles from clogging the vents.
Other foods like cereals will require you to fill the cooker halfway since most cereals swell when cooking.
Use enough liquid
One major feature of a pressure cooker is using steam for cooking food. So, you will need a liquid to produce the required steam.
A good pressure cooker recipe will factor in a liquid. But if you are making your recipe, you can add half a cup of cold water or your preferred liquid to the food.
Also, you can keep monitoring the steam build-up. If the steam goes too low, you can open the cooker after first releasing some pressure and then add some more liquid.
Don't pressure fry
Using oil in a pressure cooker is highly discouraged because a pressure cooker can burn oil beyond its smoking point, leading to a fire.
If you must use oil, ensure that the oil is not more than a quarter of a cup full. No one wants "food explosions," fires, or a damaged instant cooker!
Proper pressure cooking of food that froth
Be careful when cooking froth food since the food can block the pressure release vents.
Some examples of food froths include oatmeal, split peas, pasta, cranberries, rhubarb, and apple sauce.
When cooking these foods, ensure you follow a trusted pressure cooker recipe. Also, ensure that the quantity in the pot is precisely below the required fill line.
Release pressure in the right way
Here are three ways through which you can safely remove pressure from your pressure cooker:
1. Natural release
Here, you will remove your instant pot from heat and leave it for some time to allow the pressure to go down.
2. Coldwater release
You can place the instant pot under a tap with everything intact. Then, run cold water on the lid of the cooker.
The quick-release method allows the steam release vent to exhaust pressure from the cooker.
In addition, remember to keep your hands, face, and body away from the steam vent when using the quick-release method. Also, after releasing the pressure, open the cooker's lid carefully to protect yourself from the hot air in the pot.
Cleaning and storage
Remember to clean your cooker after every use. Also, ensure you don't use your instant pot to store food to avoid marking and erosion.
To clean the cooker's lid, use a washing liquid and running water. In addition, you can remove the rubber gasket for a thorough clean.
Always remember that instant pot lids are not dishwasher friendly. Also, don't soak the lid.
You can use a dishwasher on other parts of the cooker but be sure to confirm from the instructions manual that came with the cooker.
After cleaning the cooker, dry it thoroughly before storing it and store the lid upside down instead of storing it locked on the cooker.
Some of the reasons that make pressure cookers some of the highly sought cooking vessels are their ability to cook fast, save energy, and preserve nutrients in food.
In addition, you don't have to thaw food before cooking it in the stovetop pressure cooker. This way, you are well catered for whenever you want a quick meal.
That said, ensure you follow the above tips on how to cook safely using a pressure cooker for a smooth cooking experience.