Modern pressure cookers don’t have the scare-factor they once had.
Spitting and sputtering, the pressure cooker rattled and hissed on the stove while it worked away. When I heard it going, I stayed out of the kitchen. I found pressure cookers intimidating with all their gauges, vents and gadgets—I preferred a pan with a lid. The stories of pressure cookers exploding confirmed my thoughts that they were too scary to use.
Luckily, times have changed. Today’s pressure cookers are safer than their older counterparts, plus, they have many advantages. They cook food up to 70 percent faster than traditional cooking methods, which means food retains more nutrients; are energy-efficient; and keep your kitchen cooler.
When cooking with your pressure cooker, store the instruction manual in a place where you can easily find it. If you lose the manual, visit the manufacturer’s website to download the instructions you need. Also keep these safety tips in mind:
1. Don’t buy a pressure cooker at a flea market or auction.
Bargain pressure cookers or older models might have cracked lids or gaskets that don’t fit properly.
2. Keep the rubber gasket clean and in good shape.
The gasket is the ring of rubber that lines the lid of the pressure cooker. If the gasket looks cracked or broken, replace it immediately. You might need to order the gasket online if you can’t find it locally. Use parts that come from the pressure cooker’s manufacturer to ensure the proper seal.
3. Follow the instruction manual.
Read the instructions several times before diving into a recipe.
4. Measure liquids precisely.
This is critical to increase the cooker’s pressure. Follow a recipe to make sure the amount of liquid is correct.
5. Don’t overfill the pressure cooker.
Careful measuring is a must. Some foods, such as beans, expand when they cook, and you need to allow room for this.
6. Be careful with frothy foods.
Frothy foods can block the steam valves and the pressure-release vents on your pressure cooker. Foods that froth include pasta, rhubarb, split peas, oatmeal, applesauce and cranberries. When cooking these foods, follow a trusted recipe and make sure the quantity in the pot is well below the recommended maximum-fill line.
7. Release the pressure safely.
Typically, pressure is released by removing the pressure cooker from the stove and letting it cool until the pressure drops to the safe range. The cold water release is another way to release pressure by running cold water over the lid of the cooker. Each pressure cooker operates differently, so consult your instruction manual.
8. Watch out for steam.
When you open the pressure cooker, plenty of steam will escape. Have dry pot holders on hand—if the holder is wet, you may burn your hand. Open the pan with the lid facing away from you. Don’t let condensation drip on you.
9. Always inspect your pressure cooker before using it.
Check the lid for cracks, and make sure the vent is open and clean. Check the handles: A loose handle screw could spell disaster when moving a hot pressure cooker. Even new pressure cookers can have problems, so don’t make assumptions based on its age.
10. Properly clean your pressure cooker after each use.
Remove the gasket and wash it , the pot and the lid. Don’t store the cooker with the lid locked in place. Simply place the lid upside-down on the pot.
Don’t be fearful of today’s pressure cookers. Just follow a few safety tips, and get ready to enjoy quick, nutritious meals.
About the Author: Jean M. Fogle is the author of Tricks for Treats (BowTie Press, 2010) and Salty Dogs (Wiley Publishing, 2007) and Tricks for Treats. She lives in Fort Valley, Va.