How to Use a Pressure Cooker – Your Questions Answered

Written by The Kitchen Hand on . Posted in Small Appliances

It was when I had a roommate who was an exceptional cook that I learned how to use a pressure cooker. I remember going into the kitchen one day and seeing what looked like a piece of advanced tech sitting on the stovetop; I had to know what it was. It wouldn’t be long before I’d use a pressure cooker myself.

The pressure cooker has improved in efficiency from generation to generation and is probably one of the most commonly-used kitchen apparatuses. In this post, I am going to answer some common questions potential users ask. I am also going to be highlighting some useful information about this wonderful piece of cooking technology.

What is a Pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker is a sealed pot that cooks foods quickly under pressure with high-temperature steam above the normal boiling point of water. A pressure cooker is usually airtight with a lid that fits tightly to allow for the build-up of pressure.

A Pressure cooker uses a pressure-cooking system.

Pressure cooking is the act of cooking foods in a sealed container using water or other liquids, generating high-temperature steam to encourage rapid braising in a shorter time. The pressure cooker works by trapping steams from liquids within the sealed container, causing the temperature and pressure within the vessel to rise rapidly.

A pressure cooker is used to cook foods that can be cooked in water-based liquids. Over recent years, the effectiveness, efficiency and safety involved in the use of pressure cookers have been improved upon, from old-fashioned pressure cookers to modern ones.

Generations of Pressure Cookers.

There are several generations of pressure cookers. From the first generation to the third generation, they have steadily improved in efficiency from generation to generation.

1st Generation Pressure Cookers (Old-fasioned)

These pressure cookers produce steams which are released from a valve during operation. They generate loud sounds because the valve rattles as the steams are released. First-generation pressure cookers allow for the release of excess steam during operation.

Delayed cooking is not permitted on these pressure cookers.  They have a primary safety valve which helps to release excess steam from within the pressure cooker.

2nd Generation Pressure Cookers

Some second-generation pressure cookers come with improved features, one of which is a pressure indicator which shows the pressure level within the vessel.

These pressure cookers release steam either when the lid is removed or when the pressure level is reached and the heat source is not reduced. Other types of these pressure cookers release steam by fixed settings selected by the operator by means of a control dial.

3rd Generation Pressure Cookers (The Electric Pressure Cookers)

The electric pressure cookers are the third-generation pressure cookers. They consist of an electric heat-source, a spring valve and a timer. They are usually operated with caution when used to cook foam-forming foods like beans. Timers are used to ensure delayed cooking of foods for convenience; these cookers incorporate cooking-control capabilities.

There are three generations of electric pressure cookers:

  • First generation – These electric pressure cookers consist of a mechanical timer; cooking cannot be delayed, only timed.
  • Second generation – These electric pressure cookers consist of a digital controller, ensuring delayed cooking and displaying a countdown to when pressure for cooking is attained.
  • Third generation cookers – These electric pressure cookers come with smart programming features and settings such as cooking-timer setting, temperature setting, pressure setting and heat-intensity setting. These cookers allow for delayed cooking.

As observed, most modern pressure cookers are improvements upon the first generation of pressure cookers. These improvements mainly have to do with the addition of special features to already-existing pressure cookers.

Features of a Standard Pressure Cooker

Pressure cookers consist of different parts, just as they come in different sizes. These parts include:

  • The Lid: The lid is the cover placed over the pressure cooker. It usually consists of a lock on either side to ensure the cover is fitted well to the pressure cooker. The lid houses the pressure indicator, pressure gauge, safety device and steam vent, and it comes with a lid handle.
  • The Pan: The pan is the pressure cooker itself in which the food to be cooked is placed. It is most commonly metallic with a handle fitted on both sides for carrying the pressure cooker.
  • The Gasket: The gasket is the sealing ring that seals the pressure cooker airtight, preventing the escape of steam and allowing the build-up of pressure within the pressure cooker.
  • The Steam Vent: The steam vent helps to maintain the pressure level within the pressure cooker by releasing steam and regulating the pressure to desired cooking pressure.
  • The Pressure Indicator: The pressure indicator is a switch or a light that notifies you when steam has begun to forcefully escape the cooker, and it is usually when this switch has been turned that cooking time begins.
  • The Pressure Gauge: The pressure gauge indicates the level of pressure within the pressure cooker.
  • The Safety Device: A safety device is usually fitted to the lid of the pressure cooker to ensure a rapid release of excess steam in case of any malfunction.
  • The Capacity of the Pressure Cooker: Pressure cookers come in different capacities for cooking foods in small or large amounts. Since pressure cookers should only be 2/3rds full at the most, the actual capacity of a pressure cooker is usually different from the written capacity.

How to Use a Stovetop Pressure Cooker

Stovetop pressure cookers are used to cook food with a small amount of water or other cooking liquids (like stock). The food is either made to be above the liquid or submerged in it. Food’s flavor can be trapped inside the food by placing the food higher than the liquid. After the lid is closed, the pressure setting is selected and the cooker is placed on a stove.

The heat of the stove is then lowered once the pressure of the pressure cooker is attained and cooking commences.

  1.   Place food into the pressure cooker.
  2.   Pour liquid into the pressure cooker.
  3.   Place the lid over the pressure cooker and lock with the use of a fitted lid lock.
  4.  Position the valve to the correct setting.
  5.   Select the recommended pressure setting and turn on the heat source to the desired position
  6.  When pressure is reached, lower the heat source to maintain pressure and start the timer to start measuring cook time.

How to Use an Electric Pressure Cooker

Electric pressure cookers have an electric heat source. After the lid is closed, the plug is connected to an electric source and turned on to generate heat within the vessel. The heating ring is usually placed in a separate compartment at the base of the pressure cooker.

  1. Place food into the pressure cooker.
  2. Pour liquid into the pressure cooker.
  3. Close the lid and lock well with the lid lock.
  4. Position the valve to the correct setting.
  5. Choose the cooking program and time.
  6. This display counts-down cooking time.

How much water in pressure cookers?

The amount of water to use in a pressure cooker depends on the food to be cooked. Appropriate guides are displayed in the user manual of every pressure cooker. The foods to be prepared determine the amount of water needed in the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker should be half-filled for beans and other grains and 2/3 for other foods.

How to steam in a pressure cooker

  1. Pour in the appropriate amount of water for the food to be steamed into the pressure cooker.
  2. Place the trivet into the pressure cooker before placing the steamer basket with food inside.
  3. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and set the valve to pressure cooking position.
  4. For pressure cookers such as Electric pressure cookers and stovetop pressure cookers, cook for 3 to 5 minutes at high or LOW pressure.
  5. After the time elapses, remove the pressure cooker from the heat source and release the pressure using appropriate release methods.
  6. Finally, remove the steamer basket from the pressure cooker to finish cooking the food.

How to open a pressure cooker

After cooking is done, the pressure cooker should be removed first from the heat source and opened carefully to prevent an accident.

  • Turn off the heat source when your food has been fully cooked or the timer has elapsed.
  • Reduce or lower the pressure inside the pressure cooker by releasing the steam within pressure cooker. This can be achieved by using a steam releasing procedure. There are a few such procedures.

Quick release method: modern pressure cookers have a quick release button on the lid. When the button is released, the pressure within the pressure cooker reduces gradually.

Cold water release method: This is the quickest way to release steam from within the pressure cooker: place the pressure cooker under a sink faucet and allow cold water to fall on the lid of the pressure cooker until the pressure within the pressure cooker drops. This is not recommended when using an electric pressure cooker.

  • Ensure that all pressure has been released by moving the valve to see if steam still ejects.
  • Remove the lid carefully and take the food out of the pressure cooker.

Safety features

Early generations of pressure cookers had only one safety valve; this carried a risk of explosion, as the safety valve could become blocked with debris ejected along with steams from within the cooker. Over recent years, pressure cookers have been improved with the addition of various safety features to prevent explosion and danger to operators. Some of these include:

  • An interlock lid that prevents the pressure cooker from being opened when there is internal pressure within the pressure cooker. This means pressure higher than the atmospheric pressure.
  • An expandable gasket that allows the release of excess steam downward between the lid and the pan.

Ideally, excess oil in a pressure cooker is not advisable because too much vegetable oil in a pressure cooker can result in the swelling of the gasket and prevent the lid from sealing properly.

Benefits of Using a Pressure Cooker

  • Pressure cookers permit cooking at a faster rate than any other type of cooking. This is as a result of built-in pressure.
  • They require less amount of water for cooking. Because of this, fewer vitamins and minerals are dissolved in water.
  • Less energy is required for cooking. Since shorter cooking time is required, less energy is required.
  • Different types of food can be cooked at the same time, reducing cooking time.

Disadvantages of Pressure Cookers

Always be cognizant of all disadvantages. Below are some of the few disadvantages of the pressure cooker.

  • Pressure cookers are not always affordable.
  • Cleaning the pressure cooker can be more of a hassle. This is due to debris which sticks to the gaskets and may even stick to the vent.
  • Damage to the gasket may reduce the pressure cooker efficiency as steam may be lost.
  • Replacing parts of the pressure cooker can get expensive.

Conclusion

The pressure cooker is an amazing kitchen appliance which revolutionized the way I cook. The advantages of the cooker far outweigh the disadvantages. Ever since my roommate served up the softest, most perfectly-cooked chicken I’d ever had, I’ve gotten my own pressure cooker, which I still use regularly. Learning how to use the pressure cooker will change up your kitchen game in ways you never thought possible.

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The Kitchen Hand

The Kitchen Hand

Your Personal In-House 'HOW TO' Gastro Master. From Slicing up A Pig for Christmas or Selecting Your Organic Ingredients for that Super Vegan Juice, The kitchen Hand Knows More Than You Might Think .
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