Among all the kitchen appliances, perhaps the pressure cooker has an unfair bad reputation.
We associate pressure cooking with steam shooting out from the vent, hissing sound that never stops and the worst fear of all is the possible explosion if mishandled.
But the reality is so different now with the evolution of design and enhancements over the last few hundred years. Still it is crucial to make sure certain safety features are available in the pressure cooker when shopping for one.
First and foremost is pressure regulator. In the old generation of pressure cookers, it was done with a weight on top of the pressure cooker or many people intimately called it the “jiggle”. When the pressure was too high in the pressure cooker, the jiggle would rock accompanied with steam and hissing.
This type of regulator is in use in some pressure cookers like the All American pressure cookers. But more pressure cookers are designed with the pressure regulator in the safety system without the external weight mechanism. You can adjust the pressure level by simply turning a dial or a twist of a handle according to the recipe. When the pressure starts building up in the cooker, you may see a little bit steam coming out of the vent pipe, and then the vent pipe will close off to allow the pressure to rise to the desired level.
If the cooker is over-pressured, the first safety valve will kick in to release the excess pressure. If the primary valve is clogged for whatever reason, many pressure cookers also have redundant safety measures such as over-pressure valves built in to carry on the job.
Many top of the line pressure cookers are equipped with a gadget or a gauge to indicate the pressure level. As the pressure rises, the indicator will show a marked line to signal the first level of pressure is reached and the same logic goes for the second level, etc. It’s a neat feature to have so that you don’t have to sit there guessing if the right pressure is reached and when to turn the heat down.
Is the Lid Securely Closed?
Modern pressure cooker manufacturers have invested a lot of resources in designing a secured lid to ensure the lid is locked during the cooking and the pressure release time. Many models have a latch that you can push forward to lock the lid or a twist of a handle to ensure the lid is locked in place before cooking. The same locking mechanism remains until the pressure is completely released after the cooking is done.
Seal: Gasket or Metal to Metal
There are two types of seals that ensure the lid and the cooking pot are completely sealed to enable the pressure buildup in the cooking vessel: one is a silicone gasket or a sealing ring that’s beneath the lid. Before cooking, it’s uttermost important to check the sealing ring to make sure there is no wear and tear and it’s placed correctly. The gasket does require replacement after some use. It is available either through the manufacturer or the retailer.
Another type of pressure cookers has the so-called metal-to-metal seal where the lid is designed with a beveled “lip” that clamps down with the cooking pot. The lid and the pot are securely closed with a few wing nuts on both sides of the pot. There is no need to worry about replacing the gasket.
Pressure Release Method
The tried and tested methods are still alive and kicking when it comes to releasing the pressure from the cooker. Such methods are the “cold water” and “natural release” methods. The former is to remove the cooker from the burner and place it under cold running water for a few minutes to depressurize the cooker; the latter is to remove the cooking pot from the stove top and let it sit for a while to release the pressure as the temperature drops.
The third method is often built in the pressure cooker allowing you to click or turn on a dial to release the pressure automatically. It’s a very convenient feature that’s safe and saves time as well.
In short, the pressure cooker can be a cook’s best friend if you know how to leverage the features to your advantages such as cutting down the cooking time by 2/3, eating healthy and feeling young.