Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and things that I have learnt after using pressure cooker for 15 years. Always read your pressure cooker manual and follow the instructions to avoid any incidents.
Pressure cookers are really handy and efficient tools for any kitchen but with great power comes great responsibility. If not used correctly we have all seen news reports of pressure cooker explosions.
When a pressure cooker explodes the steam built up in the pressure cooker pushes the lid upwards and the cooker base down. The food within the pressure cooker goes flying out in all directions. The hot contents within the pressure cooker can cause 3rd degree burns.
While it is very scary, modern pressure cookers have a lot of security features built in to avoid them and we just need to make sure that we adhere to them to pressure cook safely.
I have been pressure cooking for more than 15 years now and cannot remember cooking without a pressure cooker anymore. So below are some tips that I have followed over time to ensure complete safety for me and my family when pressure cooking.
- #1. Leaving the cooker unattended
- #2. Opening the cooker forcefully when the pressure has not settled.
- #3. Not cleaning the vent pipe and other parts well
- #4. Using too much oil to cook instead of water
- #5. Safety valve is faulty
- #6 Cooking too much food
- #7 Lid not closed well
- #8 Very little to none liquid used for cooking
- #9 Old pressure cooker which has not been maintained well
- #10 Make sure you use the right weight or pressure regulator valve for the pressure cooker.
- #11 Removing pressure regulator while the pressure cooker has not depressurized
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#1. Leaving the cooker unattended
Never go too far from your pressure cooker. This holds more true for stove top pressure cookers than the instant pot. The instant pots have an auto cut off feature to them but the stove top cooker does not.
You need to be monitoring your cooker and aware if it has let out whistles or steam through the pressure regulator valve or not.
Normally it takes a pressure cooker 7-8 mins to reach pressure, though this time may vary for each pressure cooker. If you notice that the pressure has built in (some pressure cookers have float valves to tell you that pressure has been built up) and you can hear hissing and water boiling but there is no steam release by the pressure regulator then you can switch off the gas as this is not a good sign.
Once the steam has cooled down then open the cooker and check if all the safety vents are clean or not.
You should always be close enough to the pressure cooker to hear what’s going on and check if needed.
#2. Opening the cooker forcefully when the pressure has not settled.
Even after the gas has been turned off the pressure cooker is still filled with hot steam and there is high pressure inside it. The right way is to wait for the cooker to release steam naturally and then open it. Sometimes when in a rush people try to open the pressure cooker while there is still pressure built in.
When forced to open the pressured steam gushes out with great force and the hot contents of the pressure cooker also splash out and can cause an explosion and burns.
When a liquid under pressure is suddenly depressurized a sudden expansion of gases happened and all the hot contents of the pressure cooker explode out all of a sudden.
Never force open a pressurized pressure cooker.
#3. Not cleaning the vent pipe and other parts well
The vent pipe as the name suggests is for the steam to escape out of the pressure cooker when the pressure gets too much for it to contain.
If the vent pipe is not clean it can lead to too much pressure being built into the pressure cooker and can cause the cooker to explode.
#4. Using too much oil to cook instead of water
Oil can reach very high temperatures very quickly so if you have used lot of oil then the high temperature from it can cause the parts to melt.
These melted parts will create vents in the pressure cooker from which oil can splitter out of. The hot oil can cause damage and burns.
#5. Safety valve is faulty
Most stovetop pressure cookers have a safety valve which is supposed to blow off if the pressure gets too high. The safety valve is designed in such a way that it becomes a quick escape for pressurized steam if there is no other way for steam to escape.
Its sole purpose is to avert the pressure cooker from exploding due to steam build up. However, if the safety valve is faulty then it can cause the pressure cooker to explode.
#6 Cooking too much food
As a rule of thumb your pressure cooker should only be filled to 3/4th of its capacity if filled any more than that and if the food cooked expands like rice then it can block the vents of the pressure cooker leading to steam build up and explosion.
#7 Lid not closed well
If the pressure cooker lid has not been closed well and as per the manual then it can lead to sudden pressure release as the lid gets detached from the pressure cooker base.
This can happen when the steam built up pushes the lid and causes splashing of all the hot content which can cause damage and burns.
#8 Very little to none liquid used for cooking
If there is very little to no liquid used in cooking then pressure will build up and can cause the pressure cooker to explode. Make sure that you use water as per the advice amount. For example 1 cup rice should be cooked with 1.5 cups of water unless advised otherwise on your pressure cooker manual.
#9 Old pressure cooker which has not been maintained well
Make sure that all the parts of the pressure cooker are checked and replaced to take into account the wear tear. Parts like the gasket and safety valve should be the right company brand and installed correctly. Any malfunction of these can cause the pressure cooker to explode as they are critical to smooth and flawless working of the pressure cooker.
#10 Make sure you use the right weight or pressure regulator valve for the pressure cooker.
As someone who owns multiple pressure cookers, I have made the mistake of using the weights or pressure regulator valve interchangeably. Thankfully, I realized it before any pressure could build up and averted the disaster. The pressure regulator valves are specifically designed for each pressure cooker and should be used only with the one they came with. Incorrect pressure regulator valves can lead to pressure build up and explosion while pressure cooking.
#11 Removing pressure regulator while the pressure cooker has not depressurized
Removing the pressure regulator or weight on the vent can cause highly pressurized contents and steam to come out of the pressure cooker like a hot geyser. If precautions are not taken it can cause burns, Its not really an explosion but more like a geyser like escape of steam from the pressure cooker.
Hope these points have helped you understand the common mistakes made when pressure cooking and what to look for.