Use Your Pressure Cooker Safely
A pressure cooker is a valuable appliance that can make cooking much more effective and time-efficient. However, it obviously contains within it a high degree of pressure, a higher than usual cooking temperature so can be dangerous if not handled carefully and regularly checked. Here are some pointers as to how to get the best out of your pressure cooker, ensuring that it does its job without jeopardizing your safety.
What is a Pressure cooker?
It is a sturdy, cylindrical metallic sealed pot that contains steam inside it, until it reaches a very high pressure which considerably decreases cooking time, reaching temperatures above boiling point; up to 250 °F compared with 212 °F. It is also able to retain more of the food’s natural flavors and nutrients – great news for your health as well as for your management of precious time.
What are the components of a Pressure cooker?
A pressure cooker consists of a ‘gasket’, the circular rubber ring that goes inside the edge of the lid to create a perfectly suctioned seal. It has a ‘vent pipe’ that sticks out of the lid and serves as a quick-release valve to release the steam. There is a ‘pressure regulator’ designed to regulate pressure; it sits on top of the vent pipe and wiggles around, doing just that. A ‘safety valve’ monitors the pressure in order to stop an explosion, for example, if steam isn’t being emitted properly or if there is insufficient liquid inside the main canister. Finally, an ‘insert’ is the pressure cooker’s steamer basket, which enables you to cook many items of food simultaneously; or to cook more modest-sized portions, if desired.
Safety tip # 1
Overall, ensure the working parts are all in order; for instance, check that the rubber gasket clean. Don’t overpack your pressure cooker with too much food; remember, the food expands under pressure. If you purchase a used pressure cooker, keep an eye out for damaged seals, cracks, or loose screws. Stand well away from the steam that eventually comes gushing out of your appliance. When opening up your pressure cooker, exercise extreme caution; scalding steam is in some ways more perilous than boiling water and can potentially cause major burns. It is best practice to run cold water over the cooker’s lid before eventually opening it up.
Safety tip # 2
Scrutinize the instruction manual closely; different recipes require different amounts of liquid to make them cook properly, while some foods explicitly require you to cook them at a precise temperature in order to kill off dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum which can develop in certain kinds of seafood, vegetables, and fruits. Botulinum toxins are potentially lethal and can cause nerve damage, paralysis, and respiratory problems!
Safety tip # 3
Be a bit precious about your skin, in particular your hands, arms, and face. The steam is extremely hot and can cause terrible burns which may be permanent. Invest in safety equipment such as oven mitts, protective gloves; wear long-sleeved clothing, and don some goggles if you can. It might look ridiculous but the potential threat makes it worthwhile.
Safety tip # 4
Make sure all component parts are in proper working order (see above for what they are). For a brand-new model make sure that all component parts are actually there in the first place. For an older model, inspect even smaller features such as clamps, wingnuts, gaskets, and valves. If your pressure cooker is a vintage one, seriously consider trading it in for a brand-new model; it is nigh on impossible to source replacement parts for such models and the chances of something going wrong are exponentially higher.
Safety tip # 5
Leave enough room above the pressure cooker for the steam to vent sufficiently. Steam requires about twice as much venting space as boiling water, so don’t cramp its style; ensure it’s in an open space which will allow it to steam away.
Safety tip # 6
Check all the gauges for accuracy by using a master gauge testing unit. You can procure one of these from an average hardware store or perhaps a household appliance center. It might be possible for the manufacturer to test gauges for you; check out their website and the details found in the specification/user manual. There are actually a number of extension offices in the US, which will provide gauge testing services.
Enjoy your pressure cooker; it will save you time, space, and will be able to create delicious foods that are jam-packed with flavor, nutrients, and succulence. Beware, though, of the devastating effect that steam can have on human skin, or faulty or loose component parts can have on a human body. Don’t even allow such a thing to become a possibility – follow these tips and you should be fine.