Pressure cookers have earned a bad reputation over the years as a kitchen appliance that is prone to exploding. The problem has happened enough that many people fear them.
One very large company, which I will leave unnamed, announced the recall of 900,000 pressure cookers after they had over 100 cases of the lids exploding. A few of the other major brands faced similar lawsuits.
It can happen, but it doesn’t happen as commonly today as safety technology has grown leaps and bounds around pressure cookers. What can you do to stay safe?
The recalls are common knowledge on Google and so is how far technology and human know-how have made pressure cookers safer than they have ever been.
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11 Safety Tips to Avoid Pressure Cooker Accidents
It is a good idea to get to know your pressure cooker and its built-in safety mechanisms before the cooking process begins. A pressure cooker’s safety features are predominately its safety valves the steam release valve and the pressure release valve.
Learning about these before pressure cooking could help you avoid severe burns from high pressure, hot steam, and hot food.
Tip #1: Check Equipment Before Cooking
Before you turn on the pressure cooker, check the equipment. Always check the rubber gasket before you turn it on. The rubber gasket should have no cracks around it nor should it be worn out. Some brands advise you to change the rubber gasket once per year.
How often you should replace it depends on how frequently you use it. You might keep an extra rubber gasket on hand to replace it easily if you discover a ripped or faulty gasket. Don’t leave dried food around the rim. It can break the gasket.
Tip #2: Don’t Overfill the Pressure Cooker
Excessive pressure builds in the pressure cooker because of the amount of liquid inside. If you have filled the food too high, it can trap food in the pressure release vent. That makes a big boom!
The steam must have an escape route or the pressure builds until it explodes. An electric pressure cooker might simply turn off, but stove-top pressure cookers without the technology could explode.
Not only does overfilling the pressure cooker pose a risk of explosion, but the food loses its texture and flavor as the excess pressure breaks down the essential vitamins and minerals in the food.
The other danger comes from unevenly cooked food. Pressure cookers weren’t designed to cook food like this. One part of the food may have been cooked brown and crisp with the other part still having freezer frost inside it. Overfilling the pressure cooker can lead to it not building any pressure at all.
With that in mind, how much food is too much? Don’t fill the pressure cooker more than two-thirds full or 66 percent. Avoid filling the pressure cooker with liquids more than half full.
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Tip #3: Never Open the Lid Before the Pressure Releases
The natural release works well for foods that you want to continue cooking, and it doesn’t pose the same danger as a quick release. You want to wait for the pressure to lower in the pot before opening it because it can cause it to explode, especially if you force it open. Most experts advise you to wait 10 minutes before you open the lid, but others recommend that you wait 30 minutes until all the pressure has left the pot.
What happens if you need to open the pressure cooker? First, turn off the pot and let it release the pressure before opening it. Manufacturers designed most modern pressure cookers so that you can’t force the lid open – it would be next to impossible.
Still, don’t try it. You could get burnt as scalding hot water sprays everywhere in the room. Along with scalding water, burning sticky food could burn you as well. You don’t want to stand anywhere near a pressure cooker in the process of exploding.
Tip #4: Exercise Caution with Expanding Foods
Foods like rice, cornmeal, beans, and lentils expand and cause the pressure cooker to fill up more than you realized. With foods like this, only fill the pressure cooker halfway so steam releases as it should. Expanding food particles can cause safety issues with the pressure regulator resulting in burn injuries.
You don’t want the foods to swell beyond the acceptable capacity causing an explosion. In general, we advise you to avoid foods like this. People commonly cook rice in it, but it could harm your health.
The pressure cooker and rice combination create a harmful chemical known as acrylamide. This dangerous chemical lists as a carcinogen that causes cancer. Cooking starchy foods at high temperatures or rapid rates can lead to more acrylamide in your food. Researchers have also learned how acrylamide can cause nerve damage and muscle weakness.
Tip #5: Buy an Electric Pressure Cooker
Electric pressure cookers mark the latest stage in the evolution of this technology. Most electric pressure cookers will have 10 or more safety features. If that doesn’t sound appealing, many of them will automatically shut off when the pressure cooker reaches a dangerous PSI. Someone new to pressure cookers couldn’t choose a better option because they don’t have to worry. Explosions don’t happen frequently with them as long as you use them correctly and maintain them properly.
An electric pressure cooker uses a microchip to release steam. In some cases, it does it unnaturally as it detects a high level of built-up steam. It all happens using technology.
Tip #6: Beware of Bargain Bin Pressure Cookers
You have many places where you can cut corners to save money—pressure cookers aren’t one of them. The issue with buying a used pressure cooker at a flea market or pawn shop comes from how you could be buying damaged products. Bargain bin pressure cookers will hand you the older models, known for explosions and malfunctions. Technology nowadays has improved at an insane rate. Don’t risk your life over a few dollars less.
Tip #7: Read the Instruction Manual
Many times, you can get along without reading the instruction manual, but you should always read the instruction manual of a pressure cooker. You want to see that you have used it right. Improper usage of a pressure cooker can lead to explosions. While one pressure cooker might let you do things a certain way, another one won’t allow the same thing. It could cause an explosion.
Reading the manual has one other benefit: You can make the most use of it. Many times, you may see features that you don’t know how to use, so you skip them. The instruction manual highlights everything that you can do with modern electric pressure cookers.
Tip #8: Beware of the Steam
Outside of watching out for too much pressure in the pot, second and third-degree burns rank as the most common burns that pressure cookers give you. Have a dry potholder on hand when handling the pressure cooker. Wet potholders could burn your hand.
When you open the pan, have the lid face away from you. Don’t let the condensation drip on you.
The quick-release opening method is one of the most common ways that people suffer second and third-degree burns. If you can, let the steam out naturally. Even though the pressure inside the pot will have dropped, upon opening the pressure cooker, lots of excess steam will escape from the pot. Use a potholder to open it.
Tip #9: Keep Children and Pets at Bay
Teach your children never to mess with the pressure cooker for any reason. Make it off-limits for younger children to reduce the risk. You might keep your pets away from the area as well because they can distract you, and you never want to feel distracted when using a pressure cooker. Stay fully present in everything. Also, be aware of how pressure cookers don’t cool off immediately after use, which means that children can still burn themselves.
Tip #10: Inspect the Pressure Cooker Before Each Use
Outside of improper use, the second biggest danger comes from the pressure cooker having malfunctioning parts. Before you begin cooking, do the following:
- Check the lid for cracks
- Examine the steam valve for obstructions
- The inner pot is unobstructed
- Inspect the handles for looseness
- Clean the pressure cooker properly after each use
If you suspect a defective pressure cooker do not use it.
Tip #11: How to Properly Clean Your Pressure Cooker
Good cleaning goes a long way to keeping you safe. At the end of each use, remove the gasket and wash it with soap and water. Do the same with the lid and pot. You should hand wash your pressure cooker with a microfiber sponge or cloth.
For deeper cleaning, you will first fill the sink with water. Remove the float valve carefully and wash it with soap and water. Check to see that you have cleaned all traces of the soap. The float valve should move up and down freely after putting it back.
Next, remove the anti-block shield. After the anti-block shield, do the sealing ring. Examine the ring closely to check for looseness or cracks. Pour white vinegar into the pan and submerge the pressure cooker ring. Allow it to sit for five minutes.
Let the ring dry completely before returning it to the pressure cooker. This keeps the moisture away.
Need to find a pressure cooker manual this article links out to hard-to-find pressure cooker manuals, warranty information, and recipes designed for various pressure cooker brands.
Must Read – My Pressure Cooker Explosion Experience
Sharing personal stories with people I do not know is usually not my thing. But in this instance, I feel it is warranted as it is a true story.
I do not take the subject of pressure cooker safety (or any cookware use) lightly.
43 years ago, when I was 12 years old it was late on a cool autumn afternoon. While completing a school assignment my mom said “I’m off for a soak in the tub before dinner”.
I said, “do I have to do anything with the pressure cooker”?
“No”, she said. 20 minutes later the stovetop pressure cooker blew the pressure value off.
Soaking wet mother and neighbors came running.
It made the loudest noise I have been that close to, a hole in the ceiling, an ungodly mess worst of all pressure cookers scarred me for life.
Safety in the kitchen is paramount – that incident could have been so much worse.
My mother has never used another pressure cooker and I got my first ever pressure cooker (electric pressure cooker) 2 years ago. Cruise this site you may find a recipe or two.
We love to use our pressure cooker and we never leave it alone while it is in use. We clean and maintain it thoroughly. When my mom is around she circles the pressure cooker like JAWS.
How do you keep a pressure cooker safe?
The best way is not to use too much liquid, adhere to the maximum fill line. Keep the pressure cooker in good shape by removing food residue from all valves and the lid of the cooker. Make sure you do not use a defective product. Ensure you replace valves and sealing rings when required.
Is it safe to leave a pressure cooker unattended?
Best practice is not to leave a pressure cooker unattended. You don’t have to stand over it, but don’t leave the house!
To Finish – How to Avoid Pressure Cooker Accidents
Old pressure cookers – stovetop pressure cookers – have earned a bad reputation over the years as dangerous. The newer models don’t pose as much danger provided you use them right and maintain them.
Now that you have learned a few things about pressure cookers you know that avoiding serious injuries and staying safe comes down to taking precautions. Understanding what you can and can’t do with a pressure cooker goes a long way.
One-Pot Cooking Rocks