If you've never used a pressure cooker before, you may be leery about trying one. Pressure cookers are safe as long as they are used properly and according to manufacturer's directions.

Many newer pressure cookers include the following safety features:

  • If a lid is not locked securely in place, the pressure will not rise.
  • A rubber gasket in the lid prevents opening the cooker until the pressure has been reduced enough to open it safely.
  • Over-pressure and/or backup plugs release steam if the heat is not reduced when the cooker reaches full pressure or if the vent pipe becomes clogged.

Keep these tips in mind when using a pressure cooker:

  • Be aware that not every food can be cooked in a pressure cooker. Some foods "foam" while cooking and can clog the vent pipe or over-pressure plug. Pasta, rice, oatmeal or other cereals, split peas, barley, cranberries and rhubarb should not be cooked under pressure.
  • Do not fill the cooker more than two-thirds full. Foods tend to expand when cooked under pressure, and if food blocks the vent pipe or the over-pressure plug, extra pressure won't be able to be released during cooking.
  • Boiling liquid creates steam, so at least 1/2 cup of some form of liquid must be used when pressure cooking.
  • Using a cooking rack allows some or all of the food to be held above the liquid during cooking.
  • Always make sure the vent pipe is clear. Before using, hold the lid up to the light and look through the vent pipe to be sure it's clear. If it's blocked use a wire or toothpick to clean it.
  • Never open the cooker or remove the pressure regulator when it's under pressure. When the cooker is removed from the heat, the pressure will drop gradually on its own. Pressure can be reduced more quickly by placing the cooker under running cold water. Gently push the pressure regulator and listen to make sure steam is not still escaping before removing the regulator or opening the cooker.

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