You may have seen your grandmother or mother use a techy kitchen appliance that uses steam to cook food faster than the usual stovetop. This techy appliance is called a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers have been around for several decades because of its efficiency that most households have one sitting next to other appliances.
The first pressure cooker was invented in 1679 by the French physicist Denis Papin. He originally called the device the “steam digester”. The equipment took the world by storm in twentieth century when homemakers realized the benefits of time-efficient cooking with the use of pressure cookers.
But how does a pressure cooker works?
A pressure cooker is a pressurized pot that uses a combination of heat and steam to cook food.
A common misconception of people about pressure cookers is they use high heat to cook food. The truth is, it cooks food from steam and pressure. The valve in a pressure cooker seals the steam to create a high-pressure environment as the steam increases the boiling point of the liquid in the pot. The steam is then forced in the food in all possible angles to cook food.
Is Pressure Cooker Safe?
Modern pressure cookers are safe to use when you know how to properly use them. They already have multiple safety features that the ancient pressure cookers don’t have.
The lid of a modern pressure cooker has a lock that you should activate before the pressure starts building. The lock is securely attached until the pressure inside the cooker has been released. Furthermore, pressure cookers have valves to release excess pressure.
It is important to take precautionary measures in using pressure cookers. They may have built-in safety features but taking extra safety measures can decrease a significant risk of injury.
It is common knowledge to check any equipment before using it. The ring of rubber around the lid of the cooker called the rubber gasket must be in good condition. Manufacturers recommend replacing the rubber gasket when it dries out or gets cracked. When you frequently use your pressure cooker, replace them every year to avoid unwanted “explosion”.
Moreover, just like any kind of cooker, avoid overfilling the pressure cooker. When the cooker is overfilled, food blocks the vents, preventing the release of excess pressure which can be dangerous. In addition, be careful in cooking food that froth such as pasta and oatmeal. Or as much as possible, avoid cooking them in a pressure cooker. The frothing blocks steam valves and pressure release valves.
Releasing pressure must be done safely. The three methods to release pressure are natural release, cold water release, and quick release. To naturally release pressure in the cooker, remove the cooker from heat and let it sit for a while until the pressure goes down. Running cold water over the lid of the closed pan is what we call cold water release. Lastly, the quick release method is using the pot’s steam valve to release the steam. Also, clean your pressure cooker properly by cleaning the gasket, lid and the pot separately. Make sure to clean the valve with a wooden toothpicks.
Are pressure cookers dangerous?
How dangerous can pressure cookers get? Old models of pressure cookers, like the ones your grandmother own, may be dangerous since they have less safety features manufactured unlike the instant pots nowadays.
Just like rice cookers, pressure cookers consistently cook food perfectly with minimal supervision as modern pressure cookers go with preset timers which automatically stops cooking when done. Modern pressure cookers also have sensors reduce internal pressure when they detect a problem. The safety features in pressure cookers include safety handles, high temperature warning, leaky lid protection, gasket release aperture, lid close detection, automatic temperature control, pop-up indicators, automatic pressure controls, locking device, and pressure release valves.
Pressure cookers are safe to use when you handle and use the equipment properly and following precautionary measures.
Can pressure cooker explode?
Several reports of injury in using pressure cookers had affected the credibility of pressure cookers.
Most reports stemmed to the lid of a pressure cooker. Explosions most likely happen in pressure cookers with broken seals which forces the lid to open or when the lid is opened before the pressure goes down. When this happens, the pressure cooker spews the contents in the cooker, which causes burns once it comes in contact with your skin.
Contrary to popular belief, this phenomenon is not exactly an explosion and not as violent as most people think.
The modern pressure cookers have safer lids that are designed to produce airtight seals to prevent the steam and pressure from escaping. As water boils, it releases steam into the air around 100 degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure. However, modern pressure cookers work in lower temperature below 100 degrees Celsius to cook food which makes it safer and energy efficient.
Why do pressure cookers burst?
Most explosion incidents occur when people opens the lid before the pressure goes down. The steam inside the pressure cooker helps build high pressure to cook food. Thus, when a steam is released even before the pressure goes down, it forces the lid to open especially with a defective seal. Overfilling the pot may also cause “explosions”.
Can a pressure cooker kill you?
Pressure cooker explosions can cause burn but it won’t kill you. The “explosion” in pressure cookers is not as violent as most people believe. When used properly, pressure cookers are convenient and useful in the kitchen. Electric pressure cookers have built-in safety features so there’s a lesser risk of burn injury. Pressure cookers aren’t as dangerous as you think.
Can you leave a pressure cooker unattended?
Old models of pressure cookers have been reported to overheat when left unattended. Nonetheless, modern pressure cookers have built-in safety features that allow the user to leave the equipment unattended.
However, you should never leave your pressure cooker unattended for a long period of time.
Are pressure cookers healthy?
Pressure-cooking is known to be efficient for its speed and consistency. Many people question the effects it brings to human health since most pressure cookers are made of stainless steel. Several studies have shown the effect of using stainless steel when it is exposed to acidic food. According to the studies, the material may leach harmful chemicals, which cause adverse effects in human health. However, the materials used to manufacture pressure cookers are food-safe. As long as they don’t have Teflon or any non-stick coating, pressure cookers are safe to use.
All cooking methods, even the healthiest method, can reduce the amount of nutrients especially heat-sensitive nutrients like phytonutrients and vitamin C. The heat-sensitive nutrients are more likely to degrade during pressure-cooking. Exposure to high heat causes a significant decrease in amount of essential nutrients. Furthermore, high heat might also lead to the formation of unhealthy chemicals found in frying and grilling.
According to several studies, pressure-cooking has been found to be the most effective cooking method in retaining nutrients in food.
Some essential nutrients are retained up to 90 percent. A study published in the Journal of Food Science shows that pressure-cooking retains 92% of its vitamin C content in broccoli higher than the 78% retention rate for steaming and 60% for boiling.
The high-speed cooking that requires shorter period of time increases the antioxidant capacity compared to steaming and boiling which decreases the antioxidant capacity in a significant amount.
Pressure-cooking increases the digestibility of the macronutrients including starch, fiber, and protein in grains and legumes.
Consequently, pressure-cooking can also help eliminate carcinogens such as acrylamide and heterocyclic amines (HCA). HCAs form in muscle meat cooked under high temperature such as baking and grilling directly over open flame. The same goes with acrylamides.
Since pressure-cooking uses lower temperature than most cooking methods, these carcinogenic compounds will not form. The trapped steam also prevents the formation of carcinogens since they do not form in moist areas. Carcinogens form in dry cooking methods like roasting and grilling.
Pressure-cooking also eliminates lectins, compounds that can reduce the nutritional value of food, by blocking the absorption of certain minerals.
Do pressure cookers reduce nutrients?
Cooking, whatever method you use, will eventually reduce nutrients in food. You can’t cook food without heat so nutrient loss is inevitable. Heat degrades some nutrients and minerals especially in high temperature. However, using less water in cooking, like steaming and pressure cooking, can minimize nutrient loss.
Which pressure cooker is best for health?
Pressure cooker are made from aluminum or stainless steel. These materials are reactive, thus, harmful in food when chemicals are exposed to food. Excessive toxin intake is harmful in the body. As long as it does not possess Teflon or other non-stick coating, the pressure cooker is safe to use. Non-stick coating, once scratched or peeled, can be toxic once chemicals contaminate food.
Is pressure cooking better than boiling?
Several studies have found that pressure cooking is better in retaining essential nutrients and vitamins including beta-carotene and vitamin C than other cooking methods. Pressure cooking, nonetheless, has a higher retention rate of water-soluble vitamins than boiling. Food loses a lot of nutrients when boiled.
Does a pressure cooker make meat tender?
Tenderizing meat is typically done in a slow cooker but a pressure cooker can do the same trick. In a slow cooker, the connective tissue is cooked at a low temperature. It slowly melts and turn into gelatin.
The tenderness of a meat varies depending on the amount of connective tissue it has. Cuts with little or no chewy connective tissues cook faster than tougher cuts with more connective tissue. Pressure-cooking can break down this connective tissues made of collagen with pressure, quicker than a slow cooker.
What are the disadvantages of pressure-cooking?
Nothing in this world has all the good things in them. There’s always two side of a coin and that also applies to pressure cookers. They may have several advantages such as speed cooking and energy efficiency but there are also certain disadvantages in using this useful kitchen equipment. Here are some of the disadvantages of pressure cooking:
You need thorough knowledge about pressure cookers and pressure cooking to grasp the advantages of using the equipment. Nonetheless, when you already have enough knowledge to use the equipment, you’ll love the magic that the equipment brings.
Pressure cookers may cut two-thirds of cooking time but you cannot throw in everything all at once in the pressure cooker to save time. Different food items have different amount of cooking time. Do not expect that everything you tossed in the pressure cooker will be cooked at the same amount of time. Some food items like meat take longer time to cook compared to other food items.
You also have to think the method thoroughly beforehand and sometimes change something in the recipe to adjust the cooking time if you’ll use pressure cookers.
Furthermore, using pressure cookers can’t allow you to monitor the doneness during the process, much more add or adjust the seasoning to suit your taste during the cooking process to make it as perfect as possible.
Your house location can also affect your cooking time. Pressure cookers are greatly useful to people living in lower altitude. Pressure cooking can take longer in high altitude places where the boiling temperature for water is lower and the atmosphere is drier.
What can you not put in a pressure cooker?
Despite the shortened cooking time in pressure cookers, there are certain food items that you can’t throw in the pressure cooker. This includes noodles, delicate food, crispy and fried food.
Noodles and other pasta can foam which can block the pressure release valve, which eventually leads to excessive pressure build up.
Avoid cooking crispy and dried food like popcorn and chips with a pressure cooker unless you want moist, soggy chips.
The steam also makes fluffy pastries and delicate fishes become extra soggy.
Steaks and fried chicken do not go well with pressure cookers, too. The steam promotes moisture allowing the food to become soft, not crispy. Pressure-cooking may add a depth of flavor but it can’t recreate a distinct smoky flavor that grilling does. Other food items you can’t put in the pressure cooker are cranberries, oatmeal and other cereals, split peas, applesauce, rhubarb as they can block the valves of the pressure cooker.
Are electric pressure cookers and instant pots the same thing?
Instant Pot is actually a brand of electronic pressure cookers. Instant pots are simple programmable electric pressure cooker with better functionality compared to the conventional pressure cookers. Instant pots can perform different tasks of seven different equipment. They can work as a steamer, slow cooker, steamer, and other equipment.
Do people still use pressure cookers?
Technology continues to do wonders in our society—creating convenience and increasing efficiency in our daily lives. As technology continues to thrive, several innovations had emerged for decades. Most innovations have outgrown the old technology as lifestyles change.
Manufacturers morphed the old models of pressure cookers into multi-purpose cookers that you don’t have to purchase separate kitchen appliances, thus, a huge save in your wallet. Electric pressure cookers replaced the old ones with safer and more advanced features.
Pressure cooking cuts about two-thirds of usual cooking time. A pressure cooker is also energy efficient since it uses trapped steam for cooking instead of releasing it into the air. Modern pressure cookers are also multipurpose Pressure cooking brings out the complex flavors of food compared to other cooking method since it facilitates caramelizing and browning of the food.
Pressure cookers might not be as popular as it is before but some people still find it useful and efficient to purchase such kitchen appliance.
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