How Does a Pressure Cooker Work

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work? The Science Behind It

New to using a pressure cooker or considering buying one? We have all the tricks to help you understand how these appliances operate and some general tips for using yours and taking care of us during use. Continue reading to explore how these modern kitchen appliances reach high temperatures and operate under pressure.

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?

Pressure cookers feature a modified lockable lid over a rubber gasket to create a seal. The pressure cooker raises the temperature of water to a boiling point, which speeds up boiling, steaming, and braising. When using a pressure cooker, you will place your chosen food in the pot with liquid (usually no more than 120g) and set the temperature to high heat, so the water boils. It also means that steam can’t escape from the pressure cooker to create an atmosphere for cooking on maximum heat. Once the temperature reaches full pressure, you can release the steam pressure (via several ways), so the steam isn’t trapped in the pressure cooker to create a constant temperature inside the pot. Pressure cooking forces liquid into the food quickly to provide an efficient cooking process for all foods by raising the steam pressure in the pot, including meat, which is also left succulent and tender. Additionally, high heat involved in pressure cooking induces caramelisation to result in a deeper flavour compared to steamed dishes.

What Foods Can You Make in a Pressure Cooker?

You can make so many wonderful dishes in a pressure cooker, including meat, rice, and beans and even unexpected dishes like eggs. This diverse range allows you to make numerous recipes in energy-efficient, easy-to-follow recipes.

Why Does Food Cook Quicker In a Pressure Cooker?

One of the great benefits of pressure cooking is the reduced cooking times, so food cooks in a fraction of time compared to conventional cooking appliances. This minimal cooking time is all thanks to the hot air that’s trapped in the pressure cooker, which then cooks food quickly and thoroughly. With moisture surrounding food, pressure cookers can reach high pressure and temperature, which, in turn, increases the chemical processes required in cooking.

Electric Pressure Cookers vs Stovetop Pressure Cookers

There are two types of pressure cookers to consider: electric pressure cookers and stovetop pressure cookers. The electric appliance operates at a slower rate of up to nearly three times, although they’re easier to operate. Additionally, an electric appliance tends to offer more cooking functions, such as rice-making or steaming. Some users prefer an electric pressure cooker because it’s virtually silent (apart from when releasing pressure at the end). Once the pressure is released, the ingredients inside the cooker can spray onto the lid and surfaces, making electric units more time-consuming and difficult to clean after use.

On the other hand, a stovetop cooker has a reduced cooking time but will require more attention when you’re cooking. These appliances are also noisier as the recipe cooks, especially if they’re continuously releasing steam while the ingredients cook and the heat is set to a high level.

Things to Consider When Buying a Pressure Cooker

Love the idea of pressure cooking? Below are some important factors to consider when buying a pressure cooker.

Features It Should Have

There are some essential functions that your pressure cooker should have. Below are some of the most important ones to look out for.

Generation Pressure Device

A stovetop cooker should come equipped with a spring valve for a high-pressure-regulating technology that won’t make your kitchen sound like you have a steam engine in there or create a clanging sound of the metal materials. For an electric cooker, opt for a float valve that’s virtually silent during operation. The float valve needn’t have an internal pressure regulator because you can turn the heating element on or off easily enough.

Stainless-Steel Exterior

Although there are various pressure cookers on the market, we suggest choosing a stainless-steel exterior because this material is durable, responds well to heat and won’t alter the foods’ flavour of acidic dishes, such as lemons or tomatoes.

Non-Stick Base

One of the reasons you purchase a pressure cooker was to save cooking time in the kitchen. But if you end up spending a large portion of your spare time cleaning the appliance after use, owning this unique defeats the purchase. Therefore, we recommend choosing a pressure cooker with a non-stick coating that won’t scratch easily, so you can use utensils to mix and scrape food from the bottom of the pot without leaving any damage. A non-stick coating also helps to reduce how much oil you use in the pressure cooker and prevent any ingredients from sticking to the bottom after it’s cooked.

Functions

Your pressure cooker should have at least two pressure settings: low and high. The low setting creates the perfect atmospheric pressure for delicate dishes, such as vegetables, eggs, and pasta. Alternatively, a high setting is great for meats and dense dishes that typically have longer cooking times.

Size

Next, consider what capacity you need your pressure cooker to be based on the number of people you typically prepare dinner for. Do you want to use a pressure cooker for events or to prepare small dishes for yourself? The excellent thing about pressure cookers is that they cater to all of these needs, but you’ll have to decide what you’re looking for before making your purchase. For small dishes, consider a three-quart appliance or opt for six-eight for a larger household. Additionally, bear in mind how much countertop space you have spare; the bigger the capacity, the more spare space it’ll require.

Safety Features

The good thing is that pressure cookers are safe to use, which is why you can leave them running all day while you’re at work and return home to a cooked meal. Creating such a large amount of cooker pressure inside the appliance means that you’ll need to search for many safety features. One great example is a locking lid that remains closed—even if there’s a large amount of pressure within the pressure cooker. Or ergonomic handles with heatproof materials that won’t burn your hands when you touch them.

Reasons to Invest in a Pressure Cooker

There are many reasons to indulge in pressure cooking, and below are some of our favourites.

Save Money

Doesn’t everyone want to save money in some way or another? Fortunately, pressure cooking is an energy-efficient cooking process that relies on trapped steam for cooked food rather than losing this build-up of steam. As a result, you’ll save energy and money when switching to pressure cooking, not to mention experience a shorter cooking period.

Eat Healthy Foods

Pressure cookers allow you to enjoy healthy foods because you needn’t use oil in the appliance. Pressure cookers work by retaining the vitamins and minerals in the food by not frying and using steam to generate the heat. So not only will you have food in less time, but you’ll also have healthier options when compared to traditional cooking methods.

Enjoy Rich Flavours

If you could enhance the flavour of your food without adding extra ingredients to it, wouldn’t you want to? Fortunately, pressure cookers work to increase the depth and complex flavours of your ingredients to results in a rich consistency every time. Compared to streamed food, your cooking will be taken to new heights.

A Super Convenient Cooking Method

Another benefit of pressure cooking is the convenience it offers. Simply set the timer and adjust the settings, and you can forget about the food until it pings. Head off to work or visit a friend for several hours, and your food will be ready by the time you get back. As a result, you’ll enjoy healthy and great-tasting food with minimal effort required by you.

Tips for Using a Pressure Cooker

Now you’re aware of how pressure cookers work, let’s discover some useful tips for generating your food in the cooking pot.

  • Thicken the food after it’s cooked by adding some cornflour and water to the mixture. Ensure that you don’t perform this step while the food is still cooking or ruin the food’s texture and probably won’t cook thoroughly.
  • Turn the cooker’s hob up to the maximum power so the appliance can begin heating quickly. If the pressure cooker takes too much time to heat up, you could end up with overcooked ingredients. If this is a concern and you’re a beginner, opt for recipes designed for an Instant Pot for advice on how long to cook the ingredients. Once you reach the maximum temperature, you can turn the heat down while it cooks. Most appliances are equipped with an indicator to guide you during use.
  • Don’t add too much liquid to the appliance. Stick to a maximum of 2/3 thirds of the liquid in the pot. Overfilling the pressure cooker can result in food ejected from the valve when the pressure releases, which is just as messy as it sounds.
  • Always check the instructions on the appliance before using it. Steam generated from the appliance can cause scolding if not handled correctly, so it’s essential that you carefully follow safety precautions.

Do You Own a Pressure Cooker?

Now that you know how does a pressure cooker work exactly, it will be easier for you to get the best results every time.

If you own a pressure cooker, we’d love to discover your go-to recipe or some ways that you care for your appliance. Share your tips and recommendations in the comments.

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