Is your pressure cooker ready to cook? Checklist!
Before we cook together in the Beginner Basics recipe series you and your pressure cooker need to become the best of friends. It’s easy to do! Your pressure cooker, unlike most things in life, comes with a detailed instruction manual.
While you’re reading it, you will need understand the following things about your new kitchen helper:
How it reaches pressure
With all recipes you will begin counting the cooking time once the pressure cooker has reached pressure. Each manufacturer will have their own way of signaling when their pressure cooker has reached pressure, so it is important that you understand how yours operates.
Here are some basic guidelines for the four types of pressure cookers:
Spring valve, in most modern pressure cookers (also known as 2nd Generation), will “signal” it has reached pressure by a visual, and sometimes also auditory, indicator… usually by raising a rod, signal or bar.
Digital or Electric pressure cookers can “beep, an indicator stops blinking or ‘P’ indicator turns on” but each one has a different way to let you know that it has reached pressure.
Jiggler valve will “rock and jiggle,” at first slowly and then vivaciously, as steam begins to escape to regulate the pressure inside the pan.
Weight-Modifyed valve will “whistle, hiss or shhhhhck” when it lifts up and down to release extra pressure. This was the first kind of pressure cooker I had and they are very noisy. I liken the sound to a steam engine train, who’s pistons are shooting up and down to move forward.
Release pressure, and vapor direction
There are three ways pressure cooker recipes will instruct you to release pressure:
Just turn off the heat and and wait for the pressure safety-handle-locking-mechanism, or indicator, to disengage (usually 10-15 minutes).
Manual, Normal, or Automatic Release
You must know in which direction the vapor will exit your pressure cooker prior to opening it with this method for the first time. Some models will shoot vapor straight up, while others down, some sideways, or (as illustrated) forward, depending on how your hold your pan. Lift or remove the valve, push the button, press or twist the lever to release vapor and pressure until the pressure safety-handle-locking-mechanism disengages. Newer pans will make a final “sigh” and you will feel the top moving down slightly. (about 2 minutes).
Cold Water Quick Release
Bring the pan to the sink, and run cold water on the top of the pan (without obstructing the valves) for a fast opening (20 seconds). You cannot open digital and electric pressure cookers this way, just shorten the cooking time about a minute and use the Normal Release method (above).
Dismantle and re-mount the valves in 60 seconds
I’m kidding – just checking to see if you’re still reading. Take as long as you like! But know that after each use, you should remove and clean the valve to prevent operating your pressure cooker with an obstruction that could either kick-in the safety mechanisms or, at worst, damage your pressure cooker permanently.
So you don’t forget, put the pressure cooker lid next to the sink once it is removed and have any needed “tools” nearby. One of my pressure cookers requires a butter-knife to un-screw the spring valve. My older pressure cooker just needs a strong pull on the weight-modifyed valve. One of my newest pressure cookers has it’s valve encased in a mystery box, so I just need to make sure that the rubber area leading into that mystery box is clean.
Read your manual and try to follow the cryptic diagrams so you already know what to do after pressure cooking your first dish.
All pressure cookers have some kind of rubber or silicone ring around the edge of the opening that helps it to seal hermetically while it reaches pressure and, often, an emergency pressure release valve. Even if your pressure cooker is new, but especially if it is not, take a careful look at any rubber or silicone parts to make sure that they are not cracked, or damaged in any way. These are the items that will need to be replaced occasionally depending on the age and frequency of your pressure cooking. I do not recommend oiling any of these parts unless specifically recommended in the manual for your model.
The “hot water” test is often used to trouble-shoot any problems that you may have with your pressure cooker and for first-timers to see it in action. It’s just a fancy name for boiling water in your pressure cooker and seeing if, and how, it reaches, keeps and releases pressure.
Here’s how to do it:
- Put two cups of water, or the recommended minimum, in the pressure cooker.
- Close and lock the lid, turn the heat up to high until it reaches pressure.
- When the pressure cooker reaches pressure turn the heat to low so that it can keep pressure for about 5 minutes – the first few times it may take some adjustment to find the perfect “low” heat, but once you’ve learned it, usually after your first few recipes, you will need to fiddle alot less with the heat.
- Turn off the heat and release the pressure using the Automatic Rlease Method (pushing the button, lever, or valve) carefully keeping your distance from the vapor. Make sure you know in which direction the vapor will exit your pressure cooker before trying this so that your face and hands do not get burned.
- You did it!
If your pressure cooker did not reach pressure, make sure that the rubber ring is properly in place, and that the valves are correctly mounted and give the test another shot.
Post a comment to introduce yourself and your pressure cooker (model, size and anything else you would like to mention) along with any questions you might have.
Pssssst! Do you want to learn more about the pressure cookers that I’m using? See them described on my About page!