A growing number of people are sharing pressure cooker tips that include advice about covering the valve or vent of the pressure cooker during pressure release by covering the vent/valve of the pressure cooker with a dry or wet towel, paper towel, hot pad or other object.
Following this advice is a problem because the steam release vent is one of the pressure cooker’s main safety systems and any obstruction could cause this system to fail, or to trigger one of the other last-resort safety systems (which are generally pretty messy and could permanently damage electric pressure cookers).
In fact, most pressure cooker instruction manuals instruct the cook not to cover the lid or obstruct the vent or steam release valves of their pressure cooker.
“While in operation, do not cover the appliance or position it near flammable materials including curtains, draperies, walls, and fabric upholstered furniture.”
– Fagor LUX Multi-cooker Instruction Manual
“Do not cover the pressure valves.”
– Instant Pot DUO User Manual
“CAUTION: DO NOT COVER PRESSURE/STEAM REGULATOR OR SAFETY VALVE OR APPLIANCE WITH ANY TOWEL OR MATERIAL.”
–Bon Appetit Oval Pressure Cooker Manual
“Do not cover the pressure valves with anything. An explosion may occur.”
–Cook’s Essentials 4qt Instruction Manual
Instead of covering the pressure cooker lid and vents with a towel, or other item, here are our recommendations for safe alternatives.
Reduce Steam from Pressure Release
When cooking in a small space, the large release of steam after pressure cooking can certainly be inconvenient. Here are three ways to reduce the impact of steam in your kitchen:
- Open the pressure cooker using Natural Release, instead. This releases just a little wisp of steam during a 20-30 minute period as the cooker cools itself down.
- Place the cooker under the range hood, using a cutting board to stabilize, and operate and release pressure there. Before it’s time to release pressure, simply turn the exhaust fan in the range hood to maximum power. Remember to remove this set-up away from the range when the oven or other burners are in operation.
- If the range hood is not accessible, operate or carefully move the pressure cooker next to an open window or ventilated area before releasing pressure. If moving the pressure cooker, ensure the pressure valve is pointing away from you and that the floor is free of trip hazards (children, pets, rugs). If the pressure cooker is electric, disconnect or hold the power cord so you don’t trip over it.If your cooker’s instruction manual advises you not to move the cooker while it has contents under pressure, don’t do it.
Stop Food or Foam from Spraying Out of the Valve
Food or foam should not be spraying out of the pressure valve during pressure release – if it does here some possible causes and solutions.
- foamy food with wrong pressure release – Foods that are known to foam and bubble, such as beans, rice, most grains and fruits should only have the pressure cooker opened using Natural Pressure Release. This keeps the foam from bubbling up and shooting out through the pressure valve.
See also: Pressure Cooker Opening Methods Explained
- pressure cooker too full – Cooks unfamiliar with pressure cooking may fill a pressure cooker all the way up to the top. The “max” line in the liner of electric multi-cookers is actually to be used for slow cooker and other non-pressure programs. The rules are different when cooking food under pressure. The cooker should never be filled more than half-way for foamy foods (rice, grains and beans), nor more than two-thirds for everything else.
See also: Pressure Cooker Capacity – filling the pressure cooker
If you must get the cooker open right away, and there is stuff spraying out of the valve, open the pressure valve in small bursts 5 to 10 seconds apart – this will give the foam time to subside between bursts. Then, clean the pressure cooker lid, gasket, and every part of valve very well so there is no food residue interfering with the valve at the next use.
Always follow the safety precautions outlined in your pressure cooker’s instruction manual.