Consumer Alert: Don't Cover or Obstruct Pressure Cooker Valves

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Consumer Alert: Don't Cover Pressure Cooker ValvesA 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

See also: Pressure Cooker Instruction Manual Library (download a copy of your manual free)

All Pressure Cooker Safety and Consumer Alerts

 

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24 Comments

  1. Thank you for posting this!

  2. Yup, have seen the throw a towel over it trick many times in many places. Thanks for the safer stove hood suggestion.

  3. while the advise of not putting a towel over the pressure cooker is great suggesting people put their instant pot on a stove is horrible advice. No items should be placed on a stove that are not designed to be there. This is at a minimum a good way to have the bottom of your pot burned if someone accidentally turns a burner on or at worse a way to burn your house down. Very disappointed you you advise anyone to go against basic kitchen fire safety measures.

    1. If you read your pressure cooker manual, it specifically says not to place your Instant Pot on a HOT burner. Obviously, we are not recommending placing your pressure cooker on a hot burner but to stabilize it on a heat-proof surface and not operate the stove top while the pressure cooker is on it.

      Ciao,

      L

  4. what if we are cooking and a fire disaster occur or happens…. how do we stop the pressure with fast and simple steps

  5. I’m not sure what you are asking.
    To stop pressure building, remove the pressure cooker from the heat source. If it is an electric, that means to pull the plug. If it is a stove top, turn off the stove and optionally remove the pot.

    To reduce the pressure quickly, just open the valve. Exactly how you do that varies from model to model.

  6. Please don’t move your pressure cooker to an open window after it is pressurized! That seems like a very dangerous thing to do! Cook near the window and open it, but don’t try moving an active pressure cooker – the risk of accident is way too high here, bad advice!!

    1. Actually, manufacturers have been recommending moving stove top pressure cookers from the cook top to the sink (not the window) for over 50 years!

      Please research this issue yourself, as well, so you don’t have to take my word for it.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion!

      Ciao,

      L

  7. I hope someone can help me. I’ve had an 8 quart Instant Pot for several months now. I will cook a 3 lb. beef roast with 4-5 potatoes and maybe 1 lb.of carrots in a foil packet with 1-2 cups of water. This standard recipe usually calls for natural release and does not overfill my 8 quart pot at all. The problem is natural release has never taken less than 45-60 minutes. I use grass-fed beef and am worried to do a quicker release that might dry out the meat. I’m really get sick and tired of waiting almost another hour after cooking time is done. Even though it is an 8 quart pot, I am thinking my pot is malfunctioning. Any suggestions?

    1. The length of the release depends on how much liquid is in there, too. However, an hour seems like waaay too long (30 minutes should be the max!).

      I would make sure that the lid and all of the valves are very clean. In a pinch, you can also do a 10-min Natural Release. Just leave the lid on until you’re ready to serve so the meat has a chance to “cool down” before you take it out of the cooker.

      Ciao,

      L

  8. Another trick, depending on the configuration of your lid, is to place a wet cloth topped with a small ziplock bag of ice on the lid. On the 6-qt. Instant Pot Duo, for instance, you can place it on the metal plate opposite from the valve. It cools down the contents, much like running a stovetop pressure cooker under cold water does, and brings the pressure down faster.

  9. I often place my instant pot on my counter-top range to do a Quick Pressure Release, using the following precautions. I always double check first to be certain that NO part of the stove-top is warm. Then I turn the fan on High before releasing any pressure. To release pressure I use a long-handled Bar-B-Que Basting brush. I poke the the handle end through the instant pot handle slip the hole in the basting pot handle over the small handle part of the pressure relief valve & I can control it that way. WORKS GREAT
    Another method I have used for years on my stove-top pressure cooker is place the pot outside on my deck, stand back and remove the pressure relieve valve using long Bar-B-Que tongs.

  10. This is terrible advice. “Carefully move” a loaded pressurized IP to a window? Incredibly INCREDIBLY dangerous! Moving a loaded IP is one of the worst things you can do. And as for suggestion of “Wait 20-30 minutes for NPR” it is incredibly impractical…and enjoy what’s left of your overcooked soggy mess of a meal? Quick release is essential for many dishes and quite safe. And while starting with your IP on the actual stovetop on a cutting board may work for you, the number of accidental melting incidents are legion of users who accidentally turned on the stove burners to their horror. The kitchen counter (clear of cabinet obstructions above and stove burners below) remains the best spot to place your IP.

    Bottom line: don’t cover your release valve DURING COOKING but when your meal is done and ready to do a quick release, yes it’s is completely fine to toss a light dish towel over the valve as you turn the release knob, to avoid any spewing steam and food splatter seriously burning you or making a mess. (Not overfilling the IP in first place is also good idea!) I keep my IP beside my stove vent and before cooking make sure the valve is located adjacent to the stove vent.

    Bottom line: Never ever Ever EVER move an electric pressure cooker while it is pressurized. Never leave anything on top of the device during the cooking process. But break out your dish towel for quick release and ignore this article’s dire warnings which can get you in real danger.

    1. Ted,

      I have to assume you just read about the dangers of covering the valve in this article. If you go ahead and cover the valve anyway, that is your incredibly INCREDIBLY foolish choice.

      Read your instruction manual carefully, heed the warnings, and pressure cook safety!

      Ciao,

      L

  11. My Instant Pot directions (brand new, just got a month ago) said to use a towel when doing a quick release. Do you think it was a typo?

    1. If your manual says you can do it, you can do it. However, it’s the only instruction manual I know of that says so!

      Ciao,

      L

      1. P.S. There are times where this website and your instruction manual will disagree – in those situations, the manufacturer’s advice always wins. They are responsible to ensure you operate their cooker safely and liable for any mishaps based on the instructions or information that is included with their cooker.

    2. Stacie, can you send me a photo? I wrote to Instant Pot and they’re pretty sure that they don’t recommend putting a towel over the release valve. However, they’ve grown quickly so the right hand might not know what the left is doing. A photo will clear things up and let Instant Pot know where to fix this error.

      Ciao,

      L

  12. Not sure why covering the valve while using it to release is especially dangerous to be frank. The purpose of the valve as a safety feature I understand. However, if you have removed the heat source then the explosion risk is no longer present and if the pressure is being dropped, then the safety mechanism is no longer required at that stage of cooking.

    Although personally I would far rather NOT use a towel over my cooker because I’d rather the steam escaped to the air rather than be potentially deflected onto my hand by the towel and causing burns, and because I don’t want a soggy towel to have to deal with.

    The important thing is to understand what you are doing and the possible risks and, generally speaking, this can be achieved by following manufacturer’s instructions. That said, I put my cooker under a running tap to reduce pressure. My instructions suggest it as the best way to reduce pressure fast, yet it is often considered to be bad practice, evidence that manufacturers don’t always know best.

    1. I think the point you made in your second paragraph answers the question in the first. ;)

      The point is that there is a danger there. While 99 times out of a hundred everything may go OK, the next time you may get distracted at a critical point and end up badly scalded.

      As for your comment about manufacturers… They tend to test with brand new pressure cookers in spotless tidy laboratories. Not with improperly cleaned , gummed up old ones with children, toys and pets underfoot. “If in doubt, take the more cautious approach” would be my advice for a long and happy relationship with your pressure cooker.

      1. Greg, you really are the voice of reason sometimes!

        I think the reason this article prompted my reply was that the reasoning given for not using a towel is that the vent is a safety feature that shouldn’t be covered and my point is that, while I agree with the point made that covering the vent with a towel is a daft idea, I don’t agree that there is a risk related to the fact that the safety feature has been covered PROVIDED THAT the cooker has already been removed from the source of heat.

        The point I was making about manufacturers was that the author of this article uses manufacturers’ instructions to support her point about not covering the vent, but, as you admit, MIs are not infallible.

        Since Prestige has not made a quick release mechanism for my cooker, the ONLY ways I can achieve a quick release in accordance with the MIs is to run it under cold water, or immerse it in cold water.

        While I prefer the former, an old lady I know who has the same model, and unable to carry a loaded pressure cooker safely, decided it was safer for her to lift the regulator weight slightly using two spoons, thus allowing a controlled quick release of steam while keeping her hands at a safe distance. In breach of MIs, but when I actually sat and thought about it, I realised that what she had invented was very similar to the quick release mode on the modern Kuhn Rikon.

        As you say, it is about actually thinking about what you are doing, weighing the risks, and then taking the more cautious approach. And, although I disagree with parts of the original article, I do agree that putting a towel over a cooker is, at best, a silly practice and not one that people should be adopting without some serious consideration.

        1. One thing to keep in mind:
          This is Laura’s website. As such she is accountable for what is said here. So she has to be (possibly over-) cautious in what she says or there is a real risk she could be sued if some one ends up in hospital claiming “But Hip said it would be OK”

          Me: I’m just a mug punter from the other side of the world. No pretensions whatever to authority. Though I do try to be as accurate as I can. :D

          1. Thanks, Greg!

            In matters of safety, I HAVE to defer to the manufacturer as they are responsible if the cooker injuries the cook. I do not have and do not plan to add a laboratory equipped to accurately test pressure cooker safety systems or advice. All of the safety alerts posted on this website are based on research or reporting what others have published on the subject (always with references and links when possible).

            Personally, I think it’s great that Ric wants to know more about the technicalities of how this might work and he’ll find all the information to contact manufacturers directly to ask or confirm what I am reporting above.

            Lastly, it is not enough for a cooker to be “off the heat” to be considered “safe”- that is a terrible way to view the cooker, and limit the scope of this alert.

            As long as a vessel is actively containing pressure there are still many things that could still go wrong like heat pockets in thick foods, reverse suction from rapid depressurization, and failure of safety or primary systems – just to name a few.

            Ciao,

            L

  13. I cover loosely with a kitchen towel when using quick release to ensure I do not burn myself (or others), or ruin anything that might be near the pressure cooker during release (walls, paint, cabinet finishing, etc.

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