How The Pressure Cooker WorksLet’s walk through a Hot Water Test step-by-step so that you can see what to expect. Meanwhile, I’ll explain what’s going on inside.

  • Pour 4 cups (1L)  water in the pressure cooker.
  • Put on the lid and twist into position.
  • Close the valve on the lid and set the valve for pressure cooking – according to your cooker’s instructions. Some brands will have a setting called “seal” while another may have one called “pressure”.
  • Tell the pressure cooker to pressure cook at high pressure for 5 minutes – using  your cooker’s “custom” or “manual” mode.  If your cooker does not have this setting, choose one of the existing pressure programs and adjust the cooking time to 5 minutes.

Initially it will seem like nothing is happening, and that’s OK.  That’s because the heating element has turned on and it’s bringing the water to a boil. How long will this take?  However long it usually takes to boil water – about 10 minutes. That’s because at this point, the pressure cooker is just a pot with a lid on it.

Once the water comes to a boil, that’s when the magic starts to happen.  The steam will be pushing out of the valve at an increasing velocity until you hear a click.

That click is actually the lid lock coming up and locking the lid closed. It means that the pressure cooker is starting to build pressure, but pressure “cooking” isn’t happening yet.

What is happening, is that the steam will no longer exit the valve.  But the water keeps boiling and generating more steam – having nowhere to go the steam keeps building and starts to push, inside the pressure cooker.  That is the pressure of pressure cooking. When the pressure gets to the strength of the desired program (high or low pressure) – in about 2 or 3 minutes, usually less –  then the pressure cooking can begin.

The timer will start counting down on the pressure cooker – and that is the “pressure cooking time” indicated in a recipe.

When the pressure cooker beeps, pressure cooking’s done.  And now you open the lid, right? No. You can’t. There is still pressure in the cooker, now our need to release it in order to open the lid.

  • Set the valve on the lid to top “open” or “release” or whatever non-pressure setting according to manufacturer’s instructions

While the steam is releasing, you don’t want to put your face or hands into the steam, OK?

After the pressure has released, you’ll hear another “click” – that’s the lid unlocking.  I know that with the first few recipes you’re going to want to squat down, put your face near the edge of the cooker to see what’s going on.  Don’t do it.

  • Step back, remove the lid and tilt it away from you.

There’s going to be a lot of condensation underneath the lid, you don’t want that to dribble onto your feet or on anyone nearby. So direct it to sprinkle back inside the pressure cooker.

Now, you’ve got a hot insert.  Don’t grab it with your hands.  If you have them, grab silicone pinch mitts and slide them right underneath the lip of the insert and lift.  Or, if you don’t have those handy things, you can just use a kitchen towel – be careful because it’s slippery.

  • Pour the liquid back into the measuring cup to check on the level of evaporation.

You’ll see that the end result just under 4 cups.  That’s because a pressure cooker evaporates just one tablespoon of water in 10 minutes, compared to an open boiling pan that evaporates a cup of water in the same amount of time.

How the Pressure Cooker Works - Pressure Cooking School

That’s it.  Now you’re ready to pressure cook!

CONTINUE to next lesson.



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