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Infographic: Pressure Cooker Trouble-shooter (excerpt) full graphic here: http://bit.ly/1hGjRepSometimes the booklet that comes with the pressure cooker is not well written or does not include information about what to expect during normal operation – much less give any help when something goes wrong. That’s why we’ve created this infographic – a visual guide to describe how to use your pressure cooker, along with the most common problems (and solutions)!

We want to get everyone pressure cooking so you have our permission to download, pin, share, post, blog and otherwise distribute this infographic – but please don’t change it. Thank you!

click to enlarge
Infographic: The Pressure Cooker trouble-shooter!
click to enlarge

This graphic didn’t cover the problem you’re experiencing?  Post your question in the forums or take a look at a digital version of your pressure cooker’s manual!

This guide contains the following information:

This guide will walk you through the normal operation of a pressure cooker and describe any problems you might encounter on the way. If you’re still baffled visit www.hippressurecooking.com and we’ll help you in the forums!

How to pressure cook (flowchart):

  1. YOU: Add minimum liquid required by cooker with food and then close and lock the lid (if needed)
  2. YOU: Position or close the pressure valve according to instructions
  3. YOU: Stovetop: Select pressure; Turn heat up to high (medium for induction). Electric: Choose cooking program & time (electric pressure cooker)
  4. PRESSURE COOKER: about 10-15 minutes
    1. Contents are brought to a boil pushing air & steam out of valve
    2. Lid locking pine (and/or valve) raise sealing the cooker closed
    3. Steam stops coming out of the valve & pressure begins to build
    4. Selected Pressure is reached
  5. YOU: Stovetop: Turn heat down to maintain pressure; Start digital timer to count cooking time. Electric: Cooker begins to count down cooking time automatically.
  6. PRESSURE COOKER: Food cooks under selected pressure
  7. PRESSURE COOKER: For most cookers, very little or no steam from valve
  8. YOU: Release Pressure
  9. PRESSURE COOKER: Pressure is released through valve and only steam exists
  10. YOU: Open pressure cooker

Troubleshooting (symptom, reason & solution):

  • Pressure cooker does not reach pressure
    • Gasket not in correct position – Remove lid and remove gasket then clean and place as per instructions.
    • Valve not closed or placed correctly- Remove the valve and clean thoroughly, place in the proper position to build pressure.
    • Lid not in correct position – Remove lid and replace according to instruction manual.
    • Pressure cooker not locked – If the cooker is not self-locking, ensure the mechanism to build pressure is solidly engaged.
    • Gasket or safety valve worn – Replace gasket and/or other silicone or rubber parts – usually once every 18 months.
    • Handle(s) loose – Tighten handles according to instruction manual.
    • Not enough liquid – Add minimum amount as specified in instruction manual.
    • Liquid too thick – Do not add thickners (flour, etc.) before pressure cooking
    • Pressure cooker very full – A cooker with a lot of liquid or ingredients could take 20-30 minutes to reach pressure.
    • Pressure cooker too full – Only fill pressure cooker to 1/2 full for recipes that are primarily grain, rice, beans and fruit and 2/3 full for all other ingredients.
    • Ingredients very cold – A pressure cooker with very cold or frozen ingredients will take 20-30 minutes to reach pressure.
  • Pressure cooker cannot maintain pressure
    • Valve not closed properly – Adjust the valve.
    • Heat turned down too soon (stovetop pressure cooker) – Review instruction manual for how to tell when the cooker has reached pressure.
    • Heat turned down too low (stovetop pressure cooker) – Turn heat back up to high to regain pressure and lower less.
    • Gasket or safety valve worn- Replace gasket and/or other silicone or rubber parts – usually once every 18 months.
  • Pressure cooker spews too much steam
    • Valve not closed properly – Adjust the valve.
    • Heat too high (stovetop pressure cooker)- Release a little bit of the pressure, and turn heat down lower.
  • Pressure cooked food is under-cooked
    • Incorrect cooking time – Refer to instruction manual or our pressure cooking time chart.
  • Pressure cooked food is over-cooked, dry or burned
    • Heat too high during cooking (stovetop pressure cooker) – Lower heat to minimum required to maintain pressure.
    • Burner size too wide (stovetop pressure cooker) – Move cooker to burner that is equal or smaller than base of the cooker.
    • Incorrect cooking time – Refer to instruction manual or our pressure cooking time chart.
  • Pressure cooker valve sprays food or foam
    • Wrong opening method for ingredient – Grains, legumes and fruit tend to generate large amounts of foam.  Only open the pressure cooker using the Natural Release method for these ingredients.
    • Food contains thickener -Thickeners (like flour) will bind food to the steam and cause it to also spray out of the valve.
    • Pressure cooker to too full – Only fill pressure cooker to 1/2 full for recipes that are primarily grain, legume or fruit and 2/3 for all other ingredients.

 

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22 Comments

  1. Undercooked food.

    I thought I’d share my experience…

    If you warm the pressure cooker, add boiled water from a kettle or do anything to reach cooking pressure too fast e.g. using an overpowered gas or using any induction burner at maximum, you could easily end up with undercooked food.

    It doesn’t seem to have such an effect on recipes which require you to fry or pre-cook the ingredients in the pressure cooker pan first.

    When the pressure cooker takes at least 6 to 10 minutes (or longer!) to reach full pressure from cold, the recipe is less likely to be undercooked at the end. Yes it does take about the same amount of time to bring a pan of water to the boil on a standard burner i.e. 6 to 10 minutes on average (induction is much faster), but pressure cooking is still faster than boiling, in most cases. Best be patient and let the pressure cooker reach full pressure from cold. Tip: a watched pot never boils. ;-)

    Do recipes for pressure cooking assume the pressure cooker takes at least 6 minutes to reach full pressure from cold?

    1. Ciao David! I can’t speak for other recipe authors, but YES my recipes calculate and average of 10 minutes for a pressure cooker to reach pressure from a cold cooker. I calculate that as cooking time at 50% pressure. So for every two minutes less it takes for the cooker to reach pressure you can tack-on an extra minute of pressure cooking time to get the expected results.

      In the induction scenario, though, there are other factors at play such as air likely trapped in (thus lowering the pressure cooking temperature) and hot food in the base having to heat-up the cold sides of the pressure cooker.

      Ciao,

      L

      1. I see that comment about having air trapped in the pressure cooker lowering the temperature a lot. I shudder every time. From basic physics, for a given volume in a closed system (ie the PC) temperature is proportional to pressure. It shouldn’t matter what the gas is.

        It may be that water vapor is better at transferring the heat to food than dry air, but the temperature will be the same at a given pressure.

        Mind you I last did this stuff at uni around 40 years ago. My memory may be faulty or the rules may have changed.

        1. It is possible for the lid on a pressure cooker to seal before all of the air has been removed. This can happen when using an induction burner on it’s highest (or ‘boost’) setting or if the pressure cooker is already warm to start with; the water or liquid can boil too rapidly before all of the air has been pushed out by the steam, when the lid seals shut. Any air pockets will lower the temperature inside the pressure cooker.

          Steam sterilisers apparently have ways to ensure the removal of all air before sterilisation begins. Quite how that’s done I don’t know.

          1. You will have to explain to me how come the air is at a lower temperature to everything else. If everything is at thermal equilibrium that everything will be at the SAME temperature. It doesn’t matter if it’s steam or air. I will grant there may be a pocket of air trapped in the food that may be at lower temperature because of the insulating qualities of the food, but I think we are talking about the free gas in the pot rather than trapped as that will not escape no matter how slowly the PC reaches pressure.

            Again, I grant that steam transfers HEAT better than air. But heat is not the same as temperature. Just as speed is not the same as velocity and climate is not the same as weather.

            1. Greg, if you have the Modernist Cuisine book series, look in Volume 2, page 87 “The Physics of How Air Confounds Pressure Canning.” which explains this phenomena via Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures.

              Ciao,

              L

              1. I have MC At Home. But not the original bookshelf version. It sounds like it would make interesting reading. It is probably not in any local library though. Sigh. There is a catering school nearby. Maybe they’ll have a copy they’ll let me read. It is more geared to “hospitality” rather than “cooking” so probably not.

                1. Here is the less wordy explanation of the principle:
                  http://group.chem.iastate.edu/Greenbowe/sections/projectfolder/daltonslaw.htm

                  My understanding of this is that the differing pressure between steam and air average out into a lesser pressure that what can be provided by steam alone (i.e. lower cooking temperature). The air does not remain in an isolated “pocket” in the top of the cooker but is evenly mixed with the steam (additionally lowering the saturation of the water in the steam which, as you know, transmits heat) .

                  The pressure cooker does not cook at 100% steam, though most high-quality cookers kick-out a large amount of air (95% or more) during the boil before the cooker reaches pressure (and locks the valve closed). Using induction at max shortens this “venting” time, leaving in more air, which lowers the overall pressure/temperature inside making the food inside appear under-cooked.

                  Conversely, having the pressure cooker that has come up to pressure with about 10 minutes of venting (using max gas setting, max electric setting or the medium setting on induction instead of high), and then having it go into over-pressure (where the safety is spewing out steam) for a about 5 seconds completely removes the air, raising the overall expected pressure/temperature inside making the food inside appear over-cooked.

                  I can confirm the under/over-cooked phenomena with experience.

                  Ciao,

                  L

  2. (Going back to base level reply as the indentation is getting out of hand in my browser window)

    I don’t deny that raising pressure too quickly results in undercooked food. I am just questioning, and trying to understand why it is so. I don’t think you fully understand the reason behind it either.
    Some of your phrases suggest this:

    “the differing pressure between steam and air average out into a lesser pressure…”
    Sorry. No. That article you referred me to clearly states that the total pressure is the SUM of the partial pressures. Not the average.

    “leaving in more air, which lowers the overall pressure/temperature inside ”
    Again, no. the overall pressure is determined by the pressure regulating mechanism. Not by what is inside. That is a (nominal) 15 psi. Regardless of whether it is air, steam, a combination or something else. Once the gauge indicates 15psi, then the overall pressure is 15psi. Not something lower. Temperature is another question. At the start of this, I would have said it remains the same as for a given volume, pressure is proportional to temperature (Avogadro’s Law), but I haven’t seen anything that clearly backs me (or you) up, so now I am not so sure. Hopefully when I get a chance to read further I will get it clarified. Ideally I will find experimental evidence. It’s a shame I no longer know people who would be able to set up an experiment for me.

    To summarise ->
    Observed fact: Food cooked in a pressure cooker brought to pressure at full power on an induction stove is under done if cooked for the recommended time
    Possible causes: (1 – 3 assume that the air has not been expelled)
    1. pressure is lower therefore temperature is lower. I think this is false
    2. temperature is lower because air at pressure is at a different temperature to steam at pressure
    3. steam is better than air at transferring heat to the food.
    4. the overall cook time is less because of the shorter time to pressure
    5. the pot does not heat up properly in the shortened time to pressure so heat that would otherwise go into the food is diverted into heating the container.

    Anyway, This is getting way too far off topic (PC trouble shooting) so I won’t go any further here. If you want to continue the discussion perhaps we should move it to its own thread in the forum.

    1. Would a temperature test, under pressure, reveal if trapped air makes a difference? Would the water temperature stay the same, but not the steam?

      If it’s possible to test the temperature (under pressure) with trapped air and no trapped air, the pressure cooker in test could be brought to pressure quickly on a powerful induction burner, set to full, and slowly with the same induction burner set lower. A difference in temperature from both tests could be revealing. ;-)

      Maybe it’s not just the temperature of the steam/water at work here?

  3. I am interested in this as well.

  4. Anyone interested in following the continuation of this discussion, can click to this forum topic that Greg started:
    https://www.hippressurecooking.com/forums/topic/laura-you-are-an-evil-evil-woman/

    Ciao,

    L

  5. Maybe this is obvious, but I’ve noticed when cooking unsoaked beans, if I don’t use enough water to keep all the beans covered through the whole cooking time, the beans above the final water line will be less cooked than the beans that remain submerged. (This happens most often when I’m trying to use minimal liquid.). I’ve come to use the “2 inch/5cm above bean” rule for unsoaked beans rather than charts

  6. Hi
    When usiing the pressure cooker the whole thing vapor liquid and rice all came bursting out!
    Please I would like to have a reply

    Thanks

    Mary Papali

    1. Mary, I don’t understand exactly what you’re saying. Can you give us more information? What is your pressure cooker model, type and size? What kind of stove top, if any, were you using it on? What exactly (in amounts) was in the pressure cooker? Where did the liquid and rice come out from?

      Thanks,

      L

    2. What Laura said.
      But a few general things to check in the mean time:
      Did you check the gasket was in good condition before use?
      Did you close the lid, including any lock mechanism properly?
      Did you over fill the pressure cooker. With rice, the PC should never be more than half full.
      If a stove top model, did you remember to turn it down once it reached pressure? Did you monitor it after turning it down to make sure you had the heat right?

  7. When I cook with my pressure cooker the valve is always spewing a little bit of steam and always hissing. Is this supposed to be happening? The valve is very loose and moves slightly to both sides but it is in the locked position. When my cooks are done they are slightly undercooked. I’ve only made a few things but they always need to be cooked longer even though I’m following pressure cooker recipes. I’m using the Mandarin orange power pressure cooker xl.

    1. Generally electric pressure cookers only loose steam and hiss at the beginning of the pressure cooking process (as the air is being pushed out of the cooker to build pressure) not during the cooking process.

      I would check that the valve and “weight” are clean and there is nothing preventing them from making contact. If that doesn’t work, come to post a more detailed description of the problem in the forums.

      Here’s the information we need:
      https://www.hippressurecooking.com/forums/topic/read-this-how-to-get-help-with-pressure-cooker-problems/

      Ciao,

      L

  8. HELP PLEASE!!!! I just got a new electric pressure cooker it’s a GoWise and has a really nice stainless steel pot just like the instapot but mines 8qts, how do I season it??? Do I do it in the oven, stove top, or in the pressure cooker on sauté or such? I haven’t seasoned a pot in like 20 years, so I’m a little apprehensive about it, specially since its somethings very new to me! I have a Farberware electric pressure cooker I got from Walmart with the non stick crud on it, well it’s going back! I can’t adjust anything on it, it doesn’t even cook brown rice all the way, cause it just has a rice button! I’m really excited to play with it, I can adjust everything on this one, but I don’t want to ruin the pot, even though I already ordered an extra one :))))) Can any one help???

    1. You don’t need to season stainless steel. To make it “almost non-stick” pre-heat the cooker for a few minutes before cooking and add “cold” (room temperature) oil just before adding the food.

      During sautee if things start to stick, just add a couple of tablespoons of water to lift-up the stickies.

      Ciao,

      L

  9. My pressure cooker is set up correctly, but has been trying to build pressure for about 45 minutes now. Help, we are hungry! I have not had a problem with it yet until today. This is like the 5th or 6th time using since getting it.

    1. Alicia, either the pressure cooker is too full or the recipe you cooked in it is too thick for the cooker to reach pressure. What recipe are you cooking in it?

      Ciao,

      L

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