Pressure cookers are one of the most common and most frequently used kitchen ware. They are meant to facilitate with easy cooking and boiling. Pressure cookers hold several advantages over normal cooking ware which is one reason they are preferred. Especially for amateur cooks, pressure cookers can be of great help because they can help prepare food quickly with least amount of exercise required.
Pressure cookers allow easy meal preparation for larger quantities and there is no requirement of stirring and keeping a check on your meal as it whistles and indicates just when the food is ready for you. It makes cooking all too easy and even fresh starters can prepare quality dishes for their friends and family. Pressure cookers can be a handy tool for those who are starting off with their cooking.
Thanks to the advanced technology, there are now both manual as well as electrical pressure cookers available in the market. These pressure cookers are potentially a cook in their own and all you are required is to closely follow the recipe and add ingredients. Leave the rest to these cookers. They can take care of things on their own.
Pressure cookers offer a lot of ease to the users but on the other hand, they can be quite problematic as well. These problems mainly arise due to improper handling and guess work rather than following instructions. People complain of not getting their desired meal from their cookers. However, on most occasions, it has got nothing to do with the pressure cooker itself. There are some handling errors that you need to take care of.
Before you take up cooking with pressure cookers, you should understand very clearly that it’s a different ball game. It is nothing like normal cooking with open pans and containers. Your pressure cooker works on certain principles within certain ranges and therefore it has a few limitations as well.
Prior to taking you to the handling blunders that people make, let us put some light on the most common complaints that people make when it comes to their pressure cookers:
- The food is either undercooked or overcooked.
- There is too much liquid in the food.
- The meal has gone too thick and completely dry.
- The spices and herbs do not offer any flavor.
- Preparation of food takes too long.
- The food is nothing like what it was supposed to be.
So if you are wondering what can help you improve your cooking with your pressure cooker, we will highlight some of the most common mistakes that people make while using pressure cookers. It will not just help you improve your cooking, in fact, it will also keep you of potential danger to your life. As on many occasions, cases of pressure cooking bursts have been reported which mainly occurred due to user negligence.
- Know Your Recipes and Follow Them Well
Unlike open pans and containers, it is impossible to add ingredients, check into the meal and monitor the food without stopping the cooking process. This is where most people make mistakes by guessing the status of food. Those who are too overconfident of their guesses may end up with undercooked and raw food while those who take extra precautions may end up with burnt or over cooked food.
Some ingredients such as vegetables and meat can turn tougher in case they are overheated. This can be rectified with further cooking. However, too much of overcooking takes out all the nutrients and flavor from the vegetables and meat and all you are left with is a tasteless solid substance. It also makes your food a lot soggier and the food tends to become extra thick.
Another key factor when we talk about the impact of recipes on pressure cooker is the type of pressure cooker material. Recipes that are intended for pressure cookers directly relate to the type of pressure cooker material. The cooking time may be different for different materials of pressure cookers.
One common mistake while cooking with pressure cookers is that people tend to follow the same recipe they used with their previous pressure cookers. Hence the food may not just turn out perfectly as it used to previously. It just doesn’t affect the quality of food but it may also damage you pressure cooker reducing its life span.
Hence, it is instrumental to get your timings right. You should be cooking precisely according to the time mentioned in your recipe. Also you should keep in mind the material of pressure cooker that your recipe refers to. These simple considerations will improve you improve your food quality as well as your pressure cooker’s performance.
- Stuffing up the Cooker
As we discussed earlier, it is not possible to add ingredients while cooking so it can be quite challenging at times. Since all ingredients do not take the same time to cook stuffing up your pressure cooker with all ingredients at once can reduce food quality. Professional recipes generally take care of this problem and preheating and boiling of certain ingredients is therefore encouraged.
Filling your pressure cooker to an optimal level is also crucial. If not taken care of, there is potentially a risk of pressure cookers bursting out due to high internal pressure. Cooking amateurs should specially take care of this as it can save them from risking their lives. To help out users, there are also markings given on the inside of some pressure cookers to allow users to fill the cooker accordingly.
A pressure cooker must be only filled to two thirds of its capacity. The rest of the space is for the steam and pressure that is built while the food cooks. Ingredients such as beans and rhubarbs tend to froth and foam while cooking so it is better to only fill half the pressure cooker while cooking with such ingredients. Same goes for liquids and soups.
In case your pressure cooker does not show marking on the inside, we have a simple trick that can help you figure out the maximum limit of your food inside you cooker. All you need is some water and a few containers.
First fill out your pressure cooker completely. To be on the safer side, fill it till a point little below the edge of your cooker. Take three identical containers and then fill them equally with the water you poured in your pressure cooker. Spill two of those containers back into your pressure cooker and mark down the water level for two third capacity.
To get the marking for half of your cooker, you can repeat the same technique with two identical containers this time around. This simple technique can save you and your food from ending up burnt and bruised.
- 5 Things to Know When to Use a Pressure Cooker
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- Generous use of Water
A reminder for you, “You are not cooking with an open pan!” One common mistake while cooking with pressure cookers is that people use almost the same water content as they did in open pans. Open pans tend to give easier passage out to steam while in pressure cookers, there is quite a limited quantity of steam escaping out of the container. Therefore, most of the liquid doesn’t leave the food while working with pressure cookers.
What might seem a perfect dish with an open pan, may turn out soggy and watery with a pressure cooker. It takes away all the flavor and nutrients from the recipe and you may be deprived of your right to health. Excessively moist dishes generally lack in texture and so people are not attracted to eat more.
To avoid this problem, it is a good idea to re visit your recipe according to your pressure cooker requirements. It may take you time adjusting with the right water levels but it will improve your cooking with pressure cookers.
- Thicker Sauces
As we just saw that there is very few amount of liquid that escapes from the cooker. However, the heat inside the cooker tends to thicken already dense sauces to an extent where they spoil the overall recipe. To avoid such an issue, it is best to consume dilute sauces because they can then adjust according to the recipe well. Thicker sauces should be used in a small quantity. Another solution to this problem is to heat at lower temperatures and cook for a longer time.
- Overheating and Drying Food
This is a common problem people face while working with pressure cookers. The temperature has to be just perfect while using pressure cookers. In case you exceed optimal temperature values, you will end up burning you food and getting dried meals.
Overheating also tends to soak up all the water content in your which turns it dry and rough. Insufficient water content also results in burning of food. It all comes down to the fact how well you have received your recipe and how closely you stick to it.
Another way to tackle overheating your food is to maintain a lower temperature and cook your food for a longer time. Lower temperature ensures that there is no excessive heat that can damage or burn your food. For amateur cooks, it is better to seek guidance through possible sources.
- Inappropriate Sized Pressure Cooker
Pressure cookers come in standard sized and capacities. Generally a capacity of 6 to 8 liters is good enough for most pressure cookers. Size of pressure cookers directly indicate the cooking time and many of the modern pressure cookers can be translated into different sizes. Therefore, you can modify the cooking time as you wish.
However, these specifications are observed in high quality standard pressure cookers. Low quality and cheap pressure cookers do not offer any such features therefore their cooking time cannot be predicted. Also, the material quality may affect the food product as we discussed earlier as well.
So here is a recommendation, go for standard sized pressure cookers. Good material with reasonable cooking time will help you prepare better food with improved quality.
- Wrong Pressure Release
This is a technical issue which is normally not catered to. However, it has a big impact on your finished food product. Most people do not know the exact pressure release technique for their recipe. If the pressure inside the cooker is not released accordingly, the cooker will continue to stay hot and the ingredients inside the cooker will continue to cook. It also gives you an advantage of turning off the heat and letting the heat inside the cooker continue to cook your food till the heat eventually escapes slowly out of the container.
Take a close look at your recipe and find out exactly when you need to release the pressure from the pressure cooker. This facility, however, is not available in electrical pressure cookers as the cookers turn off at the exact timings.
- Ingredient Selection
While it provides convenience and ease during cooking, it is also important to know which ingredients and cooking techniques suit cooking from a pressure cooker. For instance, some vegetables and meats are better cooked in open pans and containers as they require close attention to color and texture. This cannot be achieved through a pressure cooker.
Some seeds, vegetables and meats are delicate and cook rapidly, an ideal container for cooking such vegetables is a frying pan. So instead of blaming your pressure cooker for bad texture or food quality, it is better to cook your ingredients in a container that suits them the most.
- Wrong Methods of Locking
Locking your pressure cooker before setting it to cook is very important. In pressure cookers that are used on daily basis, chances are that their locking mechanism might wear out. In older pressure cookers, the markings for correct locking wash out with time so you may not be locking it right.
The pressure seals or the rubber insulation also runs out with time. Due to continuous opening and closing of the cooker, the rubber insulation also get cut and bruised. Some users especially the amateurs may not be able to lock the lids correctly due to which he tends to escape from the cooker. It also affects the food quality and
So in case you are experiencing low quality food out of your old pressure cooker, it is time for a repair or may be replacement. Replacing your pressure cooker is a better option and here is why. The older pressure cookers have the older technology of course. They would work even if the lid doesn’t properly close. However, modern pressure cookers do not work until their lid is correctly sealed and fitted. It therefore becomes easier for new users.
- Unsuitable Cooking Techniques
Pressure cookers work most efficiently for boiling ingredients. Not that they cannot be used for any other type of cooking but Stews, soups and stocks are best prepared with pressure cookers. Pressure cookers do not support every style of cooking therefore you need to be wise while selecting the cooking technique for your pressure cooker.
Changing your cooking style is always a good option. It will enable you to learn about how your pressure cooker works with different styles of cooking. You can play around with your pressure cooker to a certain degree just to learn how well it works with different ingredients and water and oil levels.
- Food Prep before Pressure Cooking
As we discussed earlier, not all vegetables and ingredients take the same time for cooking. Some cook instantly while others can take quite a few minutes to soften. So there is essentially no way you can finish cooking all the ingredients together in your cooker.
In case you still want all the ingredients to cook simultaneously, here is what you can do. Prepare the ingredients that take longer to cook separately before starting with your pressure cooker. Once you know that the cooking time for all the ingredients will now be same, you can add all the ingredients in your cooker along with the precooked food so that they finish cooking together.
You will be able to expert this technique only with practice as well as how well you understand you pressure cooker’s cooking speed.
This is a major flaw that normally comes from amateur cooks and starters finding their feet in the attempt to work with pressure cookers. Overcooking is probably the biggest flaw when in cooking. People tend to end up with mushy and sometimes burnt up food. It mainly happens because they don’t get their timings right. This is quite a clear indication that they do not follow the recipes well enough.
Cautious people tend to go for guess work and give their food and extra two to three minutes for cooking. These two to three minutes are sufficient enough to destroy your food especially in pressure cookers. Precision is very important in pressure cookers because there is minimal amount of heat that escapes the container. Therefore, any extra cooking time can be bad to your recipe.
All of it boils down to the fact that you need to follow your recipe as closely as possible. This is probably an only way out as you prepare your favorite meals for your friends and family.
- Improper Food Knowledge
Following a recipe is vital for any meal preparation. However, food sense is equally important. You should know exactly what ingredients fit to your style of cooking through a pressure cooker. For that, you need to experience as well as some research before you jump into the kitchen preparing the meal.
A simple recommendation is to look for advice from someone who has good food knowledge. It also good to go for some internet searching before and look for which ingredients you should use with your pressure cooker. Food experts and analysts also give advices as to what kitchen ware is best for a certain recipe. Seeking out advice from a professional is always handy.
- Pressure Cooker Bursts and Explosions
Although this problem may not be related to food quality, yet it is equally important to be addressed. Low quality pressure cookers tend to wear out quickly with time. Some of their malfunctions are inappropriate locking and pressure leakage. In case a pressure cooker gets locked and there is no way out for the steam and gasses inside, it may explode upon any further heating.
Similarly, pressure cooker gaskets play a vital role in holding the gases and steam inside the container so maintaining those gaskets is equally important. Taking such measures is important as they can potentially pose a threat to the lives of your loved ones.
So we have put forward some of the most common mistakes that people make while using their pressure cookers. These mistakes are made both deliberately and involuntarily on occasions. However, the end results are mostly improper, soggy, burnt and dry food. To take care of these issues, we have also put forwards some recommendations that can help you become a better cook and give you a much more enjoyable experience with your pressure cooker.
Apart from the recommendations that we have compiled for you, there are few things that you should consider while selecting or using a pressure cooker to give yourself top quality food every time.
- Go for reputed pressure cooker brands as they offer better performance. This is because these products have a lot riding over them. Branded items are least likely to malfunction before their guaranteed lifetime so you can save yourself from the troubles of replacing and repairing your pressure cooker.
- Keep a quality check of your pressure cooker especially if your pressure cooker is old and has run out of warranty. Make sure that you replace the rubber gasket everyone in a while to prolong your run with your pressure cooker.
- Ensure safety of your friends and family while using a pressure cooker. Low quality pressure cookers tend to lock the air inside and result in explosions outbursts as reported on many occasions.
- Electric pressure cookers have relieved most people as they are better indicators of temperature and container conditions as well as they reduce the risk of both food spoilage and container outbursts. (Read: Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 6Qt/1000W Review )
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