Pressure cookers are one of the most common and most frequently used pieces of kitchenware. They are meant to facilitate 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 prepare food quickly with least amount of work required.
Pressure cookers allow for easy meal preparation for larger quantities and there is no requirement of stirring and keeping a check on your meal since 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 advanced technology, there are now both manual as well as electrical pressure cookers available on the market. These pressure cookers practically cook on their own and all you are required to do is to closely follow the recipe and add the 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 user but on the other hand, they can be quite problematic as well. These problems mainly arise due to improper handling and guesswork rather than following instructions. People complain about not getting their desired meal from their cookers. However, on most occasions, it has 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 shed 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 warn you of potential safety dangers. On many occasions, cases of pressure cookers bursting have been reported, however, they 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 the food. Those who are too overconfident in their guesses may end up with undercooked and raw food while those who take extra precautions may end up with burnt or overcooked food.
Some ingredients, such as vegetables and meat can turn tougher in cases where they are overheated. This can be rectified with further cooking. However, too much 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 cookers 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 as perfectly as it used to. It doesn’t just affect the quality of food but it may also damage your pressure cooker, thus reducing its lifespan.
Hence, it is important to get your timing right. You should be cooking precisely, according to the time mentioned in your recipe. Also, you should keep in mind the material of the pressure cooker that your recipe refers to. These simple considerations will improve your food quality as well as your pressure cooker’s performance.
- Filling 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 your pressure cooker with all the 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 due to high internal pressure. Cooking amateurs should especially take care of this as it can prevent them from risking their lives. To help, there are also markings given on the inside of some pressure cookers to allow users to fill the cooker accordingly.
A pressure cooker must only be 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 rhubarb tend to froth and foam while cooking, so it is better to only fill half the pressure cooker while cooking with such ingredients. The same goes for liquids and soups.
In case your pressure cooker does not have marking on the inside, we have a simple trick that can help you figure out the maximum limit of food inside your cooker. All you need is some water and a few containers.
First, fill up your pressure cooker completely. To be on the safe side, fill it until a point a little below the edge of your cooker. Take three identical containers and then fill them equally with the water you poured into your pressure cooker. Pour two of those containers back into your pressure cooker and mark down the water level for two-thirds 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.
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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 an 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 like a perfect dish with an open pan, may turn out to be 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 healthy meal. 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 revisit your recipe according to your pressure cooker requirements. It may take you time to adjust the right water levels but it will improve your cooking with pressure cookers.
- Thicker Sauces
As we just saw, there is very little 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 use diluted sauces because they can then adjust according to the recipe. Thicker sauces should be used in small quantities. Another solution to this problem is to apply heat at lower temperatures and to cook for a longer time.
- Overheating and Drying out 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 your food and getting dried out meals.
Overheating also tends to soak up all the water content in your cooker, which turns it dry and rough. Insufficient water content also results in burning of food. It all comes down to the question of how well you have stuck to your recipe.
Another way to tackle overheating your food is to maintain a lower temperature and to cook your food for a longer time. Lower temperatures ensure that there is no excessive heat that can damage or burn your food. For amateur cooks, it is better to seek guidance through available sources.
- Inappropriate Sized Pressure Cookers
Pressure cookers come in standard sizes and capacities. Generally, a capacity of 6 to 8 liters is good enough for most pressure cookers. Sizes of pressure cookers directly affect 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 quality of the material may affect the food, as we discussed earlier.
So, here is a recommendation: go fora standard sized pressure cookers. Good materials with reasonable cooking times will help you prepare better food with improved quality.
- Wrong Pressure Release
Source: Hip Pressure Cooking
This is a technical issue which is normally not addressed. 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 until 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 option, however, is not available in electric pressure cookers as the cookers turn off at exact times.
- Ingredient Selection
While it provides convenience and ease during cooking, it is also important to know which ingredients and cooking techniques suit cooking with 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, so an ideal container for cooking such food 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 best suits them.
- 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 correctly.
The pressure seals or the rubber insulation also run out with time. Due to continuous opening and closing of the cooker, the rubber insulation also gets cut or damaged. Some users, especially amateurs, may not be able to lock the lids correctly so heat tends to escape from the cooker. It also affects the food quality.
So, in case you are experiencing low-quality food out of your old pressure cooker, it is time for a repair or maybe 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 didn’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 will finish cooking together.
You will be able to perfect this technique only with practice and how well you understand your pressure cooker’s cooking speed.
This is a major flaw that normally comes from amateur cooks and beginners finding their feet when working with pressure cookers. Overcooking is probably the biggest flaw when cooking. People tend to end up with mushy and sometimes burnt food. It mainly happens because they don’t get their timing right. This is quite a clear indication that they do not follow the recipes well enough.
Cautious people tend to go for guesswork and give their food an extra two to three minutes for cooking. These two to three minutes are sufficient enough to destroy your food, especially with pressure cookers. Precision is very important in pressure cooking because there is a minimal amount of heat that escapes from the container. Therefore, any extra cooking time can be bad for your recipe.
It all boils down to the fact that you need to follow your recipe as closely as possible. This is probably the 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 your style of cooking with a pressure cooker. For that, you need 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 is 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 advice as to what kitchenware is best for certain recipes. Seeking out advice from a professional is always handy.
- Pressure Cooker Bursts and Explosions
Although this problem may not be related to food quality, 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 with 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 occasion. However, the end results are mostly improper, soggy, burnt and dry food. To take care of these issues, we have also put forward 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 a 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 on them. Branded items are least likely to malfunction before their guaranteed lifetime, so you can save yourself from the trouble of replacing and repairing your pressure cooker.
- Keep a quality check of your pressure cooker, especially if your pressure cooker is old and has an expired warranty. Make sure that you replace the rubber gasket every once 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 as have been reported on many occasions.
- Electric pressure cookers are better indicators of temperature and container conditions as well as they reduce the risk of both food spoilage and container outbursts.