Pressure cookers are quite common in kitchens these days because they save time and effort while in cooking. They used to be dangerous, but not anymore, thanks to improved technology, advanced mechanisms, and safety features that have given an entirely new dimension to cooking.
However, like every other tool, a pressure cooker can encounter issues that can impact the cooking time and the quality of food, causing you unnecessary frustration. What would you likely do? Check the instruction manual and search for troubleshooting steps.
- At times, user manuals may not be able to resolve the problem, because of the following reasons:
- The text is rather difficult to understand
- The information may be outdated, or
- The information needed for the particular issue is not available in the manual.
Now, that’s quite frustrating.
This is the main reason why this particular post includes every problem a pressure cooker can develop. Starting with the basic steps on how a pressure cooker should be used, we’ll take you through the common functioning issues, followed by some critical ones. This post will provide the insight on technical and functional aspects of modern-day pressure cookers. So, let’s get started right now!
10 Steps for Safe Pressure Cooking
Below are the steps showing how you should operate your pressure cooker under normal circumstances.
- Pour the liquid into the pressure cooker up to the minimum level indicated in the manual. Add the desired food item and lock the lid if required.
- You need to close or position the pressure valve as per the instructions mentioned in the manual.
- Choose the pressure according to the food (normally indicated in the manual). Modern-day pressure cookers, especially electric cookers have pre-determined programs and time. So, you can use this feature as well.
- For stovetop pressure cookers, the heat must be turned to the highest point irrespective of the medium of induction.
- After 10 to 15 minutes of pressure cooking, the following processes will have taken place:
- The air and steam will escape out of the valve indicating that the cooking contents are boiling.
- There is a lid locking pin that will raise and lock the sealing, to stop the steam from escaping.
- As the steam stops to come out, the pressure starts to build.
- After a short while, the pressure reaches the desired limit.
- As soon as the pressure reaches to optimum, reduce the heat to keep the pressure at that particular level.
- You have to turn on the digital timer to cook the food at the desired pressure. In automatic electric pressure cookers, there is a count-down feature that automatically maintains the pressure for a certain time.
- During pressure cooking, the food will be cooked at the chosen pressure, and little or no steam will escape during the process.
- At the end of the cooking, the pressure release takes place. It depends on upon the recipe what kind of pressure release method suits it. The pressure releases as the steam comes out through the pressure release valve.
- At the end of the pressure release, the locking lid automatically loosens its grip, enabling you to open the pressure cooker safely.
5 Most Common Pressure Cooker Issues
Here are some common pressure cooker issues you may deal with, and how you can resolve them.
- Steam Leaking and Preventing the Pressure Buildup
Steam leakage is the most common problem in pressure cookers that causes problems in pressure buildup. It takes longer for the pressure to reach the desired limit, and when it does, it cannot remain constant for the specified period.
If that happens, you need to check the gasket. Here are some tips to solve this issue:
- The gasket should be properly fixed.
- The rim should not have cracks or food residue along it.
- Wash the gasket in cold water and fix it back in the correct manner. Follow the directions while fixing the gasket back to its position.
- Damaged Gasket or Old Valve
Sometimes the gasket gets damaged. With the passage of time, the pressure valve loses its efficiency and effectiveness. As a result, you don’t get the right pressure buildup for cooking.
- Always check the gasket and pressure valve for damages, and replace them as soon as possible.
- If you observed that the pressure takes longer to build up, that is a signal something is not working correctly
- Food Takes Longer to Cook
There are several different issues why your pressure cooker may not properly cook the food within the estimated time, such as:
- You’ve filled too much food or water
- You’ve put frozen food in your pressure cooker
- There may be a thick liquid that’s causing this problem.
- The pressure cannot build up properly because the cooker lid or handle is loose.
So, inspect the cooker lid, handles, and the food before starting to pressure cook.
- Vapors Along the Rim or Water Oozing Out
If you’re a new user, you might easily be scared seeing water coming out of the valve, but it’s not a big thing. However, this is another common issue that can cause operational issues for a pressure cooker.
This particular problem mainly occurs in pressure cookers that have pressure regulating weights. You can see the water dripping out and vapors accumulating around the rim during the pressure buildup. As soon as the pressure is achieved, the vapors go away.
Anyhow, if you have a different model and still having the same issue, it may be because of food particles accumulated inside the vent pipe. To avoid this issue, clean the valves and the vent pipe regularly.
- Difficulty in Opening the Lid
Another common problem with pressure cookers is, the cooker lid gets tight and remains jammed even after the heat is turned off. It is often caused by the internal pressure of the pressure cooker. The pressure release may be insufficient and ends up jamming the lid.
Here’s what you can do:
- Pour some cold water on the lid to release excessive pressure, or
- If the lid remains jammed, remove the pressure valve and allow the pressure cooker to heat on high. That will release the pressure, and the lid will loosen its grip.
5 Ways to Keep Your Pressure Cooker Free of Problems
Here are some expert tips:
- Pressure Cooker Cannot Reach the Desired Pressure
There are many reasons for pressure cookers not achieving the desired pressure level. Each of them, with their solutions, is mentioned below:
- The Lid: The lid of the cooker must be positioned accurately. In that case, remove and refix it in the right manner. If the problem persists, replace the lid according to the instruction manual.
- The Gasket: There may be a problem with the gasket’s positioning. You need to remove the gasket by removing the lid first. Clean the gasket properly then refix it in the manner specified by the instruction manual. The gasket may deteriorate with excessive cooking, spattering oil, and acid foods. If there are signs of wear, a replacement may be needed.
- The Locking Mechanism: Pressure cooker may not be attaining the right pressure because of the locking mechanism. Or, it may not have been locked properly. This problem occurs in pressure cookers that do not have a self-locking feature. Check the locking mechanism of your pressure cooker, thoroughly before putting the food in it.
- The Rim: Leakage may also occur due to a damaged rim. They get damaged when you rap your spoon against the rim. If you have a stainless steel pressure cooker, use steel wool to remove scratches and stains on the rim.
- The Valve: Another reason why the specified pressure level is unattainable is due to the improper placement of the pressure valve. Improper cleaning of the valve causes this. So, always clean and fix the valve of the pressure cooker before cooking.
- Old Gasket and Valve: As discussed above, the gasket and pressure valve must be checked regularly before using the cooker. Normally, you should replace the gasket and other pressure cooker components made of silicone or rubber every 18 months.
- Thickeners: thick liquid can prolong the pressure cooking time. So either avoid it or add it after pressure cooking.
- The Handle: loose handle affects pressure buildup, so always ensure to fix the handle of your pressure cooker properly, before turning on the heat.
- The Liquid: Pressure cookers have limited capacity for food, and they always need space to build pressure. A pressure buildup will take up to 30 minutes to reach the desired pressure if there is too much liquid inside the cooking pot. Follow the instructions while adding the liquid to keep it at the minimum level.
- The Food: Normally, the instruction manual has information about how much ingredients you can put inside your pressure cooker for a certain recipe. Too much ingredients can cause a delay in pressure buildup, or the pressure may not be achieved at all. In general, if you’re filling grains, fruits, and legumes, keep your pressure cooker half-full. For all other recipes, maintain 2/3 of the filled space.
- Cold Items: Either allow the frozen food to defrost before pressure cooking or plan for longer times. Frozen ingredients can easily increase the pressure cooking time up to 30 minutes.
- Desired Pressure Cannot be Maintained
Any of the following issues may cause difficulty maintaining the pressure you want:
- Old or Damaged Gasket: The gasket of the pressure cooker needs to be replaced every 18 months. If your pressure cooker consists of other rubber or silicone parts, replace them periodically.
- Problem with the Valve: Pressure valve needs to be secured properly to create pressure buildup and maintain the desired pressure for a certain period of time. Pressure cannot reach the desired level with an old or worn out pressure valve. So, always clean the pressure valve and replace it every 18 months.
- External Temperature: This is the main issue with stove top pressure cookers in which you either reduce the heat too much or too soon. Read the instruction manual thoroughly to know the exact time to turn down the heat. If you think you’ve turned the flame lower than the required limit, turn it back to high and allow the pressure to build. Then reduce the heat slowly to the desired level.
- Pressure Valve Sprays Foam or Food
It can happen because of the following reasons.
- The opening method: The main reason why a pressure valve sprays foam, you’ve used the wrong opening method. If it sprays foam, there is likely legumes, fruits, and grains in the pressure cooker. For these ingredients, the only way to open the pressure cooker is through natural release method. For other recipes, follow the instruction manual.
- Thickeners: If you have included thick liquid or flour in your recipe, the pressure valve may spray the food out. It happens because of the food binding with the steam, and when the pressure is released, some food particles might also come out.
- Filling More than Limit: If the pressure cooker is filled more than its capacity, food particles will mix with the steam and spray out when the pressure is released. So, keep the pressure cooker 1/3 empty for all kinds of foods except for fruits, legumes, and grains as they should half-fill the cooker.
- Pressure Cooker Releases Steam More than it Normally Does
Steam is released before pressure cooking and after it… there are few reasons why your pressure cooker releases too much steam in either stage.
- Valve adjustment: If you notice that the valve is releasing too much steam, adjust the valve.
- Too Much Heat: Excessive heat applied to the pressure cooker may cause too much steam release. In that case, let some pressure out then reduce the heat.
- Food is not Cooked Properly
Your food may be undercooked or overcooked because of the timing, regardless of the model you use. Follow the instruction manual and note the amount of time required for different recipes to cook properly. There may be other reasons as well.
- Heat During Pressure Cooking: In stovetop pressure cookers, if you set the heat too high, the food can be overcooked, dried, or burned. Too much heat builds up extra pressure and causes the food to burn or dry. So, if you experience it during cooking, lower the heat to the minimum level.
- Burner Size: Another problem with stovetop pressure cookers is, if the burner is wider than the size of the pressure cooker, your food may overcook or burn. Always, use the burner according to the size of your pressure cooker.
How to Deal with Critical Pressure Cooker Issues
- New Gasket Installed but Steam is Still Leaking
Well, if you have installed a new gasket then you have to make sure it’s installed the right way. While installing it in the lid, make sure that the “Right Side” of the gasket points upward. If the problem persists, check the structure of your pressure cooker looking for signs of “warping”.
If you have a vintage aluminum pressure cooker, it may have this problem. Stainless steel pressure cookers don’t often face this issue, and they don’t damage as often when compared to their aluminum counterparts.
- It may have a warped lid: you may not detect the warping at first sight, but even the slightest warping can cause the steam to leak. It may have been due to overheating or aging of the material. Or, the pressure cooker may have been dropped in past.
- The base unit has a damaged rim: This is caused by dents, dings, scratches and abrasive cleaners. If the rim gets damaged, it may not allow adequate sealing. In this situation, you have to either replace these parts or buy a new pressure cooker.
- Gasket Stuck to the Lid
If the gasket gets old and needs replacement, there are chances that further heating will melt it and it will stick to the metal. If the gasket is exposed to high or prolonged heating, it can stick to the lid. In this situation
- Use liquid dish soap, vinegar or hot water to soak the gasket.
- Using a plastic pad, try to loosen the gasket carefully, so that you can remove the entire gasket later. If that seems impossible, try to remove off in pieces, as much as you can.
- Melted Gasket
To remove a melted gasket or one that’s bonded with the metal, apply WD-40, “Gum-Out” or “Goo-Gone.” While applying these solvents, read the instructions carefully. They should be a last resort and not used on materials that would interact with the product.
The metal sealing and the pressure cooker lid should not be scratched or damaged while removing the gasket. So, avoid using scrapers, sandpaper, or abrasives on these metal surfaces.
- Aluminum Pressure Cooker Having Stains
#1. For Alkali Stains
If you have an aluminum pressure cooker, you have to be careful while cleaning it. Alkali solutions can harm and discolor aluminum. Baking soda is a mild alkali and ammonia solvents are medium strength alkalies that can cause stains on aluminum pressure cookers. You can remove light stains and small discoloration by cooking acid foods in an aluminum pressure cooker. For stubborn stains, you can apply the following method.
Here’s how you can remove these stains:
- Prepare a solution of tartar cream (2 – 3 tbsp.), vinegar or lemon juice (few drops) and a quart of water.
- Pour the solution in the utensil and allow it to boil for up to 10 minutes.
- Take a scouring pad filled with soap and scour the affected surface lightly.
#2. For Mineral Stains
If you live in a location where tap water contains minerals, your aluminum pressure cooker may develop mineral stains. That happens, because the minerals from the water deposited inside the aluminum pan, react with the soap, detergents and the fats from the food and produce stains on the surface.
These stains can be removed easily with lemon juice or vinegar. Mineral stains on a pressure cooker are not dangerous though.
- Heat Tint
Heat tint is a dark and permanent discoloration on stainless steel with purple or blue color appearing prominently. It is caused by any of the following issues:
- Too much heat is applied to the pressure cooker
- The pressure cooker runs dry
Although the heat tint is permanent, it may fade with the passage of time. Mild discoloration does not affect the usefulness of the pot, while severe tints can cause functional issues in your pressure cooker.
Finally, to stay problem free:
- Clean the pressure cooker and always check it before cooking
- Replace the gasket, valve and other items made of silicone or rubber when they show signs of wear
- Always refer to the instruction manual for filling the food and liquid, pressure buildup, and the proper opening method.