Looking for general pressure cooker instructions? Let me try and give you an overview. For the purpose of this article I will assume you are a complete novice to pressure cooking and go through all the basics. A word of advice: always read your individual pressure cooker instructions, to make sure you get the best out of the pressure cooker you are using.
There are multiple techniques used in cooking; blanching, poaching, glazing, braising are just a few of these. While all these will help add to the taste of your food, pressure cooking helps you to cook food quicker while retaining the necessary nutrients.
Pressure cooking is one of the oldest and simplest techniques used to cook food. It involves cooking in a sealed vessel that does not permit air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Pressure is created in the pressure cooker at the beginning by boiling a liquid, such as water or broth, and the trapped steam generated in the process, increases the internal pressure and temperature. As the boiling point of water increases as the pressure rises, the pressure built up inside the vessel allows the liquid to rise to a higher temperature before boiling. This causes wet steam (or “saturated steam”) to be forced through the food and it results in faster cooking time. After a stipulated amount of time, the flame is switched off and the pressure is slowly released so that the vessel can be safely opened.
Why use a Pressure Cooker?
For one, food cooked in the pressure cooker tastes good and is healthy. Apart from these sensory and health benefits, when you cook in a pressure cooker, the food cooks much faster resulting in lesser wastage of energy. Also, as the cooking time is short, fewer minerals and vitamins are lost as compared to traditional boiling methods. Furthermore, as you cook in a sealed vessel there is minimal chance of water splashing or the food falling out of the vessel and soiling the surrounding kitchen area.
Pressure cooker instructions – The basics to keep in mind:
When using a pressure cooker, you need to keep certain things in mind.
- Ensure that the cooker is filled with only the required amount of broth or water; never exceed the manufacturer’s water mark limit.
- Ensure that the gasket (the rubber band on the inner side of the lid) is fitted properly. The lid of the cooker needs to be shut tight, so that no steam escapes from the sides.
- Don’t overfill the cooker with food. The more crowded the cooker space gets, the longer it will take to cook and often, the food won’t cook properly at all.
While it may seem a lot to those who are new to cooking in a pressure cooker, it should not be a reason to get discouraged, for the benefits far outdo the preciseness of the methods.
A quick suggestion: Instead of memorising your pressure cooker instructions, make a check-list of the essential and keep it handy next to you, when cooking for the first few times; You will master the method in no time and you won’t have to face problems each and every time.
Pressure cooker instructions – Releasing steam:
Releasing steam in the correct way is one of the most essential steps in pressure cooking. If done hastily or not at the right moment, the process can backfire and cause injury. No reason to panic, however you do need to be alert and keep a few of these tips in mind.
There are different ways in which you can release the steam depending on the mechanism of your cooker. If your cooker has a weighted/modified weighted valve, then all you have to do is pull the valve and allow the steam to escape. (Use mittens while pulling, to avoid burns.)
In case you are using the ones fitted with pressure regulator gauges, you need to run cold or room temperature water over the cooker to bring down its pressure.
For some pressure cookers, all you have to do is stop the heat source and allow the vessel to cool down naturally for 10-15 minutes and thus drop to a lower pressure before you open the lid.
Usually, knowing which steam release method to follow will be written on your specific pressure cooker instructions in the manual/guide that comes with your purchased product.
Pressure cooker instructions - Cleaning & maintenance
After using a pressure cooker, just like other appliances, it is essential to clean it thoroughly. A good clean will ensure that the product lasts longer, sometimes for years on end.
Firstly, you need to clean the gasket properly. Remove it from the lid and clean it in warm water with a mild soap. Clean the lid and cooker also with a mild soap. Make sure no food particles remain lodged in the pressure cooker and rinse these parts thoroughly in warm water. Then towel dry all the parts thoroughly and replace the gasket in its proper position.
It is advisable to never wash the cooker in the dish washer as the dish washer detergent can clog the pressure regulator and / or safety valves. Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the pressure regulator valve. This valve is the lifeline of your cooking device. Handle it with care and follow your own pressure cooker instructions detailing exactly how the valve needs to be handled in the manual.
Pressure cooker instructions - Safety tips:
Cooking food in a pressure cooker can be exciting, but remember to take sufficient precaution and care. Always ensure that the gasket is fitted correctly and the valves are in perfect working condition.
Try to not leave the pressure cooker unattended for a long period of time; always be present and check in on the cooking process. If you hear loud hissing sounds from the cooker, reduce the heat immediately. Then wait till the hissing sound lessens or stops completely.
Once you get a clear idea of what the correct pressure level is and to what extent your food has been cooked, then only, start the flame again.
Some more tips to keep in mind: Never fill more water than required in the cooker.
Frying, adding oil or fat or wine in the cooker is usually unadvisable.
Using a pressure cooker can be a lot of fun and can really transform your cooking. As long as you read the pressure cooker instructions in your manual carefully, especially the first few times and get a clear understanding of how to use your pressure cooker – you will be fine.
From then on, you can improve your technique, learn more pressure cooking recipes and cook faster and better.