A pressure cooker is a sealed pot with a valve that controls the steam and pressure inside the pot. Pressure cookers work by heating liquids in a tightly sealed pot, which creates steam. As the liquid boils, the trapped steam raises the internal cooking temperature past the boiling point of water.
The internal temperature of the pot can reach upwards of 250°F (120°C). The higher heat and conversely higher pressure forces liquid into the food and cooks it much faster than traditional methods. In fact, foods can be cooked up to 70 percent faster in a pressure cooker.
Pressure-cooked foods become moist, juicy, and succulent. Tough fibers break down faster, so inexpensive cuts of meat become fork tender in a very short amount of time. Dried beans don’t need to be soaked for hours, and you can cook healthy, nutritious alternative grains in minutes.
Lets know about How do pressure cookers work?
The Parts of a Pressure Cooker
Though there are many different brands of electric pressure cookers on the market, they all have similar features. Here are some of the basics you’ll find on every model:
01. Outer Housing Unit or Base:
This is what holds the inner cooking pot. The display/control panel will be located on the outside. The control panel is where you will program your pressure cooker to cook. It will have all the function buttons and any preset programs. On the inside of the housing unit is the heating element.
This is located at the base of the unit and looks like a ceramic disk. At the center of the heating element is a temperature sensor. The temperature sensor does just that—senses the temperature of your pressure cooker. It will automatically shut off if it senses the temperature inside the pot is too high.
02. Inner Cooking Pot:
This is where the magic happens! Most brands have removable inner pots that are made of stainless steel, ceramic, or aluminum. These are almost all dishwasher safe, and that makes cleanup simple and easy!
Always make sure your inner pot is in the housing unit before adding any liquid or ingredients to your pressure cooker. Some inner pots will have a “Max” fill line etched on the inside. This is another safety system for pressure cookers and ensures the food inside doesn’t bubble up too far and clog the valves.
The lid of your pressure cooker is where you’ll find the majority of safety features and all the cooking valves.
04. Pressure Release Valve:
This is sometimes called a steam release handle, pressure limit valve, or pressure regulator knob. It is used to control the pressure inside your cooker. Generally, there are two positions for this valve. There is a “sealing” or “pressure” position.
This is the position your pressure release valve should be in every time you begin cooking. It will seal in the steam and allow the pressure to build so you can cook dishes successfully. There is also a “venting” position, used after the cook time is complete to allow the built-up steam to escape.
Occasionally these positions are marked on the exterior of the lid, but not always. When you release pressure from a pressure cooker, be aware that very hot steam is being expelled from your machine at a high rate. At no time should you put your face or hands near this steam? Burns from hot steam is quite painful, and we don’t want you to get hurt.
05. Float Pin or Float Valve:
This is one of the safety features on a modern electric pressure cooker. A tiny valve located on the lid of your appliance, it resembles a flat nail head. This valve gets pushed up by the steam inside your pot when the unit comes to pressure.
The valve helps seal the cooker and prevents the lid from being opened while at pressure. When the float pin drops, it means the majority of pressure has escaped from the pot and you can carefully open the lid.
06. Sealing Ring:
Also called a rubber gasket or silicone gasket, this removable ring is found under the lid of your pressure cooker. It’s made of stiff food-grade silicone and forms a pressure-tight seal between the lid and the pressure cooker. This is removable, so you can take it out to clean it. Gaskets should be replaced every year or if they develop a thin spot.
The Display Buttons on the Control Panel
The display buttons on different brands, models, and sizes of electric pressure cookers all have their own functions. Each of those functions makes them unique and special. Many have programs built in for things like soup, grains, meats, eggs, or even cakes.
When using these function buttons, the pressure cooker will cook for a specific amount of time at a specific pressure. The time and pressure settings cannot be changed. There is a simple convenience to being able to push a button and walk away.
Know, too, that the pressure cooker can’t tell what type of food is in the pot. If you use the “Poultry” button for cooking rice because you like how it turns out, no one will ever know.
Every pressure cooker will also have an option for setting the cooking time manually. It may be a button that actually says “Manual,” or it might be labeled as something else.
Get to know this button on your electric pressure cooker! Many recipes, including all the ones in this book, are written with instructions to “Press Manual and cook for XX minutes.” This allows everyone the flexibility to use the same recipes, regardless of the brand or model of pressure cooker you own.
There will be a “Sauté” or “Browning” button that allows you to sear food before cooking it. This button works best for searing meats or sautéing vegetables. You can also use this function after cooking to thicken sauces and gravies. Some brands have a “Simmer” option, which you can use in any recipe that doesn’t require the higher heat point of sautéing.
There will be a “Cancel/Keep Warm” button. This button will cancel any function currently in progress or simply turn off your pressure cooker. The “Keep Warm” part of the button allows you to keep food inside your cooker warm after the end of the cooking time. Some pressure cookers will let you decide whether you want to keep foods warm or have the cooker automatically shut off at the end of the cooking time. Read your manual to know whether your electric pressure cooker has this option.
Some pressure cookers feature multiple pressure settings, so you can choose to cook at high pressure or low pressure. Usually that setting is changed with + or – buttons located on the control panel.
Your electric pressure cooker will have a display timer that allows you to set the amount of time needed to cook. It will count down once the pot is at pressure and will show you how much cooking time is left before the food is done.
A locking lid is one of the most important safety features of modern electric pressure cookers. The lid cannot be removed while the pot is under pressure. If for some reason something were to go wrong with your pressure cooker, such as the valves were blocked or the electricity was to go out, your lid would remain locked until the pressure inside had decreased enough for the unit to be opened safely.
Remember those horror stories about exploding pots and scraping food off the ceiling? This is likely because the lid was forced open on the pressure cooker without properly releasing the inside pressure. Locking lids mean today’s electric pressure cookers don’t have this problem.
Pressure Release Methods
There are three ways to release the pressure inside your electric pressure cooker: a quick release method, a natural release method, and a combination of the two.
01. Quick Pressure Release Method, or “QPR”:
This is when you release all the steam immediately after the cooking time ends. Do this by opening the steam handle to the “venting” or “steam” position and allow all the steam to escape before opening the lid. Depending on what you’re cooking, this can take from 1 to 5 minutes.
02. Natural Pressure Release, or “NPR”:
This is when you allow your pressure cooker to release built-up pressure naturally. When the cooking time is complete, turn off your appliance and wait until the float pin drops and you can safely open the lid. This can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes.
You may be asked to do a controlled release, which is when you hold the release handle halfway between the sealing and venting positions, carefully releasing steam. With pasta, you have a lot of starch in the water that can make a mess of your kitchen. Controlling the pressure release allows you to limit the amount of splashing. Be sure to use a hot pad to protect your hands.
03. Combination of Natural Pressure Release and Quick Pressure Release:
The recipe will call for a natural release for a specific amount of time and then a quick release of the remaining pressure before opening the lid. Example: “When the cook time is finished, allow a 10-minute natural release, then move the handle to the venting position and release any remaining steam. When the float pin drops, unlock the lid and open it carefully.”
Regardless of which method your recipe requires, always make sure the float pin has dropped before opening the lid, and always open the lid away from you so you aren’t accidentally burned by any residual steam.
Because models and brands vary widely, we strongly recommend you take the time to read the instruction manual that comes with your pressure cooker. It’s important to know how your specific model works.