An electric pressure cooker is one of the most useful kitchen appliances ever made to date. Not only does it reduce the cooking time by up to 50%, but it also retains most of the nutrients in the food. In this article, we will explore what exactly are electric pressure cookers and how to use them. So, read on.
What is an Electric Pressure Cooker?
In a nutshell, an electric pressure cooker is a kitchen appliance that uses high-pressure steam generated by the application of electricity to cook food. It’s a steel pot employing a water-based liquid that builds up pressure using steam.
Compared to a stovetop pressure cooker, it has different settings and cooking options. Like an aluminum or stainless steel pressure cooker, the hot steam and high pressure create a perfect environment for the food to cook properly.
How Does an Electric Pressure Cooker Work?
An electric pressure cooker is like a usual cooking pot but with an airtight seal that prevents the steam from escaping. The cooker raises the temperature of water-based liquid employed in the pressure cooker way above its boiling point. As a result, steam is produced, but it has no way to escape. This hot steam remains trapped inside and speeds up the cooking process by tremendous margins.
Meanwhile, this unique approach keeps most of the flavors and the nutritional value of the food, making it the most ideal approach to cooking food. In addition, since hot steam and pressure marginally reduce cooking times, this is one of the most environment-friendly approaches to cooking discovered so far. Anyway, let’s dig a bit deeper into the working of an electric pressure cooker by looking at the function of its various components:
The function of the Inner Pot
The inner pot is where the electric pressure cooker stores the food that needs to be cooked. It’s a removable cooking pot generally made of aluminum or high-quality steel with a copper-clad bottom.
Why does the Lid matter?
The lid of an electric pressure cooker forms an airtight seal that prevents any steam from escaping, turning the appliance into an airtight-sealed chamber. As soon as you turn on the electric pressure cooker, the water-based liquid transitions into steam to increase the temperature and pressure inside the airtight sealed chamber.
However, you have to place the lid carefully in the airtight position. Failing to do so may cause severe accidents or just undercooked food mostly. Some modern electric pressure cookers even come with a warning system that warns you if the lid is not in the desired position.
Working of Electric Pressure Cooker Valves
Valves play the most crucial part in the working of an electric pressure cooker. Valves such as the pressure release regulator valve keep the pressure inside the cooker in check to prevent injuries and serious burns. The pressure release regulator valve present on the lid is pushed up after a threshold pressure inside the chamber is reached. Beyond this pressure threshold, the electric pressure cooker won’t be safer to operate.
However, most electric pressure cookers also employ a fail-safe system in case the pressure release regulator valve doesn’t function ideally. The float valve comes into play in that case. The pin inside the float valve that maintains the airtight seal is destroyed when the pressure inside the chamber reaches a critical level. This creates an opening for the steam to escape, balancing the pressure to reach safer levels again.
Purpose of the Housing Unit
The housing unit is the heart of the electric pressure cooker, which comprises the control box, heating element, and sensors. The housing unit handles the complex operation of the electric pressure cooker itself, in which various components work in tandem.
The control box is equipped with a microprocessor that utilizes multiple sensors to keep the temperature and pressure inside the vessel in check. If an undesirable condition is detected, the control box will warn the user or cut off the power supply to prevent unwanted accidents.
Why Pressure Cooking is Faster than the Other Approaches?
Among many cooking methods, pressure cooking gets things done faster than any other method.
Why is that?
The pressure that builds up inside the electric pressure cooker is the prime reason for that, let’s find out how:
- Significant Rise in Boiling Point of the Liquid: A liquid’s boiling point has a direct relation with the pressure of the surrounding. In that case, an increase in pressure is sure to increase the liquid’s boiling point. Pressure cooking utilizes this property and allows the liquid to reach higher temperatures without transitioning into vapors. Due to the tremendously increased temperature of the liquid and extra hot steam, food cooks faster in pressure cooking.
- More Heat is Transferred into the Food: Steam works exceptionally well when it comes to transferring heat. The steam pushes extra heat energy into the food, allowing even faster cooking no matter what type of food is in the electric pressure cooker.
What Can You Cook in an Electric Pressure Cooker?
There is one straightforward answer to this question- Anything! That’s right, you can cook any type of food in an electric pressure cooker. From quick recipes to satisfy your midnight cravings to family meals, your pressure cooker can pull everything off in a breeze.
However, most people use electric pressure cookers for food that relatively takes too long to cook using conventional methods. Below is a list of food that you can cook in your electric pressure cooker. However, your electric pressure cooker can practically cook anything, the list is endless.
How to Use an Electric Pressure Cooker?
Cooking in an electric pressure cooker may seem a bit of a hassle for those who are new to cooking. It works similarly to a rice cooker. However, once you get the gist of it, things get pretty simple. Follow these 4 straightforward steps to easily cook food in an electric pressure cooker-
Step 1: Preparation
Start with the most basic step. Add the food and about 375ml of water-based liquid to the pot. Close the lid and make sure it’s in a position such that it creates an airtight seal. You must seal the chamber must properly to avoid undercooked food or unnecessary malfunctions while cooking. Also, make sure the valves are in the correct position.
Step 2: Choose the correct settings
Turn on the electric pressure cooker to enter the cooking program and set the time. Make sure you know the correct recipe for the food you’re cooking. Your electric pressure cooker is smart enough to supply enough heat and pressure to cook the food evenly.
Step 3: let it build up pressure and cook
Leave the pressure cooker as it is for a while. Let the pressure build up inside the pot. Meanwhile, your electric pressure cooker will display the time remaining for the food to cook.
Step 4: Release the pressure and let it cool down
Release the pressure once the countdown is over. Your electric pressure cooker will sound an audible alarm once the countdown is over to avoid overcooking food. However, you can leave the food in the pressure cooker for 2-3 minutes more to leave no room for undercooking. Also, keep your fingers out of the way while releasing steam or the hot steam can cause serious burns.
Note: Whether you're cooking in an electric pressure cooker, it's important for you to know the correct recipe for the food. Since you won't be able to inspect or taste the food in between the cooking process, following the correct recipe with accurate timings is a necessity.
Can an Electric Pressure Cooker Explode?
Electric pressure cookers are dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them. And yes, electric pressure cookers can and have exploded in the past but not as violently as you may think. Even then, a pressure cooker explosion has made people suffer fatal injuries, serious 3-degree burns, blindness, concussions, etc. So, make sure there’s no room for errors while using an electric pressure cooker.
It’s mostly a manufacturing defect or blockage of the steam stop valve that can make an electric pressure cooker explode. That’s why it’s important to understand how to handle pressure cookers properly. An electric pressure cooker explodes when the pressurized steam cannot come out of the steam valve because of some blockage. It causes the hot contents inside the vessel to spill outside violently, causing an explosion.
Let’s look at reasons that make an electric pressure cooker explode so that you avoid these mistakes:
1. Inadequate Lid Seals
We’ve repeatedly advised our readers to place the lid adequately in order to seal the vessel properly. Failing to do so can and most like will cause the spilling and expulsion of cooker contents.
2. Manufacturing Defects
Manufacturing defects are one of the major causes of electric pressure cooker explosions. Faulty gaskets, improper lids, and defective automatic shut-offs are some of the most frequently seen manufacturing defects. However, manufacturers can face serious lawsuits if their electric pressure cookers cause problems for their users. So, modern electric pressure cookers go through multiple quality checks before getting available for purchase in the market.
3. Careless Handling
Carelessness while using an electric pressure cooker is undeniably the most prevalent reason for an electric pressure cooker explosion. Not setting the lid and valves properly or prematurely opening can cause the steam to expand rapidly and cause an explosion. Modern electric pressure cookers come with a safety system that doesn’t allow users to open the lid before releasing the pressure.
Tips for Using an Electric Pressure Cooker Correctly
1. Refrain from Opening the Pressure Cooker while Cooking
Exposing the extremely hot pressurized steam to the environment can make it rapidly expand. This can spill the contents inside an electric pressure cooker in an explosion, injuring the user and the people around. If you want to open the pressure cooker while cooking, release all the pressure before that.
However, doing so is not recommended since the electric pressure cooker will consume a lot of energy to build up the pressure again. This will negate the purpose of using an electric pressure cooker in the first place.
2. Use the Right Amount of Liquid
Following this precaution is crucial to avoid overcooking or undercooking your food. Although some foods like beans require less liquid (about 250ml), you have to use about 375ml of liquid to reach the sweet spot. At least half a cup of water-based liquid is required to release enough steam and pressure to cook food evenly.
3. Avoid Overfilling
A pressure cooker requires room to build up steam and pressure. Overfilling it beyond a certain limit (two-thirds of its volume) will hinder its operation. You may end up with undercooked rice or any other food, even if you’ve carefully followed its recipe. Also, on a serious note, overfilling can block the vents in the cooker’s lid which has its own set of repercussions.
4. Monitor the Pressure Indicator
To make sure things don’t go sideways ensure the pressure inside the chamber is in check. Your electric pressure displays the pressure inside the vessel in PSIs (per square inch). If it goes beyond safer limits in case of a rare malfunction, release the pressure manually through the pressure release regulator valve.
Although pressure cookers were invented in the 1600s, it hasn’t been long since these cooking appliances got a seal of consumer safety. However, accidents do happen even though they’re extremely rare. You need to understand the A-Z of electric pressure cookers to get things done with no hiccups. In that case, we hope this guide turns out to be helpful to you.