The mention of a pressure cooker might conjure up images from childhood of pea soup splattered all over the kitchen after a pressure cooker explosion. If you read through online owner reviews, you are still likely to run across a few such stories. It's hard to tell if these "modern" mishaps are due to improper use or manufacturer defect. Top brands, like Fagor and Kuhn Rikon incorporate the following safety features into their pressure cookers:
A locking lid to keep contents sealed. Some models have locks you slide into place and others lock automatically as the pressure inside the pot builds. The lid on both types remains locked until the pressure indicator shows all pressure has been released, to prevent someone from prematurely opening the lid and risking a steam burn.
A quick-release valve to safely releases pressure. Whether you need to open the pressure cooker unexpectedly during the cooking process or a recipe says to quickly release pressure after the cooking time has elapse, a steam quick-release valveoffers a better option than running the pot under cold water (the old-fashion steam release method), which requires holding the pot at the same time.
Backup vents and valves to relieve excessive pressure. When a pressure cooker is operating correctly, it emits steam in a steady stream out of the valve in the lid. If too much steam is building up in the pressure cooker, either due to a burner temperature that's too high or a blockage in the valve, backup valves or vents will prevent the pressure from reaching an explosive level.
Safety features aside, it's important to use a pressure cooker as intended to prevent a dangerous situation in the kitchen. One common mistake that novice pressure cooker chefs make is overfilling the pot. Manufacturers warn against filling the pot more than two-thirds full for risk of blocking the steam release valve with food.
If you're in the market for a pressure cooker, make sure the one you buy has the above features. See our updated pressure cookers report for our best reviewed model picks.
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