Helpful hints when using a pressure cooker...

How to know when the regulator has achieved a "slow, gentle rocking motion." Water boils at 212 degrees and creates steam. In a pressure cooker, this steam is safely locked inside, allowing the temperature to increase higher than the boiling point and resulting in faster than normal cooking. On a basic weighted valve pressure cooker, when the pressure regulator begins to rock, 15 pounds pressure (250 degrees) is reached inside the pot. On ALL kinds of pressure cookers, it’s important to reduce the heat on the stovetop once pressure is reached. If the heat isn’t reduced, too much liquid will be released while the cooker is trying to maintain 15 pounds pressure. On a weighted valve pressure cooker, the regulator should be rocking gently and slowly. Just enough so you can hear that it is doing its job.

Watch the video clip* to get a feel for what a slow, gentle rock should look and sound like. You can easily go about your other cooking tasks while listening to the progress of your pressure-cooked meal. In the unlikely event, it becomes quiet, you will know -- before it is too late -- that it needs your attention. It may be an indication that the heat is too low and the pressure has reduced or it could mean that the pressure cooker did not have enough liquid and it will soon burn on the bottom. It is best to remove the pressure cooker from the heat and cool it at once to troubleshoot.

The difference between cooling the cooker at once and letting pressure drop naturally is determined by the food being cooked. Delicate foods such as custards and fresh vegetables usually require a quick cooling method. To cool a pressure cooker at once, simply place the cooker under cold running water or in a pan of cold water until pressure is released from the cooker. For other foods, like roasts and ribs, it is usually recommended that you let the pressure cooker cool of its own accord by setting it aside until the pressure drops naturally.

If a recipe states to cook "0" minutes, cook food only until the pressure cooker reaches 15 pounds pressure, or until the regulator BEGINS to rock or a steady flow of steam is released, then cool pressure cooker according to recipe directions.

Oven-tempered glass and metal bowls or pans can be used in a pressure cooker. Beautiful desserts and side dishes can be prepared in a pressure cooker by using individual molds, glass custard cups, metal bowls, pans, soufflé dishes, and springform pans, all of which must be oven safe. Fill no more than 2/3 full to allow for expansion of food. All bowls or pans must fit loosely in the pressure cooker on the cooking rack.

Use aluminum foil to make a “lifter”. To aid in placing and removing bowls or pans in a pressure cooker, try this easy tip for making a “lifter”. Pull out a piece of aluminum foil that will fit all the way around the bowl plus about 8 inches more. It should be long enough to fit under the bottom of the bowl and to give you handles on each side for lifting. Fold the foil lengthwise until it is about 3 inches wide. The “lifter” will enable you to lower the filled bowl into the pressure cooker with ease. Gently fold down the handles during cooking. Lifting out a hot bowl will be a practically effortless.

When pressure cooking at high altitudes, the cooking time should be increased. Increase cooking times 5% for every 1000 feet above 2000 feet. Time increases as follows:

3000 ft.: 5% 4000 ft.: 10% 5000 ft.: 15%
  6000 ft.: 20% 7000 ft.: 25% 8000 ft.: 30%

Foods cook quickly in the pressure cooker, so precise timing is important to avoid overcooking. The cooking time is measured from the point at which the correct level of pressure is reached. Use a timer! Use high heat to bring the pressure cooker up to pressure then reduce the heat to maintain a slow, steady level. When the specified cooking time is complete, reduce pressure in the cooker according to the directions in the recipe.

Never overfill the pressure cooker. Plugging or blocking of the vent pipe can occur if the cooker is overfilled. Many foods expand when cooked so if the cooker is overfilled, expansion of the food may prevent the pressure relief devices from functioning properly. Therefore, never fill the pressure cooker over 2/3 full. There are a few foods like rice, grains, dry beans and peas, and soups that expand so much when cooking that the cooker should not be more than 1/2 full. Most pressure cookers have markings on the inside of the pot for guidance. It is important to always follow manufacturer’s instructions when cooking these foods.

Special cooking considerations for grains, dry beans and peas.

Grains: Grains can be prepared quickly and conveniently in a pressure cooker, allowing for more frequent inclusion in meals. Unlike conventional cooking methods, it is not necessary to soak or simmer grains for several hours. Pressure cooking reduces the cooking time considerably. For example, wheat berries can be cooked to perfection in 30 minutes rather than 2 hours.

During cooking, many grains tend to froth, foam, and sputter. This can cause the vent pipe to become blocked. Therefore, to contain frothing and foaming, grains must be prepared in a bowl covered with aluminum foil. Preparing grains in a bowl also minimizes cleanup that can be difficult if the grains stick to the bottom of the pan. Bowls suitable for pressure cooking should be made of metal, such as stainless steel, or oven-safe glass. The bowl should not extend above the 2/3 full mark on the cooker. See the recipe section for directions on cooking specific grains.

Dry Beans and Peas: The pressure cooker is ideal for preparing dry beans and peas quickly. However, they have a tendency to froth and foam during cooking which can cause the vent pipe to become blocked. Therefore, it is necessary to use the following precautions when pressure cooking dry beans and peas:

• Never fill the pressure cooker over the 1/2 full line (this includes beans/peas, ingredients and water).
• Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil for cooking.
• Allow pressure to drop of its own accord.

See the recipe section for instructions on soaking and cooking specific beans and peas.

A few foods to avoid. Foods such as applesauce, cranberries, rhubarb, cereals, pastas, and dried soup mixes are not recommended for the pressure cooker. These foods expand so much as a result of foaming and frothing that they should never be cooked under pressure.

Replace pressure cooker parts regularly. A pressure cooker has parts that must be replaced regularly to ensure it will work properly for many years to come. On average, parts such as the sealing ring, overpressure plug, and rubber gasket from the air vent/cover lock should be replaced about every two years or sooner if the part is not functioning properly. Occasionally, a handle will break or a pressure regulator will be lost. If this happens, these and other pressure cooker parts can be purchased from the manufacturer or from a retailer that carries parts for your specific pressure cooker. Remember, pressure cooker parts are not interchangeable. Use only the parts made for your cooker. Refer to your manufacturer’s instruction manual.

Store your pressure cooker in a dry place with the cover inverted on the body. If the cover is locked in place during storage, unpleasant odors may form inside the unit and the sealing ring could become damaged.

*NOTE: The "Adobe Flash Player" plug-in is required to view this video.



The Official Presto® Pressure Cooker Cookbook

Over 200 delicious recipes: appetizers, soups, entrees, vegetables, desserts and more.
Developed by the makers of Presto Pressure Cookers.
Beautiful full-color photographs.
"How to" instructions and pressure cooking tips.
Each recipe includes vital nutritional information.


Click here to learn more.