How-To Do Quick and Easy Flame Adjustments

Return to the How-To Menu


What's on This Page

The Blast from the Past

What's the Difference?

Cooking With Gas

Which Fuel Burns Hotter?

Propane Gas


The Blast from the Past

An old, vintage cooker from the 40s.

Vintage pressure cookers with their old style jiggling pressure regulators were difficult to use because they lacked precision valves, pressure indicators and a 3-ply insulating base. This required frequent adjustments to the stove to balance the pressure that was constantly being lost through the jiggling weight dancing on top of the open vent pipe. These old style cookers were difficult to regulate and prone to overheating and over-pressure problems. They required the user to constantly fiddle with the heat settings on their stove in order to keep the cooker chugging away.

Which is why a majority of users who have a jiggle top pressure cooker will set the heat too high, deliberately over heating and over pressuring their cooker to avoid making those annoying and frequent heat adjustments. Which, of course, means mushy, overcooked foods that are very likely scorched on the bottom... exactly the sort of unpalatable glop that many people associate with old pressure cookers.

A new pressure using the same outmoded design of 70 years ago.

Even today, pressure cookers are still being manufactured that are little changed from the original 1940s version. These noisy contraptions are what most Americans think of whenever the subject of pressure cookery comes up. The same problems that plagued the original pressure cookers apply to the present day models of the same design.

Lacking any of the new features found on the modern pressure cooker, it's back to the same one-hundred year old routine that made using the them a chore. First its to lower the heat, and that would be followed shortly by raising the heat when the weighted pressure regulator stopped moving altogether... a cycle that was endlessly repeated throughout the cooking process. You can see how tiresome it can be to use this type of pressure cooker!

Today's modern pressure cooker is nothing like the old-style models.

While most American cooks are stuck in the past with their cantankerous old style pressure cookers, or fiddling around with some over-priced electric gadget, the rest of the world is enjoying the new state of the art, trouble-free European models. Times are changing, and more and more savvy cooks are discovering all the changes and improvements that have revolutionized pressure cookery. Cooks are setting aside their old jiggle top models and investing in one of the sleek modern pressure cookers that have been a kitchen standard for cooks all over the world for the past 20 years.

What's the Difference?

When people think of a pressure cooker, pictures of their momís and grandma's giant cooking horror, fill their memories. They picture that rattling, steaming and spitting monster of a pot that made conversation impossible and sent the faint of heart scrambling for safety as the kitchen filled with roiling clouds of steam and the stove shook with uncontrolled tremors. Okay, maybe this sounds a bit melodramatic, but some people really do think pressure cookers are scary.

Not any more. The most trusted European cookware brands are producing modern pressure cookers that can deliver the many gustatory delights enjoyed by those of us in the know. These modern stainless steel marvels, with their heavy, triple ply base to hold and evenly distribute the heat, and the precision engineered spring type valve system that minimizes venting, means that very little liquid and very low heat is needed to maintain a steady pressure.

Silent, reliable and dependable, the new crop of pressure cookers have restored the lost glory of this most useful and ingenious cooking tool. Durable, safe and easy to use, the modern pressure cooker is goof proof and trouble free. The days of constantly adjustling the heat and monitoring the old jiggling pressure regulator or gone, so no more babysitting the cooker.

click to enlarge

My recipes say, '"Bring to 15psi over high heat." This is a flame set on the highest setting to quickly pressurize the cooker, because the faster the pressure cooker can be pressurized, the quicker you can lower the heat and avoid scorching your food. Note that the flame does not extend past the encapsulated base.

click to enlarge

My recipes say, '"Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. This is the lowest flame setting on my stove... the next one is OFF. When fully pressurized, a low heat setting is all that is needed to stabilize and maintain that pressure for the length of the cooking process. The heat will stay at this setting and the pressure cooker will maintain a steady pressure throughout the cooking cycle without the need for any further adjustments.

Cooking With Gas

When it comes to results, the majority of professional chefs agree that cooking with gas, whether propane or natural gas, is the best choice. According to a recent national survey, 96 percent of professional chefs prefer using a gas cooktop because gas offers precision control. Turn the flame to any setting, and gas responds instantly. Gas is flexible, providing an infinite number of heat settings instantly.

Gas flames can be tailored to the size of any pan, permitting adjustment to keep the flame from reaching beyond the bottom of the pan. This eliminates wasted energy. Today's gas ranges light automatically without a continuously burning pilot light, and use about half the amount of primary energy (crude oil) as electric ranges.

For more information on how to use a pressure cooker on an electric of glasstop stove, click here.

Propane Gas

What a gas cooking appliance's flames should look like will depend on whether it is burning natural gas or propane (LP). You can see examples of each above.

Propane is a byproduct of oil refining to produce gasoline. It is the first product refined from crude petroleum. For many years, propane was considered a waste product. Propane is actually liquid in storage tanks because of the high pressure. Propane stoves use a smaller orifice and natural gas appliances.

Propane is present in small quantities in natural gas, but methane is the chief component of natural gas. Natural gas costs less than propane. It must be hard-piped to an appliance from buried gas service lines. Natural gas is under low pressure with a larger orifice. Suppliers put sulfur compounds called sulfides and mercaptans to make the gas "stink".

Which Fuel Burns Hotter, Propane Or Natural Gas?

We measure heat in BTUs (British Thermal Units), the quantity of heat required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. The average home gas stove burner is about 10,000 BTU. Better stoves offer burners of 12,000 BTU and deluxe stoves will have burners that are about 15,000 BTU. Models are available with both high and low volume BTU burners, but when using a pressure cooker we will generally choose the standard burner. Its worth noting that anything much above 12,000 BTU seems to be generally considered as overkill, even by serious chefs.

Propane burns hotter than natural gas. This is mainly due to the fact that propane is a pure substance and natural gas is a mixture of many different elements therefore it will not burn as hot as propane.

Liquid propane gas contains 2,500 BTU's per cubic foot, natural gas contains 1000 BTU's per cubic foot. Therefore, propane has more than twice the heat value of natural gas per cubic foot.


Questions or comments on this article? Click here.





click analytics