Troubleshooting Pressure Cooker Problems

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Problem

Solution

Steam is leaking around the lid but
The gasket is new, what should I do?

Continuous steam leaks around the lid are usually the fault of the gasket. First check that the gasket is clean. Examine it closely for any signs of deterioration, such as cracking, rips, stiffness or gumminess, and replace it if needed.

Some gaskets have a right side and a wrong side and must be installed with the right side up. Look for any kind of printing on your gasket. Install the gasket in the lid so the words are facing up towards you when you look down at the lid. This may make it easier to open and close the lid.

Only rarely is the gasket not the culprit when it comes to correcting leaks. Occasionally a more serious problem may be the cause. Usually this points to a structural problem with either a warped lid, or even a damaged rim of base unit. Warping is a common problem found in old, and vintage pressure cookers and canners because the manufacturing process of that day produced inferior products.

Aluminium cookers are also more prone to warping and damage than stainless steel. Warping may be very hard to detect, but if the lid or the pot is even the tiniest bit off from true round, a tight seal cannot be attained. Warping may be the result of age, over heating or damage caused if the lid or body if was ever dropped, sat on or stood on (yes, it happens) or unnecessarily banged about, or someone used excessive force when trying to remove a stuck lid.

Damage to the sealing surfaces arise from abrasive cleaners, scratched, dings and dents on the rim of the cooker as the result of banging cooking utensils against the rim of the pot, and if they a big enough, it will prevent the pressure cooker from sealing.

None of these structural problems can be repaired or fixed. You will have to replace the lid if the manufacturer offers replacements, or buy a new cooker.

Steam is leaking around the handle, what should I do?

You may see some steam venting around the handle as the pressure cooker exhausts the inside air in the process of pressurization. This is normal and should only last a minute or two before you see the pressure indicator pop up. Leakage between cover and body suggests that the sealing ring or gasket is not properly in place, or needs to be replaced.

There is water coming out from the
Vent pipe, is this dangerous?

In the old style pressure cookers using a weighted pressure regulator, there might be a sight leakage of water around or pipe during the course of building pressure. There may also be some spitting liquid that occurs during the cooking process. Examine the vent pipe after ever use to see if food debris has collected inside it, and sometimes there will be a build up of sooty deposits that need to be cleaned. Use a pipe cleaner for this job. Periodically, you will need to check the fittings and tighten and nut or screw that may have become loose.

How should I store the lid?

If you use your cooker several times a week just store the lid inverted on top of the cooker bottom and lay the gasket and the weight on the lid, not inside the base. This will help to prevent odors or molds, especially if you live in warm humid areas. For long term storage or infrequent use, place the gasket loosely inside the cooker and add a spoonful of baking soda sprinkled inside the pot to absorb moisture and odors. Close the lid. Store in a cool dry place, excessive prolonged heat (like in a garage of outdoor shed) will cause it to deteriorate faster. Wash in warm soapy water before using again.

The lid of my pressure cooker is stuck! how do I get it off?

There may still be a build up of pressure inside. Using the cold-water-release method, release any remaining pressure and try opening again. If you used the natural release method to de-pressurize the cooker, a slight vacuum may have developed. Heat the pressure cooker over high heat just until steam begins to come out of the pressure regulator valve. Using the cold-water-release method, release the pressure and try to open again

Why doesnt my pressure cooker build up pressure?

There can be numerous reasons why pressure would not build up in your pressure cooker.

  1. Not enough cooking liquid - Always use a sufficient amount of cooking liquid for the type of food being prepared and the length of cooking. Always follow the directions using a pressure-cooker recipe for the correct amount of liquid.
  2. The pressure cooker was not properly closed - Refer to the owners manual packaged with your cooker.
  3. The pressure cooker cannot pressurize without high enough heat. - Always heat the closed pressure cooker over high heat until high pressure , then lower it after pressure has been reached.
  4. Pressure-regulator valve is dirty and/or obstructed.
  5. The gasket is improperly positioned, dirty or worn. - Always check to make sure that the gasket is in place and properly inserted before attempting to use the pressure cooker. The gasket should be removed from the lid and washed after each use. Refer to your instruction manual for care and maintenance tips.
  6.  
  7. After continued use, gasket will begin to wear or dry out. It should be replaced at least once a year, or more often if the pressure cooker is used more frequently. The pressure-regulator valve can become dirty when cooking. Clean the valve after each use as explained in your users manual.
  8. The pressure cooker is too full. - Never fill the pressure cooker more than two-thirds full.

My Gasket Has Melted and Stuck to the metal.

This may happen to old gaskets that needed to be replaced, or when they have been exposure to prolonged or too high a heat source. If the gasket is stuck to the lid, soak the gasket in very hot water, vinegar and liquid dish soap, then use a plastic scouring pad to loosen and remove as much of it as possible.

It the gasket has melted or bonded to the metal, try a spray of WD-40 or products like "Goo-Gone", Gum Out" or similar solvents (found in the housewares and automotive sections of stores like Walmart). Take care to read the instructions and do not use these products on any surfaces that might be harmed, not coated finishes. Do not use abrasives, sandpaper, scrapers or anything that may damage the metal sealing surfaces of the pressure cooker or the lid.

The lid of my pressure cooker is stuck, how do I get it off?

There may still be a build up of pressure inside, or if you used the natural release method to depressurize the cooker, a slight vacuum may have developed. Don't use brute force or tools trying to muscle the lid off; it can't be removed that way and you'll only destroy your pressure cooker in the attempt.

 

Use the cold-water-release method, release any remaining pressure and try opening again.

Heat the pressure cooker over high heat just until steam begins to come out of the pressure regulator valve.  Using the cold-water-release method, release the pressure and try to open again.

Anyway a vacuum is caused by air expanding and escaping from being heated, then shrinking as it gets cold.

So heat the pan up again. This will make the air expand and the vacuum disappear.

This way you will also see, if there is any steam coming out the lid is jammed by something other than a vacuum.

 

There may still be a build up of pressure inside. Using the cold-water-release method, release any remaining pressure and try opening again. If you used the natural release method to de-pressurize the cooker, a slight vacuum may have developed. Heat the pressure cooker over high heat just until steam begins to come out of the pressure regulator valve. Using the cold-water-release method, release the pressure and try to open again.

 

Anyway a vacuum is caused by air expanding and escaping from being heated, then shrinking as it gets cold.

So heat the pan up again. This will make the air expand and the vacuum disappear.

This way you will also see, if there is any steam coming out the lid is jammed by something other than a vacuum.

In that case, use a meat mallet or a rolling pin to give the (cold) pan a few good hits, sideways, just under the rim. This might distort the pan enough to let the jammed lid pop out. Squeeze the pan into a corner so it can't move when you hit it, so the full force of the hit goes on to the edge. 

 

To understand how pressure cookers work, youll have to think back to your high-school chemistry class. Remember how water boils at different temperatures depending on atmospheric pressure?  At sea level, water boils at 212F (100C).  At about a mile above sea level, water boils at 203F (95C), so it takes longer to cook your food.  In a pressure cooker, the sealed cover on the pot traps the steam that evaporates from the boiling liquid.  As the pressure inside the pot rises, the boiling temperature of water also rises.  At 15 pounds of pressure per square inch (the level at which most pressure cookers work), water boils at 250F (121C), so food cooks much faster!

Alkali Stains in Aluminum

Alkalis will discolor aluminum. A mild alkali like baking soda, or medium strength alkalis such as ammonia cause stains. Washing soda, also called sal soda, or sodium carbonate will also stain aluminum. Stains or discolorations that may appear on aluminum utensils can be removed by boiling a solution of two to three tablespoons of cream of tartar, lemon juice or vinegar to each quart of water in the utensil for five to ten minutes. Then scour lightly with a soap-filled scouring pad. Cooking acid foods also will help remove discoloration without affecting the food. To clean stubborn stains in aluminum mix 2 tablespoons cream of tartar in 1 quart water, bring solution to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Wash and dry as usual. To prevent stains in aluminum always add a couple for table spoons of vinegar or lemon juice to the water.

General Cleaning of Stainless Steel

If the stains are brownish soak a cloth in full strength ammonia and place over stain for at least 30 minutes. Wash well after use. . For light stains you may try a thick paste made with vinegar, or lemon juice and baking soda. For stubborn stains you'll need to buy a stainless steel cleaner available at most supermarkets, or stores like Walmart. Club Soda may help remove streaks or heat stains from stainless steel. Vinegar is great to clean and polish stainless steel, simply moisten a cloth with undiluted white or cider vinegar and wipe clean. Clean the outside of brightly polished Stainless Steel with a stainless steel polish. Copper bottoms can be restored with copper cleaners or ZAP.

Mineral Stains

In some localities water contains minerals that may be deposited on the inside surface of aluminum pans, causing some discoloration. This does not affect the use of the utensil nor the food prepared in it. Minerals may react with the fats left behind from cooking and also with soaps or dishwasher detergents to produce a chalky white, or milky stain called milkstone. These stains can be removed with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice.

My Pressure Cooker is Leaking Steam, What Should I Do Now?

One of the most common complaints with pressure cookers concerns leakage around the seal or gasket. A leak at the seal in a pressure cooker generally occurs due to improper maintenance.

Another cause of leaks around the lid may occur if the rim, or one of the locking flanges, on the base or the lid is damaged, badly scratched, chipped or pitted. This may occur when cooks rap their spoon and other cooking utensils against the rim of the pot. Never knock the rim of the cooker while cleaning or using it. The dents that occur allow the steam to escape. Small scratches on the rim of stainless steel pots may be buffed out with steel wool.

Acidic foods, spattering oil, frequent, long cooking times will all hasten the deterioration of gaskets and seals. Click here to see the up to date list of Replacement Parts Suppliers.

At the highest pressure setting the inside temperature of you cooker is only 254, excessive heat will shorten the life span of you gasket. If there is insufficient water inside the pressure cooker the pot will over heat, or users who persist in using large amounts of oil (oil heats to 400) will damage the seal and leakage occurs. Many cooks use their pressure cooker in the oven to bake bread, but be sure to remove the gasket and all other rubber parts from the lid. Read the owners manual carefully, most recommend you not exceed a temperature of 300 because it may damage to handles.

What Can I do When if Lid is Hard to Open or Close?

If the lid is difficult to lock, or sticks when the pressure has dropped, making it harder to open, apply a film of Vaseline to the rim of the cooker bottom as well as the gasket. Vaseline withstand higher heat than cooking oils and will still be there when you need to open the cooker. Also check to be sure that your gasket is not stretched out of shape, if no longer fits snugly inside the lid it will be necessary to replace the gasket.

Heat Tint

If the discoloration is a dark, iridescent rainbow tint of blue or purple this is heat tint caused by using too high of a heat setting or letting the cooker run dry. This type of discoloration on stainless steel is permanent and cannot be removed, although it may fade over time. In mild cases the discolorations caused by heat tint in Stainless Steel, while unsightly, will not affect the pan or it's usefulness. In the most severe cases you may have actually changed the temper of the steel which means it is not as hard as it used to be.

Looking for more troubleshooting tips, try here.

Related Articles

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Find out how to clean and care for the gasket.

Find out more about the care and cleaning of all kinds of cookware.

 
 

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