How to Achieve and Maintain Pressure

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Stovetop pressure cookers use heat from your stove to generate pressure and the heat must be properly adjusted and maintained. This means that the pot is brought to pressure with high heat, and once pressure is achieved you must immediately and lower of the heat to the lowest possible setting that will just maintain that pressure.

Use the Test Drive method two determined which setting on your still produces the best results. This may take several trials to find just the right heat setting on your stove. Mark the setting on your stove with a piece of tape or one of those little sticky colored dots from the office supply store.

The first step in pressure cookery is to bring the pot to pressure. To do this,lock the lid in place and place the cooker on a normal hob that fits the size of your cooker. Do not use any oversized hob or superheat setting for pressure cooking.

First-generation Pressure Cookers

If you have a jiggle top cooker you need to expel the air from the inside BEFORE placing the weight on the vent pipe. Set your heat at high and wait until you see steam flowing from the vent pipe. Now place the pressure regulator weight on top. Continue cooking at high heat until the regulator weight begins to rock* rapidly and lots of steam is escaping. You may see some water droplets, escaping from under the weight, all this hissing and spitting is normal for this type of pressure cooker. Now is the time to immediately lower the heat on your stove to the setting you determined by using the Test Drive. At this point the pressure regulator should be rocking about three to five times per minute and there will be a slight hissing of escaping steam during cooking. If the regulator is rocking continuously the heat setting is too high and must be lowered. Once pressure as been achieved and you have lowered the heat, use a bell timer set for the length of time indicated in your recipe.

It is somewhat more difficult to maintain pressure using the older styles in comparison to the new, second-generation pressure cookers because there is no sure way of telling exactly what the pressure is. It may be necessary to make several small adjustments to the heat setting over the length of the cooking time to maintain the desired pressure.

Second-generation Pressure Cookers

If you are using a second-generation pressure cooker it is much easier to maintain an even pressure. Lock the lid in place and place the cooker on the stove using high heat to achieve pressure. A pressure indicator will pop up pop up that shows the different pressure settings available. Depending on your brand, there may be more than one pressure setting marked on the pop up stem. The first mark will be the lower setting, generally this is 10 psi, and the next mark will be the 15 psi setting. If the pressure cooker has three marks it will be 5 psi, 10 psi, and 15 psi. When the pressure indicator reaches the desired pressure setting, now is the time to immediately lower the heat on your stove to the setting you determined by using the Test Drive. A second-generation pressure cooker uses a 3 ply base for even heat distribution and this will minimize or even eliminate further heat adjustments, it also makes it possible to use a much lower heat setting to maintain pressure. Once pressure as been achieved and you have lowered the heat, use a bell timer set for the length of time indicated in your recipe.

Using Electric Or Glass Top Stoves

If you are using an electric or glass top stove it will be more difficult to adjust pressure on any kind of pressure cooker because the burners hold in heat and take longer to adjust to a lower heat setting. This is especially true of aluminum and plain steel pressure cookers. You may find that a flame tamer or heat diffuser, a heavy metal plate that sits between the burner and the bottom of the pressure cooker, will help, but read carefully as they might not be suitable for your type of stove. These are usually available in better kitchen specialty stores, stores that offer barbecue or camping supplies, and online retailers.

Glass tops stoves tend to cook at a very high heat so be sure to read the owner's manual or contact the manufacturer about which types of metal cookware can be safely used.

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