All About Pressure Settings

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Most pressure cooker recipes are made to cook at the standard of 15psi, in fact this setting is so common that most recipes don't even need to mention it. This setting is the standard as determined by the USDA way back in 1917 when all pressure cookers had just that one 15psi setting. That pressure setting still remains as the standard today.

Many inexpensive pressure cookers made today still provide only one pressure setting, this is especially true of the old-style jiggle top models. Some of the new and improved, 2nd generation pressure cookers offer multiple pressure settings. Do you need more than one pressure setting? Maybe not, the vast majority of recipes still use the same, original 15psi setting,

We are all familiar with oven temperatures, but in pressure cooking we talk in terms of pressure settings rather than temperatures, so you must know the settings of your particular brand. Some manufacturers use LOW - MED - HI settings and this is doubly confusing because they vary between brands and do not correspond to standard recipe directions.

Pressure = Metric vs. Imperial ?

More recently, foreign made pressure cookers are showing up in American markets with settings gieven in metric terms of kilopascals (kPa) or millibars (bar), rather than the more familiar Pounds per Square Inch (psi). This makes it very confusing for the consumer when trying to make a wise purtchasing decision, to use recipes written for the standard of 15psi.

Is this simply a cost cutting decision to save on printing... or is it a deception on the part of manufactureres of pressure cookers that fall short of the 15psi standard and intended to trick consumers? Pressure cooker recipes that are designed for 15psi, its been the accepted method for nearly 100 years, and is so common than many recipes don't even bother to state the cooking pressure setting.

To further baffle consumers, some electric cookers which operate at a much lower pressurer setting to compensate for overheating problems, may have directions given in kPa, or preset categories like "Meat" or "Veg", or they may only state LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH pressure, but they don't explain what those settings actually corespond to. This makes it very difficult for busy cooks who must first try to figure out a phsyics problem before they can cook dinner.

Consumers must carefully read through the information provided by the manufacturers before buying a new pressure cooker. Ask the store to open the box so you can read the owner's manual before buying, or do your research beforehand and contact the manufacture first to determine the actual pressure settings or temperatures used, and then match them to the Pressure - Temperature Table.

When considering which pressure cooker to buy you may want to review my observations. Be sure to read the product information carefully. There are many heavily advertised, so-called "pressure cookers" that only cook at low pressure (Turbo Cooker, some Prestige brand Pressure Cookers). Brands like the German WMF only come in at about 11psi, the Chef's Design pressure cooker is limited to 11.6psi, or T-Fal which will only attain 11psi. Also Fagor's Magic Pressure Fryers only go to 10psi, but that is a safety factor when cooking with so much oil. The Lagostina comes in with 12psi.

The Cook's Essential 9 function electric gadget lists 80 kPa, a pressure setting that equals only 11.6 psi. The electric Deni is listing just 10psi.

If you buy one of these non-standard pressure cookers you may find some recipes included in the box. However, for all other recipes, including the hundreds of recipes on my website, and those in pressure cooker recipe cookbooks, including mine, you must increase the cooking times, but that often produces inferior results

Using Stovetop Recipes with an Electric Appliance

The makers of electric pressure cookers do not adhere to any standard. Operating instructions vary widely even between models made by the same manufacturer. With so many makes and models I do not propose to give detailed operating instructions one each and every one of them. Follow the directions in your owners manual for basic operating instructions. Also locate the temperature or psi settings used by your appliance when it is under pressure and then use the chart above to see the corresponding settings.

In general, you can use the BROWN setting to do any initial sauteing or browning. Then program the appliance for HIGH PRESSURE and set the timer for the same amount of time recommended in the recipe.

If the recipe calls for a cold water release by putting the cooker under cold running water, ignore this instruction. Instead, press the pressure release button in very short spurts, taking care to keep your hand and head away from the escaping steam. If liquid is ejected from the valve, wait a minute longer before proceeding. Use the Quick release mechanism if this is called for in the recipe. Natural release means to wait until the pressure drops on its own. Use the BROWN setting to do any finish cooking after pressure is released.

Related Articles

Meet the Standard

Pressure - Temperature Table



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