Electric pressure cookers are some of the most convenient and valuable kitchen appliances on the market. With a wide variety of uses and a speedy cook time, this appliance makes cooking a breeze.
However, even though this is quite possibly one of the absolute best items to have in your kitchen, there are some important things to keep in mind when using the cooker. Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid when using an electric pressure cooker.
1. Adding thickeners to ingredients in a pressure cooker
Always remember that an electric pressure cooker is NOT a stovetop pot. Adding thickeners like flour or starches (like cornstarch) to a combination of ingredients in a pressure cooker isn’t going to instantly make a perfect dish. In fact, you may end up with quite a mess.
When you add thickeners to a mix of ingredients that are cooking in an electric pressure cooker, it reduces the amount of steam that’s available to cook the food. Pressure cookers require steam to cook food quickly, so reducing the steam will only create poorly cooked food.
But, besides causing a bad food situation, you could also end up with a serious mess of food. If the food isn’t fully cooked but the pressure cooker runs out of liquid, there’s a high potential for burnt food and sticky situations. So, in short, don’t ever put any thickeners in a pressure cooker.
2. Putting in too much liquid
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to put in just a little bit more water than you think you need to add when using a pressure cooker. But, putting in way too much liquid can cause disastrous and potentially dangerous results.
When you add far too much water to a pressure cooker, the cooker could explode. This is because there has to be room for the steam, and pressure cookers don’t allow a lot of evaporation. However, this is only a real problem when you fill the pressure cooker to its limit.
The other less dangerous (but still disastrous) consequence of filling a pressure cooker to its limit is the final food result. Too much water in a pressure cooker may cause the cooked food to be flavorless or over-cooked, meaning that you’d have an upsetting situation to deal with.
3. Combining ingredients in a pressure cooker
It may seem intuitive to combine all the ingredients for one meal into one pressure cooker sequence, but this isn’t actually the best option. Unless you’re following a recipe that specifically says to combine certain ingredients, this is something to be avoided.
Different foods have different cook times and will probably require different heat and steam settings. When you lump a bunch of foods together, some of them will be over-cooked, some under-cooked, and (possibly), some will be cooked just right.
Besides being a poor cooking choice, combining ingredients in a pressure cooker can also make it so you accidentally put too much in the cooker. Whenever you overfill a pressure cooker, there’s a potential for danger. Always follow recipes if you plan to combine ingredients.
4. Choosing inappropriate ingredients
Some ingredients cook well in an electric pressure cooker while others don’t do so hot. Choosing appropriate ingredients to cook in a pressure cooker is key to ensuring that the appliance works at optimal performance.
There are certain ingredients that fair extremely well when cooked in a pressure cooker. Namely, dried beans and lentils, dried grains, stock ingredients, some vegetables, seafood, and some soups can be made easily in a pressure cooker if you’re following the right recipe.
Some ingredients should be avoided. There are a few recipes that suggest cooking pasta dishes in a pressure cooker, but this isn’t advisable. Additionally, cooking meats and most vegetables should usually be reserved for the stovetop to ensure that they’re properly cooked.
5. Purchasing a low quality or oddly sized pressure cooker
Low quality pressure cookers will last for a shorter period of time, but besides that, they may also be prone to glitches and breaks during the cooking process. It’s generally a good idea to invest in a higher quality cooker to ensure that safety functions and insulation are well-made.
Most high-quality pressure cookers are 6-8 liters in size. Other lower quality cookers may come in different sizes, which can severely compromise food quality. Most cook times for different foods are calibrated for pressure cookers of 6-8 liters, so find a cooker that falls in this range.
Plus, oddly sized pressure cookers may come with other flaws. Lower quality cookers are likely to not follow generally accepted specifications for pressure cookers, meaning that the quality of your food may be compromised as well as your safety and pocketbook.
6. Filling the pressure cooker to the optimal fill line
Do not fill the pressure cooker to the optimal fill line. Ever. Besides compromising the quality of your food, this can cause explosions and serious damage to your pressure cooker. Many pressure cookers have indicator lines on the inside, but if yours doesn’t here’s a trick.
Start by filling the cooker with water (or to a point just below the edge, to be safe). Use three containers of the same size to scoop all the water out of the pressure cooker. Then, pour the contents of 2 of the containers back into the cooker. This is the ⅔ line, which you can then mark.
Different ingredients must be considered differently. For example, beans cause a lot of froth when they cook, so only filling the pressure cooker about halfway may be the best choice. But, for other foods like vegetables or grains, filling the cooker to only two-thirds capacity is fine.
7. Overcooking food
Pressure cookers work fast, so it’s easy for amateur cooks to accidentally overcook (or burn) food when using this appliance. No one wants a final result of mushy, flavorless food. Following recipes and instructions are advised to avoid this mistake, especially for beginners.
Timing is one of the most vital aspects of cooking with a pressure cooker. At first, pressure cooking methods may seem simple, but the truth is that they require thought and a great deal of care in order to be executed properly.
If you’re cooking only one ingredient, experimenting a bit with cook times may be acceptable. But if you’re cooking more than one ingredient or even an entire meal in the pressure cooker, make sure you’re following a well-tested recipes to ensure that you get the best results.
8. Using the wrong settings
Using an electric pressure cooker requires some finesse since cooks must follow instructions and pay attention to the settings on their cooker. Using the wrong settings can put you in a bad situation, whether it be poorly cooked food or a pressure cooker explosion.
Setting the appropriate pressure release option is crucial for safely well-cooked food. Plenty of beginners make mistakes with this. With an electric pressure cooker, the pressure release settings are pre-set so some of the guess-work is taken out, but you still have to think carefully.
Additionally, it’s necessary to focus on the heat settings on your electric pressure cooker. Setting the heat setting appropriately is what will ensure well cooked food. Stovetop pressure cookers don’t have the same degree of control over the heat settings, so this is a special bonus.
9. Cleaning and drying your pressure cooker hastily
Pressure cookers are not like stovetop pots. They require some extra TLC to be able to function properly, and this even extends to the way that they’re cleaned and dried. Some cooks may be surprised by this, but this is by no means something to be overlooked.
To properly clean a pressure cooker, you need to clean all the parts and pieces of the cooker. Inside and out. The instructions that come with your pressure cooker are likely to include specific instructions on how to clean the appliance effectively and fully.
Drying the pressure cooker should be acknowledged as a necessary part of maintaining this appliance. Not drying the pressure cooker can cause it to rust, which can result in bad tasting dishes and possible health consequences. Dry the cooker with a microfiber cloth after washing.
10. Not using enough liquid (or no liquid at all)
This rule goes hand in hand with the aforementioned rule against using too much water in a pressure cooker. Pressure cookers require a fairly generous amount of water, so using too little liquid (or none at all) can cause some seriously yucky situations.
Pressure cookers use trapped steam to cook food quickly and effectively. Without enough water, the cooker can’t do its job! Make sure you’re following a recipe or a set of guidelines to ensure that you’re putting in enough water (and also to ensure you’re not using too much).
As another rule of thumb, avoid using milk or other thick liquids in a pressure cooker. For most pressure cooker recipes, water or stock are the best choices because they can produce plenty of steam with which to cook the food.
11. Avoiding the use of recipes
Even if you’re an experienced cook, if you’ve never used a pressure cooker before you should always be using recipes. Don’t allow yourself to slip into a trap of believing that you know exactly what to do, pressure cookers follow different rules and there’s some learning involved.
But, thankfully, there are a lot of excellent recipes out there to follow! Using recipes can help you learn about your pressure cooker and can also assist you in developing new flavors and cooking methods along the way. Learn from the experts first and then make your own creations to share.
Make sure you find recipes with instructions specifically for electric pressure cooker users. Electric cookers work a bit differently than stovetop cookers, so the pressure cooker related instructions (which you need) may not be accurate for your situation if not otherwise specified.
Pressure cookers are fabulous, efficient appliances, and electric pressure cookers are even more efficient still. They can be used for an extraordinary number of purposes to cook food cleanly and quickly for almost any meal.
This appliance is spectacular, but it requires some caution and patience to learn its ways. But fear not. Take heed of these common mistakes and go forth into the kitchen to make some pressure cooker masterpieces!