the Pressure Cooker

A European Invention

Since the days of early humans and the discovery of fire, we have been fascinated with finding new and faster ways of cooking and preserving food.  It was a French inventor, in the 17th century, named Denis Papin who was one of those. He was interested in developing a new method to cooking  food quickly, at a relatively low cost.  He introduced a revolutionary new cooking device made from cast iron with a lid that locked in place, with a screwlike clamping mechanism.  As the food heated in its cooking liquid, the trapped steam raised the cooking temperature to at least 15% higher than the boiling point of water.  This very hot steam cooked the food much quicker.  Due to the lack of technology, Papin never saw his concept and invention ever reach its full potential.  Due to the inability to accurately regulate the steam pressure, cooking temperature, or produce machine stamped pots, cracks along their seams would cause explosions and send the contents sky-high.

With the notion of high pressure cooking and preserving left by Papin, in wasn’t until the early 1800’s that Nicholas Appert successfully developed a successful way of preserving food for later consumption.  Appert developed canning procedures for more than fifty different types of foods.  By heating food at high temperatures in well sealed, sterilized jars it  in turn slowed down the fermentation process(spoilage) due to bacteria. Eventually this process lead to the preserving of food under vacuum sealing, then led to the development of the canning industry in the early 1900’s in Britain and the U.S.

Basic Designs

Different models have different pressure regulator valves and locking systems, but all work in much the same way.  There are three different types of pressure regulators:

the traditional “jiggler” or weight valve     

this valve is usually a removable, heavy round piece of metal that sits on top of the vent pipe located in the center of the lid.  As the pressure builds, steam comes through the vent pipe causing the valve to rock back and forth achieving the desired p.s.i.  The heat should be lowered so the valve is gentle and steady with very little visible steam.

Developed weight valves

are either permanently positioned on the vent pipe or positioned there and locked in place by the user.  When pressure is achieved, the valve raises up slightly and a very low hissing sound is achieved.  Steam is emitted indicating that maximum pressure is achieved and the flame should be turned down low enough to maintain pressure.

Spring valve

or a spring loaded valve compresses as pressure builds raising a pressure indicator into an upright position showing the level of pressure.  Pressure levels are usually indicated by colored markings on the valve.

 Releasing Pressure

The  Natural- Release Method

Foods like stocks, tomato sauces, a braised cuts of meats benefit from continuing to cook in the pressure cooker as the temperature drops naturally after the unit is removed from the burner.  This method can take any where from 10-20 minutes and you will know the pressure is dropped completely when the gauge reads “zero” and no more steam comes out of the vent pipe.

The Cold Water Release

The quickest way to stop the cooking process is to carefully carry the pressure cooker to the sink and run cold water over the lid.  This will stabilize the temperature and force the pressure to dissipate almost in seconds.

The Automatic-Release Method

Some pressure cookers enables you to release the pressure without having to place the cooker under cold water.  Consult instructions provided by manufacturer.


  • Nutritional Boost – Due to the shorter cooking time and the fact that food is cooked in less liquid that gets boiled away, more vitamins and minerals are retained than with conventional cooking methods.
  • Saves Time – Food cooks up to 70% faster in a pressure cooker, making it a wonderful tool for when you come home after work and have to get dinner on the table in a hurry. You can put ingredients in the pressure cooker and by the time you’re finished tidying up the kitchen you can have a wholesome, hearty home cooked meal.
  • Energy Efficient – As less cooking time is needed, less energy is needed to accomplish the task.
  • Cooler Kitchen – As all the steam and heat stays within the pot, your kitchen stays cooler than with traditional stove top or oven methods.
  • Cleaner Kitchen – As all pressure cooker foods are cooked in a covered pot, there are no messy splashes or spatters to clean up and no boiled over foods – ever!

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One Response to the Pressure Cooker

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