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Your Frequently Asked Questions answered here.....

1. Can I cook everything in a pressure cooker?

2. Food in the pressure cooker is undercooked? 

3. Food in the pressure cooker is overcooked? 

4. I cannot open the pressure cooker? 

5. Why is the pressure cooker not coming up to pressure? 

6. How does a pressure cooker work? 

7. Is it safe? 

8. How does it save power? 

9. Which pressure cooker should I buy? 

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1.Can I cook everything in a pressure cooker?

Well almost. Pasta and some puréed fruits which tend to foam cannot be cooked in a pressure cooker. The froth or foam may block the valves and pressure cannot be released. Baking or any products which need dry heat cannot be cooked in a pressure cooker because there needs to be some liquid in the pressure cooker to produce steam.

Roasts, moist desserts and cakes can be successfully cooked in the pressure cooker.

Frittata and pastry-less quiche can be made, see these recipes in The New Zealand Pressure Cooker Cookbook


2.Food in the pressure cooker is undercooked?

There are many variables in all cooking from the size meat and vegetables are cut, to the freshness of the ingredients. Don’t worry just lock the lid back on, bring up to pressure and cook for a little longer.

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3.Food in the pressure cooker is overcooked?

Despite following the recipe this can still happen. This can be due to freshness of ingredients and size of meat and vegetables. Try cutting the meat or vegetables into large chunks next time. Add quick cooking ingredients part way through cooking by releasing the pressure using the quick release method (see your user manual) add these ingredients and finish cooking. Make a note on your recipe and reduce cooking by 2-3 minutes next time.


4.I cannot open the pressure cooker?

The pressure has not been fully released, be patient and this will release naturally (this can take up to 10 minutes) or check your user manual for how to reduce pressure using the quick release method on your model.

Which foods cooked in the pressure cooker need the pressure reduced naturally and which foods should use the quick release method?

Meat will relax and be tenderer if the pressure is reduced slowly through allowing it to reduce naturally.

Rice is also best to reduce pressure naturally so that it can continue cooking and absorbing the liquid. Cooking times have been calculated to include this time.

Quick release methods are good for more delicate foods which can risk overcooking e.g. vegetables , fish and some desserts.  Reduce the pressure quickly to stop further cooking (follow instruction in your user manual on quick release for your model)

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5.Why is the pressure cooker not coming up to pressure?

There could be a number of reasons so try these solutions:

- Lid is not locked in correctly remove and refit then try again.

- The heat is too low and it is just taking a long time to come up to pressure.

- The gasket is worn or dirty, remove and replace if old or clean and occasionally lightly coat with cooking oil.

- There may not be sufficient liquid, open, check and add more if required.

- The safety valve maybe blocked so check your user manual on how to clear this for your model of pressure cooker.

- Check the pressure valve is not set to steam function (if applicable to your cooker).


6.How does a pressure cooker work?

Stove top pressure cookers are really not much more than a saucepan with a special lid that features a sealing gasket and pressure valves to completely seal the pan. As the cooking liquid boils inside the pan it creates steam which – because it is trapped –builds up pressure and therefore increases the cooking temperature, thus shortening the cooking times.

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7.Is it safe? I’ve heard some scary stories about exploding pressure cookers.

The new generation pressure cookers are quite different from the older style with the jiggling weight on the top. The new types have several safety features that will release the pressure if it builds up too high, thankfully making exploding pressure cookers a thing of the past.

Another comforting feature is the way they lock, in other words they cannot be opened while under pressure, eliminating the possibility of a dangerous accident. Pressure will release naturally when the pan is removed from the heat or it can be released by using the quick release method (see your user manual).


8.How does it save power?

 The pressure cooker uses energy to bring it up to the required pressure and after that it’s simply a matter of turning down the element low enough to just maintain that pressure. This, combined with a shorter cooking time, makes pressure cookers more energy efficient than other cooking methods.

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9.Which pressure cooker should I buy?

Most pressure cookers are now made to suit all types of cooktops, but if you have an induction cooktop be sure to check that the model you’re interested in will work.


You can choose between an electric or a cooktop model. The electric ones have the advantage of not requiring you to adjust the heat source and turn off automatically, this can be an advantage if you are not very confident about this. The cooktop model might be more practical if you’re thinking of using it camping or on the barbecue or if you have a power outage.


Always buy a pressure cooker that not only has a back-up safety release system but also locks when under pressure.


Two pressure settings rather than one offers much more flexibility.

An easy-to-follow user’s manual is another important feature as there are small differences between models.


Look for a pressure cooker with heat-resistant handles on both sides. A full pressure cooker is quite heavy so it’s important that you can comfortably lift it using two hands without burning yourself.


Deciding on the right size will largely depend on how you plan to use it. My opinion on this matter is that ‘bigger is better’; imagine how disappointed you would be if you found out – too late – that there are some dishes you cannot cook in your new pressure cooker because it’s not large enough to accommodate them. The recipes in my book (link to buy) involve a 20cm heatproof dish or steamed pudding bowl to fit inside the pressure cooker. For this reason you’ll need a pressure cooker with a minimum depth of 15cm.


Another reason for investing in a large pressure cooker is that once you are confident you may wish to try making preserves, sauces and jams for which a large model is essential.


Some models come with a steamer basket and a trivet and you’ll find both these items very handy. Another extra that’s worth paying a bit more for is a conventional glass lid so your pressure cooker can also be used as a standard saucepan.


Finally, it’s worth reminding yourself that because a pressure cooker needs space for steam, it can only be filled three-quarters full so you need to allow for this when deciding on the size you want.


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