Pressure cooker steam coming out of safety valve

Pressure cooker steam coming out of safety valveThere are many benefits to using pressure cookers (both an electric pressure cooker or stovetop pressure cooker) over regular stove top pots.

Food cooks in less than half the expected time, all while retaining more nutrients and flavor.

For me – a busy person with limited time on my hands – pressure cookers are convenient appliances.

Sadly, many people remain nervous about using pressure cookers because there are stories of older models sometimes exploding on stovetops.

But you can safely and confidently use pressure cookers by understanding how modern models work.

Below, you will see how modern pressure cookers work, why the safety valve is an essential safety feature, and how to resolve problems with your pressure cooker safety valve if you should ever encounter one.

How Do Pressure Cookers Work?

Denis Papin’s “bone digester,” which became known as the pressure cooker, was invented in 1675. Papin wanted to show how steam could be used to power a process.

He had no idea how popular his invention would become centuries later.

So, as you may have guessed, steam is a vital part of the pressure-cooking process. Here’s how that works.

Pressure and temperature are directly related, both increasing or decreasing together.

At sea level, the pressure measures at 15 psi (pounds per square inch), and water boils at 100 °C (212 °F). But inside a pressure cooker, the pressure can double (up to 30 psi), raising the boiling point of water to 121 °C (250 °F).

Because the steam cannot escape the cooker, unlike in a regular pot, it continues to build in pressure.

So, the increase in pressure causes an increase in temperature, which speeds up the cooking process.

Why Is The Pressure Cooker Safety Valve Important?

Modern pressure cookers are generally made up of the following parts:

  • a sturdy pot,
  • a sealing ring, and
  • a lid with a pressure regulating valve and a safety release valve.

The pot is made up of heavy gauge metals able to withstand the increased pressure safely. The sealing ring fits under the lid and keeps steam from escaping.

The lid also has an interlocking feature that prevents the pot from opening until the pressure is safely released.

The pressure regulating valve does exactly what it says – controls the pressure inside the pot by allowing the appliance to release steam when needed.

Of the various valves, most show that they are working by periodically releasing steam while either rocking (jiggle top valves) or extending up out of the lid (spring-loaded valves).

If the pressure regulating valve stops working, too much pressure will build up in the cooker.

The safety valve is the primary backup measure for that situation. The safety valve is essential because it prevents accidents from over-pressurized pots if something goes wrong while you are cooking.

Why Does Steam Come Out of My Pressure Cooker Safety Valve?

Here’s how pressure cooker safety valves work.

The most popular pressure cookers’ safety valves consist of either a rubber gasket held between two metal pieces or a spring-loaded design.

These valves only relieve pressure if it gets beyond the expected working limit.

If steam comes out of your pressure cooker safety valve, it’s because the pressure is too high in your cooker.

Safety valves will self-destruct in a controlled way to prevent the pot from exploding if the pressure continues to rise too fast and too high.

With a pressure cooker, steam coming out of safety valve parts could be caused by any of the following issues:

  • An overfilled pressure cooker. The pot may be too full due to food swelling (for example, with oats) or foaming (pasta). This swelling blocks the pressure regulating valve.
  • An underfilled pressure cooker. Not enough water was added to the pot, and the water has boiled off, resulting in an “empty” closed pressure cooker. Steam coming out of safety valve devices is caused by the temperature getting too high, too quickly inside the pot.
  • Cooking on a flame too large for the cooker. Pressure cookers aren’t designed to have flames licking up the sides of the pot. The heat and steam generate fast and high in this instance as well.
  • An issue with the pressure regulating valve. The valve parts may be blocked (by old food particles or overfilling the cooker) or damaged.
  • A broken safety valve. If the pressure gets too high for the safety valve to relieve, the valve will self-destruct (with a loud “pop”) to let the pressure escape in a fast but controlled release.

When dealing with overfilling, underfilling, or a too large flame, and the valve is in good condition; the solution is straightforward. But what happens if my safety valve is damaged or broken? And can pressure cookers explode if these valves go bad?

How to Fix My Pressure Cooker Safety Valve?

First off, yes – pressure cookers can explode if the valves both go bad and too much pressure builds up inside the inner pot, although extra safety features on newer models further lower the chances of that happening. But it’s extra important to maintain and use these cookers properly.

If the pot is in good condition, the safety valve can be replaced pretty easily. The parts of the safety valve and replacement steps vary slightly depending on the brand, but the general instructions below should work for most popular brands.

Here’s how to fix a pressure cooker safety valve:

  1. Inspect the pot to make sure that it is otherwise in good condition. If it is, buy the correct safety valve for the cooker, either directly from the manufacturer or a reliable site.
  2. Safety valves with nut-shaped heads need two spanner wrenches – one for the valve and the other to hold the nut on the lid’s inner side.
  3. Remove any parts that may get damaged while handling the lid (for example, the pressure gauge) or blocking access to the safety valve (like the handle). Paying attention to the order the parts are removed will help with installing the new parts.
  4. Rest the lid on a safe surface (for example, a folded kitchen towel on the counter works well). Use the wrench to loosen the safety valve head while holding the inner nut secure with the other spanner.
  5. After removing the safety valve and accompanying parts (typically a washer and the nut), thoroughly clean and dry the valve hole.
  6. Insert the new safety valve and accompanying parts from the correct side and in the right order.

It’s also a good idea to observe the pot afterward to make sure everything is working correctly.

How to Safely Use and Maintain Your Pressure Cooker?

The best way to safely use your pressure cooker is to first inspect its parts before and after every use. 

Check that all parts are in good condition and making sure the valves aren’t blocked or damaged. It would be best if you didn’t use a cooker with damaged parts.

Also, always store the pressure cooker properly to prevent physical damage.

By keeping your pressure cooker in good condition and monitoring it while in use, you can safely use it to create faster, healthier, and more delicious meals in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Modern-day pressure cooker safety valves are designed to melt as part of the pressure cookers safety mechanism. Steam escapes typically through the pressure regulator (toggle). If the toggle becomes blocked or damaged in any way and steam can no longer escape (this can also happen due to lack of water in the pot), the temperature will rise too much, and it could explode. These days, the safety valves on pressure cookers are fitted with a fusible alloy designed to melt and help release the steam and avoid the appliance from exploding.

No, your pressure cooker will not work if there is no safety valve attached. Pressure cookers could not reach or maintain the required pressure if the safety valve were missing as steam would escape through the hole usually occupied by the safety valve.

You will know when your pressure cooker has reached pressure when the pressure regulator (toggle) on top of the appliance whistles. A release of steam should also accompany this whistle.

Safety valves are made to open fully so that steam/pressure is released quickly. The purpose of the relief vales, on the other hand, is to control the pressure in the pressure cooker. As the pressure increases, the valve opens a bit more, and when the pressure reduces, it closes a bit more.


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