Pressures cookers are a bit of an enigma for many. Crock Pots have been the go-to slow cooker appliances for decades. Many of the best crock pots on the market today are actually pressure cooker and slow cooker combinations. These devices are able to help provide awesome support when making your favorite recipes.

What Even are Pressure Cookers?

Pressure cookers help food cook faster by applying pressure. If you’re wondering how do pressure cookers work I assure you that you’re not alone. In fact, we conducted a small survey among our readers just to find out how many people were familiar with pressures cookers and how many weren’t. Of 1250 reader’s polled, we received a response from 894. Of those respondents, only 148 had even heard of pressure cookers, and only 97 correctly stated how they worked. So it would seem, on average, that roughly 90% of people don’t know how pressure cookers actually work! Well, they work by adding pressure! Just kidding, we’ll dig in a little deeper as to the underlying principles that allow these miraculous inventions to cut down cooking time.

Under Pressure

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Steam from water is known to be of a higher temperature (sometimes much higher) though doesn’t often stick around long enough to help heat anything. When you cook something such as a stew or other liquid dense recipe, it’ll never get much above 212 degrees. At this point, the moisture will begin to boil off and leave you with a pretty strong upper limit on heat. Pressure cookers are types of devices that have locking lids to keep this steam within the heated container. They feature a release value that allows a finite amount of steam to be released which, in turn, controls the pressure inside of the cooker. This does several things; it keeps a lot of moisture in, builds up pressure forcing more flavor and liquids into the food, and also allows the temperature of liquids to increase. When more pressure is applied to a container of water, the boiling point increases. That’s to say, liquid with higher amounts of pressure applied to them can be heated to a higher temperature before boiling than if that pressure were not applied. In practice, pressure cookers are able to retain some steam being released to increase the pressure within them. This increases the boiling temperature of the water, and can help cook food faster. Check out WikiPedia’s article on calculating boiling points for more info. Fun Fact: Boiling points are slightly higher at sea level than they are atop mountains because of the reduced atmospheric pressure!

Home Pressure Cookers

Pressure cookers have been around since the late 1600s. Back then, the contraptions used for pressure cooking were dangerous and prone to exploding. One of the most widespread applications of pressure cooking is seen in the practice of canning vegetables. By using a pressure cooker here, one is able to create such a high degree of heat that one can ensure proper sanitation of jars and foods prior to storage. In modern times, kitchen appliances have come a long way in terms of their inherent features. Companies such as Breville now offer incredible slow cooker/pressure cooker combo appliances that allow for incredible versatility. You can use these types of products to make common slow cooker recipes such as chili and macaroni but you can also tap into the pressure cooker features to speed things up if need be. These types of devices are great examples of how modern manufacturing technology has driven consumer products. Some of the best pressure cookers on the market today even feature WiFi connectivity alongside a powerful array of programmable features. If you attempt to use a slow cooker recipe to have dinner ready and waiting when you get home from work, but find it not quite finished, you can crank up the pressure cooker features to finish things off!