In the fast-paced world we live in today, everyone is in search of faster and more convenient methods of getting things done. The same thing applies when cooking meals. No one wants to get home after a long day at work only to then be stuck in the kitchen for another three hours making dinner.
With so many people looking to cut down on cooking time, it’s a wonder that pressure cookers aren’t a kitchen staple in every household. They radically reduce the time it takes to prepare meals making it possible to cook beans, whole grains, and even deliciously hearty stews on a weeknight.
The secret to this lies in raising the cooking temperatures inside the pot. So, how hot does a pressure cooker get? Well, pretty darn hot! But this doesn’t mean it’s dangerous to use.
Here’s everything you need to know about cooking temperatures in a pressure cooker.
Have you ever stopped to think about what the cooking process entails? It has everything to do with something we often take for granted when waiting for food to get ready: Heat.
It is both a complicated and fascinating process that not only makes food tastier to eat and safer to digest, but it also kills harmful bacteria and other microorganisms that could cause illness when ingested. It goes without saying that the higher the cooking temperatures are, the faster your food cooks. This is the whole premise behind how a pressure cooker works.
The normal boiling point temperature of water at sea-level atmospheric pressure is 212°F (100°C). This is the temperature at which liquid water turns into steam and begins to evaporate.
If you apply more heat to an open container of boiling water at this temperature, it only increases the rate of evaporation. It does not, however, increase the actual temperature of the liquid. It remains at 212°F.
At higher altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is less, which makes it easier for water molecules to escape from the surface. So, water at this elevation boils at lower temperatures.
This isn’t the case at lower temperatures when the atmospheric pressure exerted on the water surface is more, making it harder for molecules to escape. This raises the boiling point of water at lower altitudes.
Putting a lid on the container changes everything since the water and steam now maintain the same temperature. But, with no escape for the steam, these gas molecules absorb even more thermal energy, which makes them vibrate faster, therefore, raising the temperature.
The result? The temperature of the water inside the pot increases beyond the normal boiling point. If you have an airtight lid that ensures no steam whatsoever escapes, this process continues happening repeatedly which further raises the water temperature in the pressure cooker up to a whopping 250°F (121°C).
The boiling point of water decreases by roughly 2°F for every 1000-foot ascent you go through. So, if you were to heat water in Denver, CO, for instance, which is at around 5,000 ft. above sea level, it would boil at approximately 203°F.
This means that even when using a pressure cooker at high altitudes, you have to compensate for these lower temperatures by increasing the cooking time for your food> This still applies even if you’re running it on the highest temperature setting there is.
It is precisely why pressure cookers are recommended for people who live in high altitude areas. It’s also a well-known fact that the air is thinner at higher altitudes. Thin air means dry air.
This ultimately means that you might have to contend with dry food if you cook using the conventional methods. Cooking with a pressure cooker replicates the temperature and pressure environment that is present at lower altitudes leaving your food juicier and more succulent.
The rule of thumb at high elevation areas is to increase the cooking time by approximately 5% for every 1000 feet above the initial 2000 ft. Pressure cooker models like the Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 come with an altitude adjustment feature that automatically modifies the cooking time for all recipes. This saves you from the tedious task of having to do these calculations manually when you’re smack in the middle of cooking.
The more steam you trap, the higher the amount of pressure that builds up inside the cooker. It directly corresponds to the rise in temperature. This heat gets transferred to the food.
Most pressure cookers like the Crock-Pot Express are designed to reach 15 psi (pounds per inch), which is the unit for measuring the amount of pressure inside the pot. Assuming that you were to continuously apply heat to the pressure cooker, it means that there is the potential for an infinite buildup of pressure inside.
If it is not released, the pot will explode. That’s why pressure cooker lids are designed with a valve outlet at the top to allow for the systematic release of pressure once it builds up to a certain level. It does this while maintaining consistently high temperatures of the food cooking inside.
Electric pressure cookers such the Rakzu 6 Qt have a distinct advantage over their stovetop counterparts when it comes to operating and maintaining steady levels of pressure during the end-to-end process of a cooking cycle. However, stovetop models like the T-Fal Clipso can reach much higher pressure levels than the electric ones, which usually average at around 12 psi. This translates to around 240°F.
However, that is not to say that there are no electric pressure cookers that can achieve higher psi levels. The Instant Pot Max 9-in-1 is one such exception to the norm.
How hot does a pressure cooker get? Let’s put it this way: If you’re planning to make a juicy, succulent melt-in-your-mouth roast, you would have to slow cook it for between 8 and 10 hours in a crockpot or slow cooker.
However, with a pressure cooker, you can achieve sufficiently high temperatures that will give you the same results in just 30 minutes. The ability of pressure cookers to achieve extremely high temperatures makes them a fast, convenient, and economical choice when it comes to cooking your meals. Make the switch and simplify your life.