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Pressure Cookers Have A Track Record of Dangerous Malfunctions: How to Minimize Your Risk

Steve Wagner

Synopsis

  • Pressure cookers were hot on the gift list for 2017, but these convenient appliances also earned headlines for the unexpected explosions they caused inside kitchens across the U.S.
  • Wagner Reese has been following these stories and found a couple common reasons (outside of operator error) why a pressure cooker could explode.
  • A pressure cooker uses heat to boil liquids and allows steam to build up as the pressure increases. Most temperatures inside pressure cookers will run around 40º hotter than the boiling-point of water (212ºF).
  • If a vent, lid, seal, gasket or lock is faulty and fails, a disastrous explosion could happen.
  • These super steam blowouts are dangerous to anyone within range and the liquids and flying pressure cooker parts have caused burns, amputation, blindness, disfigurement and severe damage to homes.
  • Injuries or property damage caused by an exploding pressure cooker have the potential to become a product liability claim if the appliance is proven defective.

Today’s Pressure Cookers

What was once known as an old-fashioned aluminum gadget that rattled in your grandmother’s kitchen, pressure cookers have quickly gained popularity again as a useful appliance for a new generation of families across the U.S. These stovetop or electric devices use steam to cook food faster and more efficiently by building up pressure under a sealed and locked lid. Today’s pressure cookers have been replaced by high-tech stainless steel, claim to cut cooking times by 50 percent or more and run 40º hotter than the boiling-point of water (212ºF). They have also received quite the makeover compared to what we saw decades ago and offer the same functions as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and food warmer. Many brands have even produced automatic functions for making rice, oatmeal, baby food, soup/stew, sweets and desserts and programmable options for simmering, steaming, sautéing and browning.

Defective Pressure Cookers Can Cause Lifelong Injuries, Major Property Damage

There are over a dozen brands of pressure cookers on the market today and nearly half of them are linked to a serious injury or property damage. These reports have provided a couple different scenarios to explain why a pressure cooker could explode (outside of operator error).

  1. The lid or pressure release vent was faulty and failed, forcing the lid to open too soon and violently release the pot’s contents.
  2. The lock or seal on the pressure cooker was defective and pushed the lid open, launching boiling hot liquids, food, steam, food and metal pieces everywhere.
  3. Sealing gasket issues and electric shock hazards have also been reported as reasons for several pressure cooker injuries. Many of these products required a recall.

A pressure cooker’s super steam blowouts are dangerous to anyone within range and the liquids and dismantled pressure cooker parts can cause lifelong injuries, property damage and in some rare cases, even death. Here is a closer look at the reported pressure cooking injuries:

  • Amputation
  • Bleeding
  • Burns
  • Cuts or lacerations
  • Disfigurement
  • Eye injuries or blindness
  • Hospitalization
  • Infection
  • Scalds
  • Scarring
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Take Extra Safety Precautions When Using Your Pressure Cooker

Of course, you want to believe that your kitchen appliances are perfectly safe to use, especially when instructions are followed, but cooking injuries are all too common. Even with a pressure cooker’s safety features in place such as locked lids that must be activated before the pressure builds, and operator controlled valves to release excess pressure, there still are a number of things you can do to make cooking with a pressure pot safer and more successful. We have gathered a list of extra safety measures you can take while using your pressure cooker – without having to be rushed to the hospital.

Check Your Equipment, Keep It Clean

Always check the rubber gasket and the seal that lines the lid of the cooker to make sure it isn’t cracked, ripped or missing anything. In fact, depending on how often you use your cooker, some manufacturers recommend replacing these pieces annually. Also check to make sure that there is no dried food on the rim of the pot, which could break the seal. When it comes time to clean your cooker, remove the gasket and wash it separately, along with the lid and the pot. Clean the valve with a small utensil. You will know it is not clogged if it moves freely and isn’t stuck. Store the cooker with the lid upside down on the pot, rather than locked in place. If the cord becomes frayed or you drop the pot and notice damage, refrain from using the appliance until it has been checked for safety.

Follow The Recipe

A pressure cooker needs liquid to create the steam that cooks the food. A good recipe will take this into account, but if you’re creating your own, you’ll need at least 1/2 cup of water or other liquid. For most foods, don’t fill the pressure cooker more than two-thirds full, to avoid the possibility of food blocking the vents.

Prepare For Blocked Valves While Cooking Certain Foods

Some foods can block the steam valves and the pressure release vents. Foods that have been known to do this include pasta, rhubarb, split peas, oatmeal, applesauce and cranberries. If you cook these foods, follow a trusted recipe and make sure that the amount in the pot is below the recommended maximum fill line.

Never Use Oil

You should never use oil of any type in a pressure cooker. Using even a tiny amount of oil can be very dangerous and cause the gasket and other parts to melt.

Follow Manufacturer Directions To Release Pressure

You should review your user manual for this step. If you don’t have access to it, Spruce.Com offers these great directions on how you can release pressure in three ways.

  1. Remove the cooker from the heat, letting it sit until the pressure pin goes down (natural release).
  2. Run cold water over the lid of the closed pan (cold water release).
  3. Use the pot’s steam release valve to expel the steam (quick release).

Make sure to protect your hands with pot holders as you’re handing the cooker, and if you’re using the quick release method, be sure that your face, hands, and body are away from the steam vent.

Open Carefully

When you open the cooker after the steam has been released, hot steam will still escape from the pot, so as you open the pot, tip the lid away from you and hold it over the pot so that the hot condensation doesn’t drip onto your skin or clothing.

Don’t Buy A Second Hand Cooker

Buying items that were used can be a great way to save money, but we would encourage you to leave pressure cookers and other appliances that are warrantied off that frugal spending list. Used models may be suffering from cracked gaskets, missing seals, and broken lids or ones that don’t fit properly. They may have also been recalled. So, save yourself the explosion and injury and just buy new.

Have you ever had a cooking injury caused by a faulty product like a pressure cooker?

Who Is At Fault For A Pressure Cooker Injury?

Give the product liability attorneys at Wagner Reese a call if you have sustained an appliance-related injury and we can assist you with your case. To speak to the attorneys at Wagner Reese today, call our Indianapolis office location at (888) 204-8440 or email us with your pressure cooker injury story by using our free contact form.

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