Exploding appliances sounds like a bit out of a cartoon or 90s sitcom, but sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Over the past few decades, electric pressure cookers such as Instant Pots have grown in popularity in the United States. Electric pressure cookers cook food quickly while still retaining most of the food’s nutritional value, a no-brainer for busy but health-conscious American home cooks. While most pressure cookers are perfectly safe, some manufacturers have failed to make sure their safety mechanisms work as intended, leaving consumers susceptible to significant risks of an explosion.
How Do Pressure Cookers Work?
Pressure cookers work by trapping steam inside a sealed pot, building pressure that increases the temperature of boiling water from 212°F to 250°F. To use a pressure cooker, food and liquid are placed inside the cooker, and the lid is sealed. The pressure is regulated by a valve or pressure gauge, and once the desired pressure is reached, a timer is set, and the food cooks for a specified amount of time. After cooking, the pressure is released before the lid is opened to serve the food.
As the pressure inside the cooker increases, heat is distributed more evenly and quickly, which can help to preserve the food’s color, flavor, and nutrients. Additionally, the pressure inside the cooker helps to break down fibers and connective tissue in meats, making them more tender. While many people may be aware of the benefits, most people may not be aware of the dangers associated with faulty pressure cookers.
Common Causes of Pressure Cooker Explosions
Pressure cookers are designed to safely contain the pressurized steam during the cooking process, then slowly release that pressure once the cooking process is finished. The design is intended to prevent users from opening the pressure cooker until all the pressure is released from the pot, at which point the pot can be safely opened. However, if the mechanisms responsible for this critical safety feature are faulty or malfunctioning, it can produce a dangerous result. Explore common causes of pressure cooker explosions below.
Faulty Lid Seals
Pressure cooker lids are designed to be airtight to keep steam and pressure inside the device until it reaches optimal cooking conditions. When the rubber or silicone seal is not designed correctly, it can break and lead to an explosion.
Defective Lid Lock
If the lock of a pressure cooker doesn’t work properly, a user may have to open the device before it’s finished venting, which can expel extremely hot food, leading to burns. QVC and Ultrex recalled 900 and 1400 pressure cookers, respectively, due to defective lids.
Venting allows incredibly hot steam to slowly release from the pressure cooker. When this mechanism is broken, it may lead to an explosion.
The gasket helps seal the cooker to allow pressure to build within the device. In 2015, appliance manufacturer Breville recalled about 35,000 pressure cookers with faulty gaskets, which caused accidents resulting in severe burns.
Faulty Automatic Shutoff Valve
Many of the electronic pressure cookers come with a built-in automatic shutoff for safety purposes and when those fail, pressure cookers can explode or prematurely release incredibly hot steam.
Will My Electric Pressure Cooker Explode?
Most pressure cookers are perfectly safe, but if you’re worried about a pressure cooker explosion, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s updates for the latest recalls or warnings.