The safety valve inside a pressure cooker is a safety backup mechanism that comes into effect when the pressure inside the cooker turns uncontrollably high and finds no path to escape.
To release steam, the cooker has pressure regulating valves that Jiggle or extend outwards with the help of spring. Some release steam with the help of a computer chip!
If for any reason, the pressure regulating valve fails to release steam, the excessive pressure causes the safety valve to open up and release steam in a controlled way.
This backup valve prevents the pressure cooker from exploding by helping in expelling high-temperature steam.
Allow me to go through a bit of detail to further clear the picture for you.
What is a Pressure Cooker Safety Valve and How Does it Work?
The pressure cooker is inbuilt with two valves that help to release pressure created inside the cooker.
One is a pressure regulating valve with a classic whistle design.
The other valve is located a little away from the pressure regulating valve. It is screwed on the lid of the cooker and is made up of synthetic rubbers like neoprene or hardened Viton.
The heavy synthetic rubber maintains a good seal and pressure.
As the pressure increases inside the pressure cooker, the inner part of the safety valve senses the elevated pressure.
Once the pressure exceeds the acceptable levels, the rubber starts to melt and the disc starts to lift.
An outlet is created that allows the high-pressure steam to escape into the air out of the container.
After the pressure is released, the disc springs back into position.
The safety valve opens up only when all other measures fail to release pressure.
Let us look at all the possible causes of why the safety valve starts to leak steam
Causes of Steam Coming Out from the Safety Valve
If you see pressure steam coming out of the safety valve, it does not signify danger. It only points to some possible dysfunctions that need to be taken care of.
Some of the possible reasons are :
- Damaged or blocked pressure regulating valve. The valve may be blocked due to old food particles, dust, grease, or damage.
- Damaged Gasket. A gasket is a rubber ring that helps to seal the cooker. A damaged or uneven placement of the gasket could lead compromise the seal of the cooker leading to pressure escaping from the safety valve.
- Overfilling of the pressure cooker If the cooker is too full, it can block the pressure regulating valve due to foaming or expansion of food.
- The safety valve also opens up in really old pressure cookers due to years of usage.
- Cheap quality pressure cookers made from an unknown brand are a safety hazard as they compromise on health and protection of the consumer. Low-quality safety valves malfunction easily causing steam to escape.
- If the quantity of food and water is too less and water boils away, it can result in a burnt and empty cooker. Since the temperature and time duration is not controlled, the temperature inside the cooker becomes excessively high quickly leading to the safety valve breaking down.
- If the pressure cooker is placed on a large flame, the flame starts licking the side walls leading to excessive temperature building and safety valve destruction
- If the pressure cooker is not regularly cleaned and maintained, it can clog the pressure regulating valve forcing the safety valve to emit steam out of the cooker.
- Some models come with a sealing feature that needs to be set manually. Forgetting to turn them on can cause the steam to escape from the safety valve.
- Improper placement of rubber rings and lid of the cooker can cause steam to escape from the safety valve.
- For traditional pressure cookers, failure to manually adjust the temperature and pressure causes excessive pressure build-ups causing the safety valve to break or melt.
Can You Use a Pressure Cooker with a Steam Leaking Safety Valve?
Safety valves are usually designed to prevent pressure from exploding.
Once the steam starts to come out, I wouldn’t advise you to use it.
I say this because safety valves emit an excessive amount of unnecessary steam.
If the steam comes out in bulk, it can be dangerous causing second or third-degree burns!
Apart from your kitchen turning into a curtain of steam, food cooking gets impacted and the cooker never boils resulting in uncooked food.
As the safety valve is a protective feature, it should be replaced with a new valve to prevent pressure cooker explosion.
An open safety valve does not give you the same amount of protection from an explosion.
How to Fix the Safety Valve Steam Leaking Issue
The safety valves should be immediately replaced as soon as you sight the damage.
You can replace the safety valve from the outside by holding firmly the inside part so it doesn’t move. Use a screwdriver to rotate and twist the screw on the outside until it comes off.
If you want to change from inside the lid, use a wrench to unscrew from inside while you hold the outside screw firmly.
Clean the hole with cloth or cotton and inspect for any structural damage.
Place the new safety valve and tighten it back with help of a screwdriver. For a quick demo watch the video here.
Tips to Avoid Steam from Coming out of Safety Valve
- The pressure cooker should always be ⅔ full and the remaining ⅓ should be left empty to allow the food and liquids to swell and foam.
- Add a sufficient amount of liquid to the pressure pot. If the cooker runs out of liquid, it can burn the food and also cause an explosion.
- It is a good idea to inspect the pressure regulating valve and the safety valve. Make sure the gasket is clean and placed in position
- Do not place the cooker on large flames. Flames engulf to the side creating excessive temperature too quickly inside the cooker.
- Adjust the temperature and time when using a traditional pressure cooker. Keep an eye on the pressure gauge.
- Always buy from trusted brands as they ensure quality checks when it comes to material and usage. No amount of budgeting should compromise your safety and good health.
- Avoid dishwasher as that can impact sensitive structures of the pressure cooker like gasket and valves.
- Make sure the rubber rings and the lid of the cooker are closed properly and in correct alignment. If the rubber ring has become loose, it is best to replace it.
- It is best to not use strong chemicals and too much force to clean the pressure cooker as the valve and rings can get damaged.
- Hand washing is highly recommended using a light detergent liquid, baking soda, vinegar, etc.
- Place the lid upside down on the cooker so the valves are protected from other pots. Store the cooker in a place with the least physical damage.
I hope I have been able to answer your query about why pressure cooker steam comes out of the safety valves.
Maintain your pressure cooker well and keep an eye for any damage before and after using the pressure cooker
Follow the tips above to avoid steam coming out from your safety valve. If, despite all precautions, the safety valve opens up, replace it with a new one.
General wear and tear are bound to happen in any cooking vessel over the years so don’t worry about it much. Fix the cause and all the best cooking scrumptious and healthy food!
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