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Pressure Cookers and Pressure Canners

Pressure Cooking - Origins and History

Air Pressure Affects Cooking

Air Pressure Affects Cooking

Perhaps it started with mountain climbers.  They would find that at very high altitudes it was difficult to properly prepare a meal.  Boiled vegetables and meats just wouldn’t cook properly.  Potatoes, for instance, could be inserted into a pot of boiling water and left there for some hours, yet emerge nearly as hard as ever.  Charles Darwin reported on this phenomenon in his Voyage of the Beagle. 

“The pot was left on the fire all night, and next morning it was boiled again, but yet the potatoes were not cooked.  I found out this, by overhearing my two companions discussing the cause, they had come to the simple conclusion, ‘that the cursed pot (which was a new one) did not choose to boil potatoes.’” 

In reality, the problem was atmospheric pressure.  The lower the pressure (as it would be in high mountainous regions) the lower the temperature required to boil water.  Consequently, the normal temperature at which water boils would not be reached at 100ºC (212ºF).  It could be several degrees below that – at temperatures not quite high enough to cook potatoes.  That means a pot could literally boil dry without its contents having been fully cooked.  Cooking times would extend dramatically. 

The reverse of this, however, is also true.  Water’s boiling point increases as pressure increases.  As that boiling point increases, more pathogens can be destroyed, and the shorter cooking times become.  A pressure cooker attempts to do just that.  It is a kitchen pot that can be totally sealed.  When the liquid inside begins to boil it produces steam.  Since the pot is sealed, that steam has nowhere to go.  Trapped, as it is, pressure builds, and, as might be expected, the results are higher cooking temperatures and shorter cooking times.  Foods can cook up to 70% faster in a pressure cooker, with some complete meals ready in just a few minutes.  Too much pressure is alleviated through the use of safety release valves, so today’s cookers and canners offer efficient, safe usage. 

A pressure cooker and a pressure canner are designed exactly alike.  The smaller pressure canner is simply too small to be used in the canning process.  The larger capacity pressure canners can be utilised in both ways.

Besides the shorter and hotter cooking times, these handy devices have a number of other advantages to offer today’s homemakers.  Fewer vitamins and minerals are destroyed in the cooking process, making for higher nutritional values.  Less time, means less energy consumed – another savings.  Kitchens stay cooler since less hot steam is expelled into the room.  That also translates into less splatters and spills, making clean-up much easier.  All in all, this is a great option for most families.

Bringing to a Boil

Bringing to a Boil

 

 

Temperature, pressure, altitude chart

Pounds of pressure

Temp. at sea level

Temp. at 3,000'

Temp. at 4,000'

Temp. at 5,000'

Temp. at 6,000'

Temp. at 7,000'

Temp. at 8,000'

Temp. at 10,000'

psi

°F

°F

°F

°F

°F

°F

°F

°F

0

212

206

204

203

201

199

197

194

1

215

210

208

207

205

203

202

198

2

218

213

212

210

209

207

206

202

3

222

217

215

214

212

211

209

206

4

224

220

218

217

216

214

213

210

5

228

223

221

220

219

217

216

213

6

230

226

224

223

222

220

219

217

7

232

228

227

226

225

223

222

220

8

235

231

230

228

227

226

225

223

9

237

233

232

231

230

229

228

225

10

240

236

235

234

232

231

230

228

11

242

238

237

236

235

234

233

231

12

244

241

240

238

237

236

235

233

13

246

243

242

241

240

239

238

236

14

249

245

244

243

242

241

240

238

15

250

247

246

245

244

243

242

240

16

252

249

248

247

246

245

244

242

17

253

251

250

249

248

247

246

245

18

255

252

252

251

250

249

248

247

19

257

254

254

253

252

251

250

249

20

259

256

256

254

254

253

252

250

 

 

A Brief History

from the 1880s

Both pressure cookers and pressure canners have been around for a lot longer than most people think.  Denis Papin, a French physicist, seems to have pioneered the concept with his invention of the steam digester in 1679.  Heavy, cumbersome and prone to exploding, early versions, with their regulating problems, did not see great commercial success.  By the 1900s, however, enough improvements had been made for them to begin to become more commonplace, so much so, that in 1917, the United States Department of Agriculture deemed them "the only safe method of canning low-acid foods without risking food poisoning."

Popularity rapidly increased, and by the 1940s and 50s there were over 85 U.S. manufacturers trying to meet public demand.  Quality, however, suffered in the search for quantity and inferior, problem prone products brought about plummeting sales.  Only recently have they begun to reestablish themselves in the North American market.  Now; thanks to a much better, much safer, and much more reliable product; pressure cookers and pressure canners are once again being considered valuable additions to homeowners' lists of kitchen appliances.

Pressure Cooking

"Pressure cooking is a method of cooking in a sealed vessel that does not permit air or liquids to escape below a preset pressure. Because water's boiling point increases as the pressure increases, the pressure built up inside the cooker allows the liquid in the pot to rise to a temperature higher than 100 °C (212 °F) before boiling. "

- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All-American Pressure Cooker/Canners

All-American Pressure Cooker/Canners

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