Although pressure cookers have seen a surge in popularity in recent years, they've been around for centuries. Your ancestors likely used them for cooking and canning the fresh vegetables they grew in the garden. But the very feature that helps the cooker build up pressure, the lid, can also become stuck.
About the Lid
A pressure cooker's lid has two safety valves, a pressure regulator knob and a vent pipe. Once sealed, the pressure cooker can reach temperatures of as much as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, since the steam stays inside the pot. This allows you to cook food more quickly than using other methods. There is also a lock that holds the lid in place as pressure builds. Before affixing the lid in place, lightly coat the pot's rim with cooking oil. This will help you better maneuver the lid.
After the cooking cycle ends, you'll still need to wait for the internal pressure to reduce before you can remove the lid. If it seems stuck, allowing a few extra minutes to pass could make a difference. Once that pressure has dropped, you'll also need to use a fork or oven mitt to lift the pressure control valve. At this point, you should be able to turn the upper handle counter-clockwise and remove the lid. If several additional minutes pass, and you still can't remove the lid, it may be stuck.
Removing a Pressure Cooker Lid
If you've allowed sufficient time for the pressure to reduce, and your lid is still jammed, don't try to pry it open, since that can be unsafe. If removing it as usual doesn't work, try the cold-water method of lowering pressure, which involves gently running cold water over the cooker. Avoid getting water in the vent pipe, since that could actually increase the pressure inside, forcing you to wait even longer to try again. You should only use the cold-water method with traditional stovetop pressure cookers, not the newer electric pressure cookers, since water and electricity don't mix.
If the cold-water method doesn't work, try turning the lid and re-aligning the marks on it with the corresponding marks on the pot to see if you can open it. You may also be able to reduce some of the pressure on the inside of the pot by tapping the outside with a spatula or wooden spoon.
A pressure cooker can quickly become a favorite way to prepare meals. Although there is a slight learning curve, with practice, you'll soon be an expert. When things occasionally go wrong, often simply waiting for the pressure to reduce is all it takes to get back to normal.
Stephanie Faris is a novelist and freelance writer whose work has appeared on the websites of Pacific Standard, the New York Post, the Intuit Small Business Blog, and many others. She is the Simon & Schuster author of eight children’s novels, including the Piper Morgan series.