Pressure cookers have been around for years, but during this time they have undergone a wide range of redesigns including better lids, tougher gaskets, and more ways for the steam to escape from the pressurized pot, which is also what makes them safer to use than ever before. These days, there are more models and styles to choose from. In this guide, I’ll go over how to use a jiggle top pressure cooker, which is one of the most popular style options on the market these days.
Pressure Cooker Anatomy
For the most part, the basic design of the pressure cooker has remained the same. This appliance consists of a pot with a lid that locks securely in place and features a tight seal that prevents the steam from leaking out. On top of the lid is a valve that allows the user to control the level of pressure that can build up in the pot. On some models, the valve is covered by a weight that jiggles or rattles when the pressure in the pot became so high that it would cause the weight to raise off the valve and push out steam via a vent. These pressure cookers are usually referred to as jiggle top pressure cookers. This vent system offers a safer release, however, it may not be the safest choice for beginners who tend to make the mistake of lifting the weight off the valve before the pot has had a chance to naturally vent and release pressure.
Other types of pressure cookers, such as the Ball Fresh Tech electric water bath canner will come with a style of release system that’s designed with safety in mind, preventing the user from accessing the contents of the pot until all of the hot steam has been released. These appliances have a release mechanism and pressure controls that are fitted into the handles, which makes it much easier to adjust the pot’s level of pressure, and release the pressure once the cooking process is complete. Instead of a jiggle top vent, there’s a spring-loaded system. Some models may also come equipped with important safety alerts that will indicate when the pot has reached a dangerously high level of pressure.
Why Jiggle Tops are Better
But many pressure cooker enthusiasts prefer to stick with a good pressure cooker that comes equipped with the jiggle top design since they have a reputation for their ability to precisely control pressure. But if you’re new to pressure cooker use, you’ll need to pay close attention to the manufacturer’s instructions in order to vent the steam safely, and carefully, without getting burned.
Using a Jiggle Top Model
To use this type of pressure cooker safely, you’ll first need to read the included instructions manual to learn more about what to do and what to avoid during use, especially when it comes to managing the pot’s pressure level. Before use, it’s important to check the pressure release stem and ensure it’s free of debris. If you have a new model, you’ll still need to rinse it out and check all of the components before use.
- Once the cooker is clean and ready to go, add a few inches of water to the pot. Most models will come with fill line marks, so pay close attention to this and avoid overfilling the pot. If you’re using the pressure cooker for the water bath canning method, make sure you have all of your supplies on hand such as the bottom rack and canning jars. If you’re cooking a one-pot meal, add the ingredients and place the lid on the jar, securely locking it into place. Pay close attention to the lid design and look for lid alignment marks.
- Make sure everything is lined up correctly. Once the lid is secured adjust the heat setting based on the recipe or whether you’re water bath canning. In seconds you should notice a steady stream of steam coming out. This is when you’ll apply the weight to the valve stem, then wait approximately five to ten minutes until the pressure has built up to the proper pressure level, based on what you’re cooking.
- Once the pot has reached the correct pressure level, the weight should start to jiggle or move back and forth. At this time, you’ll set the pot’s heat to a lower setting, however, it should not be too low, just enough that it will still keep the weight slowly moving at a steady pace. The weight shouldn’t move too quickly or you’ll use a lot of steam. Now, set the timer on the pot based on how long the cooking process is.
- Once the time is up, you can shut the pressure cooker off and allow it to slowly cool down and depressurize. Some people will cheat and remove the weight in order to speed up this process, but doing so can lead to burns or a rapid change in pressure, which isn’t good if you’re using the water bath method for canning, since the fast change in pressure can end up shattering the jars. So, you’ll need to show some patience.
- When the pot has depressurized you can open the lid and serve the contents. If you’re processing jars, now is the time to safely remove them and carefully wipe down each of the jars.
After use, you’ll need to carefully clean all of the vents, the inner pot, and wipe down the exterior of the pot in order to keep the cooker in good working order. The weight should be stored inside the main pot along with other components including any other removable pieces. To learn more about safe storage tips, click here to read my guide on how to store a pressure cooker.
Learning how to use a jiggle top pressure cooker may sound simple enough, but if you don’t follow the proper safety precautions, such as waiting for the pot to depressurize before removing the weight, then you can cause jars to shatter if you’re water bath canning, or you can burn yourself once the weight is removed and a large gust of steam is released. Remember, read the included user’s manual before using your new appliance and practice patience when it comes time to wait for the pot to depressurize.