Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Pressure Cooker Gaskets and How To Take Care of Them





In this post, you will learn everything that you should know about the pressure cooker gasket. Whether it’s about cleaning, replacement, storing or prolonging the life of the gasket, you will find it in this post. But first, you should understand what a pressure cooker gasket is and how important it is for the appliance.
pressure cooker gasket
Pressure Cooker Gasket

A Pressure Cooker Gasket

A pressure cooker gasket is also known as a sealing ring. It is used to keep the appliance airtight, keeping the steam stored between the pan and the lid to build up pressure.
purpose of the pressure cooker gasket
Source: WikiHow.com
Two materials are used to make pressure cooker gaskets – Rubber and Silicone. There are many ways to seal a pressure cooker, depending upon the model and make of the pressure cooker. These are:
  • Twist-on Design: It is one of the most common modern designs, in which the lid is placed on top of the pot and twisted approximately 30 degrees to lock itself. This design has flanges engaged with the lid.
  • Bolt-down Design: in this design, there are flanges on the lid as well as on the body. The lid is locked by passing the bolt through these flanges and wingnuts are used to lock them. This design is typically used in pressure canners.
  • Center Screw Design: It is a common design for vintage style pressure cookers that are still common. In this design, the lid is secured on top of the pot by means of a bar and a screw.
  • Internal Lid Design: This design consists of an oval lid which is placed inside at an angle. There is a spring arrangement that is used for holding the lid on the opening until the pressure is reached. The lid is larger than the pot opening and it needs to be turned, so that it can align itself with the opening of the pot.

Caring for New Pressure Cooker Gaskets

Material-wise, new gaskets are typically made of silicone. Manufacturers use polymers other than rubber because rubber gaskets cannot withstand high pressure. Preferences for silicone include:
  • Silicone offers a better grip and seal,
  • Unlike rubber, food odor is not retained in silicone gaskets.
  • Silicone gaskets are more durable, and they tend to live longer than rubber gaskets, because they don’t crack easily upon aging.
These points can help you care and maintain your new gasket:
  • If you’ve installed a new gasket in your pressure cooker, there’s no need for special cleaning. Just a quick wash would do.
  • There’s a myth that rubber and silicone should be soaked well with water before installation to make it stronger, but it’s not true. The reason is, neither rubber nor silicone can absorb water, so soaking wouldn’t do any good.
  • The gasket however, should not be stretched or pulled; otherwise it might lose its original shape, or even tear apart.

How to Clean the Gasket

caring for pressure cooker gasket
Source: WikiHow.com
Here are some handy tips to clean your gasket:
  • After every use of your pressure cooker, don’t forget to remove the gasket from the lid and wash it properly with soap water.
  • Avoid putting the gasket in a dishwasher
  • Only use soapy water to wash the gasket.
  • While cleaning, examine the gasket closely. Check whether the gasket developed cracking or signs of wear and tear.
While installing the gasket, always follow the manufacturer manual. Gaskets normally have indications for right and wrong sides.
  • So, before installation, look for these signs. The right side must always face upwards while installing a gasket.
  • If signs are not available, you can try orienting with any visible writing on the gasket with the words facing towards you.

How Frequently You Should Replace the Gasket

Gaskets can last for years. On the other hand, there are some who may have to replace the gasket within a year. Why does it happen?
Apart from the gasket, other rings (made of either rubber, plastic or silicone) placed around the lid for sealing go through wear and tear depending how often they’re being used and how properly they’re being maintained.
There are many factors that determine the life of the gasket.
  • How often you use your appliance
  • The gasket material
  • How you maintain your pressure cooker
  • What kind of food you cook in your appliance
Check owner’s manual for information on replacement.

Identify the problem early

While aging is a reality, misuse and heat are the main factors responsible for weakening gasket material. This may be the reason why a gasket fails without warning. So, how can you identify the problem before it gets worse?
The first symptom of gasket weakening may be the steam leaking from specific places beneath the lid. When this happens,
  • Slowly reduce the heat and allow the pressure cooker to depressurize.
  • Then, remove the lid with care
  • Inspect the point of steam leakage.
Most of the time, you will find a tiny hole, a crack or tear in the gasket. This small tear is enough to make your pressure cooker ineffective. If you use it further, your cooking time will increase.

When you need to replace the gasket that doesn’t have a crack or tear?

Other than wear and tear in your gasket, there are other occasions when you need a gasket replacement. Such as:
  • If the gasket becomes sticky or tacky, it should be replaced.
  • If the gasket material becomes too hard to stretch and fit the lid, it needs to be replaced.
  • If your gasket gets shrunk and doesn’t fit the lid easily, you have to replace it.
  • If the gasket needs more than normal stretching to fit the lid, it should be replaced.
  • If you find that the lid has become too difficult to open or close, it means your gasket should be replaced.
There is a simple way to inspect the gasket. You can conduct a thumbnail test to monitor its quality. Apply a thumbnail pressure on the material and observe. If it’s a permanent dent, the gasket becomes too vulnerable to withstand the pressure and therefore, should be replaced.
However, it’s not the gasket that always turns out to be the culprit, there may be a problem with other things on the lid. So, while replacing the gasket, it’s a fairly good idea to replace other soft sealing parts along with it, such as the overpressure plug.

How to Prolong Gasket’s Life

prolong pressure cooker gasket's life
Source: WikiHow.com
Follow these tips to make your gasket will live longer.
  • Don’t forget to wash the gasket after using your pressure cooker. The gasket must be properly cleaned and dried before and after each use.
  • After food is cooked, some particles will often stick to the rim of the pot, including grains of salt, spices, oil, fats, and other food particles. If you don’t clean it, the food will stick to the gasket and may tear it as soon as you open the lid the next time. Use a clean and damp cloth (not soaked) to wipe the rim. Remove all the food particles from the rim before locking the lid.
  • Don’t let your pressure cooker run dry, because the internal heat can easily damage the gasket material. So, always use water and cooking liquid in a sufficient amount.
  • Avoid playing with the gasket, because twisting, folding, stretching or knotting can easily damage it. Don’t let your kids or pet mess with the gasket.
  • As the gasket (rubber or silicone) gets older, it may become dry or brittle. Soak it in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes before using it. However, this is not a permanent solution. You need to replace it as soon as possible.

Storing the Gasket

  • Gasket for Normal Use
If you use your pressure cooker regularly, you don’t need to make any special arrangements for storing the gasket. Just clean it the way you normally do, dry it and place it back in the lid. Place the lid on top of the pot with downside up. Avoid storing the pressure cooker with lid locked, otherwise there will be bad smell inside the pressure cooker and it could also compress the gasket.
  • Spare Gasket
If you have a spare gasket, store it in a plastic bag – original or replacement. If you live in humid climate, you can try adding a little baking soda in the plastic bag to prevent moisture and odor buildup inside the bag.
  • Storing your pressure cooker for a long duration
If you have to store the appliance for a very long time, it should be properly packed away in a cool and dry spot. If you put your appliance somewhere outdoors or in a garage, the temperature extremes could impact the effectiveness of the soft components including the gasket.
The gasket must remain inside the lid and the lid must be placed upside down on top of the cooking pot. Again you can use a bit of baking soda to prevent moisture and odor buildup. When you are ready to use the pressure cooker, wash the whole thing with hot water and soap before cooking.

Using Oil on the Gasket

If you’re a new pressure cooker user, you surely received a number of care tips with your purchase. Some of those will likely involve gasket care and might state, “Use vegetable or mineral oil to prolong the life of the gasket”. The reality there are some pros and cons to this tip.
  • How oil coating saves the gasket
If the gasket has gotten old and hard, oiling makes it easier to slip over the rim smoothly. This allows the lid to close easily and block steam leakage points. Anyhow, using mineral oil is an emergency step that’ll come in handy at times, when the replacement is due.
Oil minimizes friction between the gasket and the metal surface and reduces chances of wear and tear. This is the reason why, some manufacturers recommend you should coat your gasket with mineral oil before using your pressure cooker. In any case, be careful if cooker’s instructions say otherwise.
  • Be Careful
Here are few reasons why oil coating can cause damage to the gasket:
    1. Higher boiling point: The boiling point of mineral oil is three times that of the water, so it can become too hot for the gasket. The hotter oil may shorten the life of the gasket.
    2. Smell: Cooking oil retains the smell of garlic, spices and onions. When the cooking oil turns rancid, it generates odor.
    3. Gasket can stick to metal: Cooking oils become sticky upon heating. So, if the gasket is coated with a vegetable or cooking oil, internal heat can make it stick to the metal. As a result, when you turn the lid, the gasket will tear.
    4. Dirt and dust: Oil coating on the gasket can easily catch dirt and dust and create a dark coating on it.
    5. Silicone gaskets: Modern day cookers typically have silicone gaskets. They don’t need oil to slip over the rim, allowing the lid to close smoothly. They may be pre-lubricated, so oil coating may damage them.

Finally

Well that covers what you should know about pressure cooker gaskets. Use a silicone gasket instead of a rubber gasket. Follow the manual for cleaning and storing the gasket. Periodic replacement is important, but you can always use a trick or two to prolong its life.

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