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I use my pressure cooker a fair bit but sometimes I struggle in translating a regular recipe to it and I get a charcoaled underlayer at the bottom of the pressure cooker. Some of the time the rest is still edible, sometimes it has to be thrown away.

For example, with a split pea soup recipe I ended with some extremely burnt bottom layer which gave a nasty chemical smell that took a while to clear from the apartment. Obviously the whole thing had to be thrown out.

Not all recipes will necessarily turn out well in a pressure cooker, I get that, but at least I would like to find ways to minimize this particular problem.

I guess I should watch cooking duration and also turn down the heat once the pressure's up. But ideally I would like something that kept the ingredients from contacting the bottom of the pan and allow only water to circulate there. Does something like steam wok bottoms exist for pressure cookers?

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When we use a pressure cooker, we do so with separate pans inside the cooker - flat round tins, in our case - that can be kept off the bottom by adding something underneath. Or stack up cook several things at the same time, if the size allows.

I recall seeing these largish round metal rings like an inch high that I think were for that, or (inverted) small steel plate or bowl. Since there's no (or little) direct contact the bottom doesn't overcook. I imagine some kind of rack or other insert would also work.

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@Megha's answer was pretty much spot on.

This is what I got in a cooking utensils store.

Made a cassoulet (with lentils) in my pressure cooker

The holes are pretty big, so some food did make it through but it did not stop the heat exchange taking place. There was no burnt layer at the bottom this time.

It needs to be a snug fit, so measure your pressure cooker before purchasing - in my case there's about .5cm/1/4inch on each side once resting at the bottom.

Also, I often use my pressure cooker to pre-cook things like roasted potatoes. Using this device, my potatoes came out dry rather than soggy and the finishing pass in the oven came out much better.

enter image description here

  • What's this device called, please? – John Dallman Feb 23 at 13:10
  • @JohnDallman no idea, it was just on a shelf – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Feb 24 at 18:00
  • I had a poke through Amazon.co.uk, and it seems to be a "steam tray." – John Dallman Feb 24 at 18:24
  • the things to look out for would be: diameter vs your pressure cooker's, size of holes (too big and food will get through settle down and go right back to the original problem) and height of feet. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica Feb 24 at 18:29
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The problem with pressure cookers is that the food sits on the bottom of the pot and you are unable to stir it while the pressure builds.

First, check to insure you are getting a good seal around the lid, assuming you have a seal around the lid. Make sure you have the recommended amount of liquid in the cooker before heating.

Make sure you don’t place food directly on the bottom of the cooker. Use the items that come with it to elevate the food.

Use added items such as an elevated metal plate to lift the food above the liquid. As soon as your cooker comes up to temperature and starts producing steam, make sure you have no leaks of any kind. If you have a “jiggle cap” type pressure gauge, make sure to adjust the temperature to get no more than 2–3 jiggles per minute. If it continuously jiggles, you are cooking it too high and with each jiggle you lose a bit of fluid.

Adjust temperature appropriately. If you have a needle gauge, do not exceed 10 pounds of pressure. If you scorch or burn during the recommended cooking time, you are losing fluid through leaks or excess temperature, or you are cooking the food on the bottom of the cooker.

You can also try bring the cooker up to pressure with a lower heat level.

Or you could also bring the food to a boil and stir it before you attach and seal the lid.

Don't over fill pot;usually around 2/3 full

Watch your time if you don't have automatic pot.

Last, (if you are using a “manual” pressure cooker) be sure to turn heat down as low as possible AFTER it starts to hiss (it should barely hiss a few minutes after you do this;adjust heat accordingly to maintain a bare hiss)

As dumb as this sounds, keep notes. You will quickly learn the personality of your particular pot.

Source: Pressure Cooker Cooking

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I have had a lot of trouble with burnt or undercooked food in my beautiful looking Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker. I had much more success in my ancient Namco cooker! I think it is because I now use an induction hotplate, rather than electric coils or gas.

Here is some information that I found that seems plausible, though I haven't yet tested it. From this link:

How to Pressure Cook on Induction

DON’T pre-heat the cooker. I got into the habit of preheating the base of the pressure cooker on a low flame to give me time to slice onions or peel garlic cloves while the cooker was pre-heating. But, on induction, I kept getting burned olive oil and charred onions. Don’t pre-heat your cooker on induction – the cooking surface is hot and ready to saute in 15 seconds!

DO slice the aromatics first, and then turn on the induction burner just before tossing oil or aromatics to saute’.

DON’T bring the cooker to pressure on high heat. Following the old standby advice about bringing the cooker to pressure on high heat several obvious things will happen: the cooker reaches pressure at break-neck speed (about 4 minutes), tomato sauces carbonize and bond to the base of the cooker, and the food comes out disappointingly under-done. One more thing that is not obvious will happen, too: the pressure cooker does not have time to expel all of the air and actually cooks the food at a lower temperature (mechanics explained, below).

DO bring the pressure cooker to pressure on medium heat or tack on a few minutes to the cooking time to compensate for the lower pressure cooking temperature and shorter time to pressure.

DON’T walk away from a very full or wide cooker right after you’ve adjusted the heat. This is where the instant heat of induction does a disservice to pressure cooking. Although the cooker may have reached pressure, the sides are still at a lower temperature than the piping hot aluminum-disk-clad base. Walking away from the cooker once the heat is lowered will cause internal pressure to quickly fall since the heat generated from the base is not enough to both keep the food inside boiling and maintaining pressure and heat up the rest of the cooker or food.

DO hang around to make heat adjustments for the first 5 minutes of pressure for very full or very wide cookers.

DO use the induction burner’s timer feature to set the pressure cooking time so the burner turns itself off automatically when time is up!

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    Welcome to Seasoned Advice. You mentioned a link from where you got the information, but there is no link. Please add it. – Johannes_B May 19 at 8:30
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I had the same problem, and found the solution was right in front of me -- my Presto pressure cooker came with a steam tray that is about 1/4 inch high and snugly fits within the bottom of the pressure cooker. I now use this regularly, and although a piece or two of vegetables may fall through the holes, and of course the liquid does as well, I no longer experience a burnt layer so problem solved!

After removing the lid, use a long fork down the side of the pressure cooker to get under & remove the steam tray, stir everything together, and all good! stem tray for Presto pressure cooker

In the future, I think I'll look for the actual trays, something shaped like a cake pan but without flanges. Friends of mine have a stackable set they purchased and they actually cook the different duration items in different trays, and take out the top trays at the right time and resume cooking the lower trays that need longer cooking.

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