Before you go out and buy a pressure cooker, educate yourself on the finer points of how they work with this pressure cooker glossary.
Gasket: A gasket is a ring that forms a gas-tight seal which does not allow air or steam to escape between the pot and the lid. While old pressure cookers had rubber gaskets, the new gaskets are now made of silicon or other polymers. This not only creates a better seal, but silicon is less likely to become cracked and brittle with age like rubber products.
kPa: This is the abbreviation of Kilopascals, and it is the standard metric unit for measuring air pressure.
Locking mechanism: Depending on the type of pressure cooker you select, it should have at least two locking mechanisms to ensure the lid stays shut when it is in use, and that it cannot be accidentally opened. The lock mechanism may be a sliding or twisting lock or it maybe a pin lock mechanism for example.
Operating pressure: This refers to the rated pressure inside the cooker, the higher the pressure, the faster the cooking time. You will see this measured in either kPa or PSI, for example the operating pressure may be indicated as 55 (kPa)/ 8 (PSI) and range up to 103(kPa)/15 (PSI).
PSI: This is the acronym for Pounds per Square Inch, and it is the standard imperial unit for measuring air pressure.
Pressure indicator: A pressure indicator is a visual gauge that shows you what the pressure is inside the cooker (as it increases and decreases). This will help you to adjust the cooking temperature, as well as see when the pressure has decreased enough to open the cooker after the desired cooking time has expired.
Pressure settings: Modern pressure cookers will offer multiple pressure settings, which allow you to set the pressure that the food will be cooked at, thereby increasing or decreasing the desired cooking time. Just as with ovens, we talk about the cooking temperature, with a pressure cooker, the heating method is measure as a pressure setting (measured in kPa or PSI).
Rack/Trivet: A rack, or trivet, as it is also known, is a standard feature of a pressure cooker and it looks like a metal plate with holes in it. Generally it will be made of aluminium of stainless steel, or in the case of electric pressure cookers, plastic. The rack is used to lift the food off the bottom of the cooker and they come in a range of sizes, but look for a rack that covers the cooker’s diameter, as smaller racks may be of little use.
Steam release valve: This is a quick release feature that allows steam to be safely expelled without losing heat. It is best to use this in short bursts to release the steam in a controlled manner.
Steaming basket: A steamer basket is generally made out of stainless steel, and most will have a handle and feet, and it will fit the diameter of your the pressure cooker. It suspends the foods above the liquid line, allowing you to cook different foods at the same time, as well as reducing the intermingling of cooking flavours, which is desirable when cooking vegetables.