A popular kitchen appliance could be an accident waiting to happen. Electric pressure cookers allow busy people to quickly cook meals using a combination of high pressure and high temperatures.
The problem is that this high-pressure internal environment could set the stage for an explosion if something goes wrong—which happens too often. Hundreds of people across the United States have sustained severe burns from being scalded by the contents of defective pressure cookers that exploded.
Have Any Instant Pots Exploded?
A lawsuit filed in April 2021 by Utah resident Lucy Perkins against Instant Brands, Inc.—the manufacturer of the popular Instant Pot pressure cooker—is the latest in a long list of litigation.
Multi-cookers from Instant Pot and other bestselling brands highlight the safety features that are meant to prevent accidents. However, in many of these lawsuits, claimants have argued that some design or manufacturing defect led to the explosion and its subsequent injuries, the Grand Rapids Herald-Review reported.
What Happens If a Pressure Cooker Explodes?
The pressure that builds up inside a pressure cooker helps break down raw food products into fully cooked, flavorful meals faster. That same pressure could prompt the appliance to explode, forcefully projecting its contents all over the kitchen.
Pressure Cooker Exploding Injuries
When a pressure cooker explodes, the mess is the least of your worries. In the gush of liquids, steam, and solid foods heated to scalding temperatures more than 40 degrees above the boiling point of water, anyone in the vicinity could suffer severe burns.
Some pressure cooker explosions have been violent enough to break off parts of the appliance itself. Besides propelling lids upward so that they get embedded in the ceiling, these malfunctioning appliances can turn whistles, handles, and other metal components into shrapnel. In some cases, metal components have become lodged in the body of a victim, the UK’s Metro news site reported.
Exploding pressure cookers have led to serious injuries like the following:
Amputations that result from shrapnel injuries, extremely severe burns, or infections and other complications that develop following the injuries
Serious and even life-threatening blood loss
While the user operating the pressure cooker is the one most likely to suffer injuries if the appliance explodes, that’s not always the case. In several reported instances of exploding pressure cookers, other family members—even small children, as reported by the Associated Press—have been caught in the crossfire simply by being near the appliance.
How Do You Stop a Pressure Cooker From Exploding?
There are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a pressure cooker explosion. However, even if you do everything right, an accident can still happen if something is wrong with the design or the appliance or with how it was manufactured.
A Note About Pressure Cooker Explosions and Manufacturers’ Negligence
What the hundreds of injured Americans whose pressure cooker injury lawsuits are ongoing have in common is that they followed the right safety precautions. In many cases, they couldn’t have known that some critical safety feature had malfunctioned until it was too late.
Reducing Your Risk of Pressure Cooker Explosion Accidents
Explosions can occur even when you do everything right—but accidents are more likely if the user isn’t using the pressure cooker safely or as intended. If you still want to use a pressure cooker, here are some steps you can take to help minimize the danger of an explosion.
Carefully Examine the Appliance Before Using
Do not use your pressure cooker if any component of the device shows any sign of wear or defect, including a loose or torn gasket or a lid that doesn’t close perfectly.
Check online for any recalls on your device prior to each use. In at least one of the reported instances of serious harm arising out of a pressure cooker explosion, the victim stated that the manufacturer later told her that checking for recalls was her responsibility, according to the Daily Mail.
Use the Pressure Cooker Correctly
Before you begin using a pressure cooker, read all instructions and safety warnings carefully, and follow those instructions to the letter. Don’t overfill the pot with food or liquids, including foods that expand when cooked. Use the recommended amount of liquid.
Learn the correct procedures for venting steam from the pressure cooker and opening the appliance. Make sure you understand how the safety features work and follow the right procedures every single time. Take precautions, such as using tongs rather than your bare hands to open pressure release valves.
After each use, clean the appliance thoroughly as directed, paying specific attention to valves and vents that could be blocked by built-up food residue.
What to Do If a Pressure Cooker Explodes
If you were injured by an exploding pressure cooker but you believe you did everything right, please don’t blame yourself.
First, practice first aid techniques for burns, which may include removing clothing and applying cool water to the injury.
Call 911 for emergency assistance if needed.
Focus first on getting medical care right away, for the dual reasons of (1) giving you the best chance at recovery and (2) documenting your injuries.