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Many looking to quickly put together a delicious meal have turned to pressure cookers, a device that uses steam to cook food at high temperatures. Because of demand, several brands have introduced models to the market, but multiple complaints concerning explosions and burns indicate that these products may have severe safety defects.

Background

At its most basic level, a pressure cooker is comprised of a sealed pot that, when heated, turns liquid inside it into steam. When the water’s boiling point increases, the food inside ends up cooking in less time. But, while this may seem convenient, the cooker’s temperature may go up to 250 degrees, and the pressure is similarly high.

However, while users often know to be careful when cooking with one of these devices, explosions – particularly, lids breaking off and flying into the air at fast speeds – have been a common complaint. Based upon reports to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 30 complaints detail such incidents as lids flying so high they damaged a light fixture or ripped up pieces of flooring or contents flying out and severely burning the user and even bystanders. Many compare its strength and suddenness to a volcano, and nearly all of the complaints state that the lid flew off without any warning.

Currently, the complaints involve Tristar pressure cookers, best known for the “As Seen On TV” model Power Pressure Cooker XL, and those from Fagor America, Tabletops Unlimited, Maxi-Matic, Cuisinart, and Lifetime Brands.

Yet, all models appear to have similar defects:

  • Defective pressure release valves incorrectly tell the user that the pressure inside has fully escaped. At this point, the consumer attempts to open the cooker, and then, the lid breaks off or the contents fly out. This, however, has even happened even after the cooker is unplugged, vented, and opened without force.
  • Faulty gaskets compound to the problem above, allowing the lid to be removed with ease even when the cooker has a high amount of pressure built up inside. Many manufacturers, however, allege their models have a safety feature that keeps the lid fully closed until the cooker has released all of the pressure.
  • A broken lid doesn’t create an airtight seal, usually done with rubber gasket. When the seal is released too early, before the cooker pushes out all of the pressure, the lid has potential to fly off – even when it has a safety lock – and spill the contents.

Defective pressure cookers, on the other hand, are nothing new, and complaints stretch back over a decade. In 2005, the Home Shopping Network’s Welbilt Electric Pressure Cooker had 37 reports of burns, including four involving third-degree injuries. As HSN failed to report these incidents, the CPSC fined them $875,000. Two years later, another HSN product, the Bella Cucina “Zip Cooker” Low Pressure Cooker, was recalled over burn injuries from exploding food.

Also in 2006 and 2007, QVC Electric Pressure Cookers, Ultrex Brand Pressure Cookers, and Manttra Pressure Cookers were recalled over similar injuries. CPSC reports show consumers receiving third-degree burns from exploding food and lids that failed to seal completely.

In 2015, two more recalls followed. Breville pulled over 35,000 of its six-quart Fast Slow Cooker; models, according to CPSC reports, had a defective gasket that released the cooker’s built-up pressure without any warning. As well, Double Insight recalled its Instant Pot pressure cooker over a thermometer probe that could cause electric shocks.

Lawsuits

Even with this product’s extensive history of recalls, many continue to remain on shelves, including the Power Pressure Cooker XL. A subject of multiple recent lawsuits, this cooker was advertised as a “miracle” system that cuts cooking time by up to 70 percent. Furthermore, the manufacturer alleges it is equipped with several safety features, including a safe-lock lid that won’t open until the meal is ready, a steam-release valve, pressure and temperature controls to maintain even heat, clog prevention, and temperature cutoff.

In response, individual lawsuits claim the Power Pressure Cooker XL failed to perform as advertised and came in a defective condition that isn’t safe for the user. Additionally, plaintiffs state that Tristar failed to warn consumers about potential explosions and included no warning in the product packaging about its potential dangers.