Exploding Pressure Cooker Dangers

As we all become more aware of the importance of a healthy diet, it’s natural to look for fast, convenient ways to cook wholesome foods at home.

Many consumers have done just that over recent years, turning to pressure cookers to help them make nutritious, tasty meals quickly and easily. Statistics show that retail sales of electric pressure cookers in the U.S. gradually increased between 2010 to 2017, then held steady after that. In 2019, retail sales of the cookers amounted to about $51.48 million.

Most of those cookers operate as they should. Many pressure cookers, however, are defective and have caused consumers to suffer from serious, often traumatic burn injuries.

If you have been injured or burned  by a pressure cooker, or if you are concerned about their safety, read on for answers about possible pressure cooker dangers.

Table of Contents

Can a Pressure Cooker Explode?

Yes. It is possible for a pressure cooker to explode and for the scalding hot contents to be ejected out onto the user or anyone else standing nearby.

The problem is that pressure cookers use a combination of heat and steam to create a high amount of pressure that cooks foods quickly and thoroughly. This results in flavorful dishes that are cooked faster than with conventional cooking methods. But it also creates a potentially dangerous situation.

The pressure inside the cooker must be properly controlled and regulated to be safe. As the pressure increases, the steam is pushed up toward the top of the cooker, where it is supposed to be vented properly. If something goes wrong, that high pressure can push the lid off and spew out the scalding hot contents.

Most pressure cookers advertise that they have safety mechanisms installed that properly vet any excess pressure and prevent the lid from being opened until all the pressure is released. Unfortunately, many of these safety mechanisms have not functioned as expected, resulting in numerous injuries.

Has Anyone Been Killed by a Pressure Cooker?

So far, there are no official reports of a person being killed in the U.S. by an exploding pressure cooker. Sometimes the injuries are so horrific and severe, however, that they may lead to death. Particularly if the patient goes into shock because of severe injuries, the risk of death increases.

There was one report back in 2011 about a 79-year-old woman in Miami, Florida, who was cooking in her home when her pressure cooker exploded. According to the “Daily Mail,” it “suddenly flew through the air and exploded, severing her leg above the ankle.”

The woman was hospitalized and later transferred to the nursing home, where she died less than month later.   

Have Any Instant Pots Exploded?

Yes. Several lawsuits have been filed in courts around the country detailing the accounts of Instant Pots exploding. In November 2021, for instance, a California woman filed a new Instant Pot lawsuit in which she claimed that she suffered substantial burn injuries after her Instant Pot exploded. According to her complaint, she was able to open the lid while the unit was still under pressure, despite supposed safety features that were supposed to make that impossible.

In July 2021, a Pennsylvania mom filed a new Instant Pot lawsuit on behalf of her two-year-old daughter. She claimed that she was making soup in the cooker on September 18, 2020. Once the cooking process was completed, she noticed an error message on the screen. She released the pressure valve. Once she believed the unit was no longer under pressure, she started to remove the lid.

That’s when the lid shot open, spewing the scalding hot contents into the kitchen and onto her daughter, who was sitting in a nearby chair. The little girl had to go to the hospital to be treated for third-degree burns to her face, chest, neck, left shoulder, and left arm.

Several other lawsuits filed in recent years have made similar claims, with the plaintiffs seeking to hold manufacturers liable for their injuries.

When Instant Pots explode , the injuries can be serious and extremely traumatic. Burn injuries from such explosions can take years of expensive and painful medical treatment to recover and can leave permanent scars.

To date, over 17 brands of pressure cookers have been the subject of lawsuits filed by users who were injured by their products. Over ten brands have implemented recalls, sometimes related to reports of explosions and burn injuries.

In November 2020, for instance, Sunbeam Products, makers of Crock-Pot pressure cookers, recalled nearly one million of the cookers due to potential burn risks. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) noted in a statement that the cooker could pressurize when the lid was not fully locked, causing the lid to suddenly detach while the product was in use. This posed burn risks to consumers “from hot food and liquids ejected from the product.”

What Happens If You Open a Pressure Cooker Without Releasing Pressure?

Whenever a liquid under pressure is suddenly depressurized—when you open the lid, for instance—the gases in the liquid (including the steam) will rapidly expand, which can create an explosion of the cooker’s contents.

If you open a pressure cooker while it’s still under pressure, that pressure can force the hot contents of the cooker onto you and the surrounding area.

A properly designed pot should not allow the lid to be opened while it is still under pressure. Unfortunately, many consumers have discovered the hard way that their cookers were not properly designed.

What Happens If You Overfill a Pressure Cooker?

Pressure cookers typically have instructions detailing the maximum and minimum levels to which they should be filled. Often, you will see these marked inside the pot. It’s important not to exceed these levels.

In general, a pressure cooker should never be more than two-thirds full. If you are making a liquid-based meal like a soup, it’s best to fill only halfway. This creates room in the pot for the steam to build up without creating a bubbling-over situation.

Overfilling leads to the food being ejected from the pressure release valve, which can not only be messy but can potentially damage your cooker.

Other consequences of overfilling include:

  • Loss of flavor and texture in the food.
  • Food may block the pressure valve, creating a risk of high-pressure levels. If the safety valve doesn’t kick in and release the pressure, it can grow to dangerous levels.
  • Damage to the cooker’s components.
  • Spills that may in burns.

What Are the Possible Defects of a Pressure Cooker?

The most common defects in pressure cookers include the following:

  • Inadequate seals: The seal on the lid is particularly important. If it is inadequate, it can allow for spilling and expulsion of the hot contents, particularly after the cooker builds up pressure and heat.
  • Faulty gaskets: Gaskets that allow the user to open the pot while it’s still under pressure can lead to explosions and injuries.
  • Inadequate steam vents: If the vents don’t work as they should to vent excess pressure, the pressure can build up inside the cooker and potentially lead to an explosion.
  • Lid lock defects: The lid lock safety mechanism can fail, allowing the lid to be opened while the cooker is still under pressure.
  • Improperly assembled: During the manufacturing process, the cooker may have been improperly assembled.
  • Digital indication malfunction: If the pressure cooker displays faulty information on the screen or gives out faulty signals that the cooker is ready to be opened when it isn’t, that can lead to injuries.

What Pressure Cooker Has a Recall?

Though not all potentially unsafe pressure cookers have been recalled, several manufacturers have implemented recalls over the years. Some of these have been related to defects that can increase the risk of explosions and injuries, while others were related to manufacturing defects.

Brands that have recalled some of their pressure cookers include:

  • Tristar Products Power Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisinart Pressure Cookers
  • Instant Pot Gem Multicookers and Smart 60
  • NuWave Cookers
  • Fagor America Cookers
  • Alcan Pressure Cookers
  • Breville Fast Slow Cooker
  • Crofton Chef’s Collection Pressure Cooker
  • Manttra Pressure Cookers
  • Maxi-Matic Pressure Cookers
  • HSN Bella Cucina Zip Cookers
  • Tabletops Unlimited Cookers
  • HSN Ultrex-Brand Pressure Cookers
  • Wolfgang puck Worldwide Cookers
  • Sunbeam Crock-Pot Express
  • QVC Welbilt Electronic Pressure Cookers
  • Prestige Pressure Cooker
  • Gourmia Express Pot Electric Pressure Cooker
  • Nutrex Pressure Cooker

Are Pressure Cookers Toxic?

Some pieces of cookware can leach concerning chemicals into our food, particularly older items with non-stick coating. Though the coating is safe most of the time, with repeated use and exposure to high heat, it can begin to break down, after which it may release small amounts of chemicals into foods being cooked.

There has also been concern about heavy metals like lead in certain types of cookers. Some independent testing has found evidence of measurable levels of lead in ceramic slow cookers. Though manufacturers have stopped adding lead as an ingredient in ceramic glaze, small amounts can contaminate the glaze during the manufacturing process.

In 2017, NPR reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) randomly tests ceramic food containers like crockpots for lead. That testing is based on some findings of lead and cadmium from the glaze used in making ceramic ware. Recent testing has found no lead in the food-holding sections of slow cookers.

Some pressure cookers have had Prop 65 warnings on them, raising concerns for customers. California’s Prop 65, officially known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, was created in reaction to the discovery of dangerous pollutants in California’s water supply.

The FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already set safe levels for many chemicals. Prop 65 levels are often much lower than these, so the presence of a label doesn’t mean the product is necessarily unsafe. There may be traces of lead in the heating element, for instance, that never come into contact with your food, or low levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) in the electric cord.

Check your product over for warning labels before purchasing. Items like a Prop 65 warning label are required to be listed with the product’s sales information.

Do I Have a Valid Pressure Cooker Lawsuit?

Pressure cooker lawsuits have been filed on behalf of injured plaintiffs throughout the country. State and federal laws hold manufacturers responsible if their products present safety risks, particularly if the companies failed to warn about those risks, or failed to take appropriate actions to protect consumers.

If you were cooking with a pressure cooker and it exploded and caused you to suffer from serious injuries, you may be eligible to file a pressure cooker lawsuit. Contact a pressure cooker attorney to evaluate your case. The initial consultation is free, and if your attorney agrees that you have a case, you will not be charged unless you win your case.