In other news: Steam is Hot, and Altitude Matters


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While verifying the accuracy of my probe thermometer, I decided to also measure the temperature of the Instant Pot’s quick release steam plume (using my IP Ultra as the test case).

These are my findings:

Item Measured Temperature Notes
My Kitchen Tap Water (Full Hot) 134°F 56.6°C I can only fling my bare hands through this for a mere fraction of a second — and even that is painful.
Instant Pot Ultra’s “Steam Plume” 181°F 82.8°C Pro-Tip: Keep body parts away!
Boiling Water (at Sea Level) 212°F 100°C We definitely all know better than to put our hands in this!

So there you have it: not quite as bad as pouring boiling water onto yourself. But pretty close.

And considering how fast that steam is exiting the vent, the amount that your skin gets exposed to is fairly substantial in the amount of time it takes your body to react and move to safety.

The moral of the story: Always keep body parts away from Quick Releasing steam! It will burn you, and potentially even blister your skin!

 

Addendum #1

One of my readers emailed me to point out that technically what comes out of the IP vent is “water vapor”, and that true steam is actually “an invisible gas that has a temperature greater than 212°F / 100°C”.

I decided to add this factoid here because my temperature measurement test was specifically using my IP Ultra, which has a hugely-visible “steam” plume — unlike my LUX, which has a barely-visible steam plume.

This makes me wonder if that means the “steam” coming out of my LUX is potentially even hotter than the 181°F / 82°C that I measured!

Regardless of if we’re calling it — “steam” or “water vapor” — it’s hot. Don’t touch!

 

Addendum #2

Another reader has reminded me that at higher elevations, water has a lower boiling point, so I’ve updated the above temperature table to indicate “sea level”.

Specific details of note, (thanks to Dr. Google, and per the USDA’s High Altitude Cooking and Food Safety document — which is actually an interesting read, so check it out) are as follows:

  • “As altitude increases and atmospheric pressure decreases, the boiling point of water decreases.”
  • “With each 500-feet increase, the boiling point of water is lowered by … 1°F.”
  • “…at 2,000 feet above sea level the boiling temperature of water is 208°F instead of 212°F.”

Either way, it’s in the category of “damn hot, don’t touch”! 🙂

And something we already know as Instant Pot users:

  • “No matter how high the cooking temperature, water cannot exceed its own boiling point – unless if using a pressure cooker.”

But more importantly — and something that I’ve never seen discussed in Instant Pot troubleshooting contexts:

  • “In a high altitude environment, it is easy to overcook meat and poultry or scorch casseroles”
  • “it can take longer to cook eggs at high altitudes, especially … hard-cooked eggs”

Hrmm…. so methinks we need to start including “are you at sea level, or at elevation” to the diagnostic questions asked when people people complain about overcooked meat!

 


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3 comments

  • Bethany

    Awesome info! Thanks for testing and sharing

  • Beth Fuchs

    And I’ll add another tidbit to the topic. Water boils at different temperatures based on your elevation. I’m at about 1 mile in elevation and water boils at about 200F here.

    • Jen Neefer

      Thanks for the reminder! I’ve modified my temperature table to indicate I’m at sea level, and I’ve also added an entire addendum about altitude (and updated the post title, too!).

      While doing a little Google research on the subject, I came across this piece of data, from the UDSA, that I’ve never seen discussed in the IP FB group: “In a high altitude environment, it is easy to overcook meat and poultry”.

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