These 53 Tips on how to use a Pressure Cooker are tips for all kinds of Pressure Cookers. The tips listed below work for both a Stove Top Pressure Cooker and an Electric Power Pressure Cooker like the Power Pressure Cooker XL as seen on TV and other Pressure Cookers.
Whether you want to use your Pressure Cooker for meals, pressure cook just the meat or vegetables, or the fruit for desert, the following tips will help. No matter what type: A Power Cooker Pressure Cooker, An expensive top of the line Digital Pressure Cooker or a Stove Top Pressure Cooker, these tips will help you avoid mistakes and safely cook the delicious food you want with success.
We specify in this list on each tip any differences there may be related to a Stove Top Cooker vs a Power Pressure Cooker.
Please note that the rules of thumb in these tips are for a pressure cooker that cooks at 15 psi and may need to be adjusted if your cooker’s pressure rating is less than that. Always consult your Owner’s Manual for your unit.
How to Use a Pressure Cooker.
General Pressure Cooker Tips:
- In preparing remember that even pieces mean evenly cooked food. Cut food into uniformed sized pieces so that they cook in the same amount of time.
- Have a kitchen timer and set it. After the pressure cooker reaches and maintains pressure, set the timer for the time specified in the recipe you are following.
NOTE: Electrical Power Pressure Cookers usually have built in digital timers.
- High altitude means longer cooking time. 3,000 feet above sea level or higher may require increased cooking times. Try increasing cooking time by 5% for every 1,000 feet above the first 2,000 feet above sea level that you live.
For example if you live 3,000 feet above sea level increase the cooking time by 5%.
If you live 4,000 feet above sea level increase cooking time by 10%.
- Start off on high heat then finish on low heat. If you are using a Stove Top Pressure Cooker start with high heat. After your pressure cooker reaches and maintains pressure, lower your burner down simmer.
An Electric Power Pressure Cooker will decrease the heat while maintaining pressure for you automatically.
- When cooking ingredients that require different cooking times use the stop and go method. First partially cook slow-to-cook foods such as meat. Then use a release method to stop the pressure cooker. Be careful steam can burn you. Next, add ingredients such as green beans or peas, or any other faster cooking foods to the meat. Put the lid back on and let the pressure cooker come back up to pressure. Finish cooking all the food together at the same time.
Remember, Cooking times for your recipes in a pressure cooker do not include the time it takes the pressure cooker to come up to pressure.
- Gas Stoves vs Electric Stoves vs Power Cookers avoiding burning.
- Gas stove burners react almost immediately to temperature changes. When you turn down the heat the temperature of the burner decreases as soon as you lower the flame. You can use one burner with a Stove Top Pressure Cooker on a gas stove. It works fine. Just make sure the stove top pressure cooker fits properly on the burner. To small of a burner will keep heat from distributing evenly. Make sure the burner evenly covers the bottom of the pan with flames staying under the pot.
Flames coming out and up the sides can damage some Stove Top Pressure Cookers.
- Electric burners are slower to react to temperature change settings then gas burners. We recommend if you are using an electric stove that you fire up two burners.
- First burner is for your high heat. Put your pressure cooker on the high heat burner until the pressure cooker comes up to pressure.
- Fire up your second burner to the simmer setting.
- Switch the pressure cooker over to the second burner to maintain pressure.
This will help avoid burning your food while cooking with your Stove Top Pressure Cooker.
Most Power Pressure Cookers will adjust the heat settings for you.
- Never over fill a Pressure Cooker or pack food in too tightly. Not following this basic rule will keep your pressure cooker from operating efficiently and will affect how the food comes out. Too much food can mean too much pressure. Ignoring this rule may also cause the safety valves to activate or in some cases the valve will plug up on top and the overflow valve will activate.
Rule of thumb is to never fill your pressure cooker more than two-thirds full of food.
- Never fill the pressure cooker more than halfway with liquid. Pressure Cookers are sealed pots cooking under pressure. Heating a sealed pot with liquid and other contents causes steam. As the steam builds pressure mounts. Again over filling can cause the safety valve to activate which will reduce the pressure you are trying to cook with.
- Pressure Cookers use less liquid. Food is being cooked in a closed sealed pot over heat causing pressure, therefore you have less evaporation, and thus you need less liquid. A good rule is 1 cup of liquid. But, check your owner’s manual or the recipe booklet to see what the pressure cooker manufacturer recommends.
- Most Pressure Cookers Temperature to Pressure Ratios. The following table shows the pressure setting on your pressure cooker to what the cooking temperature and pressure level in pounds per square inch (psi)
Pressure Setting Cooking Temps Psi
High 250 degrees 13-15 psi
Medium 235 degrees 10 psi
Low 220 degrees 3 psi
- Use a correct pressure release method. Always check the recipe booklet to see what is recommended by the manufacturer. When the food is done release the pressure in a safe way.
Doing this wrong can damage your unit but it can also injure you.
- Never cold water release with your electric power pressure cooker. This is a good way to shorten the lifespan of your unit. Also the warranty does not cover this.
The Quick Release Method also known as the Cold Water Release Method should never be used on a Power Pressure Cooker.
- Always start with the shortest cooking time. This will help you to not overcook your food. You can always close the lid and bring the unit back up to pressure and continue cooking if needed.
- Remember cooking time is only during the time the power pressure cooker is up to pressure. That is why we recommend a hand timer to keep track of actual cooking time. If you count building pressure time as part of your cooking time your food will not be cooked to the recipes specifications.
- Not all Pressure Cookers Cook at the same speed. Only 15 psi pressure cookers cook the fastest speed available. Check your owner’s manual for how many psi your cooker cooks at.
VEGETABLE PRESSURE COOKING TIPS:
- Use a steamer basket and trivet to cook vegetables by themselves in a pressure cooker. The Trivet is the stand that goes on the bottom of the cooker and the basket sits on top of it. The trivet keeps the basket out of the water so that the steam is what cooks the vegetables.
- Suggested Vegetable Steaming Time and amount of water.
Rule of Thumb.
Use ½ cup of water for less than 5 minutes cooking time.
Use 1 cup of water for between 5 and 10 minutes cooking time.
Use 2 cups of water for between 10 to 20 minutes cooking time.
NOTE: Check your owner’s manual for your unit’s specific instructions.
- Frozen Vegetables Steaming Time Rule. Add an additional 1 to 2 minutes to the cooking time above for frozen vegetables unless noted otherwise in your manual.
- Use the automatic release method or quick release method. When vegetable cooking time is completed use one of the two methods above to release to keep vegetables crisp.
Pressure Release Methods are explained at the bottom of this page.
BEANS AND GRAINS PRESSURE COOKING TIPS:
- Soak dry beans before cooking. Before pressure cooking soak dry beans in four times their volume of water for 6 hours.
Dry beans Soaking Amount of Water and Time:
Amount of Beans Amount of Water Soaking Time
1 cup of bean 4 cups of water 6 hours
4 cups of beans 16 cups water 6 hours
- Do not add salt to the soaking water. Adding salt to the beans will toughen the beans while soaking and it will inhibit hydration. They will not absorb water like you want them too.
- Do not soak beans for longer than 12 hours. Beans that are soaked for long periods are best for soups or purees because they easily break up while cooking.
- You can still cook beans in a pressure cooker even if they have not been soaked. Obviously beans not soaked add cooking time thereby using more time and energy, but it can be done.
- Speed soaking beans is faster than cooking not soaked beans. You can speed soak beans by cooking them at high pressure for 1 minute then release the pressure by the quick release method. Drain the water, rinse the beans, and then soak in fresh water for 1 hour. Then pressure cook the beans like you would cook regularly soaked beans.
- Please note: You cannot use the quick release method with a Power Pressure Cooker. Unless you want to kiss your power pressure cooker goodbye.
- The automatic release method may separate the beans from their skins. This problem does not happen as often with quick release but automatic release and natural release are the only ways to release the pressure in your power pressure cooker. The natural release method takes too long (turn off and unplug the unit or click cancel and then unplug and let cool naturally). Because the lined unit has the pressure sealed in and takes forever to cool down, by the time the unit cools the food has been cooking longer. Again, consult your Owner’s Manual.
- In cooking beans in a pressure cooker use medium heat. Bring pressure cooker up to pressure by using medium heat instead of high heat. This reduces the chances of the bean skins splitting and coming off the beans.
- Pressure cooking times vary with age and quality of the beans. If they are still hard after pressure cooking return to high pressure over high heat and then immediately when pressure is reached reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting that still maintains pressure. Cook for a few more minutes. Or you can cook the beans uncovered. Add additional water if needed.
- To Old fashioned Jiggler valve pressure cookers add vegetable oil. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the water in the pressure cooker if you have this kind of valve on your pressure cooker when you cook beans. The oil reduces foam and the chance of clogging the vent tube on these old pressure cookers. Do not add salt after cooking.
- Do not soak lentils or dried split peas and watch cooking time. Watch the cooking time of whole lentils carefully or they will turn to mush if cooked too long.
- Soak whole grain wheat berries and pearl barley. Soak in 4 times the volume of these in lukewarm water for 4 hours before cooking or you can soak them overnight. Do not add salt to the water since it will toughen the grains.
- Use natural release method for rice and grain. When cooking time is completed use the natural release method. For Stove Top Pressure Cookers just remove from burner and set the pan aside and let the pan cool naturally. Careful pan is hot. Does not work for Power Pressure Cookers. Check your manual for how to cook rice and grain.
- Do not soak rice or oats.
MEAT AND POULTRY PRESSURE COOKER TIPS:
- FIRST: Brown meats, poultry and some vegetables. Meat, poultry, and some vegetables such as onions, peppers, and carrots need to be browned first in a pressure cooker for best results. Add a small amount of oil (olive or canola oil), to the pressure cooker and then heat uncovered over medium-high heat. In a Power Pressure Cooker use the Brown Setting.
Heat the oil in a high walled pressure cooker. A high walled pressure cooker will contain the oil splatter during browning. When oil is hot add meat and/or vegetables in small batches and brown on all sides. Remove the food to a bowl and set aside.
Next deglaze the pot.
- SECOND: Deglazing the pot. You want to loosen up and get all those delicious, cooked on juices and tiny food particles that are in the bottom and low on the sides of the pot. You can do this by deglazing the pot. Pour a small amount of wine, broth, or water into the pot. Stir the liquid in the pot while still on the medium high heat burner or use the brown setting during this. The liquid helps to loosen those juices.
- THIRD: Add the browned food back in. Put all the cooked food that you removed back into the pot. Add all remaining ingredients from your recipe into the pot with the amount of liquid needed. Close the lid and cook all of it under pressure.
If you are using an Electric Power Pressure Cooker, follow the first two steps using the brown setting on the cooker. For step three use the proper setting for cooking the type of meal you are preparing.
- Amount of water to add to pressure cook meat or poultry.
This is a rule of thumb we use if the recipe has not already specified the amount of liquid or if we are converting a conventional recipe to a pressure cooker recipe. Check your owner’s manual for instructions.
Rule of Thumb for Adding Liquid to Pressure Cook Meat or Poultry:
Cooking Time Amount of Liquid
5 minutes or less ½ cup (125 ml)
5 to 10 minutes 1 cup (250 ml)
10 to 45 minutes 2 cups (500 ml)
Preserved or salted meats should be completely immersed in water for cooking in your pressure cooker.
- Cooking times vary according to the quality and quantity of the meat or poultry. The denser the cut, the longer the cooking time should be. Also the bigger the cut or amount of meat in the pot the longer the cooking time should be.
- Stringy or Chewy pressure cooked chicken? If your chicken is chewy or stringy you have cooked it too long.
SEAFOOD AND FISH PRESSURE COOKING TIPS:
- USE QUICK RELEASE METHOD. When cooking time is completed use the Quick Release Method. Quick Release Method explained at the bottom of this page.
- Use steamer basket and trivet when cooking seafood. To cook seafood in a pressure cooker put the seafood in the steamer basket supported by the trivet with at least ¾ cup (175 ml) of liquid.
- For FISH: Apply a fine layer of vegetable oil. When you cook fish use a fine layer of vegetable oil on the steamer basket. Spraying the oil on the basket works best.
FRUIT PRESSURE COOKING TIPS:
- Use the quick release method or the automatic release method. When cooking time is completed use one of these two release methods so the fruit will not be overcooked.
- For fresh fruit use the steamer basket. Use the steamer basket to pressure cook fresh fruit. Put ½ cup (125 ml) of water in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Some pressure cookers may require more water. Check your owner’s manual.
- For dried fruit. To pressure cook dried fruit use 1 cup (250 ml) of water or fruit juice for each cup of dried fruit.
PRESSURE COOKER SAFETY TIPS:
- Do not Pressure Fry in a Pressure Cooker. You never want to pressure fry in your pressure cooker.
Use of more than a tiny amount of oil in a pressure cooker can be very dangerous and could melt the gasket and other parts of your pressure cooker.
- Be aware that certain foods can foam. If the food foams, froths or sputters while cooking, the pressure release devices or steam vent can clog. Follow recipes of these types of foods closely and carefully to avoid problems.
Food Such as These May Foam, Froth, or Sputter in a Pressure Cooker and Clog Pressure Release Devices or Steam Vent:
- Pearl Barley
- Oatmeal of Other Cereals
- Split Peas
Check pressure release devices of your pressure cooker for clogs before each use.
- Power Pressure Cookers require air space. A sufficient amount of air space is required on all sides including top and bottom on the outside of a Power Pressure Cooker in order to operate a Power Pressure Cooker Safely.
- Always release pressure before trying to open a pressure cooker. If a pressure cooker lid will not open it may be the safety device not letting it open because there still is pressure in there. Modern pressure cookers have this safety feature.
NEVER EVER PRY OPEN A PRESSURE COOKER!
Note: To release pressure in a pressure cooker use one of the three release methods described at the bottom of the page or consult your Owner’s Manual.
- Always open your pressure cooker with the lid tilted away from you. Remaining steam or heat can rise up immediately when the lid is opened and burn you or someone anxious and peeking over your shoulder. Even after the pressure is completely released some steam and heat will still escape when the unit is opened.
When you go to pick up the lid off the pressure cooker, tilt the side of the lid that is on the opposite side of the unit from you. Tilt it up and away from you to let the steam escape safely that way. Do not tilt side of the lid closest to you first and peek. You may get burned!
- Always unplug your electric power pressure cooker before cleaning it.
- Never ever submerge your electric power pressure cooker in water.
- REMEMBER: Cook times do not include pressurizing time. Cook times shown in recipe booklets do not include the additional time needed for the pressure cooker to come up to pressure. Cooking does not start for the recipe until after the pressure cooker is pressurized.
Some pressure cookers may take up to 20 minutes to come up to pressure.
PRESSURE RELEASE METHODS FOR YOUR PRESSURE COOKER EXPLAINED:
- QUICK RELEASE METHOD. This method is sometimes called “The Cold Water Release Method. This method is used to release pressure quickly.
- Remove the pot from the burner,
- Place the pot in the sink, and
- Tilt the handle up so that the water flows away from you.
- Run cold water over the lid until steam dissipates and the pressure indicator is lowered.
Note: Do not put a Power Pressure Cooker in sink! This method will not work for a Power Pressure Cooker unless you want to destroy your cooker.
- AUTOMATIC RELEASE METHOD. Lightly press the pressure indicator stem or turn the pressure selector dial on the lid to the release pressure position. Steam will release. Which one of these ways to release steam depends on your specific pressure cooker. Consult your owner’s manual on how to release steam.
- NATURAL RELEASE METHOD. To do this method take the pressure cooker off the hot burner and let the pressure drop by cooling down naturally.
We wrote this article to help beginners and experienced cooks have more success with their Stove Top Pressure Cookers and their Electric Digital Power Pressure Cookers like the Power Pressure Cooker XL as seen in the infomercials on tv. Experiment. Have Fun! Try these tips for better results for your Pressure Cooker meals, meats, vegetables, and fruits. These tips give you power to pressure cook with whatever type of Pressure Cooker you decide to use.
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Happy Pressure Cooking!
P. S. The best way to learn how to use a pressure cooker is to understand how a pressure cooker works. WikiHow has a nice set of articles on Understanding a Pressure Cooker.
Just click on this link below:
Mother Earth News also have a series of articles on how to use a pressure cooker. You can access those articles here below: