How to Stop Fearing Your Pressure Cooker and Get Cooking!


I got such a great response to my last post about my new electric pressure cooker that I decided to do a follow up. Because when it comes to pressure cooking, folks seem to have a lot of questions and a little bit of fear too. I’ve gotten several questions both online and offline regarding pressure cooking, and I want to try to address some of them here.

Please remember I’m not an expert on pressure cooking. I’ve had my pot 5 months and used it less than a dozen times total. I’m just an enthusiastic cook. Always read all safety guidelines and instructions that come with YOUR pressure cooker.

Alright, here we go!

Things you’ve said to me

“I got a pressure cooker for Christmas and I’m afraid to take it out of the box!” 

Today’s electric pressure cookers are not like the ones your grandmother used on the stove top. Ever heard a story about someone having to scrape beef stew off the ceiling? We all have. (I’ve actually heard a story about someone scraping pig ears off the ceiling but I digress). The old stovetop pots were somewhat dicey if you didn’t know what you were doing. But today’s electric pots are much safer. And I promise, it won’t hurt you if you take it out of the box. So take it out. Read through your safety manual and directions. Get to know your pot. Find its pressure valve. Learn to operate its lid. Read what all the buttons do. Pet it. Talk to it. Make it your friend. It’s here to help you.

“I don’t know how to get started!” 

My advice is to make sure you understand the basics. First, make sure you know to fit the lid on in a locked position. Second, make sure you know how to put the pressure valve in the correct place.

You’ll find the basics to cooking anything is to understand the type of pressure you need to use (High or Low), the time, and the type of pressure release (Natural or Quick).

I can only speak to the Cuisinart model as far as the directions go but my instruction book came with charts that spelled out the time for various food types as well as the type of pressure and release to use. The recipes that you find online will as well. The pressure is just a setting. The release is talking about how you release the pressure. A Natural Release means you are letting the pressure fall on its own which does take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. A Quick Release means you will turn the valve around to Release Pressure and then remove the lid, holding it carefully so that the steam opens away from you.

Once you understand these things, you can get cooking. I recommend starting with something easy and cheap like dried beans or vegetables while you learn the mechanics of it all.

“All of the recipes I find are for an Instapot and I have another brand!” 

Just as Crock Pot has become interchangeable in our vocabulary with slow cookers, InstantPot has become synonymous with electric pressure cookers. So take heart that some Instant Pot recipes that you see may actually not be exclusive to any particular brand and can be adapted to yours.

Helpful hints that I was given…

“Building and releasing pressure takes time”

It’s important to remember to add time for the cooker to build pressure and release pressure after cooking to your expected cooking time. While you may be able to have potatoes cooked and ready to mash in 8 minutes, remember that it will take 5 to 10 minutes to pressure to build and start cooking as well as time for the pressure to come down for a natural release.

“Learn to clean your machine”

Be sure to read the instructions on cleaning. Most cooker lids come apart and allow you to clean easily. Some machines also have a little cup on the side to catch condensation (mine doesn’t) that will need cleaning. Make sure you know all of your machine’s nooks and crannies to keep it clean and operating efficiently.

And stuff I’ve just learned…

“You need a little fat in your cooking”

I read this somewhere and now I’m not sure where. But yeah, you need to always have a smudge of fat in your pressure cooking to keep the water from getting foamy and clogging up the pressure valve. It doesn’t have to be a lot of fat by any means. For example, when I fix steel cut oats I rub coconut oil inside the cooker. This makes sure my oats don’t stick and adds enough fat for smooth cooking.

“Check and double check then go for it!”

I still check my pressure valve and lid twice before I start cooking. I know that I’ll get more comfortable as time goes along but for now, I’m ok with being overly cautious.

I hope these tips will help you feel more comfortable with your cooker so that you can enjoy the time saving wonder that it can be!

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