How to Use a Pressure Cooker
Easy steps to safely and effectively use a stove top pressure cooker
When used correctly, a pressure cooker can give you wonderfully flavorful food. Whether preparing vegetables, poultry, meats or even seafood, a pressure cooker uses pressure generated by steam to cook, rendering food incredibly moist and tender. Best of all, it's simple enough to use any night of the week.
Inspect your Cooker
Whether you are a first time user or a seasoned veteran, it is important to inspect your cooker before each use. A couple of areas that should always be checked are the pressure and steam valves and the rubber or silicone gasket. Inspect the valves to make sure no food particles are clogging or blocking the holes; this can prevent the steam from escaping. Additionally, inspect the rubber or silicone gasket within the lid to make sure it is free of cracks or tears. If the pot cannot seal properly, the tool will not be able to build up adequate pressure, which will make the cooking process ineffective.
Be sure to read the owner’s manual of your pressure cooker, and make sure you are familiar with the features of your tool. Features may differ by brand and can vary from model to model.
Add Liquid with Ingredients
No matter what you are cooking with your pressure cooker, adding liquid is probably the most important step. You can use water, broth, stock, wine or any other kind of liquid, with the exception of oil. Small amounts of oil can be used to sear or brown meats prior to pressure cooking, but oil should NEVER be the only liquid.
At a minimum, you should have at least a half a cup of liquid if you are cooking for 10 minutes or less. Cooking more than 10 minutes you’ll need at least 2 cups. Add your primary ingredients to your cooker, and add the liquid. The pressure cooker should not be more than 2/3 full.
Lock the pot and set the operating valve
Once you have your liquid and ingredients in the pot, you are now ready to begin cooking. It is essential to correctly lock the top lid to the base of the pot to ensure it is sealed. If the cooker is not correctly sealed shut, it will not be able to build up sufficient steam and pressure, thus cooking will not occur. Most pots will have an interlocking lid that easily slides together. This pot has a locking mechanism, which helps ensure the pot stays sealed.
Once the cooker is locked, select a cooking level. I’ve selected level 2, which is high pressure – this is standard any time you are cooking meats. Low level pressure is typically used for steaming delicate foods like vegetables or fish fillets.
Most pressure cooking recipes will indicate the pressure level and cooking time.
Temperature and Pressure Indicator
Once the cooker is locked, turn your stovetop to high heat. This will get the liquid inside the pot to boil. Keep watch over your cooker. Once forceful steam begins to escape and the pressure indicator pops-up or lights, your cooking time now begins. Now, reduce the temperature to a medium low setting. Slow, steady steam will now emit from the cooker, and the indicator will stay popped up or lit. If at any time the indicator goes off, or there is no steam escaping, you need to increase your heat. Conversely, if forceful steam is emitting from the cooker, reduce the heat.
Releasing Pressure and Finishing up
Once the cooking is complete (consult your recipe for accurate cooking time), you are now ready to release pressure from the cooker. This can be done a few ways; natural release, cold water release, or automatic release. Natural release is when the cooker is removed from the heat source, and any remaining steam in the pot is released naturally. This process usually takes about 10-15 minutes. Cold water release is used when pressure needs to be released quickly to prevent over-cooking. This is typically used for tender foods like vegetables or fish. Automatic release is typically done by releasing a dial or valve on the cooker. For each of these methods, be sure to consult your recipe and owner’s manual for best results.
Once your food is done cooking, remove from the pot and enjoy! You’ll find that your food is wonderfully tender, fall-off-the-bone moist and flavorful.