Cooking With A Pressure Cooker
Pictured recipe:Gluten-Free Pressure-Cooker Mac & Cheese
Modern pressure-cooking is safer than ever, energy-efficient and will save you time and effort with hands-free cooking. But the cookers do require a bit of a learning curve for best use. Below are the basic steps for how to use your pressure cooker .
Whats So Great About The Instant Pot
Safety, speed and easy cleanup are just a few of the reasons for the rising popularity of these trendy kitchen appliances.
an Instant Pot isnt just an electric pressure cooker. As a true multi-cooker, it sears, browns and sautés food like a stove-top skillet. It also steams delicate items such as fish, eggs and vegetables. Instant Pots double as standalone electric rice cookers as well.
You can use them to bake bread, cakes and other sweets like custards, flan, even cheesecakes. Many Instant Pot models come with special yogurt modes. And yes, they function as slow cookers, too.
What Is Natural Release
Instant Pot natural release is when you allow the Instant Pot to cool down by itself, releasing steam slowly. When the food is done cooking, the Instant Pot will automatically release steam gradually until the float valve drops down. This could take up to 30 minutes.
We recommend natural release for soups and other food with high liquid content.
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Main Instant Pot Buttons
1. Manual or Pressure Cook Button
This is the mode you will use most frequently on your Instant Pot . This is the main button to pressure cook any dish. Most recipes you will find online use the Pressure Cook button.
Press “Pressure Cook” button, then “+” or “-” to set the time to pressure cook. The maximum time you can pressure cook is 240 minutes.
Note: In old versions and models, the button was called Manual and in newer models it is rightly called “Pressure Cook”.
2. Pressure Level Button
This button is to switch between high and low pressure cooking. Press “Pressure Cook” button, then “Pressure Level” to switch.
3. “+” and “-” Buttons
These buttons are used to increase or decrease the cooking time.
4. Sauté Button
This is the mode to Sauté or brown food in the Instant Pot . Sauté with the lid open or with a glass lid. This is one of the main advantages of the instant pot, that you can sauté and cook directly in the same pot. This is the second most frequently used mode.
Sauté mode defaults to 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the mode is canceled.
I use this mode in my Carrot Pudding recipe, and it makes cooking the pudding so much easier without much monitoring.
5 Adjust Button
6. Keep Warm/Cancel Button
Press this button to cancel the operation and switch off the Instant Pot.
When the instant pot goes in “Keep Warm” mode, the display shows L0:00 and starts counting up.
7. Timer Button
8. Steam Button
- More .
9. Rice Button
10. Slow Cook Button
Pressure Cooking With The Instantpot
The InstantPot has a lot of pre-set programs you can use to cook beans, rice, meat, soups, etc. However, being the scientist I am, I dont tend to like these programs. Whereas many will greatly appreciate them, I prefer understanding whats going on myself. Therefore, lets take a better look at the settings of an InstantPot .
Pressure: high & low
The InstantPot has to two settings for pressure:
- High Pressure: 10.2 to 11.6 psi
- Low Pressure: 5.8 to 7.2 psi
This means that while cooking in your pressure cooker the pressure in the cooker is: the pressure around you + the pressure mentioned above. So at high pressure, youre cooking at 1.7-1.8 bar, which will drastically increase the boiling point of your water. At 1.7-1.8 bar the boiling temperature of water is 115.2-116.9°C. At the lower pressure setting this temperature is 109.3-111.4°C.
If youre wondering when youd use the low pressure setting, youre not the only one. If youre using a pressure cooker to speed up cooking youd want the highest possible pressure and thus temperature. There only seem to be a few exceptions I found online, cooking eggs and rice are sometimes done at low pressure. Let me know if you have any others.
How is the pressure controlled?
Comparing to stovetop pressure cookers
Does a pressure cooker need water?
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Release The Pressure Safely
When you release the pressure, the escaping steam will be very hothot enough to burn you. So make sure the hole on top of the steam release is facing away from you before pressing the release button. Also, the quick-release method is not suitable for soups or cereals , because quick release may cause food to splatter out with the steam.
Instant Pot Poultry Setting
The poultry Instant Pot setting is best for cookingyou guessed itchicken! The mode you choose depends on the size of the chicken pieces and the cut as chicken breast needs less cooking time and is easily overcooked compared to chicken thighs. You can use this setting to cook chicken meat or a dish that contains poultry in it such as chicken and potatoes or chicken and rice . Poultry setting is only available on 6-quart and 8-quart models, not on the mini! Below is how to use the Poultry setting on Instant Pot.
- Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add chicken, seasoning and liquids to the pot. Secure and lock the lid. Press the Poultry button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at HIGH pressure for 15 minutes, which is suitable for larger pieces of chicken. If you press the Poultry button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More .
If desired, use the / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking.
Allow poultry to rest for 5-10 minutes, depending on size. It will reabsorb cooking juices for tender, succulent meat. Essentially, what this means is that you should allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally when possible.
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Natural Or Quick Release
Steam Release Valve: Arguably the most important part of the Instant Pot, this is how you can control the pressure that is released from the device. You can choose to either 1) naturally release pressure by keeping the venting knob in place and waiting until the floating valve drops on its own or 2) do a quick release by turning the venting knob.
When the food is done and the Instant Pot beeps, say you decide to do a natural release. In this case, you dont touch the venting knob and, depending on how full the pressure cooker is, you wait 15 to 25 minutes for the floating valve to drop. When the floating valve has dropped, you know the pressure has released and it is safe to open the lid.
If youre in a hurry and prefer to do a quick release, you need to wait at least 5 minutes after the IP beeps before moving the venting knob. First you need to protect your hand from being burned by the steam that will be released. Don an oven mitt and carefully turn the venting knob towards the center of the lid. Above, you can see the notch below the knob and which way it should turn toward the word Venting next to a steam icon.
Wait several seconds to a minute for the steam to escape the lid and the floating valve to drop before opening the lid. There is a safety measure that prevents you from opening the lid when the pressure valve indicates the IP contents are still under high pressure.
Your Food Wont Always Be Ready In An Instant
I think the most deceiving thing about the Instant Pot is the name. Just because you use your Instant Pot to cook a meal, doesnt mean it will be ready significantly faster than it would if you were to cook it on the stove. For example, Instant Pot steel cut oats cook in just a 4 minute cooking cycle, but you still have to wait about 8 to 10 minutes for the pot to come to pressure, and another 15 to 20 minutes for the pressure to release. That means it takes closer to 30 minutes for your oatmeal to be done.
The real advantage to cooking with your Instant Pot is that the process is almost completely hands-off, so it feels like you have more time on your hands. Instead of standing by the stove, watching to make sure nothing burns or boils over, you have your hands free to finish other tasks around your house. It makes you the ultimate multi-tasker, which is why so many people have fallen in love with it.
As an added bonus, cooking with your Instant Pot preserves more nutrients when compared to other methods of cooking! This is possibly due to the fact that it rarely reaches a temperature higher than 250ºF inside the pot, or that it cooks food faster, giving it less of an opportunity to lose nutrients.
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How To Use An Instant Pot: What You Need To Know To Get Started With Instant Pot Cooking
There are a few basic things that you need to know when using an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Once you use yours a few times, these will be like second nature. Depending on which Instant Pot model you own, the buttons may be labeled slightly differently. Consult the manual that came with your Instant Pot.
Minimum Liquid Required: As a general rule, you want to use at least 1 cup of liquid in your Instant Pot every time you cook with it. The Instant Pot uses steam and pressure to cook food, and you need liquid to create the steam and pressure. Some recipes may call for more or less liquid. I recommend following recipes from a trusted source while you are learning to use your Instant Pot.
Fill Level: Inside the Instant Pot inner pot, you will see a 1/2 and a 2/3 line marked. Never fill the Instant Pot higher than the 2/3 line with food or liquid . If you are cooking food that will expand during the cook time such as rice, quinoa or beans, do not fill the Instant Pot higher than the 1/2 line.
Pressure Cook or Manual Button: Depending on which Instant Pot model you own, the Pressure Cook button is sometimes labeled Manual and sometimes Pressure Cook. This is the button that you will press to start a pressure cooking cycle. Its your basic pressure cooking button.
+/- Buttons: Use these buttons to adjust the cook time.
Keep Warm/Cancel Button: Use this button to end a cooking program or turn on/off the keep warm function.
The Display Says Burn What Does That Mean
Suddenly big BURN letters are across the screen of your Instant Pot. This just means you didnt have enough liquid in your Instant Pot. The pot often displays this if its overheating to prevent food from, well, burning. Quick-release any pressure in the pot, add more liquid, and restart your cook time.
Be sure to have at least one cup of liquid surrounding the other ingredients or added to a thick sauce to prevent burning. Its usually recommended that cream-based ingredients and thickeners be added after pressure cooking to avoid burning.
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Do You Need To Double The Cook Time For A Double Recipe
If you would like to double an Instant Pot recipe, you may double the ingredients . You do not need to double the cook time.
However, you may need to adjust the cook time based on the size/width of meat and vegetables. For example, a small 8 ounce chicken breast will cook faster than a large 12 ounce chicken breast and a small sweet potato will cook faster than a large sweet potato. Read all recipes and directions carefully to determine how long to cook your food.
The Science Of Pressure Cookers
Time for a quick high school chemistry refresher: The pressure cooker can be best explained by the ideal gas law , which describes the behavior of most gases under most conditions. It is commonly given as: PV=nRT
P stands for pressure V stands for volume T stands for temperature n represents the amount of a given gas and R represents a constant .
In the closed chamber of a pressure cooker, we can make a few assumptions. For one, the volume of the chamber doesnt change. Second, R doesnt change either. Third, there is a maximum pressure that the chamber can reach, regulated by a valve system. As the pressure cooker heats food up , T goes up. And as T increases, something else must increase to balance the equation. Since we assume that V is constant, it is more than likely that pressure increases as well.
We can explain this increase in pressure another way, too: As the system heats up, there is more energy supplied to molecules of water vapor, which causes them to bounce around and collide randomly both with each other and against the walls of the container. The force of these collisions against the walls is one definition of pressure, based on the kinetic model of gases.
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Pressure Cooking Requires Liquid
Before we continue, we must mention the most important aspect of pressure cooking. It requires liquid. This is because the pressure is built by the steam accumulating inside the pot, which is produced from the liquid.
Whether youre cooking rice, chicken breasts, pot roast, carrots, stew or cheesecake, you will need at least a cup of liquid for the Instant Pot to do its job.
This is a total amount of liquid and can be in the form of water, stock, tomato sauce, juice, wine and liquids released from the food while cooking , or a combination of those. Amount of liquid required varies depending on the recipe and amount of food but as a rule of thumb, 1 cup is always a good starting point. Also, the food doesnt need to be completely covered or submerged in liquid to cook.
Inspecting Your Instant Pot Before Each Use
1. Remove the stainless steel inner pot and look inside the instant pot base. You will see the heating element. The heating element should always be free of debris and dry before you use you the Instant Pot. After washing, I always dry my stainless steel inner pot thoroughly before returning it to the base unit.
2. Check that the silicone sealing ring is fitted properly onto the lid and is clean and free of tears.
3. Remove the steam release valve from the Instant Pot lid by gently pulling it straight up. Make sure it is clean and free of debris. Some foods, such as applesauce, pasta and oatmeal may froth and foam when you cook them and can clog the steam release valve. Check the steam release valve each time you use your Instant Pot. If it is dirty clean it under running water and then put it back on the Instant Pot lid.
4. Check the float valve to ensure it is clean and free of debris. Clean it with warm water as needed. You may place the lid under running water as needed to wash it.
Making sure that all parts of your Instant Pot are clean and in good working condition can help you to have the best success with pressure cooking. My post about the Instant Pot burn message tells you both how to prevent getting this warning and what to do if you do get a burn message.
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Vent The Food And Enjoy
Once the cook time has passed, often you’ll then move the valve to “venting” which, in a glorious geyser of food smells, will release the pressure and steam inside your Instant Pot. Be careful touching the valve, it can get hot. Either wear an oven mitt or move the valve with a wooden spoon. It will release a lot of hot air, so it’s a good idea to lean back the first time you move the valve, and definitely keep your eyes away from the valve when you let it vent.
Once the Instant Pot is done venting this might take a few minutes remove the lid and gaze upon your finished food and enjoy.
A side note: in the picture below you can see a little circular valve that looks like a button. When the Instant Pot pressurizes, you should see it rise. This lets you know the Instant Pot is pressurized, which means the lid will be locked. The only way to open the Instant Pot, at that point, is to wait for it to depressurize. So don’t worry, feel safe.
Some recipes, including some very common ones like rice, call for something called a “Natural Pressure Release,” which just means you let the pressure slowly fade inside the Instant Pot. You do not move the valve to “venting” for a certain amount of time. My favorite Instant Pot rice recipe, for instance, calls for just a few minutes of cook time but 10 minutes of natural release before you open the Instant Pot.
Either way, you need to let the pressure release from the Instant Pot, but then you’re ready to enjoy.