how to use a pressure cooker

Do you know how to use a pressure cooker to get perfect results every time? If the answer is no, then that’s about to change.

The best thing about a pressure cooker is its straightforward operation. Even if you only have minimal cooking skills, you will be able to produce amazing dishes on nearly every single occasion.

The Aim of a Pressure Cooker

The purpose of an electric pressure cooker, or even one you put on your gas stove, is to reduce the time taken for a slow cook recipe by using a huge amount of pressure.

You may wonder how pressure can change the cooking time on something that should take hours, but it manages to do exactly that.

But not only do they reduce that time, but they also use significantly less power than other cooking methods. It means they are cheaper to use, and there are some seriously tasty pressure cooker recipes out there waiting for you.

But Aren’t Pressure Cookers Scary?

a hand securing the lid of a pot

When some people think of pressure cookers, they conjure up this image of things exploding, bits of food being spread all over the kitchen, and cooking liquid dripping down off the ceiling.

But here’s an important point.

The modern-day pressure cooker is substantially safer to use than those in the earlier days of this cooking method. The older locking mechanisms were inferior to what exists today, and they just couldn’t cope with the pressure building up inside the pot.

That’s no longer a problem for modern electric pressure cookers. The level of pressure is more carefully monitored, and the locking mechanisms are far superior, too.

The Basics of Pressure Cooking

The basic concept of the pressure cooker is that it uses steam pressure, which is contained within the pot, to cook the food. It is made possible by getting the liquid up to the boiling point, at which time it then turns into steam. By creating steam in a sealed pot under high heat, it can even cook delicate foods without destroying them.

However, as the lid is sealed down, that pressure builds with a limited amount being released through a control valve. The valve plays a vital role in preventing the pot from exploding.

It cooks the food by taking the steam and the heat energy stored within the steam and then transferring that over to the food. It’s that part that leads to the food being cooked.

But also, the pressure forces the hot liquid into the food itself. That hot liquid will then cook the food within quite a short time.

How to Use a Pressure Cooker

Now let’s get to the actual step-by-step guide on using your pressure cooker.

Step 1: Load Up the Pressure Cooker

cooking a vegetable recipe

The first step is to load up the pressure cooker with the contents. Now, pressure cookers always need liquid to initialise cooking, so dry ingredients will not work in this instance.

Add in the ingredients, which should be done in line with pressure cooking recipes. At first, you may even use the pot to brown meat and get things going before you add in the required amount of liquid. And then get ready to allow the pressure cooker to work its magic.

Step 2: Close the Lid Securely

After placing the contents in the pot, you need to close the lid. When you use a pressure cooker, it is important that the steam valve must be in the right position. In addition, how the lid locks will vary depending on the model you own.

The key here is to make sure that it is locked into place.

Step 3: Set the Recommended Pressure Setting

How you set the pressure setting will depend on the model as well. Stovetop pressure cookers work differently from more modern pressure cookers that use electricity. Check the instruction manual for your model to make sure you do it correctly.

However, in general, the following instructions usually apply.

With an electric model, select both the pressure cooker setting and the cooking time. This will be done by pressing buttons.

With a stovetop version, make sure the lid is sealed, set the valve to the correct setting, and then fire up your stove. The key here is to make sure that your stove is turned up high, as you need to get that liquid boiling to eventually have some cooked food.

Step 4: Wait for the Pressure to Build

When using pressure cookers, you need to wait for the pressure to build, which is an important part of the entire process.

You will know that your pressure cooker has the right pressure in it in different ways, depending on the model you own.

What to Expect in Electric Pressure Cookers and Stovetop Models

corned beef brisket

An electric pressure cooker will alert you when it is ready, and it will then turn the timer on to let you know when everything is cooked.

As for the stovetop version, you need to wait beside the pressure cooker to know when it has reached the right pressure. At that point, turn the heat down to low and start your timer for the cooking time for whatever dish you are making.

Note that with the stovetop version, there will often be a part in the valve that will rise as the pressure builds. There may be a coloured band or notch that you need to look out for. And when that appears, you know that the correct pressure is in the pot.

Step 5: Release the Pressure

Once you have reached the end of the cooking time, you need to release the pressure inside the pot. Be aware that some hot steam will come out.

Pressure cookers come with a pressure release valve, which is a safe way to do this. As the pressure drops, the food is still going through the cooking process.

Once again, the way in which you will release the pressure depends on your model. An old pressure cooker would become quite dangerous at this point, but that’s no longer an issue.

Release the pressure according to your model, but make sure you stand back because of the heat that comes out at this point.

Quick-Release or Slow-Release

Also, some models feature a quick-release method as well as a slow-release. How you use the quick-release option will even depend on the recipe you are using, as it should tell you the best approach. That is why using special recipes for a pressure cooker can be so important.

Step 6: Open the Lid and Check the Food

Your pressure cooker cooks food perfectly every single time. So when you open the lid, you should have exactly what you want according to the recipe.

Be warned that the food will be piping hot, but it will be ready to serve.

Important Pointers on Using Your Pressure Cooker

We have several tips on how to get the most out of your pressure cooker and some things you need to avoid doing so you can enjoy a tasty meal without getting scalded.

1. Pour in the recommended amount of liquid.

First, make sure that there’s enough liquid in there to begin with. You will be producing a lot of steam under high pressure. And even though you are using a lower heat than normal, once you start cooking with a pressure cooker, you can’t stop the process just to add more liquid.

2. Strictly follow your instant pot recipe.

Pay close attention to the recipe. Follow the instructions for your pressure cooker meals to the letter, and you will get those amazing results.

3. Always check the lid and be mindful of other preventive measures.

Also, pressure cooker safety is paramount. Remember that steam will cause a lot of damage, so you need to ensure that the lid is on correctly at all times.

Perks of Owning a Pressure Cooker

There’s no real learning curve when using a pressure cooker to produce quality food. Not only does it work fast, even with cheap ingredients and tough cuts of meat, but it can preserve nutrients as well.

The fact that it will cut the cooking time is impressive. Also, the modern version has additional safety features, so you have nothing to worry about from that perspective.

The Heat is On!

And that is how to use a pressure cooker, and you can see why we told you at the outset that the device is easy to use. Pressure cookers can be a wonderful kitchen appliance to have at your disposal. They can do so much in such a short period. So if you have never contemplated owning one before, then perhaps give it a thought. They will be worth the investment in one.

Do you have any pressure cooking hacks to share? We’d love to hear about it. Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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