Tips for how to use a pressure cooker successfully

Always read the instruction manual that comes with your pressure cooker. It may seem boring or unnecessary, but the manuals are written for a reason. It’s critical to your success to know your pressure cooker’s strengths and limitations.

Here we discuss some best tips on how to use a pressure cooker successfully.

Also, take a look at what is the best pressure cooker this year.

Be aware of recipes and timing:

This is imperative to keep in mind when planning your meals. Cooking in a pressure cooker is fast, but it does take time to put together. Always read through the entire recipe, sometimes twice. There is nothing worse than starting a recipe only to realize you are missing an essential ingredient.

Consider the time it takes to prep your ingredients, then the time it takes for your pressure cooker to come to pressure. The same way an oven must preheat, pressure cookers need time to heat up and begin to build steam and pressure to cook your food.

Also, factor the total recipe cooking time and any specific pressure release time into your planning. A “3-minute” recipe might actually take 20 to 25 minutes depending on the temperature of your ingredients and how much liquid is in your pressure cooker.

Altitude can make a difference:

Because pressure cookers are built on the principle of boiling water to create steam, it’s important to know that water boils at lower temperatures at higher elevations.

For pressure cookers, shorter cooking times at a higher elevation is generally not a problem, but for longer cooking times or specific foods like grains or beans, you may need to make adjustments. A good, basic rule to follow is to add 5 percent more cooking time for each 1,000 feet (305 m) after 3,000 feet (915 m) above sea level.

So if you live at 4,000 feet (1220 m), you would add 10 percent; at 5,000 feet (1524 m), add 15 percent; and so on. If you aren’t sure, always use a food thermometer to help determine the temperature of your food. If you need to make adjustments from there, then you can do so safely. Note: All the recipes in this book were tested at or near sea level.

Always ensure you have enough liquid in the inner pot to bring it to pressure.

The minimum amount of liquid will vary depending on the brand of electric pressure cooker. Generally speaking, this is at least 1 cup (235 ml) of liquid, but check with your owner’s manual and always use tested recipes.

Some recipes may call for less liquid because the food you are cooking releases a lot of water during the cooking process. An example is our Sweet Spiced Applesauce (page 126). It only requires 1/4 cup (60 ml) of liquid.

Do not overfill your pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers require space for steam to build pressure and cook properly. A basic guideline is no more than two-thirds full for most recipes and half full for foods such as beans and grains, as they tend to expand and foam during cooking.

Overfilling a pot can also create hazards and clog your vent pipes and valves. If your vents and valves get dirty, you’ll need to clean them so your cooker can properly come to pressure.

If you hear popping noises, don’t worry.

This is common. Popping noises happen when the heating unit goes from one temperature to another and can happen occasionally if the bottom of your inner pot is wet. Be sure to dry it completely before starting to cook.

Some steam coming from the release valve is normal.

Small wisps of steam will happen as the unit is coming to pressure before the float valve seals. However, if large plumes of steam continue for more than 2 minutes, check the valve to make sure it is set to sealing, not venting.

If that doesn’t fix the problem, you may have food debris on the float pin blocking the valve from sealing. Simply clean it according to your manufacturer’s instructions and try again.

Brown meats or vegetables first, then deglaze the pot for more flavor.

Most recipes will ask you to add oil or butter to the inner cooking pot and then brown or sauté an ingredient. Add the food in small batches and evenly brown the food on all sides.

Remove the food to a serving plate or bowl, then use water, broth, or whatever liquid is specified in the recipe to loosen up and remove those delicious, cooked-on food particles left on the bottom of the pan. This is a great flavor enhancer for your dishes.

Follow instructions for thickening sauces.

Many recipes designed for pressure cookers call for thickening the sauces and gravies after cooking. This is because pressure cookers use liquid to create steam and that liquid needs to be thin.

Adding flour is a common way to thicken that flavorful cooking liquid in your pressure cooker, but being gluten free means that is not an option. Instead, we use alternative thickeners.

A cornstarch slurry (a mixture of cornstarch and water), arrowroot powder, or tapioca starch are good options for use in a pressure cooker. If your recipe calls for white beans, you can also blend 1/4 cup (60 g) beans with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the cooking liquid into a bean slurry and use it to thicken soups and stews. Simmering the sauces until they’re reduced is another option.

Now take a test of your pressure cooker: The Hot Water Test

Now that you are familiar with the basic parts of a pressure cooker, how it works, the safety features, and the pressure release methods, it’s time to do an initial hot water test.

This test is important and will enable you to see how your pressure cooker works. You’ll get to see how quickly it comes to pressure, stays at pressure, and then releases pressure. Think of it as a troubleshooting test run.
Basically, we’re boiling water.

We don’t know about you, but we would much rather test something with a pot of water than being cooking a full meal and discover there may be a problem. Better to lose a few cups of water than a whole pot of expensive ingredients, right?

Doing this test also gives you an opportunity to get comfortable with locking the lid in place, setting your pressure cooker, and using pressure release methods. Ready?


First, put the inner pot inside the housing unit. This is a good habit to get into so you don’t accidentally pour water (or any other liquids/ingredients) into the housing unit by mistake.


Measure 3 cups (705 ml) water and pour it into the inner pot.


Inspect the lid to make sure the sealing ring is properly in place, then close and lock the lid.


Check to make sure the pressure release valve is closed. This is another good habit to have. Checking the valve every time you close the lid of your pressure cooker will save you from waiting forever for your cooker to come to pressure only to discover the release valve was open and now dinner will take even longer. Yes, we’ve done this. Many times. It’s no fun.


Select Manual and set the timer on the control panel to cook for 5 minutes at high pressure.


Watch your unit carefully so you can see how it works. Take notes if you wish. It will take from 5 to 10 minutes for your unit to come to pressure. You may be able to hear the water inside begin to boil. You’ll also see wisps of steam coming from the float valve. This is normal.

The steam is what makes the float valve rise and seal. As you get to know your unit, you’ll know when the valve seals because you’ll hear a click or you’ll notice a distinct lack of noise because the steam is no longer coming out. The timer will start once your unit is at pressure. This doesn’t happen immediately after the float valve seals, but will begin within 1 to 2 minutes.


When the cook time is over, your unit will beep to let you know it’s done. Carefully turn the pressure release valve to the open or venting position (some brands call it the Steam position) and allow the steam to escape.

Remember, the steam is very hot and can burn you, so keep your face, hands, and arms away from it. It’s also important to note which direction the steam is escaping. You may want to turn your pot so the steam doesn’t hit the underside of a cabinet or any wall decorations you may have in your kitchen.

If opening the pressure release valve makes you uncomfortable, you can use a pot holder or the handle of a long wooden spoon to gently move it to the open position.


Once the pressure and steam are released, you’ll hear the float pin drop. On some models you can clearly see it drop back into the recessed position. This means the lid is unlocked and you can now open it safely.


Carefully open the lid, tilting it away from you so any residual steam and condensation that has collected under the lid doesn’t drip on you or on the counter (or splash onto bare feet. Ouch!).

There will always be condensation under the lid after cooking with a pressure cooker. When you open the lid, position it so the water drips back into the pot, instead of going elsewhere.

here will always be condensation under the lid after cooking with a pressure cooker. When you open the lid, position it so the water drips back into the pot, instead of going elsewhere.


The inner pot will be hot. Use silicone mitts, pot holders, or a kitchen towel to remove it from the housing unit. Measure the amount of water left in the pot.

You should see very little difference from the 3 cups (705 ml) water you added in the beginning. You may have lost 1 tablespoon (15 ml) or so, but nothing much above that. In a pressure cooker there is very little liquid lost to evaporation.


At this point, if you have chosen a brand that has a Keep Warm setting, you’ll see the timer may have begun to count up. Press Cancel or unplug your machine. Different brands/models will allow you to turn off the Keep Warm setting so that when the cook time is over, the pressure cooker simply turns itself off. Either way, be sure to unplug your appliance when you’re finished.

That’s it! You have successfully done your water test and are ready to create delicious meals for your whole family.

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