How to Use a Pressure Cooker: The Science of Cooking Tasty Food

how to use a pressure cooker

Pressure cookers are a helpful appliance that, nowadays, you can find in most kitchens.

Not sure how to use a pressure cooker? Then you’re in the right place. In this article, we’re sharing some useful instructions and tips on perfecting your dishes (even if you have little cooking experience). Continue reading to see what you need to do for the best-tasting meals.

How to Use a Pressure Cooker

Cook a variety of recipes easily and conveniently with a pressure cooker. Here are some easy-to-follow instructions on perfecting your dishes with these useful appliances.

Step 1: Add Ingredients

Add your food to the pressure cooker, including vegetables first, and select the sauté program.

Step 2: Build Pressure

Raise the heat for pressure cooking by turning up the heat to the maximum. Electric cookers do this automatically, thanks to their built-in heating element. However, ensure that the valve is properly closed so that any steam can’t escape.

Then, turn down the heat to a minimum amount once the maximum pressure has been reached. From this point onward, you’ll need to keep your eye on the cooking time using the built-in timer or scoring it in your head manually.

Step 3: Release the Pressure

Once the time is up (having either checked this manually or the timer function sends an alarm), you’ll need to release the cooker’s pressure. You can do this by allowing the appliance to cool by itself in its own time or opening a valve. Alternatively, you can add cold water to the pressure cooker. Either way, once the pressure is released, you can open the lid and serve the food immediately.

Tips for Cooking Cuts of Meat

You can use a pressure cooker for cooking cuts of meat as well as other foods, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your meat cooks in a pressure cooker. Below are some useful tips for the perfect texture and flavour of meat each time:

  • Before you season the meat with salt and pepper, pat the meat dry.
  • For the best flavour and texture, sear and brown the food in oil, to begin with.
  • Use less-expensive meat in a pressure cooker because it’s best suited for the appliance by breaking down the food’s fibres so that it’s tender on your fork.
  • Always allow cooked meats to sit up for up to 15 minutes before you carve them.

Generalised Tips for Using Pressure Cookers

Whether you’re making vegetables, rice, beans or potatoes, the tips below apply to a variety of recipes for the best results.

Use Just Enough Liquid Inside the Pot

Never use a lot of liquid in the pressure cooker because pressure cookers require less water than a conventional cooking appliance, no matter the food you’re cooking. As a general rule of thumb, use around 125ml of liquid in each pressure cooker. Ensure that you don’t fill the pressure cooker more than halfway with your liquid.

Don’t Overfill With Food

Since pressure cooking is excellent for preparing food in bulk, it can be tempting to place heaps of food inside the pressure cooker. However, we don’t recommend that you use a pressure cooker that’s more than two-thirds full and avoid overpacking it tightly with food. It is because the pressure cooker won’t work efficiently, and it could impact the cooking methods. And, too much food can result in the safety valves activating, leading to the electric pressure cooker switching off during use.

Begin With a High Temperature

When using a pressure cooker, begin with a high temperature and finish with a low one. Once the liquid reaches maximum pressure, reduce the burner, so it simmers. Electric pressure cookers will turn the heat on automatically, so you don’t make any adjustments or have to worry about that.

Consider Your Altitude

Not every food cooks the same in a pressure cooker because it can depend on your altitude. Specifically, high altitude (above 3,000 feet) requires a longer cooking time. As a general rule of thumb, increase the cooking time by five percent for every 1,000 feet that you’re above sea level.

Don’t Throw in All Foods at Once

It’s a misconception that you can throw all your food in a pressure cooker at one time. But the truth is that certain ingredients have different cooking times. So, when preparing your recipe, consider the cooking times for each ingredient. Then, please the slow-cooking dishes into the pressure cooker first, followed by faster-cooking ingredients. You can then bring the pot to pressure so everything can cook thoroughly.

Brown Your Foods First

It’s important to know that a pressure cooker won’t brown foods, so you may need to brown onions, garlic and spices first before using a pressure cooker. You can skip this step, but we recommend that you follow this process because it’ll inject more flavour into the dish.

Release the Pressure When You Need To

Pressure cookers require a release of pressure during use. There are three ways to do this. The first one begins taking the pressure cooker off the heat to release pressure at its own pace. It is excellent for cooking casseroles or dishes that have long pressure cooker times. Or turn the pressure release valve. You’ll want to use this option for delicate dishes. Finally, run cold water into the pressure cooker for dishes that are prone to overcooking, such as fish and vegetables.

No matter which method you choose, ensure that you’re gentle when opening the lid—never forcing it. Many pressure cookers are equipped with a safety feature that means you don’t open the lid to prevent you from burning. If you’re in a rush, you can use the third method above (running the appliance under a cold tap).

Consider Thickening Your Sauce

One downfall of modern pressure cookers is that they don’t thicken the sauce during the cooking time, so you’ll need to do this afterwards. A quick method is to leave the pressure cooker on the heat once you’ve removed the lid. Alternatively, add cornflour into the cooking liquid to thicken it up if it’s looking a little too runny for your liking.

The Benefits of Pressure Cookers

There are so many great reasons to use pressure cooking. Below are some popular reasons to try pressure cooking more often.

Save Time Preparing Meals

One of the most common reasons for using a pressure cooker is saving time preparing meals. Think of those times when you’ve had a long day at work, or you’re strapped for time but still need to cook a meal. Fortunately, pressure cookers allow you to make food quickly, and you can use a variety of ingredients, which makes them highly versatile. Simply throw your desired ingredients into the pressure cooker, and your dinner will be ready by the time you’ve finished work.

Spend Less Time Cleaning

Additionally, you’ll spend less time having to clean up various pots and pans after you’ve made your dish because a pressure cooker is only one appliance. It makes your life a little easier since you don’t have to spend a large portion of your time washing and cleaning up after you’ve cooked food. Additionally, hot steam and oil easily release from a pressure cooker, which typically results in less clean-up time when you’re done since there are no splashes or splatters on your kitchen appliances.

Less Energy Used

An Instant Pot uses less energy than a traditional cooking appliance, enabling you to improve your carbon footprint and save money on electricity bills. Thanks to a pressure cooker’s efficiency, less energy is required to prepare your meals by using one-pot cooking recipes. And don’t we all want to reduce our electricity cost?

Enhances Food’s Flavour

Another great benefit of pressure cooking is the results. By liquid reaching a boiling point, your food cooks in a short time frame and is less likely to lose its flavour, colour, minerals and nutrients, producing a delightful dish that you’ll enjoy the taste of. You’ll also find that pressure cookers enhance the richness and quality of dishes.

Things to Not Do With Your Pressure Cooker

There are certain things to avoid with your cooker, and below are some important tips to not do with cooker recipes.

Don’t Open While Cooking

You want to cook food quickly with your cooker, but that means that you’ll need to leave the lid on at all times until the food has properly cooked. Many modern appliances won’t let you remove the lid while food is still cooking, but you shouldn’t attempt to do so while in use. However, if you need to remove the lid before food is cooked, you can switch off the appliance beforehand.

Only Release the Pressure When It’s Ready

Release the high pressure once the food has cooked. If you release the top pressure much earlier, your recipes probably won’t be thoroughly cooked in the Instant Pot.

Don’t Add Thickeners During Use

We mentioned before that you might need to add a thickener to your recipes afterwards, but you mustn’t add any thickening agents when the Instant Pot is in use. It is because these appliances operate by the steam that’s built up inside of the pot, and adding a thickening ingredient will ruin the food while it’s cooking. If you want to make your dish thicker, you should wait until the food has properly cooked and then perform this step afterwards.

Don’t Just Place Dry Food Inside

While a pressure cooker is highly versatile, one important tip we have is that you add liquid inside the pot along with your food. This is because these appliances work by trapping steam inside, and this can only happen if there’s plenty of liquid inside. As we mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t add too much liquid inside, and usually, 125ml is enough. But it all depends on what your recipes state.

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Got Some Tips You Want to Share?

A pressure cooker is simple to use as long as you follow the guidelines we have outlined above. Now you know how to use a pressure cooker, what will you cook first?

We’d love to hear your advice and recommendations on operating a pressure cooker. Share your preparing and/or cooking tips in the comments to inspire our readers. Also, don’t forget to clean your appliance after every use, so it’s hygienic for the next time you cook.

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