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How to Use A Pressure Cooker

By Luna Regina | Updated
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Pressure cookers are a great way to prepare healthy meals quickly and efficiently, letting you cook a wide variety of tasty dishes without the immense effort required by other means of cooking.

How To Use A Pressure Cooker

If you’re new to pressure cooking, follow these tips on how to use a pressure cooker so that you can get started safely.

What Is Pressure Cooking?

When it comes to cooking a nutritious meal in a timely manner, you don’t need to look much further than the pressure cooker.The key advantage of this method of cooking is the use of high pressure to limit boiling, allowing it to cook foods at a temperature well above the boiling point, meaning that dishes can be cooked in half the time compared to conventional cooking methods. 

The pressure cooker itself is a sealed pot which uses high-temperature steam at a high level of pressure in order to cook food very quickly.

Benefits of Pressure Cooking

Here are other benefits of a pressure cooker, beyond its speedy cooking time:

High Nutritional Value

Since the pressure cooker works using extremely hot steam, vitamins & minerals contained within the food are not dissolved as they would be if cooked in water.

Easy to Cook Multiple Foods Together 

Thanks to the high capacity of most pressure cookers, it is quite straightforward to cook multiple types of food in one go, either by cooking them all for the same amount of time or by adding in additional items throughout the process. This is great for producing a delicious pot roast!

Eliminates harmful microorganisms 

Since the pressure cooker raises the boiling point of water from 100°C to around 121°C, the heat involved in pressure cooking is incredibly effective at wiping out harmful bacteria - even those which would survive at the usual boiling point of 100°C. In fact, hospitals use what could accurately be described as a more technically sophisticated version of a pressure cooker to sterilize surgical instruments. 

If you can trust the cleanliness of a surgeon’s scalpel, you can definitely trust the cleanliness of pressure-cooked meals!

Eliminates harmful microorganisms

How to Use A Pressure Cooker

Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why using a pressure cooker is such a good idea, let’s get stuck in to how you actually use one!

Step-by-step Guide

1. Read The Instructions

This might seem like the kind of first step which has us rolling our eyes, since most appliances come with a recommendation to read the instructions, yet seem to be perfectly fine to use right out of the box. This is not the case with a pressure cooker. 

As we are dealing with extremely high temperatures, modern pressure cookers come with a number of safety features which should be well-understood before cooking with this appliance. 

Each specific model comes with different specifications, so it is absolutely vital that you take the time to understand these features for your own safety.

2. Check that Your Pressure Cooker Is Undamaged

This is another vital step in terms of safety when using this piece of equipment. Since the cooker deals with high pressure and high temperatures, you must check that there are no dents or cracks in the cooker, and that the rubber gasket is in an acceptable condition to seal the pot properly; i.e. it is not dried out, and is still flexible. 

If structural flaws like this are missed, then you run the risk of hot steam being released from the pot and inflicting some rather unpleasant burns at such a high temperature. In the event that a part is in need of replacement, most kitchenware suppliers tend to stock replacement parts.

3. Add The Ingredients

Now that we understand the model and have made sure it won’t burn us, we can get to adding the ingredients. There are a few things to bear in mind here. 

First and foremost, make sure you’ve added sufficient liquid. This will vary by model - the instruction manual should let you know how much liquid should be used. 

Without liquid, there will be no steam, and your meal will not turn out as planned. A pressure cooker should never be more than ⅓ (including food) full as the cooker requires room for steam to accumulate, and the minimum water level varies by type of cooker:

  • For jiggle top cookers: For 20 minutes of cooking, you must make sure there is at least one cup of water being used.
  • For valve cookers: The minimum amount of liquid you should use in this kind of cooker is half a cup.

Place your solid ingredients inside the cooker as specified by the recipe when you have ascertained how much liquid is needed for this recipe. As we mentioned earlier, do not fill the pressure cooker in total beyond ⅔ full, or ½ full for foods which may produce froth.

4. Lock The Lid

Turn the lid so that it locks in place. Follow the instructions provided in the user manual - for electric pressure cookers, you will need to check that the pressure release valve is properly closed. 

For stovetop cookers you will need to remove the safety valve from the nozzle of the cooker, so that it can properly release steam during the cooking process.

5. Start Cooking

If you are using an electric pressure cooker, you will need to set your pressure level and cook time as specified by the recipe you are following. For stovetop pressure cookers, you should place the cooker on a large burner and set to high heat. This will begin the process of converting the water into steam. Once you have done this, the internal pressure of the cooker will rise. 

The pressure cooker is designed to simmer the food once it reaches a designated level of pressure. This is indicated differently depending on the model:

  • For jiggle top cookers: As per the namesake, the weighted pressure regulator on the cooker will begin to jiggle, while steam comes out of the vent. When you see steam coming out of the nozzle you should place the safety valve on it.
  • For valve cookers: The valve stem has a number of marks which will appear as pressure rises. This does not require the use of a safety valve.

6. Reduce The Heat

Once the cooker has started simmering, reduce the heat on your stovetop so that the cooker no longer whistles. This is when you should begin timing your recipe

It is important to maintain the pressure throughout the rest of the cooking process, so ensure that the heat maintains a constant pressure level which is no longer building inside the pot. 

The whistling in the previous step indicates that the target pressure/temperature has been reached and needs maintaining.

7. Release The Pressure

Check the instructions in the user manual for how to do this with your particular model. For most old models, and all new models, there should be a ‘quick release’ button which can be released in order to slowly release pressure from the cooker in a safe manner.

Once you have released the pressure, check that it has been properly released. On jiggle tops, moving the pressure regulator should tell you quickly if there is any pressure remaining as you won’t hear any escaping steam. Move the valve stem on newer models for the same effect.

8. Remove The Lid and Dish Up!

Remove the lid carefully, and take the cooked food out of the pressure cooker. Your meal is ready to go!

Now that you understand how to operate your pressure cooker, get started with whichever recipe you’ve wanted to try! We hope you enjoy your deliciously cooked and nutritious meal!

Luna Regina

A writer and entrepreneur, Luna’s day doesn’t start at the computer keyboard, but in the kitchen. Half of her working hours are spent on mixing ingredients for her recipes. The other half involve working with the tech team to research and test the tools and appliances that promise to make kitchen work effortless and mess-free. From a kitchen knife or water filter to the Instant Pot, if it can help save time and effort for the home cook, Luna and her team are on it. Luna’s extracurricular pastimes include camping, travel, and photography.