If you’re here, you probably already know that the Instant Pot, in all its forms, is a highly versatile kitchen device. Not just a pressure cooker (though that would be enough), it also has settings that allow it to function as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, sous vide, and much more. However, you may not know a certain factor that can make a big difference in how your Instant Pot recipes turn out.
The Instant Pot use highly pressurized steam to cook your food faster, while requiring less water so more nutrients and flavor are retained. When the cooking is done, all that steam has to go somewhere. There are two methods of letting it out, which we’ll discuss here: natural pressure release vs. quick release. So what’s the difference?
Instant Pot Natural Release
1. What Is Instant Pot Natural Release?
Natural Release (NR) is as it sounds: a method that allows steam to leave the Instant Pot via the small floating valve at its natural rate of venting into the air. It’s a slower way of letting off the pressure, so it’s more suitable for meals with a lot of liquid that might otherwise rise with the steam and splatter.
2. How to Natural Release Instant Pot
To naturally release the steam, first wait until your Instant Pot indicates that its cooking cycle is complete (usually with a beep), based on the settings you used. It should automatically go into “Keep Warm” mode, and steam will slowly emit from the floating valve, the metal circle on the lid of your Instant Pot. This circle should have risen above the surface of the lid as the Instant Pot was pressurized, and it will drop as the steam vents and it loses pressure.
Now all you have to do is keep an eye (or ear) on it. The steam will slowly release on its own in 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the water content of the food inside. It may make a slight hissing noise as it does so; this is normal. Once the floating valve has dropped completely below the lid, turn the knob next to it from ‘Sealing’ to ‘Venting’, and open the lid (to prevent accidents, you won’t be able to open it until it is fully vented). If you’ve done it right, you won’t notice any sudden exhalation of steam, and your food should be hot and ready to serve!
3. When Do I Use a Natural Pressure Release?
A natural pressure release is best used when you’re cooking something with a lot of liquid or starch, like soups, stews, and porridge. As the steam in your Instant Pot rises, it carries along with it drops of liquid in these foods, which may be colored, sticky, and/or oily.
Natural release prevents this liquid from rising too quickly and making a mess by splattering across your kitchen. Just make sure the Instant Pot recipe you use takes the natural release into account in its timing, as the remaining heat can still cook your food as steam is released, with the potential to overcook it.
Instant Pot Quick Release
1. What is Instant Pot Quick Release
Instant Pot Quick release (QR) involves letting the steam rapidly escape your instant pot through the larger steam release valve, in order to stop the food inside from pressure-cooking and allow you to open the lid and remove it.
2. How to Quick Release Instant Pot
Depending on the model, your Instant Pot may have a Steam Release Handle or a Steam Release Button. If it uses the handle, simply turn the handle to the position labeled ‘Venting’ on the lid to rapidly vent the steam.
For models with the Steam Release Button, press it in to manually release steam (use this to test how the steam will come out) and push it all the way down to lock it in place for a quick release.
Either way, the steam will push through the Instant Pot’s valve from the high-pressure instant pot into the low-pressure surrounding air, forming a jet spray and making a hissing noise somewhat like a tea kettle. When the button rises (usually within a few minutes), your quick pressure release is complete!
3. When do I use a Quick Pressure Release?
Quick release is great for when you need to have your food ready fast, as it takes far less time to vent than natural release. It’s also good for food that can easily overcook and dry out or turn too soft, like certain meats and vegetables. Just make sure that the food inside doesn’t contain a lot of hot liquid (soup, oil, juices), which could come rushing out along with the steam and make a mess of your kitchen.
For safety’s sake, use caution when executing a quick pressure release. Never place your hand or any other object above the steam release valve (the pressurized steam is heated above boiling point, hot enough to severely burn your skin), and take the Instant Pot outside first if you’re unsure whether the contents will splatter (or if you just don’t want your kitchen to smell like what you’ve cooked).
Another option is to do a half natural, half quick release, by letting the Instant Pot sit for a few minutes, then conducting a quick release to vent the remaining steam. The venting process will be less violent due to the lower pressure inside. In this way, it’s possible to retain some of the benefits of natural release while cutting the time in half between cooking and having your meal ready to serve.
What Is The Difference Between A Quick Pressure Release and Natural Pressure Release
Both quick pressure release and natural pressure release get the same job done: letting steam out of the Instant Pot so you can open it and enjoy your cooked food. The best one to use depends largely on what you’ve just cooked, with quick release being more suitable for short cooking cycles and natural release being all but required to avoid a messy kitchen (or wherever you use your Instant Pot) for certain recipes.
Assuming you’re following a recipe (as all beginner Instant Pot users should), we advise that you consult it for which release method to use in order to get the results you desire in the least amount of time.