The pressure cooker can tenderize the most stubborn cut of meat and turn tough chewy fibers into gelatin, but a few wrong moves can turn meat into a shriveled tasteless lump. Here are my do’s and don’ts for getting the most flavor out of your pressure cooked meat.

brown or broil pressure cooked meatDO brown or broil it. Either give your meat a quick all-around sauté before starting a braise or tumble pressure steamed or boiled meat on a heat-proof platter and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes to add a beautiful I-‘ve-been-cooking-in-a-blasting-hot-oven-for-hours finish.

DON’T drown it. Liquid is your meat’s number one flavor-sucking enemy, but it’s your cooker’s best friend. That’s because there is almost no evaporation during pressure cooking- just 3-5% versus 30% evaporation during conventional cooking.  While you may cover meat almost completely for a conventional braise, use just enough liquid for the cooker to reach pressure – during pressure cooking the meat will release it’s own juice and braise in that flavorful liquid, instead.

use fresh herbsDO use fresh herbs. Whenever possible use fresh! Pressure cooking has a tendency to infuse the flavor of every ingredient in the cooker together. Herbs should give their fresh oils and water to your recipe, not absorb it. Toss fresh herbs in the cooker whole, stems and all, before closing the lid -the pressure will take care of the rest!

DON’T use thickeners. Flour, starch (potato or corn), and ingredients in prepared sauces and canned cream soups (agar, carrageeanan, modified food starch, etc.) should be added after pressure cooking . Otherwise, the cooking liquid will thicken the liquid the cooker needs to reach pressure making it difficult for it to boil and either scorch the bottom of the cooker or prevent it from reaching pressure altogether (or both). Add the thickener and simmer it into your dish when pressure cooking is finished.

timerDO take your time.  Use natural release for most meat-centered pressure cooker recipes.  It will slowly (10 to 20 minutes) bring the temperature of the super-heated meat down and prevent all of the high-temperature-juice inside from evaporating away in a aromatic cloud and leaving behind a nearly inedible and definitely tasteless hunk of fibers that used to be meat. Oh, and by the way, natural release means to just turn the heat off and forget about your pressure cooker for about 10 minutes while the pressure comes down all by itself.

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    I want to know what I did wrong! I bought a new electric pressure cooker and thought I could make Chicken Parmesan in it. I boiled water in it to get a feel of the new machine first as you suggested on your site. Then I decided to cook the next day and put 2 pieces breaded chicken in the bottom of the non-stick bowl of the cooker (this cooker does not have the grate for the bottom like my last stove top one). Then I put about a 1/2 of a jar of spaghetti sauce in, then a cup of mostaccioli noodles and enough water to cover, about 1 cup. I set the cooker on high pressure for 10 min. It did smell like that new machine smell but didn’t think nothing of it. After the timer went off I wasn’t sure it was done so I let it warm for another 10 min. The chicken had a little scorch on the bottom but didn’t seem bad enough not to eat so I fed it to my son. I had some of the sauce and noodles myself. Well about 2 hrs later my son was puking. He said he could see black specks in the toilet and was sick all night and next day. I did not feel sick at all. What I was wondering was, did my son get teflon poisoning? or was it the chicken being scorched? What do you think? What should I do next time?

    1. Bren, I’m sorry to hear that your son was sickened. I do not recommend using non-stick liners or pots – you might want to contact the manufacturer and let them know what happened and also ask if they offer a stainless steel insert for your pressure cooker.

      Also, I’m not familiar with the recipe that you used, but you may want to let the recipe author about this problem as well.

      With a new pressure cooker, like any new cookware (be it stainless steel, non-stick or ceramic), you want to clean all of the surfaces the food might touch (liner and lid) with a degreasing detergent and clean very well. During the manufacturing process the cookware is often handled by machines lubricated with and/or polished with mineral oils (petroleum based oils that can induce vomiting and diarrhea) to make them shiny.

      Water will not wash these oils away, only a dishwashing detergent with degreasers.

      If your son is not feeling better, please take him to your family doctor immediately.


  2. Hi I wanted to ask if I could cook the chicken breasts in the pressure cooker to use for chicken salad sandwiches. What’s the procedure for that?
    Thanks Gayle

  3. Hi Laura,

    In the very first sentence, should the word be shriveled, instead of shrived? :)

    1. Yes. It should have been, now it is. Thanks! L

  4. I’m cooking pork ribs in my pressure cooker. How much liquid do I need in the 0 pot?

    1. If you’re steaming them, you only need as much liquid as the pressure cooker needs to reach pressure. Here are our pork rib recipes:

      BBQ Pork Ribs with White Bean and Spinach Salad:

      Pre-cooking Prok Ribs for BBQ Cooking:

      If you’re new to pressure cooking, I highly recommend you take the pressure cooking lessons. They will teach you everything you need to know about your pressure cooker!



  5. I cooked beef stew with my electric pressure cooker a few times. However, despite following a recipe that came with the cooker, the meat turned out tough. What Am I doing wrong?

    1. Most likely you are over cooking it. When you overcook meat, the muscle fibres shrink and squeeze the moisture out. You end up with tough, dry little lumps. No amount of soaking in sauce will fix it.

      I have also noticed here (Australia) that supermarket meat is getting worse and worse. I find I am going to the butchers and paying more. but getting better quality. I am eating less meat. But when I do it is good stuff. Not necessarily prime cuts. Even the “stewing steak” is better from the butcher.

      My suspicion is that the supermarket butchers are slaughtering, jointing and shipping to the shelves on the same day. The old practice of “hanging” meat is dying out there. And it shows.

  6. Thanks

  7. Hi,

    I keep having problems producing a good beef stew. I tried with both an electric PC (pressure king pro) and a stovetop (a duromatic) but in both cases the meat was a bit tough. The stovetop produced the best results but still most of the meat was too chewy. What did I do wrong? I cooked the meat for only 15 minutes at high pressure followed by natural release (in the electrical I had cooked the meat for 30 minutes with a quick release). Was the meat too lean? Did I need to keep all the meat inside the liquid (as some of it was floating on top of it) or did the stew contain too much liquid (the only liquid being a 600 ml can of stout as in the recipe)? I had browned the meat as recommended by recipe.

    1. Hi Paul, I will answer your question in the forums since you already posted it there. Here is the link to the conversation to anyone interested in following it:

      See you there!


  8. Hi Laura. could not resist some lovely pork shanks today…usually I do a long slow braise, but was thinking of pressure cooking them this time. I suspect I should brown them, but am not sure how much liquid to use…many recipes say to cover them. Your thought please – about 1 cup liquid, or cover; and for how long should I cook them?

    1. Linda, if you want to braise them use the minimum liquid requirement for your pressure cooker (it could be anywhere between 1/4 cup to 1 1/2 cups – your manual will tell you for sure) if you want to boil them than cover with liquid. That liquid can be water, stock, wine, beer, even fruit juice! : )

      Find the cooking time in our chart under “Pork, leg/shank”:



  9. The pressure cooker is such a time saver. I throw in any kind of meat that I need tenderized. I usually brown the meat first though, so it doesnt look lifeless.

  10. I always cook chicken thighs in my pressure cooker and it comes out fine, and very tender. This time the chicken looked like it was boiled and white, not the same look. Is there anything wrong with my seal?

    1. If they were boneless and skinless, it sounds like someone at the store mixed-up thigh with breast meat or they put the wrong label on the package! : )



  11. I keep reading (as much liquid as the pressure cooker needs to reach pressure ) but nowhere can I find how much that is. please help. I am afraid to use my new cooker.

    1. Nina, your pressure cooker’s instruction manual will tell you what the minimum amount of liquid it needs. Generally for all pressure cooker types and sizes up to 8L I recommend using minimum of 1 1/2 cups (375ml). Some cookers need less because they are more efficient at building and maintaining pressure. What is your pressure cooker’s brand, model and size? If I can find the manual online or in the library, I’ll look it up for you.



  12. I’m on my second attempt of beef barabacoa meet from an epicurious recipe (

    While delicious, the meat hasn’t come out tender to my liking. My second attempt I seared the outside of of qty 2 – 1lb chunks, then tossed them in the cooker w/spices, broth & ACV (but less liquid this time per the recipe). I reduced my cook time to 27 min (I live at 9,000 ft) and did a natural release. Opened it up to find a ton of liquid and tenuous, slightly shrunken beef still. This sucks. What is wrong? I thought the smart pressure cooker is supposed to resolve this?

    I noticed that meat near a fat section was about right in terms of tenderness but the rest was tough. At my grocery store, I find the best cut is tri ti; it’s marbled nicely. Am I missing fatty tissue in my cuts or what?


    1. When the meat is dry it’s because it’s overcooked – the “fatty” part of the meat can resist overcooking for a longer time than the “leaner” meat. Reduce the cooking time, and make sure that the meat is immersed in liquid. Since you’re shredding the beef, anyway, cut the chunks in smaller pieces so that it will need less time to pressure cook overall. Follow the stewing beef pressure cooking time from the chart.


  13. Hi there,
    i have tried 3 times to tenderise beef(brisket) in my pressure cooker (Hawkins 3litre Tall Stainless steel) using a Rendang curry sauce with cup of potatoes water. cook time 10 minutes then release pressure(following instructions). tough tough meat everytime :(


  14. my insta pot doesnt have a saute button. how do i saute my roast?

    1. If there is no saute’ or brown program, you can start any pressure program to saute’ – don’t worry it won’t reach pressure while the lid is off, the goal is to turn on the heating element to the maximum temperature.



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