Don't miss our new free video series: Pressure Cooking School. See you there!

Fissler Vitaquick Pressure Cooker Normal Release
Before we cook together in the Beginner Basics recipe series you and your pressure cooker need to become the best of friends.  It’s easy to do! Your pressure cooker, unlike most things in life, comes with a detailed instruction manual.

While you’re reading it, you will need understand the following things about your new kitchen helper:

check mark Your pressure cooker’s minimum liquid requirement 

Although pressure cookers all do the same thing, they all do it slightly differently and this means that each pressure cooker has it’s own minimum liquid requirement (the minimum liquid the cooker needs to boil and generate pressure). You’ll learn in the later lessons that this liquid doesn’t always need to be water, it can be stock, fruit juice or even wine (don’t ever use hard liquor to bring your pressure cooker to pressure).  This liquid can even be contributed by the liquid from the veggies and meat.  Check the manual to see if says what the minimum liquid requirement is for your pressure cooker it can be anywhere from 1/2 a cup (125ml) to two cups (500ml)!

See Also: Can I use something other than water to meet my pressure cooker’s minimum requirement?

As a general rule (with lots of safe wiggle room) we recommend 1 cup (250ml) for stovetop and 1 1/2 cups (375ml) for electrics.

check mark How your pressure cooker reaches pressure 

With all recipes you will begin counting the cooking time once the pressure cooker has reached pressure. Each manufacturer will have their own way of signaling when their pressure cooker has reached pressure, so it is important that you understand how yours operates.

Here are some basic guidelines for the four types of pressure cookers:

Breville Fast Slow Pro profileSpring valve, in most modern pressure cookers (also known as 2nd Generation), will “signal” it has reached pressure by a visual, and sometimes also auditory, indicator… usually by raising a rod, signal or bar.

Digital or Electric pressure cookers  can “beep, an indicator stops blinking or ‘P’ indicator turns on”  but each one has a different way to let you know that it has reached pressure. These pressure cookers will start counting down their own cooking time – so you don’t need to do anything once the cooker has told you it has reached pressure.

Jiggler valve will “rock and jiggle,” at first slowly and then vivaciously,  as steam begins to escape to regulate the pressure inside the cooker.

Weight-Modifyed valve will “whistle, hiss or shhhhhck” when it lifts up and down to release extra pressure. This was the first kind of pressure cooker I had and they are very noisy.  I liken the sound to a steam engine train, who’s pistons are shooting up and down to move forward – which is not far from reality since the steam engine was based on a pressure cooker design.

check mark How to release pressure

There are three ways pressure cooker recipes will instruct you to release pressure:

magefesa_pressure_releaseNatural Release (for meats, grains and legumes)

Just turn off the heat and and wait for the pressure safety-handle-locking-mechanism, or indicator, to disengage (usually 10-15 minutes). This release is especially useful when cooking grains, beans and meats.

Normal, Manual or Automatic Release (for veggies and fish)

You must know in which direction the vapor will exit your pressure cooker prior to opening it with this method for the first time.  Some models will shoot vapor straight up, while others down, some sideways, or (as illustrated) forward, depending on how your hold your pan.  Lift or remove the valve, push the button, press or twist the lever to release vapor and pressure until the pressure safety-handle-locking-mechanism disengages. Newer pans will make a final “sigh” and you will feel the top moving down slightly.  (about 2 minutes). This release method is best used for quick-cooking foods like vegetables, pasta and fish.

See Also: Now, release pressure!  The How’s and Why’s.

check mark Dismantle and re-mount the valve in 60 seconds

I’m kidding – just checking to see if you’re still reading.  Take as long as you like! But know that after each use, you should remove and clean the valve to prevent operating your pressure cooker with an obstruction that could either kick-in the safety mechanisms or, at worst, damage your pressure cooker permanently.

Primary Pressure Release ValveElectric pressure cooker valves can be cleaned less often, if there is no food residue anywhere on the underside of the lid you can get away with cleaning their valve about once a week – it’s a good time to also empty the little condensation cup in the back as well.

So you don’t forget, put the pressure cooker lid next to the sink once it is removed and have any needed “tools” nearby.  One of my pressure cookers requires a butter-knife to un-screw the spring valve.  My older pressure cooker just needs a strong pull on the weight-modified valve.  One of my newest pressure cookers has it’s valve encased in a mystery box, so I just need to make sure that the rubber area leading into that mystery box is clean.

Read your manual and try to follow the cryptic diagrams so you already know what to do after pressure cooking your first dish.

check markSafety Check

Double anti-blockage vents
Double anti-blockage vents

All pressure cookers have some kind of rubber or silicone ring around the edge of the opening that helps it to seal hermetically while it reaches pressure and, often, an emergency pressure release valve. Even if your pressure cooker is new, but especially if it is not, take a careful look at any rubber or silicone parts to make sure that they are not cracked, or damaged in any way.

These are the items that will need to be replaced occasionally depending on the age and frequency of your pressure cooking – they age even if your pressure cooker is not being used.  The general recommendation is to replace these parts every 18 months – however some can last much longer.

I do not recommend oiling any of these parts unless specifically recommended in the manual for your model.

check markTest-run

The “hot water” test is often used to trouble-shoot any problems that you may have with your pressure cooker and for first-timers to see it in action.  It’s just a fancy name for boiling water in your pressure cooker and seeing if, and how, it reaches, keeps and releases pressure. We’ve also created a visual guide to help explain what your pressure cooker will do the first time it comes up to pressure so be sure to refer to it, as well!

Pressure Cooker Hot Water Test

Electric Pressure Cooker Stovetop Pressure Cooker
  1. Add 4 cups (1l) of water into the pressure cooker.
  2. Close the lid and position the valve to the correct setting (for example, “sealing” or “pressure”)
  3. Choose any cooking program and adjust the time to 10 minutes.
  4. The display will counts-down cooking time after the cooker has reached pressure on its own (in about 10 minutes)
  5. Release pressure! NOTE: Keep fingers out of the way from the steam & tilt the lid away from you.
  6. You did it!
  1. Add 4 cups (1l) of water into the pressure cooker.
  2. Close the lid and position the valve to the correct setting (for example “high” or “2” or “II”)
  3. Place the cooker on a burner that is not wider than the pressure cooker base and turn the heat below the cooker to HIGH (use a MEDIUM heat setting on induction) until the cooker indicates it has reached pressure (for example a pin is raised and/or steam exits the valve) – this step could take up to 10 minutes.
  4. When the cooker indicates that pressure is reached, lower the heat to maintain pressure (to LOW or MEDIUM heat) according to your pressure cooker instructions) and start a timer to count 10 minutes of pressure cooking time.
  5. Release pressure! NOTE: Keep fingers out of the way from the steam & tilt the lid away from you.
  6. You did it!

OPTIONAL: Quickly pour what’s left in the pressure cooker back into the measuring cup or pitcher to see how much liquid evaporated during cooking and the pressure release.

If your pressure cooker did not reach pressure, make sure that the rubber ring is properly in place, and that the valves are correctly mounted and give the test another shot.

see also: The Pressure Cooker Trouble-shooter and How To Pressure Cook

check markSay, “hi!”

Post a comment to introduce yourself and your pressure cooker (model, size and anything else you would like to mention) along with any questions you might have.

Next!

Go to the first Beginner Basics Lesson: Smashed Potatoes -Boiling and Maximum Capacity or view the entire Beginner Basics Course outline!

Pssssst!  Do you want to learn more about the pressure cookers that I’m using? See them described on my About page!

251 Comments

  1. Hi all! New to pressure cooking and just checking in. Have a Bella pc, which isn’t the best cooker fir a novice to begin with. Just got the InstantPot Lux 60. This cooker is more user friendly. Glad I found Hip Pressure Cooking. Excited and ready to begin!

  2. The link to Pressure Cooking School doesn’t work for me.

    1. Welcome Heidi, you can go directly to the pressure cooking school from here:
      https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooking-school/

      Ciao,

      L

  3. I’m new here. Just received my new Instant Pot Duo 60 today. I’m very excited!

  4. I’m new here. Haven’t used a pressure cooker in ages. Just received Instant Pot Ultra. Looking forward to all the useful settings.

  5. Instant Pot seems to be all the rage these days, and most seem to go with the IP, but I bought the Breville Fast Slow Pro and I love it. I’m learning how to use it and how to adapt recipes since I’ve never had a PC before. Glad I found your site and the wealth of information you share. Thank you for that!

    1. Welcome, Lisa, you made a good choice. The Breville Fast Slow Pro is one of my top three recommendations!! Put adaptation aside for now until you learn the ropes of pressure cooking. I know that’s one of the FIRST things I wanted to do, but I learned quickly that it was literally a “recipe” for disaster. ; )

      Ciao,
      L

  6. I got an Instant pot for mothers day, no papers or instruction came with it. I have no idea how to use it. Its so hot here I would love to cook with it instead of using the oven.

    1. Welcome, Jim. For your Instant Pot, don’t miss the newer pressure cooking school which is wholly geared towards electric pressure cookers:
      https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooking-school/

      Ciao,

      L

  7. I recently purchased a Cosori model no.,: C1156-PC, Hope I picked a good one. It was certainly well-packaged.

  8. I just got an IP a couple days ago, and I got a stew made in it before I read that I have to install a condensation collector and anti block shield. Trying to figure out how to do that. I’ve cooked with Pressure Cookers before and have 3 older ones. This IP is quite the gadget.

  9. Hi,

    I have never used a pressure cooker., so I am very nervous now – it look so easy when we saw it on TV LOL..
    I have the instant pot. I like simple and easy cooking do to our work schedule I am hoping this helps.

    Thanks for the training and tips.

    1. Welcome.
      They are not as dangerous as folklore makes out. Yes they used to be, but they have improved tremendously in the last hundred years or so. Unless of course you do sill things. Just as a knife or frypan will.

      Just follow the directions, take it slow for the first few cooks – follow Laura’s lessons – and you will never look back.

      Just remember, while they ARE easy, they are not as easy as TV magic makes them look. I shudder at some of the dangerous practices I have seen on infomercials.

      1. Thank you, I tried a pasta dinner and it got burned on the bottom some how… but will try again. :)
        Thanks again.

        1. Pasta dinner… That probably contained tomato in one form or another. Tomato can be tricky. Somewhere on this site Laura dedicates a whole section to cooking with tomato. Too busy to look for it right now but it boils down to:
          Either stirring with the lid off until it has reached a boil. Then put the lid on.
          Or putting the tomato ingredients on top of every thing else and NOT stirring at all.
          Also you want to avoid “Pasta Sauce” This almost always contains sugar and/or thickeners. Both of which are problematic.

    2. First of all, familiarize yourself with the cooker. It’s different is all, but does a wonderful job. I’ve been pressure cooking most of my life and watched my mothers cooker hit the ceiling a time or two, but it never happened to me. I have 2 old standard cookers. I am delighted with the instant pot. First of all, it is practically silent. Second of all, if you make your self familiar with the settings, you will have no surprises. Third of all, take a moment, sit down read the book, then join in the discussions. You will be a pressure cooker freak in no time at all. I cooked my 2nd meal in my IP last night, and my husband was really amazed at how well it turned out in just about 20 minutes of pressure cooking. (Not counting getting to pressure, and then getting the pressure down.) It was really good. Just give it a try. Simple stuff. I think you will learn to love it.

  10. Hi, my name is Janet and I have an 8 qt. Instant Pot. I am close to 3000 where I live and want to know how much of a difference is there in additional minutes I need to add to cooking recipes with both of these factors?

    1. Hi Janet,

      Go to Laura’s cook time info page and scroll down to the altitude adjustment info.

      https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooking-times/

      Cheers,
      Anna (6 qt DUO 2014 version, 6 qt Smart, 2015 version, sea level)

    2. Add about 10% to most recipes. But try them as is first.
      If you open up and decide it is undercooked, it is a lot easier to close the lid and cook some more, than to cook longer then decide it is overcooked and attempt to un-cook it a little.

      It often doesn’t matter that much especially as you are close to the limit that most guidelines say to start increasing time. I am assuming you mean 3000 FEET not METRES. A fairly safe assumption as the InstantPot is mainly only sold in backwards countries that still use feet and pounds ;)

  11. Hello! I’m Lynn. I’m a foodie, and I love to cook meals from scratch and enjoy all kinds of coking techniques.

    I have a 6qt Cuisinart PC I bought at Costco about 3 years ago. I’m told that it is the same as the CPC-600, but my Costco model is labeled EPC-1200pc. I’ve only used my cooker roughly a dozen times with mixed results. I’m inspired by the Instant Pot craze, so I thought I’d get to know my cooker better and get serious about using it.

    In searching the web for Cuisinart PC recipes/tips I noticed the abundance of Instant Pot support, but not so much for Cuisinart. How close are the recipe timings/settings for machine brand to brand? I’m guessing close, but I wonder if someone has worked out a conversion chart or formula from Instant Pot instructions to Cuisinart.

    I’m delighted to have found this site! Thank you for sharing all this useful instruction with us here!!!

    1. Welcome Lynn,
      In general, a pressure cooker is a pressure cooker is a pressure cooker. For high pressure, most stovetops cook at 15psi (well 14.6) and most electrics cook at 12psi. So you should be able to take ANY pressure cooker recipe designed for an electric PC and use it unmodified in your PC. Generally you can also use any stovetop recipe too and simply add a little time to the cooking. All you need to know is how to set time and if necessary, pressure for your model. There are literally hundreds of models out there so you really need to understand how to get to these settings on yours.

      Laura writes all her recipes so that they will work with any pressure cooker. You just need to know how to get to high and low pressure, and how to adjust the time. However, not every PC will allow you do all these things. You also need to know what your pressure settings are. These should be in your manual.

    2. Lynn, please follow my pressure cooking school. IN the “getting acquainted” episode you’ll see how similar you Cuisinart is to the Instant Pot in terms of construction and functionality.
      https://www.hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooking-school/

      Ciao,

      L

  12. Hello there,
    I live in Scotland and have just bought a ‘Lakeland’ 3L stovetop pressure cooker. Long ago I used a hissing type and am amazed by this new one. I read a lot about your Instant Pots but they are unavailable here except at a very high price. I am finding your website very helpful – thanks. R.

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