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:
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.
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:
Spring 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.
How to release pressure
There are three ways pressure cooker recipes will instruct you to release pressure:
Natural 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.
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.
Electric 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.
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.
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|
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
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.
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!
Hey Laura! I’m a new fan from Melbourne Australia.
After much intensive research…the very best resource being your website, I picked up my new 6.5L Silit Sicomatic t-plus (in the lovely aqua-green color) with the confidence to get stuck straight into cooking!
I started by using your whole chook in beer + lemon juice recipe, minus the can. It was a success! Whilst stripping the meat off the carcass, I PC’d the rich, flavoursome juices with chopped mixed vegies, coconut milk & green curry paste. Served the ‘Green Curry & Chicken’ with rice noodles. Yum-o!! And then this morning I made stock with the carcass per your instructions. I am now a total PC convert!
Thank you again for your fun, professional and informative website. It gave me the nerve to venture into this new territory of cooking.
Thanks for your note and welcome! Be sure to leave a comment to let us know what other recipes you try.
Hello Laura – until a few days ago I could download your recipes for my own use. I do not have a blog where I post them, I don’t write articles, etc. All I wanted was some recipes to try out before I buy your book. I can’t stay on the web for a long time, and wanted to copy on word. It seems no longer possible. What do I need to do? Thank you so much, Angelika111
You can click on the print/PDF button at the bottom of the page and save each recipe as a PDF!
Got a Fissler Vitaquick 8 L cooker last week. Did the water test successfully, then just jumped right in and have subsequently made two batches of Italian meat loaf and one batch of Moose roast in cognac mushroom sauce.
Laura: The cooker came with a perforated steamer basket and trivet, which both seem easy enough to understand. But I also see that a non-perforated version of the steamer basket is available from Fissler, but I don’t know what it would be used for. Wondering if it would be useful to have….
Hi Brad, welcome! An unperforated insert would be useful for making desserts, rice etc. like a heat-proof bowl. I have Fissler’s un-perforated insert and do not recommend it. That’s because you cannot fill it with cake batter or or rice and water more than half-way since the holes for the handle mechanisms go down that far rendering it useless for its intended use.
I did inform Fissler about this and I do hope that at some point they will re-design the insert – in the meantime, you can just use a heat-proof bowl on the trivet or ramekins in the steamer basket on the trivet.
Laura: Fissler may have listened to you! I will attach a pic of the perforated pan that I got with my new unit. It looks to me like the unperforated version is the same, except without the perforated bottom. Anyhow, the holes for the handle-wires are ¼ inch from the top, which sounds better than the version that you had used. Does the attached photo reflect a different design than the one you tried?
Yes, that’s certainly an improvement – here’s the photo of my Fissler non-perforated insert. I guess the lesson to learn is: make sure that if you order one, you get the one without the holes going down to the middle of it!
That’s great news Brad. I’m sure you’ll love your new Fissler and I’d have loved trying your Italian meatloaf and moose roast – the cognac mushroom sauce sounds fabulous.
Glad to read your assessment of the un-perforated insert, Laura. I was just about to think, “maybe that would be good to have” but now that I read about its design, I see it is not a wise purchase.
I bought my Fagor Futuro 10 qt PC last year. Originally purchased to make homemade dog food, I now use it for everyday cooking. One thing that I am still confused about with this cooker is the timing of the cook. Videos and the manual say to mark the time for cooking when the yellow pop up pin locks the lid. Other sources say to wait until a steady stream of steam comes out of the vent. At that moment, reduce heat and start the timer. Which way do you recommend with this model Fagor?
Welcome Wheat, I have the Fagor Futuro. I haven’t seen the video, but I can tell you that the yellow pin pops-up when the cooker BEGINS to reach pressure (so that could be 1psi, 3 psi anything but the full 8 or 15 psi). If you turn down the heat as soon as you see the yellow pin pop-up you will find that the food is undercooked.
I start counting the cooking time once the pin has popped-up, its firm to the touch AND there is a thin wisp of steam coming out of the valve. At that point you can be assured that the cooker has reached the full selected pressure and you can turn down the heat and start counting down the cooking time.
How many people are you cooking for? I ask because a 10L is a rather large for everyday cooking !!!
Typically I’m only cooking for the two of us, but when I was making dog food, I needed the big PC. I would cook a whole chicken, a sweet potato and a white potato, carrots, zucchini, and a really large can of green beans. It needed the 10 qt to cook that amount of food. Cooked it long enough to make the bones crumble. My boy would scarf it down. I also use the pot w/o the lid as a stock pot. Does double duty this way. Risotto is my favorite thing to make in the Fagor, even though it is a bit large for just our size portion. Heats up so fast that I doubt if a smaller PC could cook any faster. The extra weight does not pose a problem for me.
Thanks for the tip. I’ll keep checking on the pressure by pressing the yellow button as well as checking for steam.
Hi! This is Sherry, the new owner of a Power Pressure Cooker XL! I don’t know how many ladies out there enjoy receiving kitchen appliances as gifts, but I’m one of those! This was an early Christmas gift from my hubby, who saw the commercial, researched it, and ordered it after seeing if it’s something I’d even use. So far I’ve used it twice, both times he got to reap the benefits of! Am glad to be here!
Just got my Instant Pot today! Very excited!
Just ordered my Instant Pot. Can’t wait to use it! Your YouTube video really helped me when I was trying to figure out what type of electric pressure cooker to buy. So Thanks!
I just recently purchased an Instant Pot Smart-60 as a result of your very informative videos. I have had the pressure cooker less than 7 days and have cooked five meals in the pressure cooker so far. I’m disappointed that the last 2 nights the steam pop up value has had issues popping up and the pressure cooker displayed an “over heat” error. The lid and steam mechanism seems free and clear of debris and the lid seems to be in place and locked correctly. What else could I be doing worng to cause this issue?
Thank you for your time in this matter.
Thanks and welcome! Usually the overheat kicks-in when the food is very thick. What recipes did you use? For example, I found I can make just about any risotto in the Instant Pot except for the lentil one as it is thicker than the Instant Pot would like. Same with the pasta and sauce dishes – I can only use rigatoni/penne type pastasas as they allow for more water in the pot.
Thank you for answering. I was cooking sausage gravy the first night and meatloaf the second night. Both nights the float value didn’t pop up and the pressure cooker threw an error regarding it over heating. I failed to mention that I’m a newbie in regard to pressure cooking. Prior to receiving my pressure cooker, my only experience with a pressure cooker was watching someone can their vegetables from their garden.
I’m wondering if you have tried the water test with your IP before trying to cook real food. As Laura notes, the problem could be that the food being cooked was too thick, however if you have the same problem just trying to “cook” water, that isn’t the issues.
Thank you! I’ll give it try.
I am new the pressure cooking forum, but I have had similar issues. I bought a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker weeks ago and have really great results. I learned that with an electric pressure cooker the primary heat may be to high. If you are browning or sautéing, take a moment to lower the heat before you introduce the pressure. If your PC is not reaching pressure you may have a problem with the ring ( silicon seal, pressure seal..whatever you may call it) around the lid. That piece is crucial to achieving pressure properly.
Thanks for sharing, I’ll keep that mind tomorrow when I attempt my next meal.
I’ve had an IP DUO for about a year – cooking so often with it I hardly needed to have a stove. I even got a 2nd IP (Smart) from Santa so I can cook things simultaneously instead of in succession.
The only times I’ve had a problem with my IP not reaching pressure and/or displaying the overheat message was when I forgot to set the valve on seal, with a grain/liquid ratio imbalance, and with thicker tomato sauces.
It took me several weeks of using the IP before I consistently remembered to set the valve to seal.
The most spectacular grain “failure” was while making a paella, but it was also my error – while cooking I was talking to dinner guests who had arrived early, and I was winging it with ingredients rather than sticking to the recipe measurements; adding additional liquid each time it overheated never resulted in a pressure seal, but after trying to pressure cook it several times, the paella was cooked through anyway, and quite tasty, except for the crust at the bottom of the pan. I learned a lot from the experience, however it was in front of dinner guests and rather embarrassing after I had bragged so much about my darling IP!
I have learned to always increase the broth amount when I make polenta, too. Every polenta recipe has resulted in an overheat message and a crust of polenta stuck to the bottom of the pan. It’s not fatal because the polenta is cooked through by the time it overheats, but the only way around it has been to add additional liquid and then gently simmer the polenta a little longer after pressure cooking to evaporate some of the liquid.
Hope that helps.
Thanks! I’ll keep trying. Perhaps not on busy week nights or while guest are coming over. :)
I love the hip pressure cooker website, cook book and all the supportive members in the forum!! The kind input I received has given me the momentum to continue on and the ability to forgive myself for the my past trials I experienced due to being new to pressure cooking.
We are all in this together! There is a learning curve for us all. Any good advice is welcome and Laura is the expert. Nice to meet you Rainay!
Today I was making meat sauce with my own preserved homemade tomatoes. Twice it went into overheat with manual 10 minutes. Valve was closed, pretty sure I had enough liquid from two cans of mushroom slices and one small can of olive slices and another 1/2 cup of water and some more red wine.
I eventually used stew low pressure and this worked and it tasted great.
Not sure what I was doing wrong here, but am guessing not enough liquid even if it looked pretty thin. .
Aloha from Honolulu! Just received an instantpot duo for my birthday! was a little scared to use it as a pressure cooker outright until i read more so made some adobo overnight with the crockpot function. i’m looking foward to learning more via your site!
A couple months ago we got our first stove top pressure cooker and used it once. Yesterday our Power Pressure Cooker XL arrived and I hope to make something in it tomorrow, thinking maybe Cornish game hens.
One question that I had and have not seen the answer anywhere, at least yet. Do you have to adjust the cooking time if you say reduce the recipe by half? Most of the recipes seem to make a larger amount and it is only my wife and I.
No need to reduce the cooking time, each cornish hen will require the same cooking time whether it’s one or four. : )
I am new to pressure cooking. I did canning for years using a pressure cooker, which I was afraid of because I never knew exactly what temperature it was at and memories of my mom “blowing one up”, but now feel more confident with my new digital pressure cooker. I have a 6 qt. digital pressure cooker with high or low pressuring on it so I can just set the timer and it goes to a high or low temp. I look forward to learning how to be more accomplished with this pressure cooker.
It depends on your electric pressure cooker model, so you’ll either have to choose “high” or “low” pressure or choose the program that cooks at that pressure. Then, you just type in the time (no adjusting heat to maintain pressure).
I have a Futura hard anodized pressure cooker by Hawkins. I’ve had it for a few years, but I don’t do much with it. I don’t think I’ve touched it in over a year. A friend recommended your site. I should get back into using it. The cookbook that came with the cooker is so dated. I just didn’t connect with the recipes. It also seems to take quite a while for it to release its pressure.
The Hawkins brand is very popular in India for some reason. Though its seems you are not.
From memory Hawkins are all weight based PCs. That has the advantage that they will never get out of adjustment, but they use more liquid than the spring based ones. So you may need to add more liquid than is specified in the recipes here. Make sure to find out the minimum liquid requirement for your PC and always make that the minimum to add.
Apart from that adjustment, all the recipes here should work fine as written. If you like these recipes, may I recommend Laura’s book as well. There is some overlap, but there are plenty more new recipes to keep you from getting jaded. They are definitely NOT dated.
To get yourself back into the Pressure Cooking groove, you may want to work through Laura’s course. It will have you up and running in no time.
Yes, by all means Amanda, do get back to using your pressure cooker. For help and good recipes you’ve come to the right place.
I think Greg has given you some advice and I concur with his recommendation of Laura’s book as well. Going through Laura’s Beginner Basics course should, as Greg notes, be very helpful.
You may or may not need to adjust the amount of liquid specified in recipes. Be sure and do the Test Run, also called the “hot water test.” That will tell you how much liquid you’re losing as you pressure cook. You’ll “cook” 2 cups of water during the water test. A good test result is the loss of less then 1/2 cup of water and the loss of anything less then 1/4 cup loss of liquids is an excellent result. As long as you don’t lose any more than 1/2 cup of water, you shouldn’t need to adjust the liquid you use in recipes.
I got an Instant Pot Duo 60 for my birthday last week – my husband responds very well to hints :) – and did the recommended water test run last night. Since I’ve been collecting recipes and hitting the farmers market for a while now, I’m ready to use up a few ingredients and use it for real tonight. I may be a little overconfident, but I’m planning to make sausage, kale and lentils. I will brown the sausage first to give the lentil liquid some extra flavor, and plan to make a packet for the kale so it doesn’t turn to mush while the lentils fully cook. Unless I hear otherwise, I’ll remove the ground sausage before cooking with pressure, since I assume it won’t respond too well to pressure cooking, and may disturb the lentils while they cook.
Phew. Wish me luck :)
cathn, How did your dish work out? Next time, you can just cut-up the kale and mix it into the still-hot lentils and sausage. The residual heat from cooking will be enough to wilt the kale, so you won’t have to wrap it separately.
I’m totally new to pressure cooking; we are a mix of Southern (think long and slow but not necessarily in a slow cooker) and Paleo-organic household. I have lots of old recipes that take lots of time so I’m wanting to learn how to adapt them. (Think a long slow bolognese sauce in the winter). I got an Instant Pot Duo last week and am looking to try some recipes. What’s the best way to cook chicken breasts? We don’t eat dark meat. Thanks!
Not Laura but based on my experience as a new pressure cooker user it is better to start off with recipes already adapted to the pressure cooker. Anything on Hip Pressure cooking should turn out well. Then once you have the technique/time on a working recipe you can change the ingredients to match your preferences.
Pretty well any stew/sauce type recipe will turn out better in the pressure cooker in a fraction of the time of a slow cooker.
Just jam up and pick a recipe that sounds good and you will be pleasantly surprised I am sure.
Start here with Laura’s learn to pressure cook lessons: http://www.hippressurecooking.com/learn-to-pressure-cook/
Master these techniques and you’ll be able to cook just about anything you want in your PC.
I agree with HelenAdams. Start off with recipes already intended for the PC. You’ll have success and then be ready to adapt your recipes to a PC. Cooking in a PC is not difficult but you do need to get a little experience under your belt with recipes that have been tried and proven successful.
I am new to pressure cooking… Just bought my first cooker Instant Pot duo 60 and I love it!
Used it to cook my thanksgiving vegetables… Mashed turnips, carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes…or yes and made my first pot of turkey stock from the carcass! Although all pretty easy stuff; it all turned out great and made the whole meal come together with ease without a zillion pots on the go cluttering up the precious real estate … The Kitchen …
The only problem I encountered was trying to get the hot food out of the pot into a bowl without scalding myself… I used a metal veggie tray that opens like flower petals to steam each veggie but my dexteirerity in getting food out was clumsy as I tried to retrieve the metal tray with all the hot food on it…
I do have questions but will read the Basics first and if still unanswered will ask advise!
I don’t know how I lived without this pot…lol
For the times when I have a very full steamer basket what I do is set-up a pasta strainer in the sink and dump everything in there. Then I lift out and remove the steamer basket and.. voila!
If anyone else has some tips to share with Diane, please jump in and share them.
I purchased a Cuisinart 6 quart pressure cooker. I am making pork loin. This is my first time using it. Can I use the recipes on this website for my cooker?
Yes, you can. Follow the instructions given for electric pressure cookers. If there are none, use the longer time recommended in the range.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Laura has “done the homework” so to speak so that her recommendations for recipe cooking times will work for any pressure cooker, however to be on the safe side, I think it’s a good idea to try a few recipes first from the user’s manual or user’s guide that came with your pressure cooker – in your case with your Cuisinart. If you don’t get the expected results from those Cuisinart-provided recipes and you know you followed the instructions carefully, you could have a problem with your pressure cooker. Most PCs work perfectly well, but on occasion there’s a problem with one right out of the box. If instead you try one of Laura’s recipes first and the results aren’t as expected, it can sometimes be difficult to know if the problem was with the PC or with the recipe itself.
It may be too late for you, but I also recommend to folks that the first few recipes they try do not use expensive ingredients such as a pork loin. If for some reason there’s a problem, better to ruin a pot of potatoes than expensive meat.
I just received my power pressure cooker xl and did the water test run! I joined here to explore recipes and get started on this new way of cooking
Hi Laura. I found you last week when I researched (and ordered) an Instant Pot (not here yet). I have been stovetop pressure cooking off and on for decades (with many different types). Most recent years with a couple Fagor Duo PCs. I needed to replace some parts and haven’t used them since my daughter got married a couple years ago. (I’d taught her how to use them and she’d become the main user of them.) In getting my Fagor’s back out, my 10L is not coming up to pressure (orange pin not rising – lots of steam escaping from around the handle, not through the valve). I notice that the L (for locking?) part of the lower handle is chipped. Could that be causing the lack of pressure?
Also, does the “solidness” of the orange pin pressing up indicate wether full pressure has been reached? On my 6L, the pin is coming up and steam coming out the valve, but I can still push the orange pin down with a knife handle if I press hard. Is that normal and correct? Or is it not getting up to enough pressure either?
As you can tell, I’m out of practice. And looking forward to my electric IP–and perhaps easier PC-ing–as well as getting back into the habit of using my Fagor PCs, and teaching my other children that are still at home how to use them.
What Helen said. Welcome! And how wonderful to pass your cooking knowledge down to family. You’ve come to the right place for a refresher course.
Thank you, Laura. And yes, our 10 children all know how to cook – and un-cook/ prepare much raw and whole healthy food. It is very important to me to pass on life enhancing skills.
I am not Laura but I do have a Fagor Futuro stovetop.
Laura explains the Fagor pressure button oddities in this review.
Your orange pin/button seems to be working correctly.
The lack of pressure is possiblyy the gasket but could be the handle. Hard to say without a picture. I would try reversing the gasket first.
Fagor has excellent customer service.
Pretty sure you will love your Instant Pot. So convenient. I have used the same times/recipes in both PCs and the results are identical so far. The Instant Pot is basically self monitoring but the Fagor is easier to clean and sauté in. Most often I use the Instant Pot.
Thank you Helen!