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!
My name is Terri. I just found this site while on a hunt for more recipes to try, specifically something for the family Christmas get together. I purchased an electric pressure cooker about 2 months ago. I have yet to figure out the brand name (from WalMart), but it is very similar to the Power Pressure Cooker advertised all the time on TV. I did the water batch the night of purchase and have been happily cooking in it since!
I have made beef stew, ribs – both beef and pork, sweet potatoes, and many other dishes. In fact, I use it at least once per week, if not twice. My latest meal was a ham and split pea soup that turned out absolutely delicious. My dad, who tends to be critical, only had one complaint – the ham hock meat was rather gristly (not sure of spelling). Other than that, he said it turned out much better than he thought it would: he even went back for seconds, something he NEVER does!
I don’t know if you’re wedded to the idea of making turkey for the family get together, but if not, Laura’s recipe for Pressure Cooker Chicken and Rice is excellent and makes a beautiful presentation on a platter.
Hi, I purchased an Elite platinum 8 qt, electric ,model # EPC-808 . Made by maxi-matic. Have never used an electric only stove top. Looking forward to your input and knowledge on cooking with it. Have a good day !
I just got a farberware 7-1 programmable pressure cooke for Christmas. Directions are confusing. I have used stovetop pressure cooker but never electric. There doesn’t seem to be a video for this one. Any advice tp make the directions simple, or of a similiar cooker that has a video? Thanks
June, don’t let all of the buttons in the front scare you. When I moved from stovetop to electric I only (and for the large part still do) use the “brown/saute” the “manual mode” buttons. With your new cooker, you just need to punch-in the pressure cooking time – no more adjusting heat to reach and maintain pressure. I can’t find an electronic copy of your manual online, but I looked at the photo of your pressure cooker on Walmart’s website. To punch-in the cooking time you likely just have to push “time cook” and then “+” or “-” to adjust the cooking time.
Have fun & Welcome!
P.S. Be sure to refer to our pressure cooking time chart – it has cooking times for both electric and stovetop pressure cookers.
Hi, I’m Liz. I’ve ordered an IP DUO60-ENW from Walmart that’s due to arrive in 2 days, so I’m here to learn what I need to know and buy (grocery-shopping day is also in 2 days) before it arrives ‘cuz I can’t wait to give it a try! I see that the beginner lessons start with potatoes, but we don’t usually eat potatoes…I’m thinking a soup or curry, instead. Any suggestions? You may just tell me to be patient and take it slow…but if I wanted slow, I’d stick with my crockpot, lol!
Hi all, I just joined registered today and have been enjoying the site tremendously. My mom, who still lives in Germany gave me her old WMF Super 3 Schelltopkocher. She bought it over 30 years ago and was too chicken to use it, lol. So she gave it to me. Still brand new and shiny in the box. The silicone seal is still in excellent condition, perhaps because she had it shut all these years. The one thing it is lacking is an instruction manual. :( and I haven’t seen anything here for this model. It has 3 pressure settings but I don’t know what they are. If anyone has any information they could pass along that would be fantastic.
I’ve already used it several times (just on the highest setting) and even though I don’t really know what i’m doing the results have been yummy. I just purchased a larger 10 liter Fagor Futura pressure cooker that was a closeout item and got a really good deal on it. I’m excited to get it and jump into something big. anyway, on to the next ‘lesson.”
I couldn’t find anything for you online – I doubt that an electronic version of this 30-year-old WMF manual exists. I would contact WMF directly to find out if they can send you a copy of the manual. If you don’t speak or read German, ask them if they have a UK/English version. ; )
In the meantime, these basic instructions will work for any pressure cooker:
Hello from the UK. I have a Cooks Essentials 4L Digital Pressure Cooker (bought from QVCUK). I am not confident in the kitchen, in fact, cooking scares me quite a lot so when I ordered this cooker I was a little bit apprehensive to say the least.
I have cooked a risotto and 2 soups, the risotto was great but the soups have been quite watery, they both involved 1 and half litre of stock (the second one was a tomato and lentil soup which included 2x 400g tins of tomatoes).
I wonder if you could advise me about reducing the liquid please and also the recipe was for 4 people and I only need it for 2 people.
Hi Deecee, post more details about the recipe in the Conversions Forum and I can help you there. Welcome!
This is a picture of my Digital Pressure Cooker.
I know Laura will be able to provide you with the help you need but I just wanted to make a comment or two which might be helpful. Your Cooks Essentials user guide will tell you the minimum amount of liquid a recipe needs. As long as you use that figure as a minimum for liquid (water, broth, juice etc.) you use in your pressure cooker you can reduce the amount of liquid in most recipes as much as you’d like. An exception would be recipes like risotto or other recipes using rice or grains that as a part of the cooking process actually absorb the liquid.
If you make a soup or stew that you find too watery, spoon out and save any solids from the soup (vegetables, meat, chicken, noodles etc.) and cook the remaining liquid down until its flavor is condensed to your liking. Add those vegetables and meat etc. back to reheat with your now tasty broth. You don’t have to remove the vegetables and meat etc. at all if you don’t want to – I just suggested that so they don’t overcook while you’re reducing the broth.
And finally, RELAX. With a little experience you’ll gain confidence in the kitchen and cooking will no longer scare you. In no time at all you’ll start to love pressure cooking. And if you have a dish or two that doesn’t turn out as well as you’d like, not to worry. We’ve all likely had a clunker or two as we gained confidence in our cooking and using a PC.
Thank you for your replies. I will post further info in the Conversions Forums, and I will look again to see if there is a minimum liquid level in the manual.
Hello! Thank you very much for this website and the forums! I just finally worked up my courage to use the pressure cooker I received (and asked for) as a wedding gift about a year ago and am happy it went okay (made the delicious lentil and risotto recipe)! Reading these beginner tips, I had a question: Do I really have to disassemble the valve and clean it after each use? I have a 7L Kuhn Rikon Duromatic (has black plastic cover over valve), and the instructions for it make disassembling the valve seem a bit intimidating. Thank you!
I have the one with the metal cover rather than yours, but I certainly don’t dismantle and clean the valve every time. Only when I am careless and and it gunks up. I do run clean water through it regularly to make sure it is not blocked though.
It is quite easy to dismantle my model. Just a simple turn of a screw driver or butter knife from the under side I am not sure how yours differs though.
Thanks, Greg! That is a relief!!
I would say, yes. If the lid is spotless, you can rinse it out skip the valve cleaning. But I would not make a habit of it. ; )
Hi, my name is Maria
I just received my instant pot IPduo60
I’m curious and excited to start using it! I’m hoping to find quick easy recipes to cook in my new toy that will help me feed my family healthy meals and also give me more time to deal with some heath issues that popped up and demand my time!
Hi and welcome Maria.
You have certainly come to the right place.
Start wit cooking some water. (“Recipe” above) then when you have mastered that check out the pressure cooking lessons until you are comfortable with what you are doing.
Then you can move on to the many other recipes here. Most are dead easy. And more than a little delicious. A very few are more complicated but are well worth the effort.
Once you understand what is going on, you will be able to adapt your family favourites to the PC and the sky will be the limit.
Hi my name is Diane. I use a Philips all in one and a tefal cook for me pressure cookers. Registered on this site today and am already loving the tips and tricks. Going to do the beginners course even though have used my cookers found there is so much more info to learn. This site is going to be my cooking bible for sure.
That’s a good plan.
Be sure to check out the other recipes and advice. And don’t forget to buy the cookbook too. (No I don’t get a kickback) First off it adds to, rather than repeats, the information here. Second it supports and thanks Laura so it encourages her to continue.
I have a Cuisinart CPC-600 Series given to me as a Christmas gift, I think in 2014. It has sat on a shelf because I’m chicken and have never used a pressure cooker of any kind before. However, I want to use it..really. I learned of this web site via my daughter who has a stove top and an InstantPot. Am anxious to try some of the things I’ve already seen on the site, and think the beginner things will be very helpful.
I just got the nerve to finally use my InstaPot also. good luck with your Cuisinart. I just bought that brand as a wedding gift. Still don’t know which one is better. I’m in here needing more recipes.
Barbara, welcome! You can do all of my recipes in either pressure cooker. The differences you will note will be the ability to delay cooking on the Instant Pot and how meat is browned on stainless steel.
Thank you for the encouragement.
Snagged the Prime Day bestseller IPDUO60. Made chicken thighs with salsa and then threw in a cup of water cuz I wanted to make sure it had enough liquid to pressurize. Ended up with wonderful salsa-ly broth that I then made rice with. Since I dont want 3 cups at once, I made it on the stove.
Very intimidating machine! It took me FORever to find the place to put the condenser collector cup, jeez louise. The manual is just ridiculous IMO. I am a foodie and have been cooking since I was 8yo, Im 51 lol
Thank god for this site.
Yay! For next time, you can make minimum one cup of long-grain rice in the Instant Pot. Since it’s 1 cup rice per 1 1/2 cups liquid – you’ve met the minimum liquid requirement to bring the cooker to pressure! ; )
You validated me! I just posted a long comment that might help you. My engineering husband understand all instructions instantly while it took me FORever to figure my Instant Pot out. I can’t imagine how impossible the instructions are in the other languages when we couldn’t even figure the English out! JulieB
My name is Julie and I also snagged the Instant Pot on Amazon Prime Day. Helene, I think men wrote the manual or maybe engineers (not cooks). I ALSO couldn’t figure out where to put the condensation cup! A simple word like “outside” the cooking housing or a diagram that is colored to show the “outside” of the I.P. would work. My engineer husband got it instantly and couldn’t understand why I didn’t. Then, pg. 13 on Pressure Cooking had ME ripping my hair out. Step 4. “Select cooking time. First paragraph is about using the “Adjust” key to adjust cooking duration. Next bullet point is change cooking time with + and – buttons. And don’t forget the ‘Timer’ button. What?????
Here’s what I finally figured out:
The ADJUST button functions differently depending on what cooking method you are using:
For PRESURE Cooking:
Options are Less, Normal and More
Each Pressure Cooking option has an automatic time duration pre-set.
Pages 11 and 12 tell you when to use Less, Normal and More depending on what you are cooking with Pressure (e.g. How you like your Meat, Stew (falling off bone)).
For SLOW COOKING (like a CROCK-POT):
Less, Normal and More mean:
Low, Medium and High
Less, Normal and More mean:
Less= Low heat reducing, simmering of juices, thickening sauce
Normal= Normal heat
More= High (Good for stir-fry and blacking)
The ADJUST button doesn’t work for the Pressure “Manual” key because you set the time pushing the + and – keys.
Thanks for this site and videos Laura!
So.. this is where I confess I pretty much only use Manual Mode on the Instant Pot with my cooking times. I only press adjust when I need to change pressure for pasta, eggs and fish. I certainly think the Instant Pot could do with fewer buttons. ; )
Hi..I’m a newbie here..my name is Merrily…and I just did a crazy thing going out today and buying a Tefal Cook4Me pressure cooker. I am completely dumb about pressure cookers but was enticed with the inbuilt fast recipes…..But now I’m both scared crazy and excited wanting to get to know a LOT more about how to use my pressure cooker. I’m especially keen to learn how to do one pot meals ..there are only two of us and I seriously need quick and minimum washing up recipes….
P.s…I haven’t confessed my purchase to my husband yet…just want to greet him with meals after a busy working day for us both hehe.
You are not crazy. They are a marvellous addition to any kitchen. We were all completely “dumb a bout pressure cookers” when we started, but you’ve come to the right place to reduce the learning curve.
Just remember they are completely different to any other cooking method you might be used to. It is very worthwhile to work through the lessons you seem to have already discovered. If not, there is a link to them in the panel to the right, labelled “Start here”. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask. Laura runs a forum for just this purpose. There is a link at the top of the page, just under the banner.
Also each brand and model is a little different so remember you will need to interpret the recipe to suit YOUR specific model. For electrics, this will mean perhaps a different name on a button, and to add a little time if the recipe was developed for a stove top model. Laura does this for you, but other sources are not so considerate. Also realise the “Reduce heat to low and maintain pressure for XX minutes” is a stove top direction. Electrics do this automatically for you.
Laura also has quite a few one pot meals in her book too, so you might consider that as well.
I echo Greg’s welcome, Merrily. Very nice post, by the way, Greg.
I’d never never heard of a Tefal Cook4Me so Googled it. It is not sold in the US – at least not yet. Based on what I read, it’s only sold in Australia currently. Quite an impressive machine.
I’m sure you’re going to love pressure cooking and once you make that first fabulous meal, your husband is going to wonder why you didn’t have one long ago. Laura’a site is a great place to get help and recipes that work. My advice for your first couple of meals is to use recipes that came with your PC. Those will have been tested with your PC and are certain to work. As Greg notes, each brand and model is a little different, so once you get the hang of of your machine, there are many ways to branch out. Besides Hip Pressure Cooking there are numerous sites on the Internet and great books that provide wonderful recipes.
You’ve come to the right place, Merrily. While there are other good blogs about pressure cooking, IMO Laura’s is the best one because she has experience with many types and brands of pressure cookers, not just one or two. Additionally, Laura has lived in several countries around the world, so she understands very well how ingredients and tastes can differ substantially from place to place. Her recipes are well tested before she publishes them. Even so, occasionally people have disappointing results. When they report their results, Laura often can figure out how the ingredients, equipment, altitude, or technique may have been different enough to alter the results.
Thanks for your support, Anna, and welcome Merrily!
Where can I get a manual for my farberware stove top pressure cooker. I have misplaced mine. I bought this pressure cooker about two years ago but have been afraid to use it.
Click on “Manual & Booklet Library” from the sidebar and then choose “Farberware” from the list of manufacturers or go directly there by following this link:
I just purchased the power pressure cooker XL at Costco. I am happily a slow foods person, but have been single parenting for a year and am thrilled at the idea of keeping our diet similar but shortening the time I spend in the kitchen. Thus far, I have cooked one of the big winter squash left from Halloween and a batch of white rice.
Welcome to the wonderful world if pressure cooking, Amy. You’ve come to the right place. Laura’s site is packed with info for new pressure cooker owners. Be sure to check out her tutorials.
Hi! I’ve just “upgraded” from a multi-function rice cooker to the Instant Pot. I’m already using it every day! I was already in love with my rice cooker…but I’m finding I can do so much more with my new pot. I’m looking forward to “stacking” full meals!
Hi, bought my first pressure cooker last year and just tested it yesterday! Lol! I’ve had an old old one in my cupboard for over 20 years and never used it because it scared me. Had no clue what to do with it. This is a stove top model the same brand I believe as the instant pot. I bought it hoping I could use it for canning, pretty new to that too. The only thing I’ve tried was hard boiled eggs. I thought they would be super easy to peal but so far with the ones I’ve pealed is not really the case. I have chickens and a duck and only pealed the duck eggs so far. My pot didn’t come with a trivet so maybe that had something to do with it but maybe someone can give me a clue. Also if anyone could tell me if I can use it for canning I’d appreciate it greatly!
New to pressure cooking -completed my test run and trying eggs today for my first real food. Excited to learn more.
Instant Pot – Model IP-DUO80
Hi, my name is Deb and I just bought my first pressure cooker, a Fagor Luxe. I stumbled on this site after thoroughly charring dinner the other night and then go ogling what might have gone wrong. I look forward to learning and sharing with the community!
Hi Everyone, I am also new to pressure cooking. I have a 4.5l WMF Perfect Plus. I haven’t seen this pressure cooker mentioned by anyone else.
I have successfully made Laura’s delicious Chicken and Rice recipe. Thank you, Laura,my family loved it!
However, I am a bit confused by the WMF manual. In one part it says:
“Do not cook foods such as applesauce,cranberries,pearl barley,oatmeal or other cereals,split peas, noodles,macaroni,rhubarb, or spaghetti.These foods tend to foam,froth,and sputter…”
Later it says:
“For foods that froth during cooking (such as rice,cereal,dried vegetables, soup and stock) do not fill the pressure cooker more than 1/2 full.”
I am very confused about what I can and cannot cook. Can you please clarify? Thanks!
Nancy, the note to not pressure cook applesauce, cranberries, etc. is a standard note all pressure cooker manufacturers must put in their instruction booklet. Those particular foods can really gum up and make a mess of the pressure cooker valve. HOWEVER, there are ways to safely pressure cook them (as you’ll find on this website). It depends on the food but, for example, I recommend pressure cooking oatmeal in a breakfast bowl, carefully reaching and losing pressure for split-peas, and measuring pasta & sauce recipes by volume so at the end there is no left-over liquid to create foam.
The filling guidelines should be ABSOLUTELY respected – they’re there to make sure the safety valves in the lid are not compromised. Here’s an article that explains in more details which foods and how much the can fill the pressure cooker: