Common Mistakes in Pressure Cookery
Is your pressure cooked food boring? tasteless? lacking… hip? We’ve got solutions to help your pressure cooker recipes achieve maximum velocity flavorage!!

funny faces with a pressure cooker6. You bored it to death.  Boiling food in the pressure cooker is best reserved for soups, stews and stocks.  Some ingredients are better steamed (held out of the cooking liquid via a steamer basket) or braised (cooked with a minimum of liquid).  Change-up the cooking method and give boiling a break so your pressure cooker can reward you with boundless flavor.

5. Your herbs and spices are ancient history. Whenever possible use fresh herbs and spices.  Whenever not possible, lightly crush and rub dry herbs before tossing them in the pressure cooker. Whack whole spices with something heavy and toast powdered spices to invite their flavor to the pressure cooker party.

4. Your aromatics are in hiding.  How many recipes don’t start by sauteing an onion, shallot, leek  or garlic clove?  Yours.  Aromatics and can really pack a punch.  Don’t toss the onion or garlic clove raw – pressure cooking will magically preserve their pungent flavor.  Saute them until soft or golden to unleash their true potential.

3. You pressure cooked an innocent by stander. Meats and veggies that would ordinarily be cooked with a quick hop in the saute pan –  for example boneless chicken breasts or bean sprouts – are not appropriate for the pressure cooker.  The result will either be tough and dry or liquefied beyond recognition and devoid of any taste. Pay your saute’ pan a little homage for quick-cooking ingredients.

2. You over-killed it. Overcooking is a rookie mistake – not referring to the pressure cooking time chart and trying to wing it usually leads to a pile of puree.  Improvise the recipe, but not the pressure cooking times.  Always refer to your pressure cooker’s time table, or our comprehensive pressure cooker time table, for the cooking time of your recipe’s main ingredient.

1. You drowned it.  Pressure cooking the food in too much liquid is the number one reason your pressure cooked food is tasteless.

An open simmering pot can evaporate almost a cup of liquid in 10 minutes.  Your pressure cooker: less than tablespoon.

Reduce the cooking liquid by a gazillion percentor just use the minimum a mount of liquid your pressure cooker needs to reach and maintain pressure which is usually just a cup or two of liquid or so (check your instruction manual, to be sure).

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63 Comments

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Rasa!

      Ciao,

      L

  1. This is great! I’m guilty of using too much water. I’m always afraid that I haven’t added enough, and regret it. You’d think I would have learned by now :)

    1. Bex, it takes a while to get used to!!! Next time, try to imagine my son’s shocked face. ; )

      Sometimes you can go just can even go an eeeeenzy bit less than the recommended minimum, especially if you’ve got lots of veggies that will be releasing liquid.

      Ciao,

      L

  2. So helpful! Esp to a newbie. Too much liquid has been my biggest problem. I have still gotten wonderful flavor, but it has taken ages and ages to boil it down to a respectable sauce. Even using a pressure cooker cookbook (Phillips – the Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook), I end up with too much liquid in my electric pressure cooker. Am going to start being ruthless!

    1. What pressure cooker do you have? You can ignore the liquid quantities in most pressure cooker recipes and replace them with the minimum requirement of your pressure cooker – with the exception of grains. You can use our grain table (in the pressure cooker timing chart – linked at the top of this page) to make sure you have the RIGHT amount of liquid.

      Go ruthless!!

      Ciao,

      L

  3. nice. As a profession I use the pressure cooker for many things that most would not. You are so right about the amount of cooking time, the amount of liquid and YES there are some things you cook outside of the cooker and add to the finished dish. Once again, nicely written and informative.

    Joseph Yacino
    Head Chef
    YaDa Chef

    1. Joseph,

      I strive not publish any recipes that would normally turn out better, or faster, without the pressure cooker – I was really torn on the hard-boiled eggs for example but the side benefit (easy peel) was just too darn good to pass up!

      It’s great nice to hear from culinary professionals that use the pressure cooker. Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Ciao,

      L

  4. Hi Laura,
    I have been a silent reader to your blog but this is the first time I am commenting.
    Pressure cooker is a wonderful appliance to any kitchen. We Indians use it almost everyday for cooking rice, stew, beans, meat, steaming or about anything for which you can use slow cooker. My mom used to make cakes in it but I have never tried. I find ovens better for that. The key to pressure cooking is to follow the instruction manual well like adding sufficient water and cooking for an appropriate amount of time.
    To make a simple mung bean lentil, I saute cumin seeds, chopped onion,ginger and garlic and then add lentil with enough water along with turmeric chili powder and salt.Unfortunately, I haven’t posted any of lentil recipe on my blog by pressure cooking method but I recently did a post on leafy greens (Gai Lan Saag) which was done in pressure cooker.

    1. Balvinder,

      Your recipe sounds great! Found it and shared it. Let me know when you do more!!

      Ciao,

      L

  5. Real helpful post…thanks for sharing..

  6. The post was really an interesting read. You are so right – I often cook in my pressure cooker and if done properly, the cooker recipes will never fail :) Loved the pics too!

  7. Laura: I have been on this site EVERY day since I got my Instant Pot two weeks ago. First of all, thank you SO much. The site is incredibly helpful! Here’s my question: I have graduated to making roasts, and both of the ones I have tried have come out a LITTLE tough — not too bad, but I know it could be much better. Should I INcrease or DEcrease my cooking time? (Right now, I always use the top end of the recommended minutes, since my pc is electric). Thanks! — Amie

    1. Aime,

      A reader(see David’s comment, below) beat me to it! One thing you should always try to do with meats is natural release.

      If you get impatient and release pressure too quickly, when you lift the lid a big plume of vapor leaves the pressure cooker. In that plume, will be all of the meat’s juices.

      So, open with the natural release, and cover the meat tightly until serving. Just like oven-baked meats you have to let them rest – not to “re-distribute” the juices – but to let the juices cool down enough so they don’t leave the meat.

      Ciao and welcome!

      L

    2. Here’s a really good description of what happens to meat protein as it cooks.

      http://www.thermoworks.com/blog/2012/02/cooking-low-slow-meat-doing/

      When it comes to cooking meat, I see two glaring errors all the time, whether the method is pressure cooking, on a grill, in an oven, or on the stovetop – choosing a cut that is much too lean (or tender) for a low and slow recipe and/or not cooking a tough cut nearly long enough at an appropriately low enough temperature.

      In an effort to cut fat & calorie content, people too often substitute very lean cuts like chicken breast or pork loin in braising recipes that are much better suited for fattier, tougher cuts, like chicken legs and pork shoulder cuts. Lean cuts lose moisture and flavor when overcooked, even in a braising liquid – becoming stringy, dry, and even tough (like pruned finger tips after a long soak in a bath or swimming pool).

      Fattier cuts yield better results in braises because the fat marbling within the meat renders out very slowly, basting the meat continually from within and preventing moisture loss (like a rich moisturizer slows the drying of skin). Excess fat can always be skimmed from the cooking liquid after cooking if desired. Prior to the misguided low-fat advice of the past few decades, cooks commonly draped bacon, strips of pure fat, or butter-soaked cheesecloth over roasts and poultry, or even inserted strips of fat internally (barding) into very lean meat cuts to add flavor and prevent the meat from drying out.

      Tough, heavily worked muscle cuts must be cooked a longer time at lower temperatures to allow the tough connective tissues to melt into liquid gelatin. If not cooked long enough, the softer meat protein is cooked through and bacteria is killed, but the tough connective tissue hasn’t had enough time to soften into gelatin yet.

  8. I think another big mistake newbies make is using the wrong release method when the cooking time ends, such as failing to leave the pressure to drop naturally when cooking a meat joint. Only later did I learn that the release method (slow or quick) is important.

    Great site Laura. :)
    Regards
    David

    1. Great advice David. Thanks for sharing your experience and adding to the list!

      Ciao,

      L

  9. How much is too much water?

    1. Willie, if your pressure cooked food is tasteless then you’ve added too much water. If it tastes great, then you’ve added the correct amount.

      Your pressure cooker manual will tell you the minimum amount of liquid your cooker needs to maintain pressure. It is usually a cup or less for stovetop and 2 cups or more for electric.

      Ciao,

      L

  10. How can the meat turn dry / tough if you overcook in a pressure cooker?
    Its wet heat, the dry tough phenomenon happens in case of dry heat of oven or grill.

    The worst that could happen in a pressure cooker is meat fibres mushy and mixed in the broth.

    1. Meat can turn tough and dry in the cooker in two ways. Neither affects “boiled” meats which are covered with cooking liquid from beginning to end.

      The first way meat can turn tough and dry is when it’s cooked for too long. All of the juice is “squeezed” out of the meat and into the pressure cooker’s liquid, below.

      The second, is that the meat is cooked perfectly but it is opened with normal (fast) instead of natural (slow) release and the super-heated juices in the meat evaporate right out of the meat as soon as it is taken out of the pressure cooker.

      Ciao,

      L

  11. Tahnks for all the imformation. Just bought a presto,pulled pork turned out. Water was a little hard to gage.

    1. Don’t worry, you can’t go wrong with a “boiling” pressure cooker recipe like carnitas – don’t have to worry about minimal liquid.

      I had a look at the Presto Pressure Cooker Manual – you didn’t say what model you have but I looked at with the jiggler valve (their most popular model). Though the manual does not explicitly say what the minimum amount of liquid should be, the steaming recipes in it call for 1 cup of water – so that’s the minimum liquid requirement for your cooker.

      Double-check with the manual that came with your cooker to make sure it says the same thing!

      Ciao,

      L

  12. I really like my pressure cooker – I have a fagor futuro 6-quart one. Last week I tried making a beef barley soup recipe and it called for adding stew meat to the pot (not browned). After I opened the pressure cooker, there was this brown dirt/impurities from the meat all over the sides of the cooker and on top of the carrot foil packet and all over the surface of the soup. This also happened when cooking chicken soup with chicken pieces (not browned). When I was cooking in a regular pot, I would usually skim that dirt/impurities but with the pressure cooker, I don’t know how to do that. Is this normal? Is it becasue the meats were not browned?

    1. You can absolutely start the recipe as you used to make it without pressure. Bring the contents to a boil using a regular (not pressure) lid, skim the top as you used to, and then pop on the pressure cooking lid and finish it off under pressure.

      The “residue” you saw after pressure cooking could have also been caused by the foaming of the barley along with the release method. For example, if a normal or quick release was used the ingredients would have been boiling very violently in the cooker during and could have left what you saw on the sides of the cooker and foil packet.

      My recommendation is to almost always brown meat before pressure cooking – with few exceptions!

      Ciao,

      L

    2. Thank you very much for the reply and advice. I will start browning all my meats and follow the method you suggested. I always try to follow the recipe as I did in this case, since I am new to Pressure cooking, but I will try to adjust and experiment a little more:-)

  13. Maybe you’re right about pressure cooker times, but I myself have figured out the timing by experimentation.

  14. I am having trouble finding recipes for plain old southern green beans with bacon and onion…I am planning on cooking the bacon and onion first then thrown in the green beans, not sure how much liquid to use, so planning on 1 cup….I have an instant pot duo60 and this is my first meal….am also going to make chicken and rice…my thought is to cook beans first and just leave liquid in the pot and do the chicken and rice…will add cream of mushroom soup and chicken broth……it is the liquid thing that has me stumped….much harder to find recipes for electric pressure cooker…I keep watching your videos, like all the time…lol

    Any help out there would be nice…
    Crystal

    1. Yes, you can do one cup of water and then pressure cook for 5 minutes with Natural release for the green beans. If you post the conventional recipe in the http://www.hippressurecooking.com/forums/forum/recipe-conversions/, I can convert the recipe for you. : )

      Using the bean’s cooking liquid for the rice is a great idea. But, cannot advise you on using the cream of mushroom soup under pressure as it is not sold where I live. However if it contains any diary or thickeners I would say to simmer it in after pressure cooking.

      Ciao,

      L

  15. Hi,
    Thanks so much for your reply…well it turned out great…I did the green beans for 4 min and did the quick release as I figured that I could always pop them in the microwave is not completely done, but they were perfect……cut my chicken against the grain into pieces and put in the soup and chicken broth cooked for 20 min…did the quick release and it looked kinda soupy, probably because of the liquid that was already there…but I stirred it up and let it sit for couple of min and it was sooooooooo good…rice was tender, chicken cooked perfect…winner, winner chicken dinner…I would not put in a whole breast of chicken though…and I did not brown it either as I wanted ;the juices to go through…..

    crystal

  16. Hi again,

    In your cookbook is it mostly stove top pressure cooking or electric???…As I said having a hard time finding the electric pressure cooking recipes…

    Crystal

    1. In the main, Laura gives times for both electric and stovetop.

    2. The book is written for both stove top and electric pressure cookers – the recipes have been tested in both, too!

      Ciao,

      L

  17. First of all THANK YOU SO MUCH. i was recently diagnosed with liver disease, something that is hereditary and I also have fibromyalgia. My husband bought me a power pressure cooker XL because I was using my slow cooker pretty much every day! I need to know all the ingredients that is in my families food is healthy and wholesome. the problem with my slow cooker is if I couldn’t get to it in time we would be eating really late or my husband would have to pick something up on the way home from work which kind of defeats the purpose. I have perfected my family is Irish do in the pressure cooker and my shredded chicken burritos but last night I tried pork chops … The liquid was flavorful! The pork chops were overcooked dry and completely lacking in flavor your article has been very helpful I have been using your website everyday since I found it on Pinterest. I also want to thank you for replying to everybody that’s rare! Needless to say your website has been my go to thank you!
    One question at the end of a slow cooked pot roast in my Power pressure cooker can I use the pressure cooker setting too then push even more flavor into the beef… I was up SAL night thinking of how I was going to do today’s dinner. I haven’t used the slow cooker setting and seeing as I had to time today that’s what I choose. Of course it came out great, but what if I had to get dinner earlier than expected? Could you do that?
    Thank you
    Irene

    1. Welcome Irene, I’m so glad to read that your pressure cooker is making the journey to healthy meals a little faster! ; )

      To answer your question, yes you can pressure cook a slow cooker recipe even a partially slow cooked one as long as you have the minimum liquid required by your cooker to reach pressure. You might want to check your partially slow-cooked meal and see if it has enough liquid to boil freely. If not, add more of whatever liquid is part of that recipe (orange juice, stock, water, etc.).

      The only “slow cooker to pressure cooker” recipes you might have problems with are those calling for you to pre-thicken the items (by adding flour or corn starch at the beginning) or those calling for condensed soups and other canned foods, except for tomato puree, (as they will contain thickeners). Both of this kind of slow cooker recipes will prevent the liquid in the cooker from boiling freely to generate enough steam for it to build pressure.

      I’m so glad to hear that this information has been helpful. Be sure to leave a comment under the recipes you try here (you can rate them and up-load a photo, too) and join us in the forums to let us know about any challenges or successes you’re having with your pressure cooker.

      Ciao,

      L

      P.S. Be sure to share the articles and recipes you like on Pinterest, too. Every bit helps!

  18. I’ll quibble just a bit on the frozen b/s chicken breasts. I mix up about a cup and a half of miso soup (miso paste and dashi powder), add some granulated garlic and five spice, and let my Cook’s Essential PC rip for about 12 minutes. Perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken to cube up and throw in the wok for a stirfry.

    Don’t use plain water. I also will use frozen chicken stock to “pressure-poach” frozen chicken and then skim the fat and re-freeze it. The chicken is tasty and the stock just gets better and better! Just don’t forget to chill it and skim the fat.

    Plain water would not work at all, as someone else mentioned. But stock or soup works great!

  19. Hi berninghausen,
    This comment seems to be out of place. It doesn’t match the content of the article at all. Perhaps you posted a reply to the wrong article. Not sure why you would pressure cook then stirfry either.Just slice the chicken thin – about 4mm (1/8″) and toss it into the wok raw. It will cook in about 30 seconds if you’re wok is hot enough.

    1. Laura mentions not using the PC for frozen b/s chicken breasts. I offer an alternative, using the PC. I prefer chunked chicken in stirfries, not sliced, so they are the same size as the other components. In the time the PC is cooking the chicken, I can prep all the vegetables and noodles (rice has a high glycemic index). Don’t think it was out of place and don’t always have time to thaw the chicken–the central topic was frozen chicken. And it’s “your” wok.

  20. I’d like to use my IntantPot to try decoctions of tough herbal material like reishi mushrooms. Thinking this through I am wondering why foods in a pressure cooker do not need to be stirred. Even a simple soup on the stove top needs to be stirred, but that is obviously impossible in a pressure cooker. Does the reduced evaporation in a pressure cooker keep foods from sticking or burning? Thanks, David

    1. I believe the reason food doesn’t need to be stirred in pressure cooker is because due to lid being sealed, heated is distributed evenly and penetrates food from all the sides at the same temperature. Cooking on stove top, food/pan/liquid etc is hottest at the bottom therefore needs stirring, to distribute heat once in a while and also prevent burning at the bottom.

  21. my mom taught me with the stove top pressure cooker to add enough liquid to keep it under the trivet that you put your food on…and I do the same with my IP although I haven’t done anything other than root veggies so far in that

    1. This method is potentially problematic for a number of reasons.
      First up,what if you are not using a trivet?
      Also which trivet? I have one that is less than 1/4″ high. Another is about 1″ high. That is a very different amount of water.
      Also different PCs lose water at different rates. My Kuhn Rikons lose a lot less water than my mum’s old Namco (Similar to a Presto of 60 years ago) did.

      Basically, you need enough water (or any liquid that is mostly water – stock, puree, beer etc) in the PC to ensure that there will still be some left at the end of the cook. Otherwise steam production will cease, causing pressure to fall and the food to dry out and burn. The PC will also overheat, potentially destroying it.

      If it works for your particular set up, fine, but it is not a good generalisation.

  22. Hi Laura,

    I purchased the Power Pressure Cooker with an 8qt. capacity (Model PC-WAL1). I’ve never used a pressure cooker so decided to call the manufacturer to find out the minimum liquid requirements. The representative instructed me to follow the liquid requirements in their booklet but it feels like I’m drowning the meat in liquid. The chicken is always so bland too. Is the minimum 1 cup of liquid for this model? If so, does it increase proportionally with an increase in the weight of the meat? For example, if i use 1 cup of liquid with 2lbs of chicken, must i use 2 cups of liquid for 4lbs of chicken? Or can I use just the minimum liquid requirement no matter how many pounds of meat is used?

    1. Rose, what did they tell you, exactly? Typically the minimum liquid requirement for electric pressure cookers is about 1 1/2 cups. And no, you don’t need to increase this when you increase the meat – though you should be aware that more meat will release ADDITIONAL liquid into the pot on its own!

      Ciao,

      L

  23. Am I understanding correctly that you do not advise to pressure cook boneless skinless chicken breasts, fully cook them on the sauté setting instead?

  24. Frequently, saving time is an issue in my kitchen. I put a cup and a half of water, a tablespoon of miso, and a dash of instant dashi in my PC, add several bsf chicken breasts or thighs or a mixture, and set it for 15 minutes of high pressure. That’s enough time to chop all the vegetables. Transferring the chicken to the cutting board, I toss two portions of rice noodles (about 120 grams) into the miso soup that’s still in the PC. The rice noodles are done after a 10 minute soak.

    The chicken cooks wonderfully from its frozen, boneless, skinless state in the PC. It will gather some browning in the wok later. And the miso soup, even after cooking the noodles, can be separated from any fat and chilled to use later.

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