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How to Use a Pressure Cooker

Make nutritious meals for your family a whole lot quicker! Abt Electronics teaches you how to use a pressure cooker to prepare delicious dishes.
Food on spoon above pressure cooker

Getting Started

Pressure cookers have many advantages. Some of the most noteworthy advantages include using less energy than ovens and offering a speedy meal prep. If you're looking to prepare healthier meals, pressure cookers help to make food more digestible without the addition of unhealthy chemicals other cooking methods can create.
With all these benefits, a pressure cooker sounds appealing. But, if you've never used one before, they can be quite intimidating. Luckily, pressure cookers are actually quite easy and safe when operated properly.
So, use this guide to learn how to use a pressure cooker, get food on the table quickly, and retain nutrients in your meals that will keep your family healthy.

How a Pressure Cooker Works

Before we get into how to use a pressure cooker, it's best to understand how exactly it works. It's also important to point out that many models offer accessories to suit anything you want to cook, such as a steamer basket for hard-boiled eggs, veggies or mussels. You can also use a trivet rack to keep whole chickens or roast beef off the hot base.
Pressure cookers are typically made of stainless steel or aluminum and built with a pressure valve and a seal-lined lockable lid. They also come available as both stovetop and electric cookers.
As you place the pressure cooker on the stove or turn on your electric pressure cooker, the liquid inside reaches a boil and creates steam. Trapped inside by the sealed lid, the steam causes the temperature to rise above the boiling point, quickly cooking your food.
It's important to note that a pressure cooker is not the same as a slow cooker, which is a common misconception. Learn the differences between pressure cookers vs. slow cookers to determine which is best for your cooking style.

Inspect the Pressure Cooker

Other than electric and stovetop pressure cookers, there are two variations: an older style referred to as the "jiggle top," which has a weighted pressure regulator sitting on a vent on the lid, and the newer style with a closed spring valve system.
Pressure cookers have a bad reputation for causing burns. But as long as you take proper precautions, there is no reason to worry. The best precaution you can take is to make sure there are no dents or cracks along the surface, which can release hot steam.
Vegetables next to pressure cooker

Prepare Your Food

Before you begin the cooking process, prep your food, and add all the necessary accessories. Here is a quick, basic breakdown of common foods, helpful accessories, and best cooking practices to make a delicious meal:
  • Beef and Poultry - Add seasonings and spices to your meat, browning at medium-high heat. You can also add a bit of cooking oil into the cooker or pan.
  • Fish and Seafood - For more delicate fish, use the steamer basket with a coat of vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
  • Legumes, Beans and Grains - Always pre-soak for four hours in warm water before cooking.
  • Veggies - Place in the steamer basket accessory. You can add fresh or frozen vegetables!

Add Liquid to Create Steam

Now that you have your food placed inside the pressure cooker, your next step is to add a liquid to create steam. You can use water, but any other thin liquid, such as wine, beer, or stock, will give your dish more flavor.
For older styles of pressure cookers, you need one cup of liquid at a minimum. Valve pressure cookers need half a cup. Always place the food inside the cooker before adding the liquid.
Many beginners make the mistake of using too much liquid, which creates less evaporation space and pulls the flavor out of your food.

Lock the Lid and Apply Heat

Now that your dish is ready to go, close the lid. Removing the safety valve or weighted pressure regulator, lock the lid.
For electric pressure cookers, follow the recipe and turn on the heat, adjusting the setting as necessary. For stovetop cookers, set it on a high burner.
Pressure cooker with closed lid on stovetop

Monitor the Pressure and Adjust Heat

As your dish cooks, the pressure will rise and create steam that will simmer the food.
Older pressure cookers will release steam from their vent. When the steam comes out, place the safety valve on the nozzle. For newer pressure cookers, there is an interior indicator that reveals the pressure conditions.
Once the pressure is reached, reduce the heat and maintain the pressure for the time directed on your recipe.

Release the Pressure When Cooking is Complete

When cooking is complete, turn off the heat and release the pressure. Some pressure cookers offer a convenient quick-release button located on the lid.
Check the pressure regulator or valve to ensure the pressure has been released. For valves, the steam will subside and make a slight hissing noise.

Bon Appétit

Now, you're ready to serve up your delicious dish! Looking for a pressure cooker? Discover your best option with Abt's comprehensive pressure cooker buying guide.