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Cooking with Pressure Cookers


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Jump to:-    Why Use a Pressure Cooker ? | Safety Tips  |  General Cooking Tips  | Adapting Recipes  |  General Timings




Why Use a Pressure Cooker ?

The shorter cooking time and reduced liquid means less vitamins and minerals are lost than through conventional boiling methods.  Also as food cooks much faster not only is pressure cooking a great time saver but less energy is used.   Furthermore, your kitchen stays cooler and cleaner because the food is cooked in a covered, sealed pan which retains all the steam in the pot and there are  splashes or  boiled over foods messing up your cooker, work surfaces or walls.

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Pressure Cooking Safety Tips


  • Regularly inspect the rubber ring to make sure it is still flexible as if it is not in good order, it will be impossible to attain a good seal which is imperative to building up the pressure.

  • Before every use, check the valves are completely clean and free of dirt or food remains.

  • NEVER deep fry in your pressure cooker under pressure.

  • NEVER use oil or fat only as it doesn't create enough steam. Always use a liquid such as water, stock, milk or wine.

  •  Do not leave your pressure cooker unattended for any length of time.

  • Modern pressure cookers have at least three safety valves which release pressure automatically should the pressure get too high. Different  pressure cookers have different valves so it is important for you to refer to the instructions for your particular model. However in general, if you hear loud hissing noises coming from the pot,  you should check the pressure and reduce the heat source as necessary.

  • Never fill your pressure cooker past the manufacturer's  mark or more than two thirds full with solids,  half full with liquids and cereals and one-third full with pulses.  This is very important because as the steam builds up it will need space and over filling can result in food clogging up the valves preventing pressure from being released.

  • Make sure you use enough liquid in order to build pressure, usually a minimum of 300ml/10fl.oz.

  • Once pressure has been reached,  lower the temperature so it doesn't build too high. It should just be releasing a gentle steady stream of steam. If you don't have a heat source which is immediately adjustable such as gas or halogen, it is a good idea to have one burner set on low heat whilst you build the pressure in the cooker on another set to high then once the desired pressure has been reached you can move the pressure cooker to the lower heat burner.

General  Pressure Cooker Cooking Guidelines


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  • Most pressure cookers have a maximum fill mark on the inside. Never fill your pressure cooker past this mark or more than two thirds full with solids,  half full with liquids and cereals and one-third full with pulses.

  • Brown foods such as meat and onions first for extra flavour.

  • For recipes such as stews, you can generally use less liquid than you would with conventional cooking methods because less liquid will evaporate due to the fact that the lid is sealed. However, bear in mind that pressure cooking requires sufficient liquid to create the steam, usually a minimum of 300ml/10fl.oz. In general add another 150ml/5fl.oz. for each extra 15 minutes of cooking.

  • Because everything is sealed in during cooking, you may wish to decrease the amount of seasoning you would normally use as flavours tend to concentrate when pressure cooking - including salt.

  • Add different types of ingredients at different stages in the cooking i.e. slower cooking ingredients such as meat first, then  release the pressure after an appropriate time and add faster cooking ingredients such as vegetables. This ensures the end dish has a variety of textures instead of a mush.

  • Begin counting the cooking times once the pressure cooker has reached the full pressure or the PSI stated  in the recipe and estimate cooking times on the low side as a few extra minutes can overcook foods such as vegetables. It's better to check for doneness by releasing pressure and opening the pot.  If it's not cooked, simply replace the lid, return to pressure and cook a little longer.

  • Releasing Steam
    You cannot open modern pressure cookers until the pressure has been completely released. However, if you have an older pressure cooker, always be guided by the manufacturer's instructions.

    There are two ways to release the pressure, depending on the circumstances.

    The Natural (slow) Release Method - Suitable for stocks, soups containing beans or pasta, cereals, pulses and stews made with tougher cuts of meat which will benefit from the extra time taken. Simply remove the pan from the heat source and leave until the pressure has dropped - usually between 10 and 15 minutes.

    Quick Release Method - Suitable for soups, fish, poultry and vegetables. Some pressure cookers have an automatic release method so check the instructions. If yours hasn't, transfer the pressure cooker to the sink and run cold water over the top  until the all the pressure is released. This generally takes less than a minute.

  • If you live above  2000 feet above sea level you will need to increase the cooking time by 5% for every 1000 feet higher.


Adapting Recipes for the Pressure Cooker

Although almost anything can be cooked in a pressure cooker, it's best suited for foods that require longer cooking times, such as stews, joints, soups and pulses.

In general, there aren't that many changes which have to be made when adapting recipes for the pressure cooker provided there is enough liquid used to create the steam, usually a minimum of 300ml/10fl.oz although the longer the cooking time the more liquid is needed. In general add another 150ml/5fl.oz. for each extra 15 minutes of cooking.

Follow your recipe up to the point where the liquid is added, e.g. brown meats and vegetables like onions if stated.


Add vegetables like potatoes later in the cooking stage so they don't overcook and turn to mush.


When cooking beans, be sure to soak them in boiling water for at least 1 hour before adding to the pressure cooker.

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General Timings


Cooking times vary according to the size or thickness of the food - not the weight.  So it is possible to cook 900g/2lb of  meat in the same time as 1.8k/4lb of meat provided the pieces are the same size as in the original recipe.


In general, you can decrease the length of cooking time for a conventional recipe by two thirds so, if a beef stew normally takes 2 hours, in a pressure cooker it will only take 40 minutes.



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