All About Pressure Settings
Most pressure cooker
recipes are made to cook at the standard of 15psi, in fact this
setting is so common that most recipes don't even need to mention
it. This setting is the standard as determined by the USDA way
back in 1917 when all pressure cookers had just that one 15psi
setting. That pressure setting still remains as the standard today.
Many inexpensive pressure cookers made today still provide only
one pressure setting, this is especially true of the old-style
jiggle top models. Some of the new and improved, 2nd generation
pressure cookers offer multiple pressure settings. Do you need
more than one pressure setting? Maybe not, the vast majority
of recipes still use the same, original 15psi setting,
We are all familiar with oven temperatures, but in pressure cooking
we talk in terms of pressure settings rather than temperatures,
so you must know the settings of your particular brand. Some manufacturers
use LOW - MED - HI settings and this is doubly confusing because
they vary between brands and do not correspond to standard recipe
= Metric vs. Imperial?
More recently, foreign made pressure cookers
are showing up in American markets with settings gieven in metric
terms of kilopascals (kPa) or millibars (bar), rather
than the more familiar Pounds per Square Inch (psi). This
makes it very confusing for the consumer when trying to make a
wise purtchasing decision, to use recipes written for the standard
Is this simply a cost cutting decision to save on printing...
or is it a deception on the part of manufactureres of pressure
cookers that fall short of the 15psi standard and intended to
trick consumers? Pressure cooker recipes that are designed for
15psi, its been the accepted method for nearly 100 years, and
is so common than many recipes don't even bother to state the
cooking pressure setting.
To further baffle consumers, some electric
cookers which operate at a much lower pressurer setting to
compensate for overheating problems, may have directions given
in kPa, or preset categories like "Meat" or "Veg",
or they may only state LOW, MEDIUM, HIGH pressure, but they don't
explain what those settings actually corespond to. This makes
it very difficult for busy cooks who must first try to figure
out a phsyics problem before they can cook dinner.
Consumers must carefully read through the information provided
by the manufacturers before buying a new pressure cooker. Ask
the store to open the box so you can read the owner's manual before
buying, or do your research beforehand and contact the manufacture
first to determine the actual pressure settings or temperatures
used, and then match them to the Pressure
- Temperature Table.
When considering which pressure cooker to buy
you may want to review my
observations. Be sure to read the product information carefully.
There are many heavily advertised, so-called "pressure cookers"
that only cook at low pressure (Turbo Cooker, some Prestige brand
Pressure Cookers). Brands like the German WMF only come in at
about 11psi, the Chef's Design pressure cooker is limited to 11.6psi,
or T-Fal which will only attain 11psi. Also Fagor's Magic Pressure
Fryers only go to 10psi, but that is a safety factor when cooking
with so much oil. The Lagostina comes in with
The Cook's Essential 9 function electric gadget lists 80 kPa,
a pressure setting that equals only 11.6 psi. The electric Deni
is listing just 10psi.
If you buy one of these non-standard pressure cookers you may
find some recipes included in the box. However, for all other
recipes, including the hundreds of recipes
on my website, and those in pressure cooker recipe cookbooks,
including mine, you must increase the cooking times, but that
often produces inferior results
Using Stovetop Recipes with an
The makers of electric pressure cookers
do not adhere to any standard. Operating instructions vary widely
even between models made by the same manufacturer. With so many
makes and models I do not propose to give detailed operating instructions
one each and every one of them. Follow the directions in your
owners manual for basic operating instructions. Also locate
the temperature or psi settings used by your appliance when it
is under pressure and then use the chart above to see the corresponding
In general, you can use the BROWN setting
to do any initial sauteing or browning. Then program the appliance
for HIGH PRESSURE and set the timer for the same amount of time
recommended in the recipe.
If the recipe calls for a cold water
release by putting the cooker under cold running water, ignore
this instruction. Instead, press the pressure release button in
very short spurts, taking care to keep your hand and head away
from the escaping steam. If liquid is ejected from the valve,
wait a minute longer before proceeding. Use the Quick release
mechanism if this is called for in the recipe. Natural release
means to wait until the pressure drops on its own. Use the BROWN
setting to do any finish cooking after pressure is released.
Minutes Recipes - Meal'n Minutes Instructions
- Rice - Pressure
Cooker Chart - - Pressure Cooker
Recipes - Reference - Equipment
--- Lee's Recipes -
How to Release Pressure
There are three methods
for releasing the pressure in your cooker. Recipes will indicate which
release method to use at the end of the cooking process.
Water Release Method
Fastest method, used to immediately stop the cooking process
by lowering the heat AND the temperature.
If an immediate
release of pressure AND temperature is desired, the pot is carried
to the sink and cold water run over the lid (but not the valve).
Always position the cooker in the sink so that it is tilted
at a slight angle. Let the cold stream of water run over top
of the lid, but not directly over the vent pipe or valve, letting
it rundown the side of the cooker to cool it quickly. If your
faucet is too short to allow water to run over the top of the
cooker use the sprayer attachment if available, otherwise partially
filled with sink with cold water before setting the cooker in
This method is mainly used for food with very short cooking
times, or where it is essential to stop the cooking process
as fast as possible. Use this method for serving fresh, tender-crisp
vegetables, or delicate seafoods. Owners of electric pressure
cookers do not have the cold water option, and that limits some
of the foods and recipes they can cook.
Owners of the old style, first generation cookers must use
this method to add ingredients or check for doneness, but it
will take longer for the cooled pot to come back to pressure.
This may result in certain foods being over cooked.
- When using the cold water release
method there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first
is safety - carrying any large pot full hot food can be dangerous
because it is heavy and hot. All pressure cookers should have
two handles for easy lifting and carrying, but it yours doesn't,
use an oven mitt for extra support when transporting the pressure
cooker to the sink. Always look to see that you have a clear
path with nothing on the floor that might trip you, and make
sure no children or pets are underfoot. People of small stature,
or those with physical limitations, may find it easier to
slide the pressure cooker along the countertop from the stove
to the sink.
- NEVER run water directly
over the pressure release vent or valve when using the cold
water release method. Direct the water to the outer edge of
the lid so that it runs down the side of the pot. A variation
on this method is to fill the sink with several inches of
cold water and then sit the pressure cooker in the cold water
When the pressure cooker is removed
from heat the air molecules inside the pot begin to cool and
contract, and if the vent opening is blocked by the stream of
water, then no air molecules can get inside to replace the volume.
The air inside the cooker rapidly contracts as it cools so there
is less air pressure inside the pot than outside. This creates
a very powerful vacuum that can actually cause the lid (or the
weakest area of the metal) to collapse as the vacuum sucks it
down inside the pot.
Quick or Touch Release Method
Quick, but not as fast as the cold water release,pressure cookers
with this option can vent the pressure without lowering the
heat of the food.
People often confuse
the quick release with the cold water release, but they are
actually two distinctly different methods. there is a special
release valve on some new pressure cookers that allows for the
rapid release of pressure by just turning a
knob or pushing a button. This is a great feature and this
method is suggested if you wish to interrupt the cooking process
to add some further ingredients or check food for doneness.
By releasing the steam this way you can quickly open the pressure
cooker without cooling off the pot and stopping the cooking
process. When you're finished, the pressure cooker can be returned
to pressure very quickly.
Do not use the quick release method for foods that increase
in volume, froth or foam, or those that are mostly liquids,
like soup or broth because the contents could foam, or boil
up and vent through the release valve.
Owners of jiggle top models are cautioned never to tilt, lift
or tip the pressure regulator weight in an attempt to lower
the pressure more quickly. If the weight accidentally slips
or comes off the vent pipe the contents of the cooker can be
vented through the opening in the vent pipe.
Natural Release Method
The Natural Release Method is the slowest method to gradually
drop the pressure and the temperature to finish the cooking
A third method
of releasing the pressure is to remove the pressure cooker
from the heat source and to allow the pressure to subside
naturally. If you are cooking beans, potatoes, or other
foods which have a skin that you wish to remain intact,
this is the preferred method. Use the this release method
for foods that increase in volume, froth or foam, or those
that are mostly liquids, like soup or broth. Most meats
and other long cooking recipes are finished this way to
complete the cooking process.
If you own an electric model, keep in mind that the heating
element will retain heat and that will prolong the cool
down period which may result in foods that are overcooked.
There is no hard and fast rule to determine how long
the cooling process will take. Factors such as the construction
of the base and the type of metal used, the volume and
type of foods being cooked, will affect the amount of
time it takes for the pressure to drop. An appropriate
length of time would be 15 minutes, but be patient if
it takes a bit longer and wait for the pressure to drop.
However, if you are in a hurry and can't wait any longer
than that, then use the cold water release method to completely
drop the remaining pressure.
The food inside the cooker continues to cook throughout
this slow cool down process. This method is commonly used
for finishing large cuts of meat; foods that foam, froth
or expand during cooking; and foods that are mostly liquid,
such as stock or broth. The natural release method should
not be used for delicate vegetables or fish, or any food
or recipe with very short cooking times.
Pressure Cooker Safety Guidelines
Regardless of the type of pressure cooker you own, these basic
safety rules apply to all brands and models.
- Check to see that the vent or valve systems are in good
working order before using a pressure cooker.
- Never use less than the minimum amount of liquid as recommended
by the manufacturer.
- Do not exceed the 2/3 full level when cooking most foods;
or the 1/2 full level when cooking foods that are mostly liquids,
foam, froth or expand.
- Use high heat to establish the desired pressure and then
immediately reduce the heat to the lowest level possible that
will still maintain that pressure.
- When not using a recipe always check the Cooking Time Charts
for best the best cooking and release methods.
- As with any cooking appliance that cooks quickly or uses
high temperatures, do not leave a pressure cooker unattended
for any length of time and always set a timer.
- Use the Natural Release method for foods that are mostly
liquids, foam, froth or expand; and foods with a skin or peel,
as well as with most meats.
- Never use more than 1/4 cup of fats or oils, or exceed
the maximum amount as recommended by the manufacturer.
- When using the cold water release never run water directly
over the vent or valve system.
- Always check to make sure the pressure has dropped back
to normal before opening the locking lid on a pressure cooker.