Index Pressure Cooker Settings

- Meal'n Minutes Recipes - Meal'n Minutes Instructions - Rice
- Temperature Table - Pressure Cooker Primer - Pressure Cooker Chart - Fissler - Pressure Cooker Recipes - Reference - Equipment --- Lee's Recipes -

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 directions.

Pressure = 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 of 15psi.

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 12psi.

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 Electric Appliance

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 settings.

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.


Pressure Release Methods Index

- Meal'n 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.

Cold 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 it.

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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 bath.

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 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

Natural Release Method

The Natural Release Method is the slowest method to gradually drop the pressure and the temperature to finish the cooking process.

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.

  1. Check to see that the vent or valve systems are in good working order before using a pressure cooker.
  2. Never use less than the minimum amount of liquid as recommended by the manufacturer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. When not using a recipe always check the Cooking Time Charts for best the best cooking and release methods.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Never use more than 1/4 cup of fats or oils, or exceed the maximum amount as recommended by the manufacturer.
  9. When using the cold water release never run water directly over the vent or valve system.
  10. Always check to make sure the pressure has dropped back to normal before opening the locking lid on a pressure cooker.