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How do you naturally release a pressure cooker?

What is a pressure cooker?

A pressure cooker is a cooking pot with a locking lid that allows the pressure inside the pot to rise, increasing the boiling point of water. This allows food to cook faster since the higher pressure raises the boiling point from 212°F (100°C) to 250°F (120°C). Foods that normally take a while to cook, like dried beans, tough cuts of meat, and whole grains, can be prepared in much less time with a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers have been around for over 300 years but became more popular in the mid 20th century as an efficient way to cook. Modern electric pressure cookers are safer and easier to use than the stovetop pressure cookers of the past. They have digital controls, multiple settings, and safety mechanisms to prevent accidents.

How does a pressure cooker build up pressure?

A pressure cooker builds up pressure by trapping steam inside the sealed pot. Here’s how it works:

– Water or other cooking liquid is added to the pressure cooker pot along with the food.

– The lid is locked in place to seal the pot airtight. Some lids have rubber gaskets while others use a series of locking mechanisms.

– As the liquid boils, steam fills the pot. With the lid tightly sealed, the steam has nowhere to escape.

– The trapped steam increases the pressure inside the pot. In an electric pressure cooker, sensors monitor the building pressure level.

– Higher pressure equals higher heat. At around 15 pounds per square inch (PSI), the boiling point of the cooking liquid rises to 250°F.

– This high pressure environment cooks food faster while also infusing flavors into the dish.

– Electric pressure cookers have safety valves that will automatically release excess pressure if needed.

Why do you need to release the pressure after cooking?

After the preset cooking time finishes, the pressure inside the pot must be lowered back to normal before you can safely access the food. Here are a few reasons why releasing the pressure is an important final step:

– **Safety:** With high pressure steam trapped inside, opening the lid prematurely can lead to a dangerous release of scalding hot steam or liquid. Releasing the pressure first prevents accidents.

– **Temperature:** Food continues cooking from residual heat even after the cooker switches off. Quick pressure release using the valve lowers the temperature faster so food doesn’t overcook.

– **Lid removal:** The lid is impossible to remove when under pressure. Releasing the pressure enables easy, safe lid removal to check if the food is fully cooked and retrieve the contents.

– **Consistent results:** A controlled pressure release results in properly cooked food every time. Natural release can cause inconsistencies.

– **Prevents burns:** Steam rushes out forcefully if you open the lid before depressurizing. Releasing pressure first prevents steam burns.

So in short, releasing the pressure is a necessary safety step that also keeps food from over or undercooking.

How do you naturally release pressure from a cooker?

There are two main methods to release pressure from an electric pressure cooker—naturally or manually using the quick release valve. Here is how to naturally release pressure:

– Once cooking is complete, turn off or unplug the pressure cooker if it doesn’t automatically switch to the keep warm setting.

– Allow the cooker to sit undisturbed as the pressure naturally drops inside the pot. Do not attempt to forcefully open the lid yet!

– The natural release time depends on the quantity and type of food but usually takes 10-20 minutes. Larger quantities take longer.

– Pressure is safely lowered as steam escapes slowly through tiny vents in the lid. Electric cookers may have an indicator that shows when pressure has fully dropped.

– The pressure cooker float valve will drop down when all the pressure is released.

– When the float valve drops or the cooker indicates zero pressure, it is safe to open the lid using caution in case there is still some residual steam.

– Check that the food is fully cooked then carefully remove it from the pot using oven mitts.

The key is to let the electric pressure cooker depressurize naturally without trying to rush the process. Be patient and keep your distance as the steam releases gradually.

When should you use natural pressure release versus quick release?

Natural pressure release can take 10-30 minutes but results in fuller flavor development. Quick releasing pressure using the valve is faster but can impact the final taste and texture.

There are pros and cons to each release method:

Natural Pressure Release

– Enhances flavor and tenderness of meats, stews, and larger cuts of vegetables
– Minimizes boiling over or spewing out the valve upon opening
– Gentler for delicate foods like fish that can overcook easily

– Takes more time
– Some residual cooking may occur from residual heat and steam

Quick Pressure Release

– Faster release time in just 2-5 minutes
– Ideal for foods prone to overcooking like vegetables and seafood
– Cooker can be opened sooner to check food or add ingredients

– Can result in loss of moisture and flavor
– More likely to clog the pressure release valve
– Increased risk of boil overs and splattering when opening lid

So in summary:

– Use natural release for meats, stews, beans, whole grains, and cheesecakes
– Use quick release for quick-cooking veggies, fish, eggs, and delicate foods

Getting to know your ingredients will help determine the best release method to use. Both have their place in pressure cooking.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Natural Pressure Release

Follow these simple steps for safely naturally releasing pressure after cooking:

1. Once the electric pressure cooker finishes cooking, turn it off or switch to keep warm mode if available.

2. Do not open the lid right away! Resist the temptation.

3. Allow the appliance to sit undisturbed as the pressure starts coming down. Don’t attempt to force it open.

4. Steam will release slowly through tiny vents in the lid. This natural pressure release can take 10-30 minutes depending on the amount of food inside.

5. Wait patiently during the natural release time. Don’t interfere with the process.

6. Monitor the pressure indicator on the cooker lid. When it shows zero PSI, the pressure has fully released.

7. The float valve will also drop down when all the pressure escapes.

8. Once the float valve drops or the pressure indicator reads zero, you can open the lid. But use caution in case any residual steam comes out.

9. Tilt the lid away from you as you open it to avoid getting hit with steam.

10. Use oven mitts to lift out the hot inner pot containing the finished dish.

11. Check that the food cooked properly. If not, re-seal the lid and cook for a few more minutes before releasing pressure again.

12. When the food is ready, carefully remove it from the pot using a spoon or tongs.

13. Enjoy your pressure cooker meal!

Be extremely careful when opening the lid after cooking. Natural release can take a while but it’s the safest way to prevent accidents.

Natural Release Times for Common Foods

Here are estimates for how long natural pressure release typically takes with some common foods:

Food Natural Release Time
Meat stews and chilis 15-20 minutes
Tough cuts of meat like pork shoulder or beef chuck roasts 15-20 minutes
Dry beans and lentils from scratch 20-30 minutes
Large whole pieces of meat or poultry 20-30 minutes
Bone broths and stocks 20-30 minutes
Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, farro 10-15 minutes
Quick cooking veggies like green beans, broccoli 5-10 minutes
Smaller cuts of meat, fish fillets, eggs 5-10 minutes

The more food in the pot, the longer the natural release time. Get to know your cooker and ingredients to determine ideal release times.

Signs Pressure is Fully Released

Here are some signs to look for to be sure all the pressure has naturally released from your electric pressure cooker:

– The pressure indicator or gauge reads zero PSI

– The float valve drops down and is no longer popped up

– No more steam emerges from the pressure release valve or vents

– The lid comes off smoothly when rotated, with no resistance

– Opening the lid does not cause a strong burst of steam

– A plastic lid on some models will visibly depress and change shape when depressurized

– An electric cooker may beep, sound an alert, or show a message when safe to open

– Condensation on the lid has cooled and evaporated

Don’t try to rush the natural release process. Wait for these signs before attempting to open the pressure cooker. Safety first!

What to do if Pressure Won’t Release

In most cases, the pressure inside an electric cooker will naturally release as described. But occasionally it can get stuck and not come down for some reason. Here’s what to do:

– Let it keep resting for 5-10 more minutes undisturbed. Extra time often does the trick.

– Very slightly nudge the pressure release valve if blocked. Do not forcefully open it while pressurized.

– For non-electric stovetop pressure cookers, remove from the heat.

– For electric cookers, make sure it’s unplugged or switched off if keep warm mode is on.

– Place a wet towel over the venting areas and lid to help draw out heat and steam.

– For stubborn pressure that just won’t budge, contact the manufacturer as there could be an underlying issue.

– Do not try to pry open the lid while still pressurized as a last resort method. Be patient and use caution.

– Avoid filling the pot over the max fill line which can inhibit pressure release.

– Make sure the valves and vents are clean to prevent blockages.

Stay calm if the pressure seems stuck, and do not try to force the lid open. This could lead to an explosion hazard from the trapped steam.

Special Tips for Electric Cookers

Electric pressure cookers make the process easier than stovetop models when it comes to releasing pressure. Here are tips specific to electric models:

– Many have automatic keep warm settings that hold the temperature without needing to release pressure right away.

– LED displays clearly show when pressure has fully dropped for safe opening.

– Release pressure manually at the end of cooking using the quick release button if in a hurry.

– Electric heat doesn’t build up in the base like on the stovetop, so cooker cools faster.

– Interior containers make it easy to lift food out of the pot once pressure is released.

– Multiple safety mechanisms like auto-locking lids prevent accidents.

– If the float valve gets stuck, try pressing the pressure release button for 1-2 seconds to loosen it.

– A “cancel” button stops cooking and brings pressure down rapidly if needed.

– Keep all venting areas and gaskets clean for proper sealing and release.

While handy, electric pressure cookers still require safely releasing pressure before opening. Get familiar with your particular model’s features and safety procedures.


Releasing the pressure from an electric pressure cooker is an important finishing step with safety implications. While patience and time is required, natural release results in tender, flavorful dishes and prevents accidents. Getting to know your pressure cooker model, the normal release times for ingredients, and signs that all pressure is fully released will ensure you master this simple process. Taking a few extra minutes to allow the steam to naturally escape prevents burns and properly cooks the food. Safety comes first when using this efficient, high-pressure appliance!