The Instant Pot has become one of the most popular kitchen appliances in recent years. Its versatility and ability to cook food quickly have made it a favorite for home cooks. One function of the Instant Pot that generates a lot of questions is the natural release method. So how long does it actually take for a natural release on the Instant Pot?
What is a Natural Release?
A natural release is when you allow the pressure to come down naturally in the Instant Pot, without doing a quick release. After cooking is complete, the Instant Pot will automatically switch to the “keep warm” setting. During this time, the steam is gradually released through the float valve until the pressure returns to normal.
A natural release allows food to continue cooking gently with the remaining steam and heat. This prevents a sudden drop in temperature and helps food retain moisture. It’s especially important for larger cuts of meat, stewed dishes, and recipes with a lot of liquid. A quick release can cause liquids to boil over or meat to get tough.
How Long Does a Natural Release Take?
The time needed for a natural release depends on several factors:
- Amount of liquid in the recipe – More liquid means more steam to release.
- Volume of food – Larger quantities take longer.
- Cooking time – Longer cook times equal more steam.
- Pressure level – Food cooked on high pressure (10-11 psi) takes longer than low pressure (5-7 psi).
- Type of food – Dense foods like meat, beans, or rice require more release time.
- Instant Pot model – Some models release pressure faster than others.
That said, here are some general time ranges for how long a natural release takes:
|Cooking Time||Natural Release Time|
|5-20 minutes||10-15 minutes|
|20-40 minutes||15-30 minutes|
|Over 40 minutes||30-40 minutes|
For most dishes cooked for around 30 minutes or less, the natural release time is 10 to 20 minutes. Foods cooked longer than that often need 25 to 30 minutes or more for the pressure to come down.
Factors That Increase Natural Release Time
Here are some specific factors that can result in a longer natural release time:
- Cooking at high pressure – Release takes roughly twice as long as low pressure.
- Large quantities of food – Double the amount of food means nearly double the time.
- Lots of liquid – Recipes with over 2 cups of water/broth take longer.
- Dense foods like meat or beans – More dense foods have longer release times.
- Stews, chilis, and braised meats – These require more time for liquids to settle.
- Porridge, risotto, congee – Thick, starchy dishes need extra release time.
- Cheesecakes or crème brûlée – Dense custards need a longer release.
Factors That Decrease Natural Release Time
On the other hand, here are some factors that result in a shorter natural release time:
- Cooking at low pressure – Release is roughly half the time of high pressure.
- Smaller quantities – Cut the amount of food in half, cut the release time too.
- Minimal liquid – Recipes with 1 cup or less liquid are faster.
- Vegetables, seafood, fruits – Lower density foods have shorter release.
- Broths and stocks – These light liquids release quickly.
- Rice, grains – These release faster than meat and beans.
- Egg dishes like hard boiled eggs – Light and fluffy egg dishes need less time.
Natural Release vs. Quick Release
The other main release method for the Instant Pot is a quick release. This is done by manually turning the steam release valve to the “venting” position. The steam is let out immediately until the float valve drops.
A quick release typically takes 2 to 5 minutes compared to 10 to 30+ minutes for a natural release. It’s faster, but can cause issues like liquid sputtering or meat drying out. Here’s a comparison:
|Natural Release||Quick Release|
|Time Range||10-40+ minutes||2-5 minutes|
|Best Uses||Large cuts of meat, stews, bone broth||Vegetables, rice, fish|
|Pros||Gentle cooking, maintains moisture||Much faster release|
|Cons||Takes more time||Can cause liquid loss|
For dishes with a lot of liquid or meat, stick to a natural release. Use quick release for faster cooking times when possible. Some recipes may call for a combination – natural release for 10 minutes then switch to quick release.
How to Tell When Natural Release is Complete
Here are signs to look for to know when the natural release is fully finished:
- Float valve drops – This small metal valve will go down when pressure is back to normal.
- Instant Pot display changes – It will switch from “keep warm” to display cook time.
- Steam stops releasing – You’ll no longer see steam coming out.
- Lid becomes easy to turn – When you can easily turn the lid left and right, release is done.
- 10-30 minutes have passed – If unsure, wait at least 10 minutes before checking.
Do not try to force open the lid before natural release is complete. The float valve and lid will be hard to move when under pressure. Wait until the float valve drops down.
Natural Release Tips
Follow these tips for best results when using the natural release method:
- Don’t peek! Lifting the lid releases steam and slows the process.
- Vent the steam away from you to avoid burns.
- Allow at least 10 minutes before checking for completion.
- For longer cooks, allow up to 30-40 minutes release time.
- Let thick stews and meat rest 10-15 minutes more after release finishes.
- If in a hurry, you can quick release after 10-15 minutes.
- Make sure float valve drops completely before opening lid.
Common Natural Release Questions
Should the Instant Pot be left on “keep warm” during natural release?
Yes, leave the Instant Pot on the “keep warm” setting during a natural release. This gently continues cooking food and keeps it hot until serving.
Can you let natural release go overnight?
It’s not recommended to leave natural release going more than 1-2 hours maximum. Leaving it overnight may drop the temperature too much and cause bacteria growth issues.
What happens if you open the lid before natural release is done?
If opened too soon, remaining steam can rush out and cause food to sputter. It can also affect moisture levels. Always allow the float valve to fully drop before opening.
Can you do a quick release after a natural release?
Yes, you can allow a partial natural release for 10-15 minutes then switch to quick release to speed up the process. This is fine for many recipes.
Is natural or quick release better?
Natural release is better for large cuts of meat, stews, and recipes with a lot of liquid to maintain moisture. Quick release works well for veggies, rice, and recipes with minimal liquid.
Sample Natural Release Times
To give you an idea of real natural release times, here are some examples based on recipe, quantity, and cook time:
|Recipe||Cook Time||Quantity||Natural Release Time|
|Chicken breast||8 minutes||2 breasts||10 minutes|
|Hard boiled eggs||5 minutes||6 eggs||5 minutes|
|Beef stew||35 minutes||4 servings||20 minutes|
|Chicken soup||15 minutes||8 cups||15 minutes|
|Cheesecake||40 minutes||7-inch pan||30 minutes|
As you can see, release times vary greatly. Get to know your recipe’s needs through experience to master natural release timing.
Natural release on the Instant Pot can take 10 to 40+ minutes depending on the recipe. More liquid, larger quantities, dense foods, and longer cook times all mean longer release times. Allow the float valve to fully drop before opening the lid. Mastering natural release ensures tender, flavorful dishes every time.