Quick pressure release or natural pressure release? It’s one of the most common questions I get. Electric pressure cookers and multi-cookers like the Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, and Crockpot Express have the ability to release pressure two ways. Let me explain the difference!
Releasing the pressure can be a little intimidating to people who are new to pressure cooking—especially the quick release with the noise and jet of steam. But don’t let a little noise get between you and fabulous meals cooked in your pressure cooker!
Here are the most common questions and answers for the different types of pressure releases.
What is the difference between a quick pressure release or natural pressure release, and when do I use them?
Those are often the first questions new pressure cooker users ask. So I thought it would be a perfect time for a post explaining it for all those who have an electric pressure cooker or multi-cooker like the Instant Pot waiting for them under the tree.
When the cook time ends, your pressure cooker will beep. At this point, the recipe will direct you to release the pressure in the cooking pot. You can release the pressure two ways: a quick pressure release or a natural pressure release.
I really like the way the Instant Pot summarizes the two pressure releases:
Now for the details:
Q: What is a Quick Pressure Release?
A quick pressure release is when you turn the pressure release switch to the Venting position and let the steam to release quickly when the cook time ends. This will result in a strong jet of steam coming from the pressure release valve. This is normal. If drops of liquid or foam start to emerge from the pressure release valve, simply switch the valve back to the Sealed position and use an Intermittent Pressure Release.
- Instant Pot Duo: Turn the pressure release handle from Sealing (triple-S icon) to Venting (steam icon).
- Ninja Foodi: Turn the pressure release valve from Seal to Vent.
- Crockpot Express: Turn the steam release valve from the Closed/Seal position (X over the steam icon) to the Open/Release position (steam icon).
- Power Pressure Cooker XL: Turn the pressure valve from the Lock position (bulls-eye icon) to the Open position (steam icon).
- Fagor Pressure Cooker: Turn the valve from Pressure to Steam.
- Cuisinart: Turn the valve from Pressure to Pressure Release.
- Pampered Chef Quick Cooker: Press the Steam Release Button on the lid handle.
Other pressure cookers may have different labels, but it’s the same basic principle. Turn the valve to allow the steam to escape / pressure to release.
When the pressure is fully released, the float valve will drop and the lid will unlock to open. For safety reasons, the pressure cooker will not open until the pressure is released and the float valve has dropped.
Keep your face and hands away from the steam as it’s released. Don’t release pressure under hanging cabinets, which can be damaged by the steam.
Don’t use a quick release with ingredients that foam or that have fatty or thick ingredients.
Q: When do I use a Quick Pressure Release?
Using a quick pressure release stops the pressure cooking quickly. Therefore, you should use a quick pressure release when you are cooking ingredients, like vegetables, that you want to avoid overcooking.
I use a quick pressure release when I make my Quick Pressure Cooker Potato Salad so the potatoes are tender but still chunky and hold their shape.
Don’t use a quick release with ingredients that foam or have fatty or thick ingredients.
Q: What is a Natural Pressure Release?
A natural pressure release is when you leave the pressure release switch in the Sealed position when the cook time ends. This lets the pressure release slowly, without you doing anything. When the pressure is fully released, the float valve will drop and the lid will unlock and open.
A natural pressure release is a bit anticlimactic in comparison to a quick pressure release. There is no jet of steam when the natural pressure release starts. There’s also no clear way to tell when the pressure is fully released, and no beep or signal when the lid unlocks. Sometimes you can hear the float valve drop if you’re close by.
The time it takes for the pressure to release naturally will vary depending on the ingredients and amount of liquid in the pressure cooker. A natural pressure release can take from 5 to 30 minutes in the electric pressure cooker.
Food inside the cooking pot will continue to cook as the pressure decreases.
Q: When do I use a Natural Pressure Release?
Using a natural pressure release allows the cooking to stop gradually. You don’t want to open the valve quickly when the ingredients inside could be foaming. You’ll get foam shooting out through the valve, so use a natural pressure release when making steel cut oats, a large pot of soup or pasta.
You also want to use a natural release for large cuts of meat. Just like you’d let meat rest after grilling it, a slow natural release is said to let the meat relax and be more tender.
During a natural release, the cooking continues so you need to take that in to account when determining your cook time. If a recipe calls for a Quick Release, you can use a Natural Release if you prefer, but reduce the cook time.
Q: What is an Abbreviated Natural Pressure Release?
The different types of pressure releases can also be combined. You don’t have to wait for all the pressure to release to get the benefit of a natural pressure release.
In many of my recipes, I will let the pressure release naturally for a certain number of minutes, then I will finish with a quick pressure release.
I almost always only wait 10 minutes before I release the remaining pressure. Combining the two release options reduces waiting time yet gives you many of the benefits of a natural pressure release, such as reducing foam and tenderizing meats.
Q: What is an Intermittent Pressure Release?
An intermittent pressure release is the best of both worlds. It’s a way to quickly release pressure for foods such as pastas, soups, and certain grains, which are prone to foaming or spitting if you try to release pressure with a quick release but would be overcooked with a natural pressure release.
With this method, you open and close the pressure release valve in short intervals. This allows the pressure to escape more quickly than a natural pressure release and also prevents foam from coming out of the pressure release valve.
With some foods, one or two closed intervals is all I need before I can leave the valve in the Venting position; with other foods, if the foaming is particularly bad, I will close the valve and wait a minute or two, then slide the valve to Venting again and continue opening and closing the valve as needed.
Q: Do I need to turn the pressure cooker off before using a Quick Pressure Release or a Natural Pressure Release?
No you do not need to turn the pressure cooker off for a quick or natural pressure release. The pressure will release on the Keep Warm setting. The benefit of not turning it off is that the time will count up so you can see how long it’s been since the pressure cooking time ended.
There is some debate about whether or not the pressure releases more slowly if it’s on the Keep Warm Setting. The Instant Pot Company’s official position is that it does not release more slowly on the Keep Warm Setting because the Keep Warm heat does not turn on until the pressure has been released.
I prefer to turn off or unplug the pressure cooker before I do a quick pressure release or natural pressure release. I seem to always forget to turn off the pressure cooker if I don’t turn it off when the pressure cooking ends. I also prefer to set a timer to remind me 10 minutes has passed and it’s time to release the pressure when I’m doing a natural pressure release.
>>That should be everything you need to know about pressure releases! You’re ready to move on to the next section!
Part 3 in our Getting Started Guide will walk you through an initial test run for your Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, Crockpot Express, or other brand of electric pressure cooker.
If you’re in a hurry to get cooking, you can always skip to our Make Your First Meal post and come back to this information while you’re waiting for the chicken to cook.
Once you have your first meal under your belt, move on to some easy pressure cooking recipes. Before you know it, you’ll be making fabulous pressure cooker meals and wondering how you ever cooked without it.
The Getting Started Guide Series
- Pressure Cooker Parts Reference Guide
- Choosing a Pressure Release Method
- Water Test Run for the Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker
- Make Your First Meal in Your Pressure Cooker
- Easy Recipes to Make in Your New Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker
Other How To Guides
- How to Get a Pan Out of the Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot
- How to Use the Pot-in-Pot Method in Your Pressure Cooker / Instant Pot
- How to Convert a Recipe to a Pressure Cooker Recipe
- How to Pressure Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts
- How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker
- How to Make Perfect Pressure Cooker Cheesecake