What is a quick pressure release or a 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 a pressure cooker waiting for them under the tree.
Q: What is a Quick Pressure Release?
After the pressure cooking time has finished. You can release the pressure two ways. A quick pressure release is when you open the valve and allow the steam to release quickly. If you’re using an Instant Pot, you turn the valve from sealing to venting to release the pressure. If you’re using a Fagor pressure cooker, the valve is turned from Pressure to Steam. If you’re using a Cuisinart pressure cooker, the valve is turned from Pressure to Pressure Release. Other pressure cookers may have different labels, but it’s the same basic principal. Turn the valve to allow the steam to escape / pressure to release.
When the pressure is fully released, the float valve (see the little silver piece in the picture about next to the venting valve) will drop and the lid will unlock to open. 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. I just turn my pressure cooker so the steam is released away from the cabinets.
Q: What is a Natural Pressure Release?
A natural pressure release is when the cooking time is over and you leave the valve closed and allow the pressure to decrease without doing anything.
Following pressure cooking, electric pressure cookers automatically switch to the Keep Warm setting. As soon as it switches to the Keep Warm Setting the pressure begins to drop. The time it takes for the pressure to release 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. When the pressure is fully released, the float valve will drop and the lid will unlock and open. There is no beep or signal when the pressure is released. Some times you can hear the float valve drop if you’re close by.
A 10 Minute Natural Release. You don’t have to wait for all the pressure to release to get the benefit of a natural pressure release. I almost always only wait 10 minutes before I release the remaining pressure.
Q: When do I use a Quick Pressure Release?
Using a quick pressure release stops the pressure cooking quickly. 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.
Q: When do I use a Natural Pressure Release?
Use a natural pressure release to release the pressure 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 or 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: 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.
If you’re a little bit nervous about using a quick pressure release, just practice pressure cooking water until you’re comfortable with how the electric pressure comes to pressure and how to release the pressure.
Then when you’ve got your confidence built up, 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.