Pressure Cooker Opening Methods

Did you know there are more than one way to open a pressure cooker? Did you also know that each way has an impact on what is cooking inside? Some methods work for a stove-top pressure cooker that might not be appropriate for an electric version. We would like to share the “how’s” for each of the particular opening methods for pressure cookers to help you get started and provide the “why’s” so you can sharpen your pressure cooking skills.

Method NameSpeedProcedureElectricStovetop
Cold-Water QuickFastestMove pressure cooker to the sink and pour cold water on the lid. (NOT Recomended)-30 seconds
Base ImmersionVery FastMove the pressure cooker to a sink full of cold water and immerse the base of the cooker in it. NOT Recomended-1 minute
NormalFastOpen the pressure valve on the lid.3 minutes2 minutes
Slow NormalSlowOpen the pressure valve a little to release the pressure slowly, you can do in short bursts of 10 seconds6 minutes5 minutes
10-Minute NaturalSlowAllow 10 minutes to pass, and then release the remaining pressure by opening the valve.10 minutes10 minutes
NaturalSlowestDon't do a thing. Wait until the pressure has completely dissipated, and the lid-lock disengages on it's own.20-30 minutes10-15 minutes

How do you choose an opening method?

When you use the wrong method of opening you can get limp vegetables, beans might turn to mush or get rock hard dry meats.  We would like to share three principles so you can choose the right method to open your pressure cooker:

  • The food is still cooking even if it’s not on the heat!

Pressure cookers are designed to build and maintain pressure. Thus the temperature inside is near or above the boiling point.  This means that the food is actually cooking while on the heat and while it has been removed from the heat. This is good for meats, legumes.  However it is not great for vegetables that you may want to preserve an al dente texture.  When cooking vegetables chose the fastest release method and reserve a slower release time for those foods that might benefit from a longer opening method.

  • Faster, isn’t always better.

The speed that you release pressure is related to how much movement is inside the pressure cooker. When pressure is release,d the equilibrium that suppressed the bubbles of the boil during pressure is broken and they tend to break the surface again. Using a fast release method will violently release these bubbles, and can fling bits of food and foam to the underside of the lid.  While if you use a slow open method, such as the natural release will allow the bubbles to rise into a slower, more lazy simmer. Foods that are intended to keep whole or clear use the slowest method of opening to get the least amount of movement.

  • Hot Food equals fast evaporation.

The temperature of the food that comes out of the pressure cooker and the environment can affect the speed of evaporation. Faster opening methods will yield a hot food that will yield a faster evaporation of the food’s cooking liquids and juices. While the slower or slowest methods will give the food a chance to cool down and the liquids to evaporate at the speed of a conventional boil. So why does this matter? If you intend to keep things juicy (like roasts) use a slow method, foods that need reduction after cooking (like sauces) use a fast method.

Pressure Cooker Open Methods

This is a list that includes with that have been around for many years. Different sources call them different titles, I named them for what makes sense to me. I start with the fastest and then end with the slowest.

Normal Pressure Release

This method is often called Quick or Manual and I saw one descriptor as “Automatic” and that just confused me. This method can take about 3 minutes to complete. Normal just means to release the cook will use the valve, or the pressure release mechanism (push button, level or a pull) to release the pressure. This method is best for quick cooking foods such as vegetables.

Slow Normal Pressure Release

This method is kind of a fast method and that take about 6 minutes.  This is like the Normal method, as this uses the pressure cooker’s release valve.  However the pressure should be released very slowly. Use short bursts, if anything other than steam sprays out (like foam), the valve should be closed for about 10 seconds, and then resume the burst methods.

10-Minute Natural Release 

This is a slow, and as it’s name sake suggests it takes 10 minutes. This method allows for the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes and then if there is any remaining pressure, it would be released using the slow normal method.

It is important to note that if the pressure in the cooker goes down before the 10 minute time is up, the lid must remain closed and undisturbed for the full 10 minutes. I use this method for grains which need to continue to cook in the residual heat and steam inside the cooker with out any additional heat.

Natural Release

This is the slowest method and the most delicate release method. It can take from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the type of pressure cooker you may have. This natural method allows pressure to release slowly from the cooker once the heat is turned off. I love it for for grains, legumes and fruits that tend to spray out of the valve using a different method.  Foods that need to cool down slowly such as meats and stocks.

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