To know how to use an electric pressure cooker, you first have to know what an electric pressure cooker is. You may think that using an electric pressure cooker is essentially the same concept as using a stovetop pressure cooker. While the process is similar, the heating elements and many settings on the electric pressure cooker are entirely different than what you may be used to.
The main difference in an electric pressure cooker and a stovetop pressure cooker is in the heat source. A stovetop pressure cooker receives its heat from the eye of the stove, whereas the electric pressure cooker receives its heat from the heating element inside the appliance.
In the stovetop pressure cooker method, you are in control of the heat source. You can increase the temperature and decide how long the pressure cooker should be applied to the heat.
With an electric pressure cooker, the most control you have is pressing a button. Depending on the cooking method you choose, which we will discuss in a few, you simply have to press that button and walk away, only to return when the electric pressure cooker is notifying you that the timer is up and it has finished cooking.
Even though an electric pressure cooker takes all the guesswork out, you still need to know how to use it. There are different tips, tricks, techniques, and rules to follow when using an electric pressure cooker, and we are going to make sure you know what all of those are.
Before we get started, we are going to use this Instant Pot as our example throughout the article. This Instant Pot has all of the quick-button features and functions that you can select from to choose how to prepare virtually any and every recipe available.
First, Identify What You are Cooking
This may sound simple, but it is a crucial first step. As you can see on the Instant Pot above, there are many quick-buttons that are already programmed and ready-to-use. These quick-buttons know what temperature and duration to cook the contents inside. You just simply have to press the button and walk away.
Read the Recipe
Some pressure cooker recipes may call for a “quick release” of the pressure inside. It is important to know before you press the first button if you will need to immediately release the pressure once the food has finished cooking, or if it can release the pressure naturally.
The difference between quick release and natural release is simple. Quick-release means the pressure inside the Instant Pot will immediately and rapidly begin to release from the liner, lowering both the temperature and the pressure inside.
Think of quick release as an ice-water bath for vegetables that you have blanched. You need to immediately stop the cooking process. This is what a quick release of the pressure does. You would want to use the “quick release” function when baking a cake inside the Instant Pot (yes, this is possible! Check out our article on Baking in a Pressure Cooker). The quick-release will immediately relieve the pressure, allowing you to safely open the lid and remove the cake from the Instant Pot using the included trivet.
The natural release is exactly how it sounds; it is the natural process of depressurization within the Instant Pot. The benefit of the natural pressure release is that it can continue cooking the contents inside, even after the unit has turned off. You would want to use the natural release when cooking dense grains or pasta. Grains and pasta only take minutes to cook, but they need a few minutes to achieve that fluffy, tender texture.
Continuing to cook the grains or pasta would overcook them and make them mushy or even burn. But by turning off the heat and allowing the steam within the pressure cooker to naturally cook the pasta for a few more minutes as it slowly begins to release the pressure creates a perfectly fluffy and tender pasta or grain.
Other Functions of the Electric Pressure Cooker
It is important to know that you are getting many appliances in one with an electric pressure cooker. Even though the concept behind the electric pressure cooker is to speed up the time it takes to cook a meal (an electric pressure cooker reduces the overall cook time by approximately 70%), it is important to know that you can also use your electric pressure cooker as a slow cooker.
The slow cooking function is one of the many functions included with the electric pressure cooker. This means one appliance now does the job of two. Last time we checked, a slow cooker couldn’t speed up cook time, so why would you need both appliances cluttering your kitchen when you can have an electric pressure cooker that can also be used as a slow cooker?
The electric pressure cooker can also steam vegetables in a fraction of the time, but surprisingly, this isn’t the biggest benefit of the steamer function of the Instant Pot. While cutting time by 70% is definitely a benefit, the biggest benefit of steaming vegetables in the electric pressure cooker is the number of vitamins and minerals that are retained in the vegetables during the cooking process.
Other methods of cooking or steaming vegetables cause the vegetables to lose most, if not all of its vitamins and minerals. With the electric pressure cooker, most of the vitamins and minerals found within the vegetables are retained during the cooking process, giving you a richer and more beneficial product.
If you have been on the fence about buying an electric pressure cooker simply because you were unsure of how they worked, we hope this article has helped ease your mind and answer any questions you may have had.
Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are a must-have appliance in the kitchen because of their multiple functions and ability to replace other outdated appliances you may have in the house.