Frequently asked questions about pressure cookers
How do electric pressure cookers work?
Pressure cooking dates back to the 17th century and involves the use of heat and pressure to cook food faster. Before Instant Pot revolutionized the industry, pressure cookers were non-electric cookers. But Instant Pot changed that with its tabletop electric version.
In order for pressure to build up in the stove, the pan must have sufficient liquid (see your device’s user manual for how much) and the lid must be airtight. The vapor formed from the heated liquid causes the pressure to build up and allows higher cooking temperatures and thus faster cooking.
When you have finished cooking, first release the pressure before removing the lid. This is a step that varies by model, so see your multicooker’s user manual for how to safely do this.
Are electric multi-stoves safe?
For the most part, today’s electric pressure cookers are safe. However, you still need to be careful.
Many people are afraid to use electric pressure cookers because they have heard stories that they explode on the stove. It was a problem with the old stove models, but there are several safety mechanisms that minimize the chance of this happening with modern electric stoves.
“I was never worried about a multicooker exploding on the countertops,” said chef and chocolate master Anne Wolf.
Jeffrey Eisner, author of The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook, agreed. “If you want to compare pressure cookers from the time when they stood on hobs, with today’s ones that are electric and have locking, one big difference is that today’s lids will remain safe on top,” Eisner said. “I feel comfortable using them and I have never been scared. I have never had any problems personally.”
But today’s electric pressure cookers are not without their risks. “I found that it’s easy to burn yourself on the steam when you do a quick ejaculation,” Wolf said. “So there is a certain risk of burns.”
The best way to minimize the risk of burns when you release the pressure is to use a wooden spoon or other long tool to activate the lever that opens the vent. The steam always comes from the top, so make sure you do not stand over the stove when you release the steam.
From using a pressure cooker for years and following the Instant Pot community on Facebook, one of the most common dangers I have seen is people using their multicooker on a stove and accidentally turning on the burner. All brands warn against putting your stove on the stove for this reason. So I warn you. You’re unlikely to get hurt, but it can create a big mess.
What size electric pressure cooker should you get?
Eisner recommends getting a six-quart pressure cooker. “Start with a six-quart, see how much you love your pot,” he said. “And then, from there, people typically start to get addicted to it, and they get a larger size, like an eight-liter.”
“The sizes that I have seen are three quarts, six quarts, eight quarts and now 10 quarts, which is huge,” Eisner added. “Three-quart is good for maybe a single person, but it’s limited. One of the best things you can do in an Instant Pot is a roast. But you’ll get in trouble in a three-quart model because it is so small. “
Many of the models in our guide come in several sizes. All but one of the models we tested were either six or eight liters, the two most popular sizes. We did not notice any significant differences in cooking time or food quality between the sizes.
Do Instant Pot recipes work in any multicooker?
In our test, the recipes from Eisner’s The Step-by-Step Instant Pot Cookbook proved just as good in off-brand pressure cookers as they did in the Instant Pots that Eisner used to develop the recipes. Instant Pot recipes seem to translate well across brands.
Although Eisner has never used another brand, he says his recipes work in non-Instant Pot multicookers. “I’ve got people writing to me who have other brands,” Eisner said. “And they say the recipes in my book work fine for them.”
Which is better: a stainless steel or non-stick inner pot?
Stainless steel internal pots are dishwasher safe, heat more evenly and can withstand metal utensils. However, it is more difficult to remove stuck debris from stainless steel. With non-stick pots, you risk damaging the non-stick coating when you put the pot in the dishwasher.
Still, nonstick inside pots are great because your food is less likely to stick to the inside, making it easier to clean. Although it varies from brand to brand, many nonstick pots are dishwasher safe, but we recommend washing by hand to extend the life of the nonstick coating. The main disadvantages of nonstick pots are that they are not heated as evenly as stainless steel, and metal utensils can scratch them. We did not find that there was a difference in cooking times or quality based on pot type.
What is the difference between quick release and natural release?
With quick release, you release the steam from the pan the moment the cooking is finished. With natural release, you do not release the steam immediately. Instead, you allow the pressure to drop by itself.
With both, you can open the lid when the pin drop indicates that the pressure is at a safe level. Many recipes require a 10-minute natural release followed by a quick release. In general, we recommend that you follow the recipe you use to get the best results, but as you become more experienced with the peculiarities of your stove, it may be a good idea to make small adjustments.
There is a third, less common method of release known as a pulse or controlled release. This means that the pressure is released in short bursts by opening and closing the vent.
No matter how you choose to release the steam, be careful! We recommend using a nice long wooden spoon to release the release mechanism so you are far from the steam when it is released. Also, never stand over the multi-boiler when releasing the steam. Releasing the steam is probably the most dangerous part of using an electric pressure cooker.