How to Use a Pressure Cooker

Pressure Cooker 101

You have a new pressure cooker, now what? Here are some ways you can quickly and efficiently use that new small appliance. 

  • Read your pressure cooker’s manual before starting. Although many makes and models are similar, there will be differences that can affect your end results.  
  • Check the valves and gaskets every time before using. Keep the regulator valve clean. 
  • Keep in mind the size of your pot – some recipes need a larger one! Do not fill more than 2/3 full for most foods and follow minimum liquid guidelines. 
  •  For foods that expand or foam such as rice, beans, lentils, grains and dried fruit, do not fill more than 1/2 full. This includes your cooking liquid. 
  • Hold back on salt and pepper before bringing your recipe to pressure, flavours become stronger in a pressure cooker. We also suggest using fresh herbs wherever possible. 
  • Always remember to remove the lid by turning it away from yourself when unlocking so the steam does not go in your face. 
  • Any leftovers will need to be cooled and put away quickly. For tips on how to do this, visit our Cooling Foods Safely page.


Follow tested recipes from a reliable source. The following are more tips for cooking specific foods in your pressure cooker: 

  • Root Vegetables
    • For beets, trim off long roots or stems but leave about a half-inch intact to prevent bleeding; scrub but leave skins intact. Large beets cook in about 25 minutes, and small beets in about 13 minutes. 
    • Whole scrubbed potatoes cook on a trivet with 1 to 2 cups of water in the pot. Cook for 7 to 12 minutes depending on the size, age and variety of potatoes. 
  • Grains and Legumes
    • Grains and legumes expand during cooking and need more space in a pressure cooker. Do not fill your pressure cooker more than 1/2 full for grains and legumes.  
    • Because there is little evaporation when pressure cooking, the amount of liquid used is usually less than the amount used for conventional stove top cooking. As well, grains often need to be drained, depending on the recipe.
  • Stocks

    A basic stock can easily be made in your pressure cooker. Add any bones or a carcass, with or without meat, 1 roughly chopped small onion, 1 coarsely chopped carrot, 1 celery stalk with leaves, and up to 8 cups water. Keep in mind your maximum fill level. Cook on high pressure, 45 minutes for beef stock and 30 minutes for poultry stock. Use natural release.  

    For vegetable stock, use up to 4 litres (about 16 cups) of roughly chopped vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery, potatoes or almost any other vegetable. You do not need to remove skins and peels, just scrub them clean. Add up to 8 cups of water and cook on high pressure for at least 15 minutes. Use natural release.  

    If using a slow cooker broth recipe, follow the recipe as directed without adding salt or other seasonings until later. Add water listed, but only filling up to 2/3 full. Cook on high pressure using timing from above and natural release.

  • Less Tender Cuts of Beef
    • Pressure cooking can be used to give the effects of long braising or simmering. 
    • For best flavour, always brown your meats well.  
    • If deglazing with wine,  simmer and reduce the volume of the wine by half or it may have too intense a flavour. 
    • Cover with foil for a few minutes before shredding or slicing to allow the meat juices to set. 
    • Use a fat separator or refrigerate overnight to solidify the fat for easy removal.
  • One Pot Meals
    • One-pot meals can be done by layering foods using foil packets, steam baskets or racks. Side dishes of vegetables and potatoes can be done beside a roast; wrapping delicate vegetables in foil can protect them from too much heat.

Try These:

  • Medium
    Pressure Cooker Butternut Squash Risotto
  • Difficult
    Pressure Cooker Beef Brisket
  • Medium
    Pressure Cooker Chocolate Pots De Creme

Why you should use a pressure cooker

Today’s pressure cookers have come a long way from earlier models, and busy home cooks have started to appreciate their ease of use, energy efficiency and ability to cut cooking times.