Pressure Cookers

I Totally Messed Up a Pressure Cooker Recipe Today

Pressure Cookers and Instant Pots need steam to seal and to work. If you don’t have enough liquid (meaning your mixture is too thick) it cannot create enough steam to seal the cooker. I messed this up today.

In addition, a pressure cooker will burn on the bottom if you crank up the heat too high trying to get the cooker to create enough steam to start the cooking cycle. I messed this up today.

UPDATE: I think I have been doing it all wrong. If you use a traditional pressure cooker, don’t just throw all the ingredients in, add the lid and turn up the heat. Food will stick to the bottom or burn if the heat is too high. If the heat is lower, it might still stick and it will take a long time to build pressure. THE BEST WAY is to leave the lid off while the ingredients heat to a slow boil, stirring occasionally. Once the food is hot, add the lid and the pressure build will build quickly.

Why do I need one?

Pressure Cookers can cook many meals significantly faster than traditional methods. Roasts, stews, soups, and tomato sauces that used to take hours to prepare can be made in about 1 hour in a pressure cooker.

The steam pressure quickly tenderizes tough cuts of meat and creates tomato sauces that are darker and richer than you can make in an open pan.

You can cook with less water than traditional boiling so that flavors remain concentrated in the food.

How do they work?

You may have heard of or experienced the effects of high altitude on boiling water. At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. In Denver, the “mile-high city”, water boils at 203 degrees Fahrenheit.

It takes longer to cook a box of macaroni and cheese in Denver than it does in Key West because it cooks at a lower temperature.

This phenomenon is due to the change in atmospheric (air) pressure at different altitudes. Atmospheric pressure decreases as altitude increases.

Pressure Cookers hold steam pressure in until it gets to 15 psi higher than the atmosphere in your kitchen. This added pressure is enough to increase the boiling point of water ,(at sea level) from 212 degrees to 250 degrees.

So what’s the big deal with increasing the temp a measly 38 degrees? For simplicity sake, let’s assume we only increase the temperature 36 degrees. Chemical reactions happen twice as fast for every 18 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) so food cooks 18 + 18 = 36 degrees or 2 x 2 = 4 times as fast. That’s kind of a big deal.

Pressure Cooker Evolution:

Pressure Cookers we’re invented in the late 17th century but they didn’t really become popular in households until they were exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

There have been 3 basic generations of pressure cookers:

  1. Cookers that control internal pressure by using a weight. (Presto style)
  2. Cookers that control pressure by using a spring. (Cuisinart, T-Fal, etc.)
  3. Electronic pressure cookers that control pressure by increasing and decreasing the heat of the electric burner (Instant Pot).

There are three basic materials used to make the pot:

  1. Aluminum
  2. Stainless Steel
  3. Coated non-stick

There are three basic sizes of pressure cookers (assuming you only own one):

  1. Too small
  2. 6-quart (still too small)
  3. 8-quart

I actually have several sizes and I use the smaller ones for side dishes.

Which cooker is right for you?

Some considerations:

  1. The burners on your stove can create twice as many BTUs as you can get from a 110v outlet. Stove top cookers should be able to heat with twice the power of an electronic pressure cooker so they can get up to pressure faster.
  2. Don’t bother with aluminum. It is hard to clean, cannot go in the dishwasher and does not do well with acidic foods like tomatoes.
  3. You don’t need multiple pressures. You want 15 psi. At the time of this post, the T-fal pot only goes to 12 so read the fine print.
  4. You don’t need a quick steam release. All that steam eats your wooden cabinets and is dangerous. Holding a traditional pot under cold running water for less than 30 seconds will drop the temperature and release the pressure safely.
  5. The old fashioned jiggler pot relies on a small hole with a weight to control psi. Newer ones rely on spring tension. The only drawback to the older style is the need to make sure the small hole is free of food. The noise it makes while cooking isn’t a huge factor. There are zero things to go wrong, mechanically, compared to newer style ones.
  6. Electronic pressure cookers have built-in selectable programs that can vary the heat, times, and hold warm like a crock pot. These features are nice but I’m not sure I need them on an appliance that typically only runs for 1 hour or less.
  7. Ease of cleaning is important. Aluminum should never go into the dishwasher. It will turn dark and corrode. Many stainless pots and portions of the Electronic pressure cookers can go into the dishwasher for cleaning.

Convert Standard and Electronic Pressure Cooker Recipes:

Soup or Broth Cook 30 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 40 minutes. With LESS option = 20 minutes.
Meat or StewCook 35 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 45 minutes. With LESS option = 20 minutes.
Bean or ChiliCook 30 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 40 minutes. With LESS option = 25 minutes.
PoultryCook 15 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 30 minutes. With LESS option = 5 minutes.
RiceThe Rice setting cooks at low pressure so most standard pressure cookers won’t do this setting.
MultigrainCook 40 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 45 minutes warm soak and 60 minutes cooking. With LESS option = 20 minutes.
PorridgeCook 20 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 30 minutes. With LESS option = 15 minutes.
SteamUse a steamer rack in the bottom of the cooker. Cook 10 minutes after pot achieves pressure. With MORE = 15 minutes. With LESS option = 3 minutes.


Pressure cookers lose water due to steam evaporation. The loss if small but you need to account for it during long cooking times.

Loss due to steam evaporation is approximately 1 Tablespoon every 10 minutes or 1/3 cup per hour. You will also lose approximately 1 Tablespoon during the heating and sealing process.


If you are adapting a standard recipe to a pressure cooker, you need reduce the liquid in the recipe to account for the faster cooking times and reduced evaportation.

If we assume the loss is the same per hour in a pressure cooker as in a stock pot but you cook the mixture for a shorter time in the pressure cooker, you will lose much less water. You need to account for this by adding less liquid before you add the mixture to the pressure cooker.

For example: If a roast cooks for 40 minutes in a pressure cooker vs. 4 hours in the oven, you will lose 5 tablespoons (2.5 ounces) in the pressure cooker and about 11 ounces in the oven. This means you need to reduce the original amount of liquid in the recipe by 8.5 ounces before putting the food in the pressure cooker to achieve the same result.

One way to achieve this is to add dry bullion instead of broth.

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