How To: Cook with a Pressure Cooker

When I was 21 I packed my bags and spent 18 months living in Southern Brazil.  It was one of the greatest adventures of my life, and the culture definitely influenced my culinary loves (hello lime, coconut, and black beans.)  One thing I quickly learned was how to use a pressure cooker.  Everyone in Brazil has a pressure cooker; it’s pretty much standard kitchen equipment.  I lived in some extremely poverty-stricken areas, and even when families could fit everything they owned into a single box, there was a pressure cooker in that box.  It’s the standard way of cooking the unofficial national food, beans, among other things.  I ate black beans for lunch every single day for 18 months (and actually never tired of them!) and they cooked up in mere minutes because of those handy pressure pots.  Upon returning home and preparing to head back for my final year of college, my Mom bought me this little Kuhn Rikon Pressure Cooker, so I could make all of the foods I had fallen in love with down there.

Kuhn Rikon Small Pressure Cooker

I’ve never written about pressure cooking, or shared any pressure cooker specific recipes, because I never saw a huge market for it, until recently!  In recent months, pressure cooking has gained steam (see what I did there?)  and it seems it’s be all the rage all of the sudden!  We are getting so many questions and emails and requests, so we thought it was about time we tackled this topic.

What is Pressure Cooking

A pressure cooker is a pot with a sealed lid.  Normally when you cook in a regular pot, heat causes moisture to produce steam and it evaporates out the top.  With a pressure cooker, as liquids start cooking, they produce steam.  The steam is trapped inside, creating an environment of extremely high pressure and temperature.

Lots of reasons, but some of the most popular:

Time: Because a pressure cooker increases the temperature and pressure, things cook in the fraction of the time they would cook in a normal cooking environment, such as on the stove or in the oven.  For example, a tough roast and potatoes that would normally take hours in the slow cooker or braising in the oven can be fork-tender and on the table in an hour.  Brown rice and dried black beans take about 15 minutes.  Rice, 3 minutes.  And quinoa? One minute.  One.

Results:  The high pressure environment forces liquid into foods quickly, tenderizing at an impressive rate.  Tough cuts of meat turn out tender and moist, and things like potatoes (one of my favorites to do in the pressure cooker) and vegetables are perfectly cooked.

Flavor:  Less liquid is required, and everything is trapped in the cooking environment, so foods turn out more flavorful and concentrated than other cooking methods.

Energy and Savings: Foods don’t take as long to cook, so it’s less time burners are on and appliances are running.  It’s also a great option for the summer when you want that slow braised roast without having your oven, or even the steaming crock pot on for hours.  It also allows you to buy less-expensive cuts of meat (the tough stuff) and tenderize it quickly.

What can you cook

Just about anything!  I use mine a lot for meats, potatoes, and stews.  You can also cook desserts and sweets, like sweetened condensed milk, flan, and cheesecake.  Kate and I both have new electric pressure cookers, so be on the lookout for upcoming recipes!


Types of Pressure Cookers

In the pressure cooking game there are 2 main players: Traditional Stove Top and Electric.  A traditional pressure cooker sits on the stove top like a normal pot.  You control the heat just like you would with any other pot.  You can sear meats and vegetables, then add liquid and seal on the top to cook.  You control the pressure inside the pot by adjusting the heat on the stove and watching the gauge on the top display the intensity of the pressure (high or low).

pressure cookers

An electric pressure cooker has its own heat source, it works similar to a slow-cooker (many electric pressure cookers function as slow cookers as well) and often has a variety of pre-set settings you can choose for different foods.  You can push a button and the whole thing runs, and regulates pressure, by itself.

There are pros and cons for each option.  The stovetop varieties heat up quicker for less overall cooking time, but I also feel like I have to babysit the pot carefully and keep adjusting heat.  Although the electric styles take a little longer to heat up, I love the ease of just being able to push a button and walk away.   You also have more control over the heat on the stove top if you want to brown vegetables, sear meat, etc.  before pressure cooking.  That being said, I’m impressed at the high heat my Electric Instant Pot provides for sauteing.  It’s plenty hot. Stove top models vary in size and generally are available in larger capacity than electric models, which are usually 6 quarts.  However, I have yet to have my 6 quart pot feel too small to cook anything.

What do you recommend

There are a lot of options, and I can certainly tell you what I have experience with, and what I’ve heard from other friends with pressure cookers.

Kuhn Rikon:  I feel like these are the BMW’s of traditional pressure cookers.  Mine has lasted a good 16 years now.  They are expensive, but have incredibly  high ratings and are exceptionally well made from a very reputable brand.  They tend to be available in larger sizes than the electric versions, and their stainless steel construction makes them ideal for heavy duty use, assuring excellent browning and heat conduction.

Kuhn Rikon Large Pressure Cooker

Instant Pot:  I don’t know how these guys revved up their marketing campaign, but whatever they did, it worked.  With over 5,000 reviews and a 5 1/2 star rating, they are Amazon’s #1 Seller.  I bought one last fall, and from what I hear- lot’s of you did, too!  It’s pretty affordable compared to some of the other big name brands out there (even moreso during their sale last fall where it was about $80.)  Here is one of their models that is on sale right now for about $90, and this bluetooth version for a good deal as well. After several months of use, I really love my Instant Pot.  It has a lot of settings you can default too, and once you get the hang of things, it’s really easy to just set it manually as well.  I really love how it sautes at a high heat as well, so you can do one-pot cooking.  For example, start a soup by sauteing the onions and garlic, and then adding the rest of the ingredients to pressure cook, or cooking a roast and then bringing the sauce up to a boil to cook some gravy.

Instant Pot

Other pressure cookers that I do not own, but have heard good reviews about (all of these are top-rated from America’s Test Kitchen) are:

Emeril 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric by T-Fal
Cuisinart 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric

Fissler Vitaquick 8.5-Quart
Fagor Duo 8-Quart Stainless Steel

Presto 8-Quart Stainless Steel
Tramontina 8-Quart Heavy Duty

I also recently bought the America’s Test Kitchen Pressure Cooker Perfection Cookbook and I’m loving it so far!

Click Here to see all of our Pressure Cooker Recipes!




  1. I also bought a Instant Pot is Christmas. My husband has fallen in love with it and I have only made two meals, beef stew and a roast. I have been searching for more chicken recipes and haven’t come across very many. I would love to learn how to use the pressure cooker with more chicken meals.

  2. I use my pressure cooker all the time! But, ive always wondered why the food tastes like it needs SOOOO much salt when it’s done. I regularly use it for mashed potatoes and beans but it seems like we cannot get enough salt in them before serving. This seems to be the theme with everything that comes out of it. Any ideas? The instruction manual says not to add salt before cooking ? (Although j would be lying if I said I haven’t tried to remedy the problem by adding it anyway. I don’t remember it helping.)

  3. Yes! Please post recipes. I can my brains out when the garden is producing and have no fear of the canner. I have an electric cooker that I almost never use, except for BBQ ribs. I’d love to use it more. Thanks!

  4. I love my Fagor electric countertop pressure cooker I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. I use it so much it hardly even gets put away. The only thing about it is that it doesn’t use quite as much pressure as a stove top pressure cooker- the manual says it gets up to 9 pounds pressure on high, and most pressure cooking time charts are written for 10 pounds, I believe. It hasn’t been a problem- just something to keep in mind and give it an extra minute or so.

    Mine will do browning/sauteing and slow-cooking as well as the pressure cooking, so I love pressure cooking some beans, then adding a ham bone and bringing it to a boil with the saute button, then turning it down to slow-cook until dinnertime.

  5. I am so excited you guys will be putting pressure cooker recipes on here! My husband will be so happy. He loves cooking in the pressure cooker, but doesn’t have the time with his work. I’m slowly familiarizing myself with it though. I’ve tried to convert a couple of your recipes to the pressure cooker but I always manage to add too much liquid (Braised Italian chicken thighs). We eat food from your books almost every day. All my friends ask me how I can cook so well and I always point them to your site (and my mom). Thank you for continually providing amazing recipes that I can fit into my budget! Can’t wait to see the pressure cooker ones!!!

  6. I’ve been wanting to get one for so long now. I just can’t seem to get over the fear of it possibly blowing up. Crazy right? I’m technically savvy and know how it works, but I just can’t pull the trigger and get one. Maybe future recipes will push me to do it?! Haha.

  7. My husband served in Brazil also and has often asked me to use a pressure cooker to recreate some of his favorite foods , but honestly I am afraid of pressure cookers. My mom used one to can vegetables and every year would warn us about exploding pots! I would love to learn more about how to use them and overcome my fear!

    1. The electric pressure cookers will NOT explode. They have safe guards built in. The ones on the stove top are not quite as fool proof. Have a friend, who has used one, come over and teach you. If no friend has used one, invite one to come learn with you. They are so well worth it!!!!

  8. I bought an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker last fall and am so excited to see more recipes from you guys in the future that make use of this cool kitchen appliance!

  9. I like experimenting with the pressure cookers and I have even done what I call one jar canning in them of leftover dinners!!! So brave of me! I like the Fagor big big electric one with the Stainless Steel liner. I had two of them and I loved that but I decided I needed to share with my niece who has a young family and teach her how to use it! You can never have enough of these once you get good at using them. I seldom use the crockpot now as I think the flavors of food is better in the pressure cooker. I also have some smaller stovetop Kuhn Rikon pots and that’s because we are two people here and we do two potato meals and you can do smaller portions. I love steel cut oats in these, black beans, Coconut rice, lentil soup in five minutes, any grains and have found that the brown rice is the best cooked in this. People think it’s something else. I make your rosemary beans this way and save so much time. Most people do meats in them, but I am a vegan so I don’t have much experience doing that. I have found that the best book for using them is Lorna Sass’s book: Pressure Perfect. I call it the Bible of Pressure Cooking. The look of the book seems boring but really when you start using it you realize that she has thousands of variations and tips. I have many other cookbooks and have tried recipes but I think she has done the testing of the recipes and so her charts and times and hints and recipes are excellent. That’s my humble opinion! I have found that the best way to get better faster at using the pressure cooker was to take some classes from the stores that sell these and that will help your learning curve and you can watch Chef Brad on BYU TV online, too, and check out his blogs about Sunday dinners and keep track of some of his tips and foods he cooks in the pressure cooker. When I teach my friends to use a pressure cooker, this is the recipe I start with from Cook’s Illustrated: I use Harmon’s spicy Chicken turkey sausage in it or Smith’s spicy beef sausage and a high quality pasta sauce–even yours works!
    Pressure-Cooker Easy Ziti with Sausage and Peppers, from their website:
    “For a one-pot pasta dinner that was streamlined without sacrificing flavor, we started by browning Italian sausage, onion, and green bell pepper just until the sausage was no longer pink. Then we stirred in tomato sauce, water, and our pasta. Using jarred sauce kept things simple, while a tubular pasta like ziti proved to be the best match for the pressure cooker—we learned that strand pasta turns into unappealing clumps of noodles when cooked under pressure. Cooking the ziti for 5 minutes was the best approach to ensure we didn’t accidentally overcook the pasta (a likely problem when cooking pasta under pressure since you can’t check for doneness along the way). After 5 minutes, we quick released pressure and let it all simmer for a few minutes to finish cooking the pasta through and concentrate the sauce’s flavors. A sprinkling of basil at the end made the right fresh finish for our saucy, meaty ziti dinner.


    1tablespoon olive oil
    1pound hot or sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
    1 onion, chopped fine
    1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¾-inch pieces
    1 (25-ounce) jar tomato sauce
    3 ½cups water
    1pound ziti
    2tablespoons chopped fresh basil
    Salt and pepper


    1. BUILD FLAVOR: Heat oil in pressure-cooker pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Stir in sausage, onion, and bell pepper and cook, breaking up meat with wooden spoon, until sausage is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato sauce, water, and ziti.

    2. HIGH PRESSURE FOR 5 MINUTES: Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure.

    3. QUICK RELEASE PRESSURE: Remove pot from heat. Quick release pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.

    4. BEFORE SERVING: Bring mixture to simmer over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often, until pasta is tender, 2 to 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.”

    I can’t wait to see what you all do when you post some great recipes for the pressure cookers!!!

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