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In this post: New to your Instant Pot® or another pressure cooker? Here’s a complete getting started guide that will show you exactly how to use a pressure cooker in your kitchen! 

Electric pressure cookers are perfect for those who are just beginning to learn how to cook. This appliance delivers flavorful food in a jiffy, and free recipes are plentiful online. You can even convert slow cooker recipes into recipes to use in your electric pressure cooker!

Instant Pot on counter

What is an electric pressure cooker?

If you ask someone who owns an electric pressure cooker, they will probably say something like “it’s like a slow cooker, but fast!” – and that is true. While it can be a bit more intimidating than a slow cooker, the benefits (and time saved!) are so worth it that you’ll want to use your cooker every single day.

Some electric pressure cookers are actually more accurately described as multicookers. Instead of needing several appliances, like a rice cooker and a slow cooker, you can use the multicooker for both – and more!

I love my Ninja Foodi because it’s a multicooker and saves me a lot of space in the kitchen.

ninja foodi multi cooker on wood counter with shiplap backsplash

Why do I need an electric pressure cooker?

Using an electric pressure cooker can cut your cooking time down by as much as 70%! If that isn’t enough reason, I don’t know what is. However, there are plenty of other benefits of using an Instant Pot:

  • Save energy: the cooking pot is fully insulated, so it takes less energy to heat up.
  • Save time: electric pressure cookers use less water, so it takes less time to boil.
  • Retain nutrients: boiling can cause vitamins to leach out of your food. The Instant Pot cooks food quickly and evenly, allowing your food to retain up to 90% of water-soluble vitamins.
  • Convenience: cook almost anything, including rice and meat.
  • Save space: this cooker replaces multiple appliances!

Unboxing your electric pressure cooker

What comes in the box of your pressure cooker will depend on the brand and model you purchased, but generally speaking, you can expect to see:

  • Manual
  • Electric pressure cooker
  • Accessories

How to use an electric pressure cooker

Follow the instructions in your manual, watch some YouTube videos, and be sure to follow the recipe instructions carefully.

The sauté setting on my electric pressure cooker gets used quite a bit. It’s nice because you can use it just like you’d use a skillet, without dirtying up an extra dish. The electric pressure cooker heats up fast and is a breeze to use.

Depending on the brand and model you get, you’ll find your electric pressure cooker has several cooking modes. Mine has:

  • Soup: High Pressure for 30 minutes.
  • Meat/Stew: High Pressure for 35 minutes.
  • Rice: Low Pressure, time depends on amounts of water and rice.
  • Poultry: High Pressure for 15 minutes (more for frozen poultry).
  • Steam: High Pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Sauté: No specific time for this mode.
rotisserie chicken on cutting board

You can adjust all cooking times. For example, when I cook frozen poultry, I set it for 20 minutes and let it manually release. Find a few blogs you can trust for recipes because pressure cookers can be a bit temperamental if you aren’t used to them.

How to release pressure

There are two ways I release pressure from my electric pressure cooker:

Quick Release Method (QR): Release the valve as soon as the timer goes off. This will ensure your food is ready to serve faster.

Natural Pressure Release: Takes the longest, but also gives the most flavorful, tender result.

If you can, allow your electric pressure cooker to do a Natural Pressure Release – unless the recipe calls for a Quick Release. I love how tender the food is when using Natural Release. It’s just like cooking with a slow cooker, but so much faster!

What size pressure cooker do I need?

The size you need depends on how big your family is and what you like to cook. If you have a family of 4 or more, the 8-quart may be your best bet. If you’re just cooking for yourself and you don’t like leftovers, or you’re running low on counter space, there’s also a 3-quart option.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to is happy with the 6-quart, but they said they’d buy the 8-quart if they had room and got to buy it all over again. If you have the space and the budget, the 8-quart is worth consideration.

Instant Pot Rice in round gray bowl on wood cutting board

Keep it simple

When you first get your electric pressure cooker, you may be intimidated. You may leave it in the box for a while, or you may get it out right away. Either way, wash/rinse your pot before you begin cooking. Start with the water test, and then try something simple like eggs.

Soups are also easy to make, with little learning curve, but can get messy if you use too much liquid. Don’t let the liquid go over the ⅔ line in your pot. Even if it doesn’t make a mess, too much liquid means bland food… and nobody wants a flavorless meal!

How to do a water test

To do a water test, follow your manual’s instructions. A general water test goes something like this:

Pour 3 cups of water into the inner pot of your electric pressure cooker. Put the lid on and turn the valve to the “sealed” position. Set to High Pressure for 3 minutes. Once your machine reaches pressure, it will count down to 0.

After this cycle is complete, let the pressure release. Then, pour out the water. Assuming there were no problems during this process, your electric pressure cooker is good to go! If there are problems, contact the manufacturer of your appliance.

How to store your electric pressure cooker

Because silicone material absorbs the smell/taste of the food, make sure you’re cleaning the ring inside the lid on a regular basis. After washing, store your clean lid upside down or use the lid holder (many models have this option). This helps minimize the smell.

small appliances and bakeware in cabinet

What NOT to cook in your electric pressure cooker

While pressure cookers now have crisping lids, it’s important to know what should and shouldn’t be cooked in pressure mode vs crisping mode.

Breaded meats and veggies should be cooked with the crisping lid, as pressure cooking them could make them soggy.

Dairy can be cooked in your pressure cooker but should be added towards the end of the recipe in most cases. Dairy can foam at high temperatures, clogging your pressure cooker. I made a soup once that called for milk to be added early on. When I released pressure, that cream burst out of the valve just like steam would have – landing all over my cabinets and countertops!

Should you buy an electric pressure cooker?

If you’re looking to save time and space in your kitchen, an electric pressure cooker may be the perfect solution. Electric pressure cookers do more than just replace a slow cooker, they also work as rice makers and yogurt makers, too!

There are so many options on the market these days that it can be hard to choose one. Which type of electric pressure cooker do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

More Instant Pot tools you can use

shannon photo and sig oct 2022

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