How to use a pressure cooker 5 ways

Pressure cookers aren’t a new invention—the first model was invented way back in 1681—but they’ve become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to innovations that have expanded their culinary uses. Modern-day pressure cookers feature a range of settings for cooking meals that can make even amateur chefs feel like pros. 


But before you can master the art of pressure cooking, you must first understand how to use a pressure cooker. 

Today, we'll go over everything you need to know about pressure cookers, including what they are, how they work, and five ways to use them to make everything from soups to pot roasts and more.

What is a pressure cooker?

Pressure cookers are airtight kitchen appliances that use built-up pressure to raise the temperature of the foods or liquids within them. This allows pressure cookers to cook meals more quickly and efficiently. 

In terms of design, pressure cookers are outfitted with specialized lids that form an airtight seal, allowing the vessel to safely build pressure and heat up to a higher temperature than normal stovetop cooking. Depending on the meal you’re preparing, a pressure cooker—due to its ability to raise the temperature above the normal boiling point—can do it in as little as half the time as conventional cooking methods.

Generally speaking, there are two types of pressure cookers. Traditional pressure cookers are stovetop devices. Most feature two simple settings: low or high pressure. They generally require that you adjust the heat on your stovetop to achieve and maintain the desired pressure.

See related: Slow Cooker vs. Pressure Cooker

On the other hand, modern-day pressure cookers come with an electric heat source that maintains proper pressure throughout the cooking process, as well as a range of specific functions for cooking various dishes. These functions vary depending on the specific model but generally include:

● Slow cook

● Sautée

● Steam

● Stew

● Braise

● Poach

● Roast

● Bake

● Sous vide

As such, you can use a pressure cooker to make an impressive array of meals, from a classic pot roast or beef stew to rice, risotto, and other types of pasta dishes. In certain models, you can make mouth-watering desserts like apple crisp, pumpkin pie, and chocolate layer cake. 

Some models even have settings for homemade yogurt—and all this just barely scratches the surface of what’s possible with a pressure cooker.

How does a pressure cooker work?

An all-in-one appliance that can rapidly prepare almost any dish you can think of, from braised beef tips to crème brulee isn’t as complicated as you may think. 

Despite the many culinary options pressure cookers offer, the science behind them is relatively simple. But to fully understand, it’s helpful to know the basic components of a pressure cooker.

Whether it’s a stovetop or plug-in model, there are certain features all modern pressure cookers share: 

● Airtight lid – This is a crucial element of any pressure cooker because it keeps the pressure from escaping the cooker. The lid is also designed with important safety functions, including a pressure valve and a locking mechanism. 

● Inner pot – This is where the magic happens—or, at least, the cooking. The ingredients go into the inner pot where, eventually, the pressure will start to build. 

● Base – For plug-in models, the base or bottom of the pressure cooker contains an electric heating element, usually with a thermal sensor that detects and adjusts the temperature to achieve the desired pressure. 

And pressure is the essential element all pressure cookers rely on to create all those sweet and savory dishes. 

By sealing the cooker with its airtight lid, you prevent water and vapor from escaping, thus causing pressure to build. This, in turn, raises the internal temperature of the pressure cooker and takes the liquids within it past their boiling point, causing food to cook rapidly. In fact, pressure cooker temperatures can rise as high as 250° F.

Because cooking at a higher temperature due to increased pressure is more effective than regular boiling or steaming, you can typically prepare time-consuming meals in much less time with an electric or stovetop pressure cooker.

How do you use a pressure cooker?

One of the best things about modern, plug-in electric pressure cookers is that they aren’t just easy to understand—they’re also easy to use. Essentially, once you’ve added the necessary ingredients to the inner pot and closed the lid to create a high-pressure heating environment, all you need to do is select the proper cooking method, set the timer, and turn it on. 

But if you’ve never used an electric pressure cooker before or you’re using a new one, you should take some time to get to know the appliance before you jump right into cooking food. Here are two important steps you can take to get started with your pressure cooker:

Step 1: Read the instructions

The instruction manual or user’s guide that came with your pressure cooker is a must-read when you’re new to pressure cooking food. It contains everything you need to know about your pressure cooker, including: 

● Operating instructions 

● Safety tips and information

● Care and cleaning instructions

The instructions may also provide a “getting started guide” you can review, plus an explanation of your cooker’s specific settings.

Step 2: A high-pressure trial run 

If you aren't sure how to use a pressure cooker, it’s a good idea to take it for a test drive by performing a trial run with water. This is a quick and easy way to familiarize yourself with your cooker and see it in action. 

Begin by filling the inner pot of your modern pressure cooker up to the minimum fill line, also known as the "min" line. Doing so will ensure there's enough liquid inside for the cooker to reach the required pressure.

After filling your inner pot to the minimum line, close and lock the lid, and ensure the steam release valve is sealed. Once you’ve done that, set the timer for three to five minutes and turn the cooker on. Keep an eye on the pressure release valve—it should indicate that the atmospheric pressure is rising as the water inside boils and converts to steam.

When the timer runs out, the pressure cooker will stop heating and slowly release steam and pressure. Most models have auto-release or pulsing release systems built-in, so you don’t have to worry about opening the steam valve yourself. The cooker will inform you when enough stream pressure has been released from the inner pot so that you can safely open the lid.

5 ways to use a pressure cooker 

Now that you have a comprehensive understanding of what pressure cookers are and how they operate, you’re probably wondering how to use a pressure cooker to make some of your favorite meals. 

From scrumptious main courses to delectable desserts (and everything in between), here are five exciting ways to use a pressure cooker. 

#1 To whip up homemade stocks and soups 

A modern pressure cooker makes it fast and easy to create your own vegetable broths and soups. What’s more, it might even make these culinary creations taste better, thanks to an airtight environment that keeps all of the aromas and flavors trapped inside. 

#2 To cook grains

Grains like rice, wheat, and oats are an important part of a healthy diet as they provide you with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But cooking them on the stove can be slow-going. And that extended cooking time doesn’t just eat away at your schedule—it also takes bites out of the nutritional value of the meal.

Fortunately, pressure cookers can get the job done in about a third of the time. As a result, they’re known to preserve nutritional value and even improve a dish’s flavor and texture.

Among the many grains you can make in a pressure cooker are:

● Rice

● Quinoa

● Barley

● Oats

Use the pressure cooker to create grain dishes such as risotto or rice pudding.

#3 To make flavorful beans and vegetables

Cooking vegetables and legumes in a pressure cooker is an excellent way to decrease the preparation time and ensure they don’t experience any of the nutrition loss that can come from over-cooking. 

Not to mention, the options for quick, easy, and mouthwatering vegetable dishes are nearly endless. Consider using your pressure cooker to whip up: 

● Baked beans or collard greens for a summer cook-out

● Spinach and artichoke dip for a game day

● Ratatouille for a Parisian date night 

● Mashed or whole potatoes for a comforting side dish

#4 To sear, roast, or braise meats and poultry

The hallmark of a good cut of meat is its tenderness. This is especially true of dishes like pot roasts, stews, and brisket. But it can take hours in the oven to achieve the kind of falling-off-the-bone tenderness those dishes require.

Pressure cookers drastically reduce the time it takes to tenderize meat by cooking it at enhanced temperatures. Aside from briskets, roasts, and stews, electric cookers can also roast whole chickens and braise short ribs, making you a master of meats! 

Remember that with most meat-based dishes, you’ll want to sear the meat before you start the pressure cooking. With electric cookers, this is as simple as choosing the “sear” setting before adding the other ingredients. 

#5 To dabble in desserts 

No meal is complete without dessert. Fortunately, pressure cookers take the fuss out of baking so you can end every meal on a high note. 

Top-of-the-line pressure cookers feature special baking settings that you can use to make decadent desserts, like: 

● Cakes

● Cheesecakes

● Custards

● Puddings 

Become the master of your kitchen with Breville 

At Breville, our electric pressure cookers are designed to help every home chef be extraordinary in the kitchen. Featuring multiple function settings, adjustable and automated controls, and an automated, hands-free steam release system, they’re the easiest way to create full-flavored meals with less cooking time—so you can spend more time enjoying every savory and sweet bite.  

Are you ready to master your kitchen and make every food moment amazing? Shop today.



1. British Food History. Pressure Cookers.

2. Serious Eats. How Pressure Cookers Actually Work.

3. Serious Eats. What a Pressure Cooker Does Best.

4. Serious Eats. 31 Quick Dinner Recipes for Your Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker.

5. Cleveland Clinic. Why Whole Grains Should Be In Your Diet.

6. Cleveland Clinic. Are Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot Meals Healthy?  

7. Better Homes & Gardens. How to Quickly Cook Rice and Whole Grains in Your Pressure Cooker. ​​

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How to use a pressure cooker 5 ways