How to use a pressure cooker

Want to know more about pressure cookers? We provide the basic, need-to-know knowledge about this time-saving kitchen gadget, give advice on how to use it and provide pressure cooker recipe inspiration.

Asian short ribs cooked in a pressure cooker served on the bone

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Those who lead a busy life and often cook in a hurry will appreciate any time-saving kitchen hack. The pressure cooker is the number one gadget for people who want to slice huge chunks off the cooking time of meat, pulses and sauces.

From ribs that fall off the bone, to stew, casserole or braised meat, a pressure cooker can achieve great results in under an hour. A risotto can be on the table in half the usual time, with very little stirring. 

Speed isn't the only advantage of pressure cookers – they also preserve nutrients and vitamins, as well as being a more economical way to cook.

Buy the best pressure cooker

If you still think of pressure cookers as that pan rattling away on the stove, about to blow a gasket, then think again. Today’s pressure cookers have been updated and are simple to use.

• There are some high-tech models on the market that come with detachable timers and easy-lock systems. These are good, but we find a good-quality, simple pan with a long handle more versatile, as you can also use it as a large saucepan.

• All pressure cookers work on the same principle, but they can differ hugely in price. As a pressure cooker is just an extension of a saucepan, the same quality points apply. Generally, the more expensive models are made of better quality metal and have a thicker base.

• Pressure cookers come in a range of sizes, but as they are ideal for batch cooking, it doesn’t make sense to buy one any smaller than 5 litres.

The one I use at home for my family of four is the Swiss-made 5-litre Kuhn Rikon Duromatic Inox pressure cooker (£169.95 – Kuhn Rikon). It’s big enough for a whole chicken or to make enough stew for 12 servings.

It’s worth buying a trivet or steamer basket, so you can also cook ingredients that don’t need to be in direct contact with liquid, like a steamed pudding.

How to use a pressure cooker

While they are invaluable when it comes to braising, stewing and transforming tough cuts of meat, and cooking ingredients like dried pulses from scratch, pressure cookers are less successful with delicate foods like fish or green veg, as they use such a high heat. There are ways around it, though. You can add fish to your dish at the end of the cooking time (simmer it gently without pressure), after the other ingredients are done, for example.

With pressure cooker recipes, all cooking times should be taken only from when the level of pressure is reached, at which point you should lower the heat but try to maintain the same level of pressure for the time stated. This can involve turning the heat up and down during the cooking process or moving the pan to different-sized gas rings.

• Remember that pressure cooking is a wet cooking method and you should never try to cook anything in a pressure cooker without at least a 2cm layer of liquid in the bottom of it.

• Pressure cookers are great for stews and making tough cuts tender but the liquid used doesn’t reduce while cooking, so be prepared to simmer things down to intensify the flavour once the lid comes off.

• For a pressure cooker to work, there needs to be space for steam to build into pressure, so never fill it up any more than half way.

• With stovetop pressure cookers, there are two ways of releasing the pressure. Firstly, you can let the pressure drop naturally, which will mean that the food continues to cook as the pressure drops. When you want the pressure to drop quickly, place the pan under the cold tap.

How it saves money

• Food cooks in around a third of the usual time, so you use less fuel.

If you favour cheaper cuts of meat over more quick-to-cook (and pricier) cuts, this is where your pressure cooker will help, by stewing or braising in about the same time it takes to roast or pan-fry.

Pressure cookers are ideal for cooking very cheap ingredients like dried beans and pulses from scratch – saving on cooked or canned varieties.

Top tips for using a pressure cooker

It’s essential to use the timer, as the food cooks so quickly that just one or two minutes can be the difference between a perfect or ruined dish – especially when cooking with vegetables.

Pressure cooker risotto served in a bowl

Try one of our pressure cooker recipes...

Lemony prawn & pea risotto

A pressure cooker delivers the creamiest risotto without constant stirring – and it takes only 20 minutes to cook.

Asian short ribs with herb salad

Pressure cookers make light work of cheap cuts like short ribs, and braising them with Asian flavours makes a change from the norm. 

The best pressure cookers

Read our full pressure cooker review to find more product recommendations. Here are some of our top buys...

Morphy Richard My Pot pressure cooker on a white background

Morphy Richards MyPot pressure cooker

Debating whether to buy a pressure, rice or slow cooker? The MyPot ticks all three boxes. For pressure cooking, you can select presets or go manual, and there are a variety of cooking charts and recipes to get you started. Being digital, it plugs into the wall rather than sitting on the hob.

Buy now from John Lewis and Partners (£75)

Instant Pot Duo on a white background

Instant Pot Duo

The Instant Pot is a much-hyped and much-discussed electronic cooker that can make everything from yogurt to hummus. The main function is pressure cooking, although it also slow cooks, steams and sautés. We loved that it cooks pulses from dried very quickly and tough cuts of meat in 30 minutes – and because it does the job of several appliances, it frees up space in your kitchen. We put an Instant Pot through its paces – discover our findings, plus Instant Pot recipe ideas.

Buy now from Amazon (£79.99)

More on pressure cookers

10 tops tips for using a pressure cooker
What to look for when buying a pressure cooker

Do you use a pressure cooker? We'd love to hear how you use it. Plus, if you're a fan of kitchen kit, we have a guide to slow cookers, too... 

Comments, questions and tips

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Joanna Buckroyd's picture
Joanna Buckroyd
13th Apr, 2020
I overfilled mine on first use and cleaned it all up according to instructions. Alas.... it only whistled that first time and never again. Do I need to replace something?
25th Mar, 2019
Pathetic article, basically a description of a pressure cooker. I only wanted to check how much I reduced the cooking time by (2/3) which I would have thought was one of the main points of a pressure cooker. No doubt it being the BBC the author will have been paid inflated wages for this writing failure.
TheLui1964's picture
10th Oct, 2019
Its not pathetic. Its a general article about WHY pressure cookers are good, i.e. cooking tough meats quickly. If you want to know how much to reduce the cooking time, consult YOUR pressure cooker manual
5th Jul, 2018
Article over 3 years old and only lists 2 recipes. Hardly embracing the pressure cooker...
18th Sep, 2017
Pressure cookers are amazing, loads better than slow cookers. I've had stews ready in 45 minutes when I've got home from work but they can do so much more. If making a stew with beer, wine or cider reduce it in the pan you browned the meat in when you deglaze it before adding it to the stew as it doesn't evaporate.
goodfoodteam's picture
1st Mar, 2016
Following the feedback below, we've added some more tips for using a pressure cooker to the guide - you'll find them under the 'get the best out of it' header. If you'd like to know anything else, please email us at and we can ask our cookery team to help. Thanks for your comments - keep them coming! 
12th Nov, 2015
I had a stove-top pressure cooker decades ago but recently bought an electric one so I'm effectively a novice - I found this site very helpful for how to use a pressure cooker, with tips, recipes and cooking time charts, explains difference between Natural Release (of pressure), Quick Release and for which foods each applies: and demos/recipes on YouTube. Thanks to Amazon UK customer reviews on several pressure cookers I chose (and recommend) the Instant Pot IP-Duo60 6 litre. I had to get used to (1) using less liquid (all is kept inside the sealed unit, none boils off as on a hob) (2) foods such as macaroni, cranberries, cereals and oatmeal are unsuitable as they could expand too much, froth, and sputter, which can block the steam vent (3) half-full for legumes, two-thirds otherwise, to allow steam to circulate (4) thicken gravy only after cooking (flour/starch binds food to the steam so it bursts out of the valve) (5) checking which food requires High or Low pressure. This is the sort of info I expected in this article.'s picture
19th Aug, 2015
This article is not very informative, more like a description of a pressure cooker. Why how to use them is in the title eludes me! If it's of any use to anyone I work on a rule that any recipes cooking time I reduce to approximately one third when I use my pressure cooker.
TheLui1964's picture
10th Oct, 2019
Do read it properly rather than just scanning it and being dismissive
25th Apr, 2015
I have a Prestige pressure cooker which is now about 35 years old and still working perfectly. Have always managed to get spare parts on the internet such as new gaskets and safety valves. I use the cooker every week for meat, stocks and veg dishes along with steamed pud`s. Will one day have to get a new one but for now the one I have is brilliant, buy one and you won`t be disappointed.


26th Jan, 2017
Please can you come up with a section on Pressure Cooker recipes? There are very few on the internet. My cooker has found it's way to the back of the cupboard, but I think this may be the year to bring it out! Thank you.
goodfoodteam's picture
31st Jan, 2017
Thanks for your request. We're increasing our pressure cooker content at the moment and will look at more recipes too.
5th Jul, 2018
That's over a year ago now. Do you have any?
goodfoodteam's picture
12th Sep, 2019
Thanks for bringing our attention this. The cookery team will aim to add more over the coming year.
goodfoodteam's picture
10th Jul, 2018
Thanks for your question. At the moment, we have limited pressure cooker-specific recipes but we hope the above tips will help you adapt some of our other recipes. We've also added the following for more inspiration:
11th Sep, 2019
Another year has gone by are you any closer to getting a section sorted?
19th Sep, 2016
I am considering buying a pressure cooker. I only have calor type gas for cooking and would like to know the pros and cons of using a pressure cooker on a gas stove
13th Feb, 2015
How do I stop food burning on the bottom of my pressure cooker?
goodfoodteam's picture
17th Feb, 2015
Hi lindac1, thanks for your question, once the pan has come up to pressure make sure you turn the heat down low. Also, don't add any ingredients to the pan which could catch on the bottom such as flour or sugar - it's best to thicken or sweeten the liquid at the end of cooking. Hope this helps. 
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