One of the main questions I receive about the Instant Pot is about the pressure release methods. You hear the words quick release and natural release being throw around, but what exactly do they mean and how do you know when to use each?
A pressure cooker can be depressurized naturally or rapidly once cooking is complete. Some recipes specify the best method to use, but many do not, and the method you choose can have a big impact on the food you prepare.
>> You might also be interested in these 6 Must-Know Instant Pot Tips for Beginners.
Instant Pots cook food by creating steam pressure inside the sealed pot. With the liquid inside the pot heating up, steam forms, which increases the pressure in the pot, ultimately cooking food twice or three times faster than it normally would.
The build up of pressure within the cooker must be released after active cooking is completed. The lid of most electric pressure cookers can’t be opened until the pressure is lowered. Electric pressure cookers allow you to do this two ways: naturally or rapidly. Both methods depressurize the cooker, but their processes differ, influencing the food inside.
When you’re new to pressure cooking, releasing the pressure seems daunting, especially with the quick release and burst of steam that comes with it. The noise you hear from your pressure cooker shouldn’t prevent you from using the Instant Pot. It’s perfectly safe and either way you do it, it won’t break anything.
>> You might also want to read our Beginner’s Guide to the Instant Pot.
General Rule of Thumb
Most recipes should tell you which method to use. This is because how much time you allow the pot to depressurize should be taken into account in the recipe. Which way you choose can have a big affect on the outcome of the dish.
However, if you come across a recipe that doesn’t specify which method to use, you can follow these general principles:
- For food like pork roast, beans, rice, soup, and things that are mostly liquid, like bone broth, use natural release.
- When cooking eggs, vegetables, delicate foods, or ingredients that have a preferred temperature range, use quick release.
How to Do a Natural or Quick Release?
The procedure for doing a natural or quick release are easy to remember.
For a natural release of pressure: do nothing. Just wait for the pressure to release. Once it’s done, the float valve will drop, indicating that it’s okay to open the lid.
See the image below. On the left the pressure is still high and the float valve is up. On the right, the pressure has completely released and the float valve is down.
For a quick pressure release: once the machine beeps to indicate the cooking time is done, carefully turn the valve from sealing to venting.
On some machines, this is a switch instead of a valve, which you turn from Seal to Vent. Be sure to keep your hands away from the actual vent, which is where the steam will spout from.
What Do Natural Release and Quick Release Mean?
This refers to releasing the pot’s pressure without your interference. The pressure, over time, will naturally dissipate.
You don’t need to do much if the recipe calls for this option. Once your timer signals that cooking is over, just wait. As the Instant Pot cools, the pressure and steam will gradually release.
As the pressure decreases, the floating valve will lower, letting you know that it’s okay to open the lid. If the pressure is still too high, the lid won’t open. Don’t try to force it open. If you don’t want to wait for it to go down at the very end, you can do a quick release of any remaining pressure.
Quick Release (aka Rapid Release or Manual Release)
This is the quick way to release the pot’s pressure and is where most people become intimidated because the pressure shoots out the top when you open the valve.
This option requires you to manually release the pressure by rotating the venting knob (or pushing it down, on some models) on the Instant Pot. You can use quick release for things where you don’t want the food to overcook, such as when steaming asparagus or corn on the cob. You can also use it when you just need to get the cooking done quickly.
Does it Really Matter Which You Use?
Yes, it is important to depressurizing your pressure cooker in the right way, according to the food you’re cooking. It can make a huge impact on the food’s texture and temperature. Just like leaving a steak on the grill too long, your food can become overcooked and dry if you release pressure in the wrong way.
Two of the main concerns are:
- Releasing the pressure too quickly when cooking a pot full of soup or “foamy” foods. When you do a manual release of a pot full of soup or broth, it’s possible that the steam will sputter and spray all over your kitchen. It can take quite a while for a pot full of liquid to release pressure, so it can take a good 5 minutes to release it with a manual release. During that time, steam is spraying and heavy aromas are filling your house.
- Overcooking delicate foods. If you’re cooking asparagus in the Instant Pot and you allow it to do a natural release of pressure, it’s likely the asparagus will be complete mush before you take it out. The same applies to any vegetables you’re steaming. It also applies to meats that dry out when over cooked, like chicken breast or salmon.
Why Use An Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot is one of the most useful kitchen appliances you can buy, because it drastically cuts down on the cooking time for developing flavors in soups and stews, getting tough cuts of meat tender, and even baking a cheesecake. And there are many accessories that will help you get more out of your Instant Pot.
There’s nothing to worry about when it comes to natural release vs quick release on the Instant Pot. It’s so much safer and easier to use than an old fashioned pressure cooker. With the flick of the vent, you can easily remove the pressure safely from the pot and take the food out.
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Laura spends a lot of her time cooking and creating recipes to share. She loves traveling and learning about new foods around the world to bring into her own recipes at home.