Electric Pressure Cookers

Table of Contents


This post was published in August 2019 but has been updated as I have given more thought to it or had interesting experiences. It is easier for me to edit the post than to write new posts.


A pressure cooker reaches cooking temperatures above the boiling point of water (212 F. or 100 C.). Pressure cooking involves time to bring water to a boil, reach cooking temperature, and a period at the operating pressure and temperature. Pressure cookers use high heat to build pressure and get food to a cooking temperature; low heat to maintain heat and pressure. Pressure cookers have sealing lids and valves. The lids are metal with locking rims. The cook cannot see what is going on an monitors the events in the pot by watching valves pot shut and by readouts in electronic models.

Most devices have low and high pressure settings. The American standard for high pressure limit is 15 psi; the European standard is 1 bar, or 14.6 psi. Stovetop pots tended to go to those limits, although many did not. Stovetop pots were the standard for most recipes until electric pressure cookers became more common in the last decade of the 20th century. Electric pressure cookers cook at lower pressure and temperature than the upper limit(s); but above the boiling point.

Laura Pazzaglia observes on her Hip Pressure Cooking site FAQ that:

To facilitate the writing of pressure cooker cookbooks and sharing recipes, there is an un-official standard.  This standard includes the maximum operating pressure for American Pressure Cookers (15 psi)  and the maximum operating pressure for most modern European Cookers (which is about 13 psi for spring-valve type cookers).

At the time of the writing of this article, most electric pressure cookers reach 15 psi but they do not cook at 15 psi.  … electric pressure cookers reach 15 psi briefly during the warming process. Electric pressure cookers build pressure up to 15 psi but then maintain a lower pressure during the cooking.  … the “operating pressure” is 11.6 even though the cooker reaches 15 psi while it’s building pressure. “Operating Pressure” is the true pressure at which an electric pressure cooker cooks.

Hip Pressure Cooking site FAQ

Electric pressure cookers and multicookers cook at lower pressure and temperature that standard devices. There are exceptions; e.g. – Instant Pot Max, marketed in 2018, is said to operate at the standard pressure.

Laura Pazzaglia’s Hip Pressure Cooking site FAQ has a pressure/temperature graph. The lower pressures of electric pressure cookers require an adjustment to cooking times from standard recipes.

An electric pressure cooker has an outer shell, a heating element, an inner pot, a sealing lid and a control set. A modern machine has a microprocessor and an electronic control panel. The device turns the heating element on to sauté or build pressure. When operating temperature and pressure are reached, it cycles off and on to maintain pressure and temperature. The device will turn the heat off at the end of the period entered as the cooking time (at the operating pressure), and sound an alarm.

Pressure Release

Recipe sources and manual use terms for the two main options for when to use the pressure release valve – the end of the period of operating pressure, or after waiting for pressure to come down. Examples:

SourcesEnd of OPWait
Instant Pot Recipe BookletQuick Release Natural
Sass, Cooking under PressureQuick Release Naturally
ATK, Multicooker PerfectionQuick Natural
Pazzaglia, hip Pressure Cooking Normal Natural
Schieving, Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook Quick Natural
Clark, Dinner in an InstantManual Natural

There are variations on each release method including modified or slow (i.e. incremental, pulsed) quick release and a timed wait with a manual release to be able to open the pot.

Cooking Times

Recipe sources are consistent in describing cooking times in for pressure cookers and pressure cooker programs by time at high or low pressure; pressures vary between standard (stovetop) and electric devices. This is worth checking before cooking.

Laura Pazzaglia has charts on a cooking times page at her Hip Pressure Cooking site. Her charts recognize that there are differences between stovetop and electric machines and different brands and machines by leaving some parameters within ranges. Some writers provide notes about performance on some recipes in specific devices.

The charts will reduce cooking times for beans (and other legumes) that have been soaked. There are differences between botanically related beans. Cannellini beans (also called white kidney beans) take up more water when soaked than other phaseolus vulgaris beans. Soaked phaseolus beans can be cooked completely in 8-10 minutes at high pressure. Some recipes call for parcooking the beans and adding more ingredients. It is important to not overcook the beans in the parcooking phase – the beans may start to release their contents, which thickens the cooking broth. An Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker will detect that the pot is overheating, and shut down with a “burn” condition report.

An electric pressure cooker provides the option of cooking without the pressure sealing lid using a sauté setting (or any hot setting that can be activated without locking the lid). Some have multiple saute (the device serves as an electric skillet) settings, some have only one saute setting. This is a way to use the device to cook some ingredients (e.g. softening onions and “blooming” spices and garlic and ginger) before filling the cooking pot and starting the pressure cooker. Using these settings to cook ingredients that have to be removed and added later is less convenient – it may be better to use the pressure cooker pot for other prep steps and pressure cooking, and manage the saute item in a skillet or wok on the stove. An electric pressure cooker is narrow and tall, and not easily handled and used like skillet. A user may needs to able to continuing cooking after the pressure cooking has ended – some final simmering to reduce a dish or cook ingredients added after the pressure cooking. The sauté setting may be too hot for anything less than a full rolling boil. Most electric pressure cookers have a simmer setting or an equivalent (the slow cooker setting will simmer warm contents below the boiling point).

Laura Pazzaglia in her book hip Pressure Cooking (2014) and on her web site provides times for both standard and electric pressure cookers. She doesn’t have a formula. The addtional cooking time may be zero or may as much as 50%. Her tables are available online at her hippressurecooking site. Her tables are consistent with the view that necessary adjustments are variable depending on ingredient and release method (and release time).

Jill Nussinow (below), writing mainly about vegetables, thought that standard pot recipe cooking time did not have be lengthened for an electric pot where the release is slow or natural – the device provided enough cooking time because electric pressure cookers provide a little extra cooking time coming to pressure and while the pressure drops.

Many electric pressure cookers and multi-cookers have sauté functions; some call it “brown” or “browning”. They vary in temperature; usually hot enough to melt fats but not always warm enough to carmelize the food. Some have a button or setting to engage a “simmer” function. Simmer is a setting in Fagor/Zavor Lux devices that to heat the food at 200 F for up to 30 minutes. Instant Pots can simmer at a slow cooker setting; the slow cooker “high” setting should match the Fagor/Zavor simmer setting. The temperature is an indirect reading – it is what the manufacturer says in the manual and is calibrated to what a sensor outside the pot is reading.


Recipe books and web sites for pressure cookers, electric pressure cookers, and multi-cookers:

IP/M=Instant Pot/Multi
Cooking Under PressureLorna J. SassBook1989GoodreadsS. recipes
hip Pressure CookingLaura PazzagliaBook2014GoodreadsS & E
hip Pressure CookingLaura PazzagliaWeb siteS & E
MaoMaoMom KitchenWeb siteIP
Vegan under PressureJill NussinowBook2016S
Dinner in an InstantMelissa ClarkBook2017IP/Mr
The Electric Pressure Cooker CookbookBarbara SchievingBook2017GoodreadsE
Pressure Cooking TodayBarbara Schieving
Jennifer Schieving
Web siteE
Instant Pot Recipe BookletInstant Pot corporate;
various contributors
Multicooker PerfectionCook’s Illustrated
(America’s Test Kitchen)
Madhur Jaffrey’s Instantly Indian CookbookMadhur JaffreyBook2019IP
Milk Street Fast and SlowChristopher KimbellBook2020IP/M

Instant Pots

An “Instant Pot” pressure recipe should work in any electric pressure cooker or pressure capable multi-cooker; but variations may be needed; with adjustments of time, an “Instant Pot” pressure recipe should work in a stovetop or standard pressure cooker. Books since 2010 have generally provided standard and electric times. Laura Pazzaglia’s hip Pressure Cooking takes this approach. Other books have specifically electric pressure cooker recipes. The Instant Pot and multi-cooker books are useful. These books suggest foods that work well in a pressure cooker and provide recipes that can be cooked for company. Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant (2017);Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen Multicooker Perfection (2018); Milk Street Fast and Slow (2020).

Instant Pot has used different terms for preset sauté temperatures in its pressure multi-cookers; and a recipe source may use the term for one model. Other electric pressure cookers and multi-cookers will be different in some ways. A stovetop user has to use the heat setting of the the stove or cooktop.

A user will have to see what the food is doing when using any pressure cooker as a skillet. Using an Instant Pot, or any other elecrtric presssure coouer to sauté is like cooking in a narrow, tall Dutch Oven on a moderately hot stove. I find it better to use a skillet when a recipe suggests using the sauté setting to brown an ingredient that has to be removed and set aside. If sauté in the Instant Pot, the steel pot is preferable – it withstands stirring with various implements, and is easier to clean. The optional tempered glass lid is useful in cooking in sauté program.





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