1) Safety First Before you close the lid, make sure the gasket/silicone ring is correctly installed in your pressure cooker lid. 😉 If steam is leaking around the lid, the first thing to check is the gasket.
2) Check Before Pour If you are using an Electric Pressure Cooker, check to make sure your inner pot is inside the pressure cooker before pouring in the ingredients. Cooking in the kitchen can be quite chaotic. This mishap happens more frequently than you think. Amy I have almost done it a few times. 😛 Luckily, I always check before I pour!
3) When in doubt, undercook. We’re so used to traditional stovetop cooking times that it’s easy to overcook food with a pressure cooker without knowing it. Remember! Compare to traditional stovetop cooking, you can cut the cooking times down by 1/2 to 2/3 cooking with a pressure cooker.
So, it’s always better to aim for a shorter cooking time when trying something new in a pressure cooker. You can continue to cook undercooked food, but you can never undo overcooked food.
What makes meat juicy and tender? Without going into meat science, here’s a basic summary (in human language) on what makes meat juicy and tender.
Juiciness – the moisture level in meat. Generally, the longer you cook a piece of meat, the more moisture it’ll lose.
Fat also lubricates the meat during the cooking process. For example, a well-marbled piece of pork chop will be more moist and juicy than a leaner piece of pork chop when it’s perfectly cooked.
Tenderness – the stress level and age of the animal + aging of the meat all contribute to the meat’s level of tenderness.
Generally, the more connective tissue (collagen) a cut of meat has, the tougher it’ll be. The longer you cook a piece of meat in a moist environment, the more connective tissues will be broken down.
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How to tell if your meat is undercooked in the pressure cooker? It’s not tenderized, yet flavorful, moist and juicy.
How to tell if your meat is perfectly cooked in the pressure cooker? It’s tenderized, flavorful, moist and juicy.
How to tell if your meat is overcooked in the pressure cooker? It’s tough, less flavorful, and dry.
How to tell if your meat is way overcooked in the pressure cooker? It’s tenderized, but dry and flavorless (without the sauce). Some people call this the distinct “pressure cooker taste”.
Some people tend to overcook their meat to this stage cooking with a pressure cooker and think the meat is perfectly cooked. This is because mixing the way overcooked meat with the super flavorful sauce will still yield a “yummy (mainly due to the sauce)” and fork-tender meat.
But, imagine eating a piece of perfectly cooked meat that is fork tender, juicy, and flavorful along with a flavorful sauce. This is what we should be aiming for in cooking with a pressure cooker!
4) No More Tough Meats Natural release makes a BIG difference. Trust me, a Gigantic difference. If a recipe says quick release for meat, cut short the pressure cooking time and save some time for at least a 10 minutes Natural Release. For tougher cuts such as brisket, you would want to wait until the pressure has fully released naturally before opening the lid.
5) Say No to Bland Dishes Say NO to bland dishes! Never Brown Your Meat? Let me tell you this. Browning is the easiest way to add TONS of flavors to your meal.
Imagine the taste difference between boiling a piece of prime grade steak in plain water (ewww, please don’t serve this to your friends or family. They will think you secretly hate them) vs searing it on a piping hot cast-iron pan. That’s the difference.
How to brown meat in pressure cookers?
Always pat dry (as dry as possible) the meat with paper towel. Do NOT cut up your meat to brown. More surface area = more moisture lost during the browning process. Even if you are making stew, it’s better to brown the meat as a whole first.
Season the meat with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides right before browning.
Wait until your pressure cooker is piping hot. If you are using an Instant Pot, don’t use the saute function. Click Adjust once after you have clicked the saute function to get to the Sauté More Function.
Pour in your favorite cooking oil and place the meat in. No flipping is necessary until one side has been browned. This usually takes 3- 10 minutes per side.
Don’t forget to saute onions and garlic for a few minutes with the saute function.
6) Gonna Scrape Them All Those brown bits stuck onto the bottom of the pot are very flavorful. Pour some cold liquid such as water, chicken stock, vinegar, or wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape them all up! I promise they will add intense flavor to your cooking liquid or sauce.
7) Less is More Unless you are cooking soup, pasta, or any dish that requires a lot of liquid. Always use as little liquid as possible to reach and maintain pressure (usually 1 cup, but please refer to your pressure cooker instruction manual to be sure).
Less liquid = Reach/Release pressure faster and more flavorful sauce
More liquid = Reach/Release pressure slower, diluted sauce
8) Food Tasting Taste Taste Taste! I can’t emphasize enough – always taste and balance the dish after you have opened the pressure cooker’s lid.
Better yet, be adventurous and taste the ingredients at every step. You will learn about their characteristics and know how to balance a dish quickly.
I taste my food excessively as I cook. If I add 3 drops of water into my soy sauce, I will want to see if I can taste the difference. Pay attention to details and you will be able to recognize the subtle differences.
Let’s admit it!!
There are still many unknowns in Cooking with a Pressure Cooker.
Just a few days ago, I was being creative and wanted to develop a dessert recipe with red tea. I screwed up so badly and the texture was way off. Amy literally laughed out loud and said let’s take a picture to show our readers. I said NOoooo Wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy.
Let’s face it. Cooking with a pressure cooker can be a a bit challenging at times.
Seriously! Just ask your community on how to pressure cook a particular cut of meat to perfection, you will get answers ranging from 20 minutes to 90 minutes.
Why is that? Because cooking with a pressure cooker is mostly based on experience. If it “works” for them the first time, they’re not going to try another cooking time for better results.
Once we close the lid, we’ll not be able to watch or taste the food and adjust along the way. This is the number one reason why many of us tend to overcook food when cooking with a pressure cooker. Sometimes when we open the lid, we will see a tasteless tough piece of meat laughing at us.
Why We Started This Blog:
One of the reasons why we started this blog is to bring a bit of happiness to this world through good food.
Amy and I would love to remove some of the unknowns in cooking with a pressure cooker. We want YOU to feel confident and excited every time you open the pressure cooker’s lid. We want YOU to feel the joy of creating and tasting a yummy dish.
Life is too short for boring food! Let’s learn cooking with a pressure cooker together! We’ll continue to research and develop more yummy recipes for all of us 🙂 !
THANK YOU for believing in our recipes and giving them a thumbs up. We get SOooooOo excited and do a happy dance every single time we hear from our beloved readers! Here are what some of them have told us: