Using a Pressure Cooker


I was thrilled to get a pressure cooker for Christmas. Pressure cookers used to be quite common in the kitchen. Women who grew up around home canning were comfortable with the process. I remember my mother using a pressure cooker when I was a kid. Later, with the popularization of the microwave and less home cooking in general, pressure cookers seemed to fade away and mostly you only heard about them when someone was telling a story about exploding pea soup. There’s an exploding pea soup story around every corner, but pressure cookers aren’t dangerous and accidents won’t happen if you use them properly. (A deep fryer is far more dangerous in your kitchen than a pressure cooker.) Today’s pressure cookers are safer than ever, so don’t be afraid to get one. A pressure cooker is also a very different way to prepare food quickly than a microwave. Microwaves tend to cook unevenly, and they don’t always cook food correctly in any case. I don’t really like microwaves, though I have one. I keep it in my pantry, which says something about how often I use it. A microwave is best for reheating already cooked food, while a pressure cooker does an excellent job of cooking the food in the first place as well as retaining flavor and nutrients. Plus it doesn’t involve all of that suspect zapping.

By the way, a pressure canner and a pressure cooker are not the same thing. You can, however, use any pressure canner as a pressure cooker, but you can’t use any pressure cooker as a pressure canner. Pressure canners have pressure regulators that can be adjusted to x pounds pressure to handle varying requirements for processing food. You can also use it as a pressure cooker, but it is built specifically for canning. (See How to Can: Pressure Method.) A pressure cooker is not built to can and has a set pressure regulator that can’t be adjusted. This is not suitable for canning purposes. (When shopping, be sure you understand what you’re buying. If the box says “pressure cooker” don’t plan to use it for canning!) I have a huge pressure canner. I never use it for pressure cooking. It’s too huge, for one thing, and for another thing, it’s aluminum and I prefer to not cook in aluminum. My new pressure cooker is a 6-quart stainless steel pot.

To use, you place the lid on the pot and rotate the lid until the lid handle and the pot handle line up and lock.

Immediately place the pressure regulator on the vent top. (It fits loosely. This is how it is supposed to fit. Also, this is different than when I use my pressure canner that instructs exhausting steam through the vent before placing the regulator on top. This is why it’s important to have the instruction manual for whatever pot you are using so that you can follow the manufacturer’s directions for that specific pot. This is how mine works.)

Turn on high heat and monitor the pot until the regulator begins to jiggle. Start timing when it starts jiggling.

My pot comes with a cover lock to show when pressure is present in the pot. As the pressure builds, the little circle pops up, even with the pot’s surface. When the pressure goes down after cooking, the cover lock drops back down. This is an added safety feature that shows you visually when it’s safe to open the pot.

Depending on the recipe, after cooking you either bring the pressure down by setting the pot in cold water or allow it to come down naturally. (In most cases, you just let the pot sit and let the pressure drop on its own.) Remove the pressure regulator first and then take off the lid.

With a pressure cooker, you can cook a whole chicken in 15 minutes, or a pot of pre-soaked beans in 5. You have to add on time to either side of that for the pressure to build and then the pressure to go back down, but it’s still a handy way to get dinner on the table faster on busy days. I love my crock pot for busy days, but crock pots take pre-planning hours in advance and sometimes that pre-planning just doesn’t happen. A pressure cooker is also really great at tenderizing meat. From a frugality standpoint, this allows you to make less expensive cuts of meat as fork-tender as their more expensive counterparts.

If you purchase a used pressure cooker, be sure to get one that comes with the instruction manual or make sure you can find the manual online before you buy it.

By the way, peas tend to foam, which can block the vent pipe on a pressure cooker. To cook peas (and other dry beans) safely in a pressure cooker, never fill the cooker (peas/beans plus cooking water) more than half full and also add a tablespoon of oil to reduce foaming. (Also, do not cook split peas in a pressure cooker at all.) In other words, most likely, most pea soup disaster stories involve human error–overfilling the pot, not adding oil, cooking split peas, etc. Ever notice how many of those disaster stories involve PEAS?

Learn how to use a pressure cooker correctly–and go forth unafraid! The peas aren’t gonna get ya!


  1. Cathy says:

    My dad always used a pressure cooker to make green beans with little bits of ham hock in it. It was soooo good. I miss that.

    I remember one time our pressure cooker did blow up but fortunately no one was in the kitchen at the time. It was a big mess to clean up.

    I guess that’s the main reason why I never got one. I was afraid of it but I may just try one now and try to recreate my dad’s green beans.

  2. Nancy in Iowa says:

    I’ve never owned one, but this did bring back fond childhood memories of my Mom’s pressure cooking quietly hissing away in the kitchen! She used it quite a lot, and I was fascinated with that old-fashioned regulator bopping up and down.

  3. bonita says:

    Hurray, another person who keeps her microwave in the pantry! So many people are puzzled by my banishing the microwave to the hinterlands…
    As for the pressure cooker, Yup! I’ve seen split peas blow up all over the kitchen. Then my mom got a new pressure cooker—in fact she got two: one small one (for cooking vegetables for dinner) and one large one (for cooking dinner). I knew how to use them both but I foolishly gave them away when my mom passed. Oh! how I wish I had them now. While I like the ease of a crock pot, I am uneasy leaving anything plugged in and on while I am out of the house. Just not comfortable with that. Congrats on your new kitchen helper!

  4. Lea Bergman says:

    I’ve had, and used, a pressure cooker for years. My Mom gave it to me for Christmas one year, she said “this is for when you come in from the garden at five o’clock and you don’t have anything thawed”! She was absolutely right of course. It’s a great way to make a pot roast in a hurry, I love it.
    Lea in Oregon

  5. Victoria Sturdevant says:

    I love my PC – it’s used at least twice a week. It’s the absolutely best thing for corn on the cob. And garlic mashed potatoes in eight minutes. I love how tender the cheap roasts come out. Pre-cook ribs and finish on the grill. I LOVE my PC!!

  6. Jim in Colorado says:

    I love our PC also. Never had pea soup blow up. But my Dad had a pot full of pinto beans go off. I never saw my grand father move so fast in my life. Also, the beans stained the wall and ceiling. It took like four coats of paint to cover it all up. But the beans were still good.

  7. Granny Trace says:

    :snuggle: ITS SO PRETTY and SHINY!!

  8. Mother of a ROCKSTAR says:

    I recieved a digital one. I’ve never used it. Thanks for reminding me about it. Any good recipes out there?

  9. CindyP says:

    Mom used hers every Sunday to cook the chicken before frying. I’m sure she used it other times, but that’s what I remember. I loved the noise the jiggler made–you knew supper was up shortly 🙂

    I have an old one, but didn’t have the jiggler until just recently…my sister picked some up at an estate sale. I can use it now! Mine isn’t so shiny pretty though!

  10. brookdale says:

    This brings back memories! I used to use my “pressure saucepan” as it was called, a lot when I was working. A quick way to get a meal. Beef stew was my favorite thing to cook in it, but I used it for veg., baked beans, etc. Then I couldn’t get the rubber sealer ring anywhere anymore so now it sits in the cupboard.
    Hey maybe I can get a shiny new one like yours!

  11. dalewestfallsgranddaughter says:

    When I moved out on my own my family made sure I had a cast iron skillet and a pressure cooker. That’s all I really needed. Still my two most used items in the kitchen!! I have several pressure cookers, including an electric one. I love them!

  12. Darlene in North Ga says:

    You can buy the sealing rings at Ace Hardware store. That’s where I bought mine a few months ago to replace a dried out one from the pressure cooker I had just purchased at Goodwill.

    I just found the one I was given as a wedding gift and need to buy a new sealing ring for it, too.

  13. Rose C. says:

    I cook with mine all the time. Great food and saves time in the kitchen!

  14. patrice says:

    My Spanish made pressure cooker actually has instructions for using it to can. That’s probably more the exception than the rule. It hardly makes sense to use it for that since the capacity is so small. I use my 22 qt. canner so I can get a decent amount of jars canned at the same time. I agree with you when you encourage folks to learn how to use a pressure cooker. The new ones have so many safety features. I can make stew that is so fork tender it seems like it slow cooked all day, when it takes me very little time to do.

  15. patrice says:

    PS- I tossed my microwave! I was too suspect of the safety of one and I found I really didn’t need it. I haven’t missed it a bit and that was about 5 years ago.

  16. Anita says:

    It seems like all my childhood kitchen memories are accentuated by the sound of a pressure cooker in the background. Yet in all that time I never had any idea WHY my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother used them. In fact, what you are saying about it sounds so foreign to me that I almost can’t believe it. If anybody else but you, Suzannne, (or one of my mothers) tried to tell me that a pressure cooker could cook beans in five minutes, I’d say they were hallucinating. LOL I’m intrigued! I’d like to see some recipes.

  17. 4jsMOM says:

    About 15 or 20 years ago I threw out all my aluminum pots and pans, including my pressure cooker. I’ve been wanting to get a stainless steel pressure cooker. Your story today has convinced me that I need it–NOW. Thanks for the reminder of a faster way of cooking.

  18. Sue Nugent says:

    :snuggle: I have used a pressure cooker my entire grown up life. It is one of those pieces that I consider a MUST HAVE in my kitchen. You can cook anything quickly.That is very important around my household since you never know who or how many will be present at any given meal.

  19. wvhomecanner says:

    FYI – you CAN cook safely in an aluminum pressure canner – you place the food in a stainless steel bowl or pot INSIDE the canner and then there is no contact between the food and the aluminum.
    Also, regarding canning in a pressure cooker – the USDA/NCHFP says that you can use a cooker to can in only if the cooker can hold at least 4 quart jars (when fully closed). A cooker that is smaller than that heats and cools too quickly and will not can safely at recommended times and temps.
    My mom was afraid of a pressure cooker but my dad got her through it. My favs were pot roast and scalloped potatoes. The potatoes were layered with cream of mushroom soup, cheddar cheese soup, sliced onions, dabs of butter and splashes of milk. SOOOOO good LOL!


  20. Linda Segerson says:

    Great gift! I Love my Pressure Canner, the only way to go to can beans and such. I need a new Pressure Cooker though, my mom uses an electric one, it also works great.

  21. Phyllis says:

    Sunday, roast beef and carrots and potatoes done in the pressure cooker. Mom’s had a dial on the top and the steam escaping through the silver knob. Lots of memories.

  22. texwisgirl says:

    My mom cooked the BEST chicken in the pressure cooker. So tender and flavorful and cooked all the way through but still moist. There was no meal more looked forward to in our house. And I miss it so…

    Years later, when I got married, I bought a used pressure cooker and used it a few times, then gave it to goodwill. That man just wasn’t worth cooking for. 🙂

  23. Laura Blue says:

    Pressure cookers always scared the doodles out of me. We had a distant relative who didn’t follow safety rules—she reheated food or something like that in it and took the lid off with too much pressure and it blew and burned her pretty badly. My mom always used the pressure cooker to make stew, which was one of my favorite meals. I would, however, tip toe through the kitchen while she made it, for fear it would explose like Mount Vesuvius.

  24. Sharon says:

    I have the same pressure cooker, but mine is the 4 quart. I was scared the first time I used it, but am ADDICTED to it now that the mystery is gone. I do pineapple black bean pork roasts the most. Love it!

  25. Bonnie says:

    Please do lots of future stories on how to use pressure cookers. I have one that I bought about a year ago and I have never used it. I tend to use my cast iron dutch oven more. I feel guilty that I have this new pressure cooker sitting in a box. Please share examples of what to cook and how they turn out as you use yours. Thanks.

  26. Carni says:

    I love my pressure cooker. It makes the toughest meat so tender. It’s fast so even a dinner that would normally take hours to fix can be done on a work night.

  27. CasieD says:

    I got the same one for Christmas too!!

    Now please walk me through using it… I’m a bit scared.

  28. EightPondFarm says:

    Great article and very helpful comments section, too. I am going to find that pressure cooker I picked up at an auction!! On another note: I absolutely understand how ads can help a website pay for itself. But there seems to be something wrong with at least some of them (the square Kumon ones that show where the Safeway animations usually are) on CITR — those ads (or something) are causing my browser to freeze up, and I have to restart it and trick it to get to your site. :hissyfit:

  29. Debbie Luttrell says:

    I love my pressure cooker! I have an 8 quart pressure cooker/canner and two 22 quart pressure canners. I use them all the time. I put the turkey carcass in one of the big canners, cover it with water and add some veggies and make a bunch of turkey broth to can. I love having the ability to make supper in a hurry too. I think of it as a very quick crock pot. Very tender like the crock pot only warp speed.

  30. JOJO says:

    I am so happy to see this post. About 10 years ago I purchased a Presto pressure cooker on sale after the holidays. I was all set to make wonderful meals for Hubby and myself, that was until he told me all of those stories that we have all heard, so it has been sitting unused in my basement cupboard all these years. Thank you forthe post.

  31. Barbee' says:

    Sharon, your pineapple black bean pork roasts sounds so good. Any chance of your sharing that recipe? Maybe you have already,… I will go check the recipe blog.

  32. Ramona says:

    I luv mine. I have several and they are wonderful.

    Happy New Year.

  33. BeckyW says:

    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my pressure cookers…I have a small and a large one. I have used them for years…
    Absolutely THE BEST way to make “baked” potatoes, imo…
    My Mom uses one all the time…so did my Grandma.

    Meat is so tender, and vegetables have such a great flavor.

    They aren’t that expensive and well worth the purchase. I gave both of my daughters one when they moved out.

  34. Darlene says:

    I would love to have more recipes for the pressure cooker. All the stories about the cooker blowing up scared me so I bought an electric one and love it. It’s so easy to use, just set it and forget it.

  35. Merlin says:

    Hmmm… I need to see if my pot is a pressure cooker or canner. I was given one from my mother who used it when I was growing up, and I’m not sure if she bought it or if her mother used it or what, but at any rate, it’s old and still great. However… my husband tried to cook beans in there but didn’t realize he was supposed to keep the burner on low! Needless to say, the safety valve popped out. Because of the age of the cooker/canner, I have no idea where to get the valve replaced. I’d love to have the valve replaced so I can use the cooker/canner again. Any suggestions?

  36. Lynne says:

    EightPondFarm – you may have “pop up” ads that are causing your browser to freeze. Do you have that option turned off?

  37. joycee says:

    I used a pressure cooker when the girls were at home, it was a quick way to get a meal on the table and made the meat fall apart tender. I see them demonstrated on QVC now and they have all the bells and whistles…very safe to cook with. You must have been a good girl Suzanne for Santa to bring you such a nice gift! Hope the New Year brings you good health and happiness!

  38. Kelly says:

    My darling hubby :sheep: bought me an All American pressure canner for Christmas, and I can’t wait to use it! It’ll be my first time with a pressure canner, so I am a bit nervous. Glad to hear you got one too, so I’m hoping to see new canning recipe on the site!

  39. catslady says:

    My older sister always talks about the time we had green beans on the ceiling lol. I was too young to remember but it was a pressure cooker lol.

  40. lizzie says:

    I use my pressure cooker all the time, pot roast, beans, mashed potatoes, chicken, it is really quick and easy! If your going to use it to cook vegtables be sure to only cook them for a couple of minutes! or they will turn to mush! yes I have made that mistake! :bugeyed:

  41. Paula Clark says:

    I have a big 22 quart canner, a 6 qt, a 4 qt and a little baby 1 1/2 qt that I found in my Dad’s kitchen when he passed away. It is perfect for cooking a single rutabaga, which really cooks great in a pressure cooker. I love them all!!

  42. lisa b says:

    I had never used one before and now I am really interested in buying one when i get my tax refund .

  43. Sarah says:

    Thanks for posting this. I got a pressure canner and a pressure cooker a couple Christmases ago and I’m just clueless on how to use them. I really should just read the manual, huh?? Thanks for boosting my confidence! I want to get away from using my microwave so much.

  44. Carol says:

    My mother always used a pressure cooker, and so have I. Neither one of us ever had anything blow up. When I cook beans I never fill it more than halfway. I can 4 qts at a time in an aluminum pressure cooker. It’s just the right size for me and my garden. I still meet people who believe peas cause them to explode. 🙂

  45. lilac wolf says:

    that was a great article, I have to add you to the blogs I follow. I really like how fast I could cook a chicken, I’d get more use out of that pressure cooker than I do out of my microwave – which is only used to cook instant oatmeal.

  46. bonita says:

    Is it possible to add a ‘pressure cooker’ category at FBR? I’ve got a scrumptious curry lamb stew from Jacques Pepin that’s made in a pressure cooker.

  47. maryann says:

    I purchased what was listed as a pressure cooker/canner from ebay in Oct. I called Presto and they informed me that they no longer recommend my size as a canner. That the smallest cooker/canner would have to be a 16qt size (mine is a 12qt). Still haven’t used the pressure cooker yet not sure if a turkey would fit in there. Hmmmm

  48. CasieD says:

    I’m just finishing making chicken stock in my new canner… in 12 minutes flat! (plus time for the pressure to come down on it’s own). I used the carcass of a leftover roasted chicken plus water, veggies and herbs. Can’t wait to taste it!!

  49. princessvanessa says:

    My mom always cooked with a pressure cooker. She could make a chuck roast taste wonderful and be as tender as a choice cut of meat. Fantastic stews, soups, chili and meats came out of that pressure cooker.

    When I moved out in 1974, the first thing on my Christmas wish list was “a pressure cooker”. This was before microwaves were common.

    I still have and use my pressure cooker. I have replaced the gasket a number of times and never have had any close calls. I also have, and use, a pressure canner.

  50. Whaledancer says:

    You saved my hide tonight. I was planning to make a pot roast in the Crockpot for dinner tonight, but I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t get it started in time. Because you’d just been talking about it, it occurred to me to use my pressure cooker. Problem solved! It turned out great.

    I’ve had a pressure cooker for years that I used when we were camping, but other than that I just use it for a big pot. Silly. Somehow I’ve never gotten in the habit of using it, so I haven’t really mastered the technique. Now I’m determined to change that. Thanks!

    For those who need pressure cooker parts for old models, try They have parts for all kinds of small cooking appliances, including old pressure cookers.

  51. chrishuber says:

    My whole family uses pressure cookers. I have always used them for everything. I can make the best risotto in 9 minutes in the pressure cooker. Fry up the onion in lots of butter, add the rice and stir till it turns translucent then back to white, add a splash of yummy white wine, chicken stock in place of water, cover, bring to pressure, time for 9 minutes, put the pc in the sink and turn on the cool water (called quick release of pressure) and when all the pressure regulators and pop ups are nice and calm, remove the lid. Add salt and pepper and a nice big handful (or two) of cheese. At this point I add green peas that I cooked on the stove, and maybe some fried mushrooms, or any other veggie I have around and heated up, sir and enjoy. Rice too, just by putting the rice, water and some butter in a stainless steel bowl in the cooker with water 1/2 way up the sides of the bowl.
    I have only had 1 mishap in 55 years of actually using the pc. Once when I filled the pot with too much bean soup. NEVER had the lid come off, just the petcock, the little thing that rattles, fly off and spew my food onto the ceiling. No problem. Just grab a towel and put it over your head. Run to the stove and turn off the heat. Throw the towel over the top of the pressure cooker to stop the lava spew and scoot out of the way until everything is quiet. Then back to remove the lid to see if I can save my dinner and then to clean up the ceiling.
    Sorry to be so wordy, but I can’t imagine living without my pressure cooker. And I hope you all learn to use yours and then you will feel just like I do about mine.

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