How To

How to use a pressure cooker

Pressure cooking delivers tender meat and rich sauce quickly and economically.

Cooking with a pressure cooker allows you to create deliciously tender proteins and rich sauces that otherwise would only be achievable with long and laborious cooking methods.

Modern pressure cookers – both stove-top and electric – are completely safe and easy to use; their pressure regulators are much more refined than those used on the cookers of yesteryear. Read the instruction manual carefully before you start.

Like most appliances, they all have slightly different features. It’s easy to be intimidated by pressure cookers, but modern cookers are far safer than those we might remember from our childhoods. Put aside your fear and preconceptions, and discover the amazing world of flavour that awaits you.

The pressure cooker is the perfect tool for the time-poor cook. Pressure-cooked food is full of concentrated flavours; after all, there is no evaporation taking place during cooking. The natural moisture that comes from the food can’t go anywhere but back into the liquid in the cooker – which becomes the sauce and the essence of the food itself.

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What’s a pressure cooker best for?

Pressure cooking is economical in terms of fuel, as cooking times are about two-thirds of conventionally-cooked food; this saves time, energy, money and keeps the kitchen cooler. The food, liquid and the resulting steam that are sealed within the pressure cooker during cooking time reach a very high temperature – higher than normal – which softens the fibres in the food, resulting in flavoursome, tender comfort food.

Pressure cookers work wonders with cheaper cuts of meat; tough meat is tenderised in no time at all. Ask the butcher for cuts suitable for stewing or braising – you’ll be surprised how inexpensive they are. Older chickens, often called “boilers”, can be hard to find, but make full-flavoured soups and casseroles when cooked in a pressure cooker.

Pulses, such as dried beans, peas and lentils, all tenderise quickly in the pressure cooker, without soaking.

Looking for pressure cooker recipes? Read this next.

Stove-top vs bench-top

Both types of cookers – stove- and bench-top – work in the same way; the main difference is in the control of the appliance. The stove-top cooker needs the cook to control the pressure by controlling the heat source at the appropriate time, whereas the bench-top cooker does this work for you – it controls and adjusts the pressure.

There is not a huge difference in price between the two types; the decision is yours. Both cookers are quite bulky to store. The bench-top cooker of a similar capacity to a stove-top cooker will certainly be the larger of the two types, and once an appliance is put away in a cupboard, sadly, it often gets forgotten.

Pressure cookers are not just for winter-time cooking; they’re so handy for cooking many different foods. Also, it’s worth considering a multi-cooker: these double as both a pressure cooker and slow cooker, and therefore take up the space of a single appliance.


Stove-top cookers made from aluminium or stainless steel are suitable for either gas or electric cooktops, but you will need to buy stainless steel if you have either a ceramic or an induction stove-top. Price is a good guide to quality. The size and shape you choose will depend on your family’s needs; if you’re a soup-maker, think large.

Do your research and look at the cookers carefully; lift them to see if you can manage the weight and like the feel of the handle/s. Position the lids a few times to make sure you’re comfortable with handling them.


These cookers, once set, just get on with the job of reaching the required pressure then stabilising, before the cook steps in to release the pressure and remove the lid.

The quick release method

Use tongs to turn the pressure valve on top of the cooker to open the valve and release the steam (steam can burn fingers). This releases pressure quickly before removing lid. To check food towards the end of cooking time or to add more ingredients, follow the quick release method referred to in recipes.

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Pressure cooker do’s

• Read the instruction manual thoroughly before using the pressure cooker.

• Read cooking times carefully and begin to time food after pressure is reached.

• Fill the cooker up to the marked line inside the cooker – no more.

• Release lid carefully, in an open space, facing away from you to avoid steam.

• Use a stainless steel trivet (usually provided) for steaming puddings, etc.

• Time your pressure cooking carefully – follow the recipe closely.

• Wash and dry the cooker and removable gasket well after use.

• Use a simmer mat to keep heat as low as possible after cooker has reached pressure.

• Use tongs – not your fingers – to release the pressure from the cooker.

Pressure cooker don’ts

• Donʼt leave the cooker on and unattended.

• Donʼt over-fill the cooker with food and/or liquid.

• Donʼt cook pasta or porridge, or any food that becomes foamy, in the pressure cooker.

• Donʼt soak bases of pressure cooker.

• Donʼt wash the lid of the pressure cooker in a dishwasher, as it will damage the valve.

If you have an electric pressure cooker you won’t need to reduce the heat to stabilise pressure; your cooker will automatically stabilise itself. Always check the manufacturer’s instructions before using your pressure cooker.

The best pressure cookers to buy in Australia

Now that you’ve done your research and know all there is to know about pressure cookers, it’s high time you invest in one. Here, we’ve gathered some of the best to shop now in Australia.

6L Electric Slow & Pressure Cooker in Silver, $99.95 at Myer

This 6L Pressure Cooker offers a 3-in-1 pressure, rice and slow cooker, making this kitchen appliance the go-to for authentic, home-cooked meals.


Philips All-in-One Multi Cooker, $149 (usually $249) at Amazon

Together with the intelligent cooking system, you can slow cook, pressure cook and multi cook delicious meals in one machine with ease.


Cuisinart Meal Maker High Pressure Multi Cooker, $299 at The Good Guys

Cook up a feast for a gathering of friends with the Cuisinart cooker’s 5.7 litre capacity, while at the same time giving your kitchen a new look with the stainless steel finish.


Russell Hobbs 11-In-1 Digital Multi Cooker, $129.95 (usually $169.95) at Harris Scarfe

With this multi-cooker you’ll be able to swiftly whip up meals or slow cook whenever you need, with versatile and time-saving functions including eight pressure settings for quick meals and three non-pressure settings.


Breville BPR700BSS the Fast Slow Pro Multicooker, $371 at Appliances Online

Cook fast or cook slow with this combination pressure and slow cooker that accurately knows the time, temperature, and pressure needed for different foods.


Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Multicooker, $129 (usually $229) at Amazon

‘Set it and forget it’ with the Instant Pot Duo that remembers the way you like to cook, and which smart programs you use most often – freeing you to do other things while your dinner cooks safely and quickly.


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