If there’s one thing that makes people nervous about using the Instant Pot, it’s the PRESSURE! No, not the pressure of cooking a Pinterest-worthy meal, but the question of natural release vs. quick release once the food is done cooking.
And believe me, I get it! It can be a little scary at first, and trying to grasp the differences between pressure release methods can make it both scary and confusing! But understanding how to use quick and natural release correctly can help you make the perfect hard-boiled or soft boiled eggs or an Instant Pot cheesecake that’s to die for!
So my mission with this post is to clear up any confusion and anxiety you might have about releasing pressure from the Instant Pot, and put the “Natural Release vs. Quick Release” debate to bed once and for all! 🙂
A Quick Review Of Important Terms
Since we’re focusing on the Instant Pot, there are few parts you’ll need to be able to identify in order for the information in this post to make sense. So let’s quickly review a few of the most important parts of the Instant Pot that pertain to pressure release:
- Pressure Release Handle – The big knob on the lid used to manually release pressure from the pot. Can be set to “Sealing” or “Venting.”
- Float Valve – This is the round metal bit next to the pressure release handle. When it is level with the lid, the pot is pressurized; when the float valve drops down, the pot is no longer pressurized and can be opened safely.
- Pressure Release Button (Newer models only) – Newer Instant Pot models don’t have a pressure release handle, but rather a pressure release valve and a new pressure release button. Pressing the button triggers the release valve to open and release steam, just like turning the pressure release handle on an older model does.
Note: Other electric pressure cookers may have slightly different parts, but they all work in pretty much the same way. So if you have a pressure cooker that isn’t from the Instant Pot brand, the information in this post should still be useful and applicable to you, even if the parts on your pressure cooker have slightly different names. 🙂
Instant Pot Natural Release
How To Use Natural Release
- After pressure cooking, wait 10–30 minutes for the Instant Pot to cool down and depressurize on its own.
- You’ll know the process is done when the float valve drops down. If the valve is still up and flush with the top of the lid, the pot is still pressurized.
- Turn the pressure release handle to “Venting,” or press the pressure release button, before opening the lid. (Even thought the float valve has dropped, it’s always a good idea to vent the lid before opening it, just to be safe.)
Advantages Of Natural Release
Using Natural Release, the pressure inside the Instant Pot drops gradually over time. There’s less movement going on inside the pressure cooker, which can be a very good thing when your pot is extremely full or you’re cooking something frothy like beans or grains.
The Natural Release method is also useful when you’re cooking big cuts of red meat. The slow and steady release of pressure gives the meat time to rest and reabsorb its own moisture, resulting in juicer and more tender meats.
Disadvantages Of Natural Release
One of the main drawbacks of the Natural Release method is that it can take a long time! If you’re cooking a giant pot of chili for dinner and you’re hungry right now, the time it takes for the pressure to drop naturally will feel like an eternity.
It’s also not a good idea to use Natural Release when pressure cooking foods that are easily overcooked. Delicate foods like seafood, fruits, and vegetables may turn into mush in the time it takes for your pressure cooker to depressurize on its own.
Instant Pot Quick Release
How To Use Quick Release
- After pressure cooking, turn the pressure release handle from “Sealing” to the “Venting” position, or press the pressure release button, to open the steam valve and quickly release pressure from the pot.
- Once the flow of steam stops and the float valve drops, carefully open the lid.
Advantages Of Quick Release
One advantage of Quick Release is that it stops the cooking process pretty much right away. This is especially useful when cooking seafood, fruits, and vegetables, because they can easily end up overcooked during a more gradual release of pressure.
Another advantage is right in the name: it’s quick! It may take a minute or two for the float valve to drop depending on how full your Instant Pot is, but it’ll be a great deal faster than if you allowed the pressure to drop naturally.
Disadvantages Of Quick Release
Using Quick Release creates a lot of movement inside the pot. If the pot is very full or you’ve just cooked something foamy or starchy, this can result in liquid or bits of food spurting out of the release valve and making a mess of your kitchen.
Another side effect of the rapid change in pressure is that some foods can break apart or burst, especially beans. And if you’re using Quick Release after cooking something that was meant for Natural Release, it’s likely your food will come out undercooked or tough.
Instant Pot 10-Minute “Magic Release”
How To Use Magic Release
- After cooking, allow the pressure cooker to depressurize on its own for 10 minutes. (If the “Keep Warm” setting is on—more on that shortly—a new timer will appear showing how many minutes have elapsed since cooking stopped. That really comes in handy here!)
- After 10 minutes, turn the turn the pressure release handle from “Sealing” to “Venting,” or press the pressure release button, to open the steam valve and quickly release the remaining pressure from the pot.
- Once the flow of steam stops and the float valve drops, carefully open the lid.
Advantages of Magic Release
This pressure release method is something of a compromise between the Natural Release and Quick Release methods. It’s a good option to choose when you’re not sure which method to use, or the Instant Pot recipe you’re using isn’t clear about how you should depressurize the pot.
Magic Release also mediates some of the disadvantages of the other two methods. It’s faster than Natural Release and gentler than Quick Release, so you can eat sooner and have less of a mess to clean up afterward.
Disadvantages Of Magic Release
The disadvantages you might experience from using Magic Release would depend on what food you were cooking. If you were cooking a big roast, it would probably turn out slightly less tender than it would if you had used Natural Release.
If you were cooking a big pot of grains and then used Magic Release, you might see minor spurts of liquid or food coming out of the valve initially (but nothing that would require a big cleanup effort!)
Note: To get a better idea of when to use Natural Release, Quick Release, and Magic Release, check out my Instant Pot Cooking Times Cheat Sheet. Not only does this printable guide tell you how long to cook each food, it also indicates which of the three pressure release methods you should use too!
To Keep Warm, Or Not To Keep Warm?
A lot of people, myself included, have wondered if the “Keep Warm” setting has an impact on how pressure is released from the Instant Pot. After plenty of research and experimentation on my own, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned! 🙂
The “Keep Warm” function is active by default, meaning that unless you turn it off, the Instant Pot will engage that function as soon as the cooking timer goes off. When “Keep Warm” is activated, it uses the heating element to maintain a low level of heat, and it starts a “reverse timer” that displays how many minutes have elapsed since the cooking process stopped.
The “Keep Warm” mode does NOT have a significant impact on how long it takes for pressure to release fully, regardless of which method you’re using. That means that if you’re using Natural Release after cooking a big pot of chili, you won’t have to wait longer just because “Keep Warm” is active.
In my opinion, there’s really no harm in leaving “Keep Warm” on when you’re cooking in your Instant Pot, and it can be useful for keeping dinner warm between first and second helpings. And a lot of times that timer function can really come in handy, especially when using Magic Release!
Important Instant Pot Safety Tips
- While the Instant Pot and other electric pressure cookers and generally very safe to use, here are a couple safety tips you should keep in mind:
- Never force the lid open. If the float valve has dropped and you’ve opened the steam release valve, the lid should open easily. (If it doesn’t, leave it alone for a few minutes before trying again.)
- When using Quick Release, keep your hands and face away from the release valve. (The steam shoots straight up, so as long as you’re leaning over the pot, you should be fine!)
Take The Fear Out Of Instant Pot Cooking!
Are fear and uncertainty are holding you back from making the most of your Instant Pot (or from even taking it out of the box)? I have a great video course that will help you learn all the basics, whether you’re a first time user or could use a refresher.
Instant Success with Jillee will teach you how to use the Instant Pot, how to troubleshoot common problems, and much, much more. You’ll get all the tips, tricks, and details you need to go from nervous newbie to Instant Pot Pro—all in under an hour!
In addition to the video course, you’ll also get access to other valuable materials like my two bestselling Instant Pot ebooks (Everything Instant Pot and Instant Pot Favorites), a handy cooking times printable, and an Instant Pot programs printable. To learn more about the course, the bundle materials, or to get started, click here!
What delicious creations have you been cooking up in your Instant Pot?