Wondering why your Instant Pot timer doesn’t start immediately? Understanding Instant Pot Cooking Times is easy once you learn a few basic things to look for when considering an electric pressure cooker recipe. We discuss what reaching pressure, natural release and quick release mean and other must-know information for Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi beginners.
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Understanding Cooking Times for Electric Pressure Cookers
If you are a little intimidated by your electric pressure cooker ( Ninja Foodi, Instant Pot or Crock Pot Express, ), we’ve all been there! Hopefully this post will give you some information to help you have more confidence with your new cooking companion.
Why doesn’t my timer start on my Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi?
When I got my very first electric pressure cooker it was a bit overwhelming. I pulled that thing out of its box and it had more buttons than a spaceship! When I finally thought I had things figured out, I went to cook my first recipe and hoped I had pressed on the right buttons. I had set my timer for 35 minutes but as I sat their waiting and waiting, my panel just said “on”. The timer didn’t start and I was confused.
What I didn’t know at the time was that electric pressure cooker cooking times oftentimes do not include the time it takes to “reach pressure”. I also didn’t know that it can take up to 15 minutes for an Instant Pot to reach pressure. That is it can take the timer up to 15 minutes to start!
- The cooking timer you set on your electric pressure starts after your pot reaches pressure.
- It can take an pressure cooker up to 15 minutes to reach pressure.
- Using frozen ingredients can increase the time it takes to reach pressure.
- Not using enough liquid (1 to 1 1/2 cups liquid) can cause your pot to struggle to reach pressure.
- A warm pot (like one that has been used for a saute step) can reach pressure faster.
- Pressure has been reached when the pin in the lid lifts up and stays up.
Troubleshooting Tip: What if my Instant Pot fails to reach pressure?
If your electric pressure cooker fails to reach pressure or gives you an error try checking the following:
- Check your lid seal to make sure it is properly embedded in the lid.
- Make sure your pressure knob is firmly in place and turned to seal.
- If the recipe still struggles, try adding liquid.
Cooking Under Pressure
Most electric pressure cooker recipe cooking times typically refer to the time to cook under pressure. In general, unless a recipe specifies to use low pressure, most recipes cook under high pressure (the default on most devices).
- This cooking time is the amount of time you set when you start to cook, either by manually telling the pot how long to cook or by using a preset on the panel.
- The count down you see while cooking is counting down the amount of time it will cook under pressure.
- After the timer goes off on your Instant Pot, you cannot (and should not attempt) to open the lid immediately. All that pressure needs to be released from your pot and the pin in the lid needs to drop before you can safely open the lid.
- You can either choose to Natural Release or Quick Release after cooking under pressure. Both require time and a new timer will start on your electric pressure cooker to let you know how long it has been releasing.
- Pressure has been released once the pin in your lid has dropped.
What is Natural Release?
You can choose to let your Instant Pot or Foodi to release its pressure naturally by doing nothing. Just let the pot sit and gradually the pressure will come down. Depending on what you are cooking, this can take anywhere from 20 minutes to much longer. Pressure has been released once the pin in your lid has dropped. Oftentimes, recipes will suggest that you let a dish naturally release for 15 minutes before switching to quick release to give you the benefits of natural release but speed up the process.
- Natural Release is often used in meat dishes to retain flavor.
- Recipes with a lot of liquid or that fill the pot near the max line choose natural release to prevent contents from coming out of the vent during release.
- Leaving the keep warm setting on can extend the time it takes to come down from pressure.
What is Quick Release?
If you are in a hurry, Quick Release can bring the pot down off pressure much faster. You can quick release a dish by carefully flipping the knob to vent. You will need to stay clear of all of the steam coming out of the pot as it will be very hot. Do not mess with the pot or cover the vent while quick releasing the pressure.
- Oftentimes, recipes will suggest that you let a dish naturally release for 15 minutes before switching to quick release to give you the benefits of natural release but speed up the process.
- Do not move your pot or mess with the lid while quick releasing.
- The lid can safely be removed once the pin in your lid has dropped. However, still be very careful because there will be a lot of steam and it will be hot.
Additional Time Considerations When Using an Electric Pressure Cooker
Browning Before Pressure Cooking
Many recipes call for a browning or sauteing step before pressure cooking. This oftentimes builds flavor into the dish and also warms up the pot to reduce the time it takes to reach pressure.
Using the Slow Cooking Feature on Your Instant Pot
Electric Pressure Cookers come with a slow cook feature that allows you to use your unit as a slow cooker. Many folks find this feature a little frustrating because it usually takes much longer to slow cook a recipe in an electric pressure cooker than a traditional slow cooker. While it can be a bit confusing at first, if you want to use your electric pressure cooker as a slow cooker, you can. You just need to allow more time for dishes to cook.
- A basic rule of thumb for slow cooking in an electric pressure cooker is to allow for an additional 2 or more hours more hours to slow cook your dish completely.
- Remember, all electric pressure cookers cook differently, so cooking times are always a basic guideline. Recipes should always be tested first in your own electric pressure cooker and time adjusted as needed.
Next Steps for Instant Pot Beginners
Easy Recipes for Instant Pot Beginners
Are you looking for Easy Instant Pot Recipes for Beginners? These electric pressure cooker recipes are tried and true, simple to make and perfect for anyone just starting out with their Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi or Crock Pot Express.
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Karen St Germain says
Using my instant pot for the first time.. Just bought one today and is over the top a bit scary. Trying o figure out how to use it. Don’t understand how the timer and trial all works before i start using it.Going to try and make The Electric Pressure Cooker Chicken soon as the trial run completes. Any tips on how it works will help. thank you. I did sign up for your email a while ago and make a lot of your crock pot meals. Now onto my new insta pot.
I know it can feel a bit intimidating. The bottom line is, the timer only starts after the unit reaches pressure. So a recipe may call for 15 minutes, but your IP will take 10-15 minutes to warm up (like a preheating oven) and THEN the 15 minutes will start. Hope that helps!
Kim L Honeycutt says
Thanks for the video Cris. Very informative!!