If you use an instant pot for cooking, you’d often come across terms such as natural release and quick release. These terms can also be seen in a number of instant pot recipes available online. Some recipes might indicate instant pot quick release towards the end, while some might require the instant pot to naturally release the steam.
Let’s first understand what each of these concepts really mean. All instant pot models that are used to pressure cook food need to release the steam in some way, which has been formed in the pot during the whole process. Natural release and quick release are the two common methods by which the steam can be let out. The method you should choose actually depends on the type of food being cooked in the pot.
How to Natural Release Instant Pot
As the name suggests, this is when you allow the pot to perform its steam release procedure naturally, in its own due course of time. In this case, once the cooking cycle of the pot has been completed, the pot would start beeping. This is an indication that the food inside the pot has been cooked and it’d then resume its natural pressure release process.
Now the pot would slowly cool down, releasing all the steam pressure within, gradually on its own. There is no manual intervention needed. Once all the steam has been completely released, you can hear the float valve drop down as a signal of completion. This could take as long as a few minutes or sometimes up to half an hour, depending on the food being cooked.
If the cooking time is short, the corresponding instant pot natural release time would also be shorter. The Natural release option is considered ideal for liquid foods like a porridge or soups and starchy foods that tend to foam while cooking such as potatoes, beans, rice or oatmeal.
The biggest advantage of releasing the steam naturally is that since the steam releases gradually, the food is still getting cooked in the pot inside the steam that still remains. This is therefore great for roast foods.
How to Quick Release Instant Pot
Quick release of steam can be carried out manually, when you don’t want to wait for the pot to naturally release the steam gradually on its own. This steam release option is ideal for foods that are “delicate” or soft, such as shrimp, salmon, soft vegetables, pasta, poultry, or any other food which you don’t want to stay in the pot longer than the cooking cycle for fear of it getting mushy or overcooked.
In this case, once the cooking cycle is complete and you hear the beep, you can turn the pressure release valve on the instant pot to “open” or “venting” (in certain instant pot models). Doing this would force the steam out of the pot quicker than usual.
However, remember to use a pot holder or wear a silicone glove while switching the valve to venting mode. This will help avoid burns.
Again, the float valve or metal pin would drop down to indicate that the instant pot quick release is complete. The pot is now safe to open.
Difference between Natural Release and Quick Release
The prime difference between the two methods of steam release is that the natural release method lets out steam in a slow and gradual manner. This is opposite to the quick release method which forces the steam out of the instant pot quickly and almost instantaneously.
Also, by releasing the steam slowly, the food gets to stay in the pot while only the steam is thrown out of the steam release valve. On the other hand, releasing the pressure too quickly without waiting for it to take its due course of time results in both the food and the steam to vent out of the valve. This can cause a huge dirt mess in the kitchen.
A lot of people have a lot of queries on how exactly an instant pot works, how it’s different from a pressure cooker, etc. This section attempts to clarify all these doubts.
Simply put, an instant pot is nothing but an electric pressure cooker. While it functions like a normal pressure cooker – under pressure – the instant pot can cook food much faster than a usual pressure cooker model. It is so designed to provide faster cooking time, work safe under high temperatures, and higher pressures.
While the instant pot is almost like a pressure cooker, the former comes with a multitude of programmable functionalities that allow it to cook fast – even faster than a pressure cooker. For instance, you can set the option to natural pressure release or quick pressure release in an instant pot, depending on the type of food you’re cooking. This isn’t possible in a pressure cooker. Also, an instant pot can even work as a slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pan, or steamer.
These are the two different models of an instant pot, each differing in their own ways. For instance, the Instant Pot Duo allows the warm function to be manually set to 99 hours and 50 minutes, while the Lux model can only keep the food warm for 10 hours.
Also, Lux comes with only high setting, whereas Duo provides both high and low setting options. Similarly, Duo is designed to even make yogurt which Lux can’t.
Depending on the food being cooked, the natural steam release on an instant pot may take anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes.
To ensure safety, never fill your instant pot with too much food or liquid as it can result in dangerous pressure levels while pressure cooking and can cause harm.