instant pot natural release 6

Instant Pot Natural Release

Friends, have you ever found yourself eagerly waiting for your Instant Pot to finish cooking, only to be greeted by a blast of steam when you release the pressure? We’ve all been there, and it’s not the most pleasant experience. But fear not! In this article, we’re going to introduce you to the magical technique known as the “Instant Pot Natural Release.” This method allows for a gentle release of pressure, ensuring your food stays moist and delicious without any sudden bursts of steam. So, get ready to master the art of the Instant Pot Natural Release and elevate your cooking game to a whole new level!

Instant Pot Natural Release

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What is Instant Pot Natural Release


Instant Pot Natural Release refers to a cooking method used in the popular Instant Pot pressure cooker. It involves allowing the pressure inside the pot to decrease naturally over a period of time after the cooking process is complete, rather than using the quick release method to manually release the pressure.


The purpose of Natural Release is to ensure that the food is cooked thoroughly and evenly, while also preserving its nutrients and flavors. By allowing the pressure to release naturally, the food continues to cook gently and slowly, resulting in tender and flavorful dishes.

How it works

When pressure cooking, the Instant Pot uses heat and steam to create a high-pressure environment inside the cooking pot. This high pressure raises the boiling point of the liquid, allowing the food to cook faster. Once the cooking cycle is complete, the pressure needs to be released before the lid can be safely opened. With Natural Release, the Instant Pot gradually decreases the pressure internally, which is indicated by the pressure valve lowering gradually. This process can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the amount of pressure built up inside the pot.

Why Use Natural Release

Preserving Nutrients and Flavor

One of the main benefits of using Natural Release is that it helps to preserve the nutrients and flavors of the food. The slow and gentle release of pressure prevents overcooking and ensures that the food retains its natural juices and aromas. This is especially important for delicate ingredients such as vegetables and seafood, which can easily become mushy or lose their nutrients if exposed to high pressure for too long.

Preventing Food Splatter

Another advantage of Natural Release is that it helps to prevent food splatter. When pressure cooking, the intense pressure inside the pot can cause certain types of foods, like soups or stews, to splatter and create a mess when the lid is quickly released. By allowing the pressure to release slowly, any escaping steam and liquid will do so in a controlled manner, minimizing the risk of mess and potential burns.

Avoiding Overcooking

Natural Release is also beneficial for avoiding overcooked dishes. Certain recipes, especially those with shorter cooking times or delicate ingredients, can be prone to overcooking if the pressure is released too quickly. By opting for Natural Release, the food continues to cook gently as the pressure decreases, reducing the risk of ending up with a mushy or overdone dish.

Preventing Food Bursting

In addition to avoiding overcooking, Natural Release helps prevent incidents of food bursting during the cooking process. Certain foods, like legumes or grains, can expand as they absorb liquid and cook under high pressure. Releasing the pressure rapidly can cause these ingredients to burst out of the pot, creating a messy situation. Natural Release gives these foods the necessary time to settle and reduce in volume before the lid is opened.

Preventing Protein Leakage

For recipes that contain meats or proteins, Natural Release is particularly important to prevent protein leakage. When meats are subjected to high pressure and then quickly released, they can release juices that are still under pressure, causing them to spray out of the pot and potentially create a safety hazard. Allowing the pressure to decrease naturally mitigates this risk and ensures a safer cooking experience.

Learn more about the Instant Pot Natural Release here.

How to Perform Natural Release

Wait Time

The length of the natural release will vary based on the amount of pressure built up inside the Instant Pot and the recipe being prepared. As a general rule of thumb, Natural Release can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. It is important to consult the recipe instructions for specific guidance on the required wait time.

Determining when It’s Safe to Open

To determine when it is safe to open the Instant Pot after Natural Release, the pressure valve located on the lid should be in the “down” position and no steam should be escaping. Additionally, there should be no resistance when attempting to open the lid. Always exercise caution and use oven mitts or kitchen towels to prevent burns when handling hot surfaces of the Instant Pot.

Troubleshooting Tips

If the pressure valve is still in the “up” position after the recommended wait time, it means that there is still residual pressure inside the pot. In this case, it is important to avoid forcing the lid open and instead continue to wait until the pressure valve lowers naturally. If the pressure valve is stuck or if there is still resistance when attempting to open the lid, it is crucial to not force it open and to seek guidance from the Instant Pot manual or manufacturer’s instructions.

Determining Release Time

Type of Food

The type of food being cooked plays a significant role in determining the release time for Natural Release. Dishes with larger cuts of meat or dense ingredients, such as roasts or whole chickens, will likely require a longer release time to ensure that they are fully cooked and tender. On the other hand, dishes with delicate ingredients, such as seafood or quick-cooking vegetables, may require a shorter release time to prevent overcooking.

Recipe Recommendations

Many recipes that are specifically designed for pressure cooking will include recommendations for the release time. These recommendations are based on the specific ingredients and cooking methods used in the recipe. It is always best to follow the recipe instructions, as they have been tested for optimal results. If a recipe does not specify a release time, it is generally safe to default to a medium-length Natural Release of around 15 minutes before attempting to open the pot.

General Guidelines

When in doubt, there are some general guidelines that can be followed to determine the release time for Natural Release. For dishes that require longer cooking times, such as a beef stew or a batch of dried beans, a Natural Release of around 15 to 20 minutes is often recommended. For dishes with shorter cooking times or delicate ingredients, such as steamed vegetables or fish, a shorter release time of 5 to 10 minutes may be sufficient. These guidelines can serve as a starting point, but it is important to adapt them based on the specific recipe and personal preferences.

Instant Pot Natural Release

Speeding up Natural Release

Natural Release Variation

While Natural Release is typically performed by simply allowing the pressure to reduce naturally over time, there is a variation that can help to speed up the process. This variation involves carefully tilting the pressure valve with a long utensil, such as a wooden spoon, to manually release some of the pressure. By doing this, the steam inside the pot is released more quickly, accelerating the overall Natural Release time. However, this method should be used with caution as it can be difficult to control the amount of pressure being released and may not be suitable for certain recipes.

Using a Natural Release Method

Another way to speed up Natural Release is by using a natural release method, such as the “Quick Natural Release” or “Natural Release with Cooling.” These methods involve using a combination of Natural Release and extra steps to help the pressure dissipate more rapidly. For example, with the Quick Natural Release method, the Instant Pot is removed from the heat source and placed in a sink filled with cold water. The cold water helps to cool the pot faster, leading to a quicker Natural Release. However, it is important to note that these methods may not be suitable for all recipes and should be used with caution.

Comparison with Quick Release


Quick Release is another method used to release the pressure inside the Instant Pot. Unlike Natural Release, which allows the pressure to decrease naturally, Quick Release involves manually opening the pressure valve to release the steam and pressure instantly.

Key Differences

The key difference between Natural Release and Quick Release lies in the speed at which the pressure is released. Natural Release allows the pressure to decrease gradually over time, whereas Quick Release is an immediate release of the pressure. This fundamental difference affects the overall texture and tenderness of the food, as well as the potential risks associated with the release of steam and liquid.

When to Use Quick Release

Quick Release is typically used when the recipe requires a rapid release of pressure or when the food is time-sensitive, such as with delicate ingredients that can easily overcook. It is important to note that certain foods, such as rice or quinoa, may benefit from a combination of Natural Release and Quick Release to prevent overcooking.

Instant Pot Natural Release

Potential Risks and Safety Precautions

Risk of Overcooking

One potential risk of using Natural Release is the increased cooking time, which can potentially lead to overcooked food. While Natural Release is ideal for certain dishes, it may not be suitable for every type of recipe. It is important to adjust the cooking time and release method based on the specific ingredients and desired doneness. Monitoring the cooking process and regularly checking the food’s tenderness can help prevent overcooking.

Burn Risks

When performing Natural Release, there is still residual heat and steam inside the Instant Pot. It is crucial to exercise caution and avoid placing hands or faces directly above the pressure valve, as escaping steam can cause burns. Using oven mitts or kitchen towels to handle the Instant Pot and opening the lid away from the face and body are important safety precautions to prevent burns.

Food Contamination Risks

To avoid the risk of food contamination, it is essential to ensure that the food has reached a safe internal temperature before consuming. Using a food thermometer to check the temperature of meats and other potentially hazardous ingredients is a reliable way to ensure food safety. Additionally, properly following recipe instructions and guidelines for the appropriate cooking time and release method can help minimize the risk of undercooked food.

Proper Cleaning and Maintenance

To ensure safe and successful pressure cooking, it is important to properly clean and maintain the Instant Pot. Regularly cleaning the pot, lid, and sealing ring with hot soapy water and drying them thoroughly can prevent the buildup of food residues and odors. Additionally, inspecting the pressure valve and other components for any signs of damage or wear is important for the continued safe and efficient operation of the Instant Pot.

Common Mistakes to Avoid


One common mistake when using Natural Release is being too impatient and attempting to force open the lid before the pressure has fully released. This can lead to potential steam burns and unsafe opening of the pot. It is important to exercise patience and wait for the pressure valve to lower naturally before attempting to open the Instant Pot.

Not Following Recipe Instructions

Each recipe may have specific instructions regarding the release method and time, as well as the overall cooking time. Failing to follow these instructions can result in undercooked or overcooked food. It is crucial to carefully read and follow the recipe instructions to achieve the desired results.

Forgetting to Release Pressure

Forgetting to release the pressure before attempting to open the Instant Pot is another common mistake. This can lead to difficulty in opening the lid or potentially dangerous situations due to the remaining pressure inside the pot. Always remember to release the pressure according to the recipe instructions before attempting to open the Instant Pot.

Using Quick Release for Pressure-Sensitive Foods

Certain foods, such as cakes or delicate desserts, are pressure-sensitive and may be negatively affected by the rapid release of pressure involved in Quick Release. It is important to use Natural Release for these types of dishes to prevent them from collapsing or being ruined.

Instant Pot Natural Release

Tips for Successful Natural Release

Plan Ahead

To ensure a successful Natural Release, it is important to plan ahead and allocate enough time for the pressure to release naturally. Consider the overall cooking time of the recipe, including the Natural Release time, when meal planning to avoid any time constraints or rushing the process.

Be Patient

Patience is key when it comes to Natural Release. It can be tempting to want to open the Instant Pot quickly, especially when hungry, but in order to enjoy perfectly cooked dishes, patience is required. Take this time to prep any additional sides or garnishes, or simply enjoy a few moments of relaxation while the pressure decreases.

Keep an Eye on the Pressure Valve

During Natural Release, it is crucial to keep an eye on the pressure valve. This will give an indication of the pressure decreasing inside the pot. As the pressure valve lowers, it is a sign that the pressure is releasing, and it is safe to proceed with opening the Instant Pot once the valve is completely down.

Experiment and Adjust

Natural Release times may vary depending on factors such as altitude, ingredients, and personal preferences. It may be necessary to experiment and adjust the release times to achieve the desired level of tenderness and texture for different recipes. Making note of the release times for specific dishes can be helpful for future cooking endeavors.


The Natural Release method in the Instant Pot is a valuable tool for achieving tender and flavorful dishes. With the ability to preserve nutrients and flavors, prevent food splatter, avoid overcooking, and mitigate the risk of food bursting and protein leakage, Natural Release offers numerous benefits for home cooks. By understanding how to perform Natural Release, determining the appropriate release time, and utilizing tips for success, home cooks can confidently incorporate this method into their Instant Pot cooking repertoire. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t be afraid to experiment, adjust, and enjoy the delicious results of Natural Release cooking.

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