How to use a pressure cooker for meat

Have you ever stood in front of your pressure cooker wondering where to start and how to best utilize this supposedly life and time-saving invention? You’re not alone. If you’ve never used a pressure cooker, it can be intimidating as can anything for the first time. I have good news, it doesn’t need to be intimidating. In fact, not only can using a pressure cooker be an easy way to prepare dinner, but it can also be a way for you to try new recipes and get creative in the kitchen. While the list of pressure cooker meals is endless, I want to focus specifically on cooking meat. By cooking meat in a pressure cooker, you can save time, make clean up easier and actually preserve more of the flavor and nutrients found in your meat! Using a pressure cooker is also a fool-proof way of getting tender meat that makes your guests believe you slow-cooked it all day. 

Get ready, because I am going to break down the basics of cooking meat in your pressure cooker, so you can feel confident and ready to tackle your next meal!

What is a pressure cooker?

This may be an obvious answer, but a pressure cooker is a pot that seals and allows pressure and steam to be created in order to cook food incredibly fast! The benefits of using a pressure cooker are endless: ease, time, nutrition, just to name a few.

Stove-Top Pressure Cooker

Electric Pressure Cooker

Types of pressure cookers

There are two types of pressure cookers: automated and manual (stovetop). An automated pressure cooker does the guess work for you. A popular one is the Instant Pot. It is tried and true, easy to clean and easy to use! The second type of pressure cooker is the manual style or stovetop pressure cooker. With this type, you adjust the heat and track the time. This allows you more control in the process and is great for someone who wants to do some experimenting or is already familiar with the process of pressure cooking, but it does mean you need to be vigilant during the cooking process. The T-fal pressure cooker is excellent quality, made of stainless steel and dishwasher safe, which is always a bonus!

Now, that I’ve gone over the basics, let’s jump into cooking meat. I will walk you through the steps to creating some incredibly delicious meat in your pressure cooker. You’ll see there are a few different steps depending on the type you own. Enjoy!

Steps for Cooking Meat

  1. Dry rub/season meat – Season your meat before putting it in the pressure cooker. Ideally, you can allow it to rest and soak up the goodness of the salt and pepper. If you’re cooking red meat I suggest McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Seasoning. It takes the guesswork out of seasoning.
  2. Sauté meat – To create excellent texture and flavor, sauté your meat in a pan or your pressure cooker. This should not be a long process, just make sure each side of your meat has been seared to create great flavor and texture.
    • Stovetop – Place a little oil in the bottom of your pressure cooker, turn the heat to medium or high, and then lightly brown the sides of your meat. You don’t want to cook the meat but rather just give it a little color.
    • Automatic – Most automatic pressure cookers actually have a setting for this step. The Instant Pot has a button to “Sauté”. You can simply press that button, and let your cooker do the work.
    • In a pan – Another option is to brown your meat in a pan on the stove. This creates one more dish but is a great option if you’re feeling unsure about doing it in your pressure cooker.
  3. Deglaze and add water – Once you lightly brown your meat, remove it and deglaze your cooker by using water, wine or stock. Feel free to leave the extra stock or wine in your pressure cooker. Instead of discarding the stock, add the remaining water needed. By doing this, you are preserving the flavor. Follow your manual for the amount of water you will need, but you will probably need between ½ and one cup of water. Remember the point is to create trapped steam. Unlike steaming something on the stovetop, no water is being evaporated, so you will need less than you think.
  4. Cook your meat – This is where things get really easy if you have an automated pressure cooker. Simply select what you are cooking (meat, poultry, stew, etc.), press start and wait!
    • Stovetop – If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, you will need to place the lid on and make sure everything is secure. Make sure the air valve is closed. Your cooker will not be able to create steam if this is open. The next steps require some energy. First, you need to make sure you reach the appropriate pressure, then turn the heat down to maintain the pressure or have a second burner pre-heated to medium/low to move your cooker to. Set your timer according to the recipe and wait.
  5. Time’s up – Once your timer has sounded, you can release the pressure valve. MAKE SURE your hand is out of the way! You do not want to get hit with the steam. Once all of the pressure is released, you will be able to open your pressure cooker and serve the delicious meat!

Tips for Different Types of Meats

Every recipe will call for slightly different steps as far as preparation and timing, but these basic steps can be your plumb line and beginning place. Because there are so many variables when cooking meat such as the type of meat or the size of the cut, I’ve compiled a few things to consider when cooking some of the most popular types of proteins.

  • Beef – Try using Worcestershire or beef broth along with the water in your pressure cooker for extra flavor. Anticipate anywhere from half an hour to two hours to cook beef. Red meat tends to take longer than other proteins.
  • Pork – Think sweet when you’re cooking pork in your pressure cooker. Add-in’s like orange juice, pineapple or BBQ sauce bring out incredible flavor in pork. You can anticipate a cooking time of anywhere from one to two hours, so make sure to factor this into your evening meal preparation.
  • Poultry – Chicken is typically a quicker meat to cook taking anywhere from ten to thirty minutes for many recipes. Similar to beef, try adding chicken broth when you cook poultry to add to the flavor.
  • Fish – This can also be cooked quickly ranging anywhere from ten minutes to forty. If you need dinner quick, fish is the way to go. You can’t go wrong with salt, pepper and garlic. If you’re cooking salmon, try Chef Paul’s It is incredible, and honestly one of my favorites for cooking salmon.

Before you start…

Before you get started, I’ve compiled a few more tips and factors to think about in order to have the best possible outcome!

  • Similar sized cuts will cook more evenly. Remember that the size of your cut of meat will determine how quickly or slowly it will cook. If you have several different sized cuts, you’ll likely have some issues as far as how well-done they are.
  • Don’t overpack your pressure cooker! You shouldn’t fill your pressure cooker any more than two-thirds of the way full with meat. If you’re cooking grains or beans, only fill it half way.
  • Add some flair! Some great add-in’s are whole onions, carrots and garlic or for liquids try broth. Just make sure to cut vegetables into smaller portions, so they cook thoroughly and you can reap the benefits of full flavor.
  • Try adding fresh herbs to your recipe. Their oils will be released, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
  • Just like any type of cooking, you can overcook your meat, so make sure to reference your owner’s manual for accurate times.

Other Resources:

Helpful Links

Wrapping Up:

Cooking Meat in an Instant Pot

By now, you should feel confident to cook any type of meat in your pressure cooker, and once you begin cooking your meat in a pressure cooker, you won’t want to go back. The ease and reliability make it a win-win. Let me know how it goes!

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