Instant Pot Natural Release vs Quick Release – What’s the Difference?

Instant Pots are the absolute rage that everyone is talking about. I can’t tell you how happy I am about my recent instant pot purchase.

While looking at the various recipes I could try with my new instant pot, I came across a confusing term – natural release and quick release in instant pots.

I took some time to learn about what it means and in this article, I will try and explain everything you need to know about instant pot quick release and natural release.

Natural Pressure Release and Quick Pressure Release in Instant Pots 

Food gets cooked in a sealed instant pot with the help of steam pressure.

Once the food is cooked, you can’t just open the instant pot, as there is a lot of steam and pressure in the instant pot.

So you need to release the steam to open the instant pot.

The release of build-up pressure can be done in two ways: natural release or Quick release.

Natural release means releasing the pressure of the pot without your involvement. The pressure inside the instant pot will gradually release itself in 20 to 30 minutes. The time duration depends on the quantity of food inside. 

Quick pressure relief means you need to manually turn the valve from sealing to a venting position, so the pressure is released from your instant pot.

The pressure releases quickly from the valve taking hardly 2 to 5 minutes. The time duration depends on what you have inside. Be prepared for the release of steam along with hot foamy liquid if you have a liquid dish inside. 

Once the pot depressurizes, it beeps and the floating valve goes down. It is now safe to open the lid of your pot

Difference Between Natural Pressure Release Vs Quick Release in Instant Pot

Let us understand the differences between the two in detail: 

The Difference in Methodology 

In the Quick release method, you need to move the valve or button (depending on the model you have) from seal to vent position. 

When you do this the pressure gets unlocked and steam along with spurts of hot water (depending on your food state- watery batter or solid food)  releases out from the valve into the air. 

As the name suggests, this is the quickest method of removing steam. It hardly takes two to five minutes. Once the steam stops releasing, check the position of the floating valve. 

The floating valve will go down all the way indicating the pressure has been released. Open the lid and serve your food. 

In the natural release method, the instant pot will sound a beep. After which, the pressure will automatically gradually disappear. It takes approximately 25-30 minutes for this to happen. 

Another sound of beep will indicate that there is no more heat build-up and all pressure has disappeared. If you look at the floating valve it will be down. You can then remove the lid. 

The Difference in Food Preparations/Recipes

Use natural release for food that has a lot of liquid like broth, steam, soups, and oats.

The natural release should also be used for food that needs more time under pressure to become tender. Lamb, beef, and goat are some examples.  

Use Quick release for foods that do not need the extra time under steam and may overcook if left to steam. Some examples are chicken, fish, pork, and vegetables. 

If you wish to prepare meat and veggies together, start cooking your meat first.

When there are 5-7 mins left for cooking to complete, do a quick release, pop in your veggies, and set the time for the remaining 5-7 minutes. Allow the steam to naturally release.

If you wish the veggies to get mushy, you can toss in the veggies along with the meat and cook. 

As a general rule, follow the recipe. If your recipe says to release naturally, then don’t deviate if you are a beginner. If it says to do a quick release, do that or you might end up overcooking. 

Once you get the hang of your instant pot, you will know exactly when to naturally release pressure and when to quickly release the steam pressure.

Half Pressure Release

There is also something called a half pressure release. You can do this once you get a hang of instant pot cooking.

In this, you can let the food naturally release for about ten minutes. After that, you follow the quick release method. Do not use half pressure release for liquid foods as it can splatter food and hot water into the air.  

The half pressure works well for foods that need some steam time (10-15 mins) but not as much as natural release time. 

Quick Release in Bursts

Another technique of quick release pressure is quick release in bursts. You have to wear mitts for this.

In this method, you need to push the valve from sealing to venting and after a second bring it back to seal.

Repeat the process until you can see the steam escaping with less force. It will roughly take five minutes.

Now move the vent to the venting position until all the pressure is released. 

The Difference in Choosing the Two Methodologies 

When you feel that your food is delicate and might overcook if steam is left to naturally release itself, follow the quick release method. 

If you wish to take advantage of the extra pressure release time to further soften your meat, use the natural release method. It is also suitable for liquid meal preparations. Food and water will not splutter outside and cause a mess. 

The Difference in the Process/Safety

Here are the steps to follow for each technique 

For Quick release of Pressure 

Take the instant pot and place it on the countertop. Make sure the steam valve is at a safe distance from your hands, face, and kitchen cabinets. 

Turn the knob from sealing to a venting position. Make sure to do this wearing an oven mitt and move away.

A lot of steam will start to escape quickly. Once all the steam has escaped, the floating valve will come down. 

For a Natural pressure release, 

You do not have to do anything. Once the food is cooked the instant pot will beep and the steam will gradually release automatically in a span of 20-25 minutes.

The time depends on what is getting cooked and in how much quantity.

Once the floating valve comes down, you can safely open the lid and dish out your food. 

Natural Release technique – Pros and Cons

The good thing about Natural release in instant pots 

  • Natural release method is best for liquid dishes like soup, chili, and broths. 
  • It works well for tough cuts of meat. This is because the meat gets more time under steam. It is a natural simmer that helps to further soften the meat. 
  • There is less supervision required. You do not have to manually reach out for the valve. The instant pot will release steam automatically.

The negatives of Natural release in instant pots

  • Food can get overcooked. You may end up with split beans and mushy potatoes.
  • This technique is time-consuming. The more the food quantity, the more time the steam needs to escape

Quick Release Technique – Pros and Cons

The good thing about Quick release in instant pots

  • This technique saves a lot of time. If you are in a hurry and want to grab a quick bite, go for the quick release technique.
  • It is ideal for delicate foods like salmon, fish, chicken, and vegetables. 

The negatives of Quick release in instant pots

  • You should not use it for recipes that have a lot of water content. You may end up with hot water and steam splattering on your side walls and even ceiling. 
  • As food particles may also try to escape along with steam, your valve may get clogged or choked up.
  • If not timed right, you may end up with undercooked food
  • Similarly, if not carefully done, you may end up burning your hands and fingers.

Natural Release vs Quick Release – Quick Summary 

To further simplify it for you, I have mentioned the difference between the two in the table below: 

CharacterNatural release Quick release 
Foods Soups, meat, oats, stew, roasts, stewsDelicate foods, seafood, chicken, vegetables, pork
Time Duration Pressure will release naturally in a span of 20-25 mins. Depends on the quantity of food.Pressure will release quickly in two to five minutes.
Pressure release You do not have to do anything. Just wait till all the pressure is spent and the floating valve goes downYou have to manually rotate the valve or press the button from sealing to venting position 
When to pressure release Naturally release when you feel the dish needs more time to become tender. Naturally release is also when you prepare liquid food. Quick release when you have less time and when you feel the food might overcook if left to naturally release the steam.
Safety Absolutely safeHot steam released can scale or burn. Use oven mitts. Turn the valve and move away. 
AdvantagesLess mess, more safety.Ideal for tough cuts of meatSaves time Ideal for vegetables, delicate foods, and thin cuts of meat like chicken, and salmon.
Disadvantages1. Time-consuming. More the food, more the time it takes to release all pressure 2. Overcooking Undercooking is a risk if you do not time it right. Can be a messy affair with hot steam and water splattering out when using liquid ingredients.

Final Thoughts 

I hope you have clearly understood the difference between natural pressure release and quick pressure release. 

Foods that do not need a long time to cook should be quickly released. Some examples are fish, chicken, vegetables, etc. 

Use the natural release for red meats, tough cuts of meats, and liquid dishes like soup, stews, chili, etc

Whichever method you apply, the steam will release from the instant pot and you will be able to enjoy your delicious meal. Bon Appetit! 

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