Your Guide to Instant Pot Natural Release and Quick Release Methods

Cooking with an Instant Pot can be intimidating, especially when it comes to steam release. Here's the difference between the Instant Pot natural release and quick release methods.

Once the food in your Instant Pot is done cooking, the steam pressure inside needs to be released. There are two ways to go about this: natural release and quick release. Here’s what you need to know about both methods, and how to steer clear of that hot steam.

What Is Quick Release?

This is the fastest way to release the pressure from your Instant Pot and stop the cooking process. To use the quick release method, turn the steam release handle on the top of the Instant Pot from the “sealed” position to the “venting” position. This will allow the excess steam to shoot out of the lid immediately, and the Instant Pot will be depressurized within minutes.

We like using quick release for fast-cooking vegetables like broccoli, or delicate seafood like this lemony poached salmon recipe.

Editor’s Tip: Be sure to read the safety precautions before using the quick release method!

Is Quick Release Safe?

Yes—if you take the right precautions. The steam that immediately releases from the Instant Pot will be extremely hot. The Instant Pot User Manual warns to not place your hand or lean your face over the cooker while it is releasing steam. It’s best to turn the valve with an object such as kitchen tongs or a wooden spoon to avoid any skin coming in contact with the hot steam. Other Instant Pot users like wearing silicone oven mitts, or simply covering their hand with a kitchen towel. (Psst! Don’t miss these Instant Pot secrets that you won’t find in the user manual.)

What Is Natural Release?

Instant Pot natural release is when you allow the Instant Pot to cool down by itself, releasing steam slowly. When the food is done cooking, the Instant Pot will automatically release steam gradually until the float valve drops down. This could take up to 30 minutes.

We recommend natural release for soups (like these Instant Pot soup recipes) and other food with high liquid content.

Is Natural Release Safe?

Yes, this method is safe. Natural release doesn’t require you to move the steam valve manually, so there isn’t as high a risk of coming into contact with hot steam. However, the natural release method is not always your best choice. Food continues to cook during this process, leading some foods to overcook. For those, you’d want to opt for the quick release method.

Whatever method is used, just be sure the steam isn’t being released during the cooking process—that’s one of the Instant Pot mistakes everyone makes. If you’re wondering how an Instant Pot differs from an old school pressure cooker, we looked at the Instant Pot vs. a pressure cooker and found which one reigned supreme.

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Erica Young
Erica is a freelance lifestyle writer with a bachelor's degree in Journalism. Her favorite recipes are quick, easy and something her kids will actually eat. When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, roaming the aisles at Target or nursing her third Diet Coke of the day.