How to Make Your First Meal in Your Pressure Cooker

Instructions

1. Check the lid

Ensure that the sealing ring is completely in place and nested around the inside of the lid, with no gaps or bulges.

a top-down shot showing the silver cooking pot in place inside the pressure cooking housing

2. Check the housing

Make sure that there is nothing between the housing and the cooking pot, and that the pot is in place and ready to cook.

A top-down shot of BBQ sauce, liquid smoke, and smashed cloves of garlic inside the Instant Pot's cooking pot.

3. Mix liquid ingredients

In the pressure cooking pot, stir together 1 cup barbecue sauce, 1 cup water, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, and 3 smashed cloves of garlic. Make sure that the BBQ sauce is well mixed with the water.

An overhead shot of three chicken breasts inside the Instant Pot with halved onions

4. Add remaining ingredients

Add 1 large onion, quartered, and 4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts. (You’ll remove the onions later, so you don’t need to worry about chopping them pretty.

An overhead shot showing the sealing valve on an Instant Pot lid

5. Lock the lid in place and Seal

Verify that your pressure release switch is in the Sealed position. While the terminology and icons vary slightly among brands, the process is identical.

Here are instructions for the top four brands:

Instant Pot Duo: Turn the pressure release handle from Venting (steam icon) to Sealing (triple-S icon). In newer, push-button steam release models, the model seals automatically when the lid is locked in place.

Ninja Foodi: Turn the pressure release valve from Vent to Seal.

Crockpot Express: Turn the steam release valve from the Open/Release position (steam icon) to the Closed/Seal position (X over the steam icon).

Power Pressure Cooker XL: Turn the pressure valve from the Open position (steam icon) to the Lock position (bulls-eye icon).

a head-on shot showing an Instant Pot Ultra with the cook time set to 6 minutes at high pressure

6. Set the Pressure Level and Cook Time

Select High Pressure and 6 minutes cook time. Again, the process is similar among brands; Here’s how to do it in the top four brands:

Instant Pot Duo: To select High Pressure, use the Pressure Cook button, then use the plus and minus buttons to set the cook time to 6 minutes. (Older models of Instant Pot should use the Manual button in place of the Pressure Cook button.) No need to press start—after a few seconds, a beep will sound and it will start cooking according to your selections.

Ninja Foodi: To select High Pressure, press the Pressure button, then use the up and down Temp arrows to choose High. Then, use the up and down Time arrows to set the cook time to 6 minutes. Then press the Start/Stop button to begin the cooking process.

Crockpot Express: This pressure cooker doesn’t allow you to set a Manual cook time; Therefore, you’ll need to choose the button with the closest cook time. For this recipe, select the Steam button and use the plus and minus buttons to adjust the cook time to 6 minutes. Press the Start/Stop button to begin the cooking process.

Power Pressure Cooker XL: Since this pressure cooker doesn’t allow you to set a manual cook time, you’ll need to choose the button with the closest cook time. For this recipe, select the Rice/Risotto button and, if necessary, use the Time Adjust button to set a 6 minute cook time.

A finger turning the pressure release valve from the sealed to venting position

7. Delayed Pressure Release

When the cook time ends, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes. (This means to leave the valve in the sealed position for the next 5 minutes. We’re letting the chicken rest before we release the pressure.)

During this time, there’s no need to touch the buttons or anything—your keep warm setting will track the amount of time that has elapsed since the cook time ended. Or you can turn off your pressure cooker and set a kitchen timer.

Pressure Release Switch and Float Valve of many common pressure cookers

8. Release Remaining Pressure

After 5 minutes, use a quick release to manually release any remaining pressure. Here’s how to do it in the top four brands:

Instant Pot Duo: Turn the pressure release handle from Sealing (triple-S icon) to Venting (steam icon). In newer models, you just need to push the button on the lid.

Ninja Foodi: Turn the pressure release valve from Seal to Vent.

Crockpot Express: Turn the steam release valve from the Closed/Seal position (X over the steam icon) to the Open/Release position (steam icon).

Power Pressure Cooker XL: Turn the pressure valve from the Lock position (bulls-eye icon) to the Open position (steam icon).

You’ll see and hear a jet of steam emerge from your pressure cooker. Wait until the steam subsides and the float valve drops.

Be sure to keep your hands and face away from the steam as it releases.

9. Unlock and Remove Lid

Turn the lid to the unlocked position. Carefully remove the lid, pointing it away from your face and arms to avoid the steam. I like to wiggle the lid a little to shake off any water droplets that may have condensed on top, then I’ll use the lid fins to nest the lid inside the pressure cooker housing. (Many instant pot models have this feature.)

an overhead shot of chicken breasts in a bowl after having been shredded by two forks

10. Test for Doneness

Use an instant-read thermometer to verify each chicken breast is at least 165°F in the thickest part of the breast after cooking. Remove the chicken from the cooking pot to a plate. Dice or shred the chicken, as desired.

(A shredding shortcut I love is I’ll put the chicken in my KitchenAid bowl and pulse it until the chicken is as shredded as I want.)

an overhead shot of straining the juicies and discarding the solids

11. Strain and retain the cooking liquid, and discard the onion solids.

If you like maximum BBQ sauce flavor, stir together up to 1 additional cup of barbecue sauce and 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and combine with the chicken.

Otherwise, simply add the 1/2 cup of cooking liquid back to the chicken.

(If I know I’m going to have leftovers, I’ll save the cooking liquid until I’m ready to freeze, then I’ll add a little more to each individual ziplock bag.)

12. Serve the barbecue chicken while it’s hot and ready!

For barbecue chicken sandwiches, toast some sandwich rolls and top with additional barbecue sauce.

Or make a wonderful barbecue chicken salad With chopped romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, corn, black beans, and shredded cheddar cheese, along with a drizzle of barbecue sauce and ranch dressing.

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