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After cooking time, there are three ways of releasing the pressure, either quickly or slowly, before the lid can be opened. Recipes for pressure cookers state which release method is required at the end of cooking time for proper results—failure to follow the recommendation results in food that is either under-cooked or over-cooked.
Cold water quick release
This method is the fastest way of releasing pressure with portable pressure cookers (unless the manufacturer advises against cold water release). This method involves running cold water from the cold tap over the pressure cooker, avoiding the steam vent or any other valves. It is most suitable for foods with short cooking times and takes only about 20 seconds to open the pressure cooker. This method is not suitable for electric pressure cookers.
Manual, normal, regular, or automatic release
Also sometimes referred to as "Quick Release" but not to be confused with the cold water release, this method with varying names involves the evacuation of vapor quickly by lifting (or removing) the valve, pushing a button or turning a dial. It is most suitable for interrupted cooking when adding food later which cooks faster. For example, adding vegetables later when cooking meat, as the meat takes longer to cook than vegetables, so it is necessary to add the vegetables later to cook with the meat for the last few minutes. This release method does not cool down the pressure cooker like the cold water release method. Care must be taken when releasing the steam to avoid scalding injury. This release method is not suitable for foods which foam and froth during cooking, as the hot contents could spray outwards. This release method takes about 2 minutes to open the pressure cooker.
The natural release method allows the pressure to drop slowly; this is achieved by removing the pressure cooker from the heat source and allowing it to cool down at room temperature and lower pressure without any further action. The pressure inside will lower as the pressure cooker cools down and it takes about 10 to 15 minutes before all the pressure has gone. This method is recommended for foods which foam and froth during cooking, such as rice or pasta, legumes or for recipes such as steamed puddings with raising agents. Meat cooked in a pressure cooker requires the natural release method, otherwise its texture will be tough instead of tender.
To avoid opening the pressure cooker too often when cooking vegetables with varying cooking times, the vegetables which take longer to cook can be cut into smaller pieces and those which cook faster can be cut into thicker pieces.