Pressure cooker: "Natural Release Method"
My Fagor pressure cooker manual talks about the "Natural Release Method: Foods like stocks, tomato sauces and certain cuts of meat benefit from continued cooking in a cooker after the burner has been turned off. With the natural release method, the pressure and temperature drop naturally after the unit is removed from the burner. The natural-release method can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes."
If the whole point of pressure cooking is speed, why wouldn't I just cook the food longer, then quickly release the pressure?
For example, in their cooking time guide:
It says cook 2-3 pounds of breasts (bone in) for 8-10 minutes, then do a natural release for 10-20 minutes.
In contrast, I've read elsewhere that a whole 3 pound chicken cut-up should cook in about 6 minutes per pound (or 18 minutes cook time).
What really seems bad about the natural release method is that if it's under-cooked, you need to get the cooker back up to pressure, cook more time, and the extra cook time will really increase the total time.
If time is really important, I release the pressure quickly to check the contents of the pot. I can then see if I need to cook longer.
As you progress with your cooker, you'll get the hang of it. Using a PC will save you time.
I use Lora Brody's book for timing, esp. for dried beans. But the times are not written in stone.
Pazzaglia below mentions, and I will repeat, that beyond speed, there are other advantages to pressure cooking such as improved flavor and texture, especially of vegetables, grains and even beans. They come out cooked but not mushy in a very short time.
The energy savings are also mentioned which are significant.
I have been teaching pressure cooking for 17 years and don't do a lot of quick releases with water as the new pressure cookers have a release valve that works well for almost all foods (risotto is not one of them) if you need to do a quick release.
Beans and grains continue to cook with the natural pressure release method without using fuel which is great for people who have RVs, boats or live "off the grid".
I love my pressure cookers and I am not giving them up. I am going to continue teaching and spreading the word with "The New Fast Food". Everyone ought to have it on their plates.
As you probably know, the cooking continue during this natural release method. So your total cook time may change if you want to adopt the natural release method.
So instead of simply cooking 15 minute at 121 oC (+15 psi) pressure cooking and then release.
The natural release method is effectively 15 minute at 121 oC, and then another 20 minutes cooking at a graduating lowering temperature from 121 oC to 100 oC, and possibly lower.
I agree with paulj. Yes, the food does continue to cook a bit during the natural release, but the real reason for doing it is to allow the fibers in the meat to relax gradually instead of submitting them to the shock of the sudden drop in pressure. Same goes for beans. You'll find they're not as exploded if you do natural release. And it does cut down on foaming as well. It's well worth getting one of Lorna Sass's books (I prefer Pressure Perfect) and reading about the use of natural versus quick release. Her recipes are very well tested and she takes into account the additional cooking that occurs when she specifies natural release so the under pressure cooking times are a bit shorter.
Great info here!
BTW, here's a 6 second video of the chicken feet foam shooting out as I released pressure on my old pressure cooker last night:
Now that I got the valve problem figured out on my new fagor, I will certainly experiment with the natural release method.
One thing, though, is that if you're making stocks and tomato sauces, you may want to speed it up (that is, it takes one hour total instead of, say, six), but you're not really in a rush. I feel the same way about beans. I have time for them to come down from pressure on their own. An hour from dried to cooked is really okay with me. If I need cooked beans *right now,* I would open a can.
Another advantage of cooking it under pressure for x minutes, and then allowing for natural release is that you save on fuel by having a shorter cook time. You also don't have to stay in the kitchen watching it once you turn the burner off. (I don't leave the room while using a pressure cooker or deep frying something, for safety reasons.)
Personally, I use a pressure cooker for beans not because I am usually cooking beans shortly before a meal, but because I don't like having a pot of beans cooking on the stove for hours: I tend to forget about it and it ends up getting burnt. It shortens the supervision time considerably.
Mike, the benefits of your pressure cooker are not only speed. The nice thing about having such a high-quality thick pot is to also be able to use the residual heat trapped in the steel to continue cooking the food without using any energy at all.
Although there are exceptions, you'll find the pressure cooker cuts cooking time to 1/3 - usually 10 minutes of natural release time in addition to the pressure cooking time is STILL going to get you to cooked food faster than if you were cooking it conventionally.
For desserts, meats and legumes. I almost always recommend natural pressure release.
That foaming might be an issue with Fagor's quick release valve. But there's another way to reduce pressure quickly - set the pot in a pan of cold water,, or run tap water over the top. That's the standard 'quick release' method for jiggle weight pressure cookers like Presto. That does not have a foaming problem.
Yeah the extra time with the natural release method ensures the food is cooked. Those boys at Fagor worked out the recommended cooking times of that who can be sure.
I rarely use my pressure cooker anymore. Too many other ways to cook food nowdays IMO. If I happened into a big bunch of chicken feet that's when the old pressure cooker would come out of retirement.