What is the difference between Natural Release vs. Quick Release for the Instant Pot

Don’t have an Instant Pot yet or new to Instant Pot? Read What is The Instant Pot for more info! (And find all of our favorite Instant Pot recipes here).

Instant Pot Quick Natural Release with steam

If you are lucky enough to have recently become the owner of an Instant Pot, then congratulations! There are a ton of amazing recipes available from Instant Pot Ribs to the most delicious Instant Pot Mac and Cheese recipe!

But maybe pressure cooking is new to you. If so, you’ll need to get familiar with natural release vs. quick release.

The Pressure Is On!

The first thing you might be asking is, “Release what?” Well, steam pressure, actually. It’s the pressure from built up heat that is the secret behind the Instant Pot cooking your food so fast and fabulous. But this pressure has to be released when the cooking is done (it’s not scary, I promise).

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Instant Pot is the locking lid, with the venting knob. You can turn and control this knob manually. Beside the venting knob is the floating valve, which acts on its own.

Yes, hearing sounds as the pressure builds is normal. There is a little valve on top of the lid, as the pressure builds, it pushes the valve closed to create a seal and keep the pressure in. As the pressure is builiding, some steam will escape and the little valve will wiggle causing noise and a little hissing sound. This is all normal.

When enough heat and pressure has built up inside, the little valve will seal and once the pot cools after the cooking stops it will drop.

Instant Pot Natural Release vs. Quick Release

When cooking the IP has built up a lot of pressure closing the valve I talked about above and depending on how full the pressure cooker is, it can take a while to release pressure.

If you let the pressure cooker sit for a while until the pressure naturally releases and goes back to normal, this known as natural release(and can take up to 30 minutes). If you push the knob to release the pressure right away (this can take up to 2  minutes) this is known as quick release.

What is Natural Release (and why do you use it)?

So what is natural release and when do you use natural release vs. quick release?

Natural Release – means the natural way to release the pot’s pressure.

If the recipe calls for this option, you don’t need to do much of anything. When your timer signals the cooking process has ended, just wait. The Instant Pot will gradually release pressure and steam as it cools. Natural release is good for foods that can continue cooking after the cycle is over and the heating element is off, such as a Instant Pot Ribs, chili or pulled pork.

The floating valve will start to lower as the pressure decreases letting you know when the lid is ready to open. The lid won’t open until the pressure is low enough, just be sure not to force it open. You can also quick release the pressure before opening to make sure there is no pressure left built up.

Quick Release – means the quick way to release the pot’s pressure.

If the recipe calls for this option, you’ll need to manually release the pressure by turning the venting knob on the Instant Pot (or refer to the owners manual of any other type/brand of pressure cooker). Quick release is appropriate for things you don’t want to overcook like Instant Pot pork tenderloin or Instant Pot Mac and Cheese.  It is perfect when you want to end the cooking process quickly.

Caution: With the quick release method, steam will shoot out very quickly. There may even be some sputtering and spattering involved, depending on what you’re cooking, how long it’s been cooking, and how full the Instant Pot is. Be sure to read up about how various foods perform in the Instant Pot before using it.

How to Natural Release Instant Pot

  1. When the cooking ends, wait 10 – 25 minutes for Instant Pot to cool down naturally. If the “keep warm” option (the Instant Pot default) is left on, then it will take longer. You can turn this feature off to make the natural release process quicker.
  2. Once the steam has stopped exiting, check the floating valve before opening the lid. If the valve hasn’t dropped, then there’s still pressure inside.
  3. Turn the venting knob before opening. Even if it appears that the valve has dropped, it’s always a good idea to turn the venting knob before opening, just to insure all the pressure is off.

Never force the Instant Pot lid open! If it won’t open it is most likely because there is too much pressure remaining in the pot.

Recipes Great for the Natural Release Setting

How to Quick Release Instant Pot

  1. Wait for the cooking cycle to end.
  2. Turn the venting knob from the sealing to venting position. This will quickly release steam. You can use your bare hand, but to be on the safe side, be sure to use an oven mitt, or silicone mitt.
  3. Keep the venting knob open. Make sure the steam has stopped flowing and the floating valve has dropped before opening the lid.

Once you know how to quick release, you can also opt for a combination approach. Some people find it’s a good idea to let the Instant Pot natural release for a few minutes first, and then apply a little quick release action to let off more steam.

Best Recipes for the Quick Release Setting

Source: Instant Pot


Instant Pot Quick Natural Release with steam and writing
Instant Pot Quick Natural Release with a title
Instant Pot Quick Natural Release with steam and a title


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About the author

Holly is a wine and cheese lover, recipe creator, shopping enthusiast and self appointed foodie. Her greatest passion is creating in the kitchen and making deliciously comforting recipes for the everyday home cook!
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