Everything you need to know about How to Natural Release Instant Pot vs. Quick Release, when it’s safe to open the lid, and how long it takes.

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How to Natural Release Instant Pot

What Is Natural Release on Instant Pot?

If you are a happy Instant Pot owner, congratulations! It makes world’s easiest Instant Pot lasagna, Starbucks Instant Pot egg bites and the most perfect Instant Pot eggs.

Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. How does it work? It creates pressure inside the sealed pot from added thin liquid like water. After food is cooked, pressure has to come down before we can open Instant Pot.

Here is how Instant Pot cooking process goes:

  1. Add food and water: Instant Pot will take some time to come to pressure and it’s OK to hear different noises, clicking and hissing.
  2. Pressure cook food: That is when timer to cook food actually starts. However your food already started cooking while Instant Pot was coming up to pressure.
  3. Food is ready: Instant Pot will beep (depending on a model) and depending on the recipe we need to let the steam/pressure build up out of the pot.

Natural Release (NR or NPR) means to let pressure inside Instant Pot to come down on its own.

How to Natural Release Instant Pot? (Video)

Do nothing: I’m very serious. It’s the easiest instruction I have ever wrote on a recipe. Just let Instant Pot sit for some time after set cooking time expired until float valve/pink pin is down as indicated in the photo.

If you selected Keep Warm function display will say L 0:00 and start counting time how long ago it finished cooking food for up to 10 hours. Otherwise, display will say Off.

Quick Release (QR or QPR) means to turn pressure release valve from Sealing to Venting immediately after cooking is over. All steam will come out full force (pictured below).

Some recipes need to use NR and some quick recipes like Instant Pot steel cut oats and Instant Pot goulash you can Quick Release. Main difference is that food during the Natural Release keeps cooking while pressure is coming down. Which makes sense since it is a hot environment inside the pot.

How to Natural Release Instant Pot

How Long Does Natural Release Take?

Natural Release time depends on:

  • The size of your Instant Pot – 3 quart, 6 quart or 8 quart.
  • What’s inside – what you are cooking.

8 quart Instant Pot has larger pot (capacity), so larger volume of pressure to build up inside. If it is meal type recipe, barely any liquid in final product like Instant Pot chicken breast or Instant Pot teriyaki chicken, Natural Release takes about 10 minutes. For Instant Pot lentil soup for example, it could take as much as 40 minutes for pressure to release fully because the pot is large, and all that hot liquid keeps the steam going.

6 quart Instant Pot takes less time to do Natural Release – anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. That’s one of the features I like about smaller pressure cooker.

When to Use Natural Release?

Certain recipes need, taste and come out better using Natural Release. But in general, I try to develop Instant Pot healthy recipes with Quick Release. Because time, friends. Time. I need to feed my hungry family asap. Aint’ nobody got time for NR.

But let’s go over recipes when you want to use Natural Release:

  • Beans: Cooking certain foods like Instant Pot black beans is better with NR. It keeps them whole and literally that force doesn’t rip beans apart. Also often meat is a bit more juicy even with 10 minutes NR.
  • Roasts and meat: Instant Pot pulled pork and Instant Pot pot roast tend to use cheaper and tough cuts of meat, so they tend to come out a tad more tender if you let the pressure subside on its own. However, I would be lying if I said I never quick released them when in a rush.
  • Brown rice: Instant Pot brown rice, not white rice, needs natural release to come out not mushy and each grain separate.
  • Frozen whole chicken: This Instant Pot frozen chicken is the whole reason that makes Instant Pot worth it. You put whole frozen bird in the pot and walk away for 1.5 hours. It is not a quick recipe but rather convenient, and meat keeps cooking and becoming tender while pressure is subsiding.
  • If cooking on Low Pressure: Foods like Instant Pot quinoa do cook better longer but under lower pressure. That’s when you have to let them cook and fluff even more during Natural Release.
  • First 15 minutes with soups: Because Instant Pot soups contain a lot of liquid that is stil lboiling vigorously for next 15 minutes or so after cook time is over, it is best to wait that time before turning valve to Venting. Or just do complete NR.
  • Starchy foods: Large amounts of Instant Pot mac and cheese and any amount of Instant Pot chicken and rice soup can and will shoot out foamy spray for first 10 minutes or so after cooking. If it happens, wait 10 minutes or so and release pressure gradually or after.


How do I know pressure is down?

Each model of Instant Pot (I own IP Duo-80) has a float valve – mine is pink.

With Instant Pot Duo:
If float valve is above level of the lid – Instant Pot is still under pressure.
When float valve is at the level of the lid – Instant Pot is not sealed and pressure has been released.

Float valve malfunctioning? Read how to troubleshoot and fix it.

How do I know lid is safe to open?

Instant Pot manufacturers are smart. This pressure cooker is equipped with a safety feature which doesn’t allow lid to open until pressure is down. So, even if you force opening the lid, it will not happen. But don’t force it because it can damage your unit.

Do you turn Instant Pot off for Natural Release?

It doesn’t matter. I like to keep it on with Keep Warm function so I know when my meal has finished cooking, especially if I wasn’t around in the kitchen.

More Instant Pot Resources

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About Olena

Welcome! I grew up in Ukraine watching my grandma cook with simple ingredients. I have spent the last 11 years making it my mission to help you cook quick and easy meals for your family!

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  1. If a recipe for chicken in mushroom soup calls for 5 minute natural release, after that do I quick release if the red button is still up?

  2. Why does LO show in my instapot when cooking time is up? While it’s on the LO SETTING time adds on so do I let it continue or release the valve to venting

    1. Sorry for late reply. I think you mean L and time. That’s because you have Keep Warm button ON. It simply indicates Instant Pot is keeping food warm and starts count down for how long. You can turn it off before cooking each time. Otherwise, you just follow the recipe.

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