This is a consolidation of information from a very informative website that has compiled data from several pressure cooker manufacturers as well as their own test. I use this site when I add pressure cooker recipes to the site. This post pertains to the use of a pressure cooker.
When first starting to use a pressure cooker (this pertains to stove top type which I have), think simple items first, like a side dish or beans. Learn the basics, get comfortable using, and the basic mechanics of how it is used.
For beans, different beans have different times, same applies with dry or soaked beans. As I go through and prepare various types of beans, I will add a recipe here with the verified times. So far I have made pinto and red kidney beans, and the times I state in my recipes are perfect, and from the link provided at the top of this post.
For meats, different cuts have different times, stew beef is a different time from say an entire roast, as well as types of meat may have different times.
Your pressure cooker is a time saving tool, what I hate to see is pressure cooker chili recipes that call for canned beans, yes, canned beans. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose of using a pressure cooker to simple heat a pot of chili. How you should approach this is to use your pressure cooker to cook dry or soaked beans (dry red kidney beans takes 22 minutes on high pressure, and soaked takes just 8 minutes). Now you have flavorful beans for say a pot of chili. Drain the beans, now use the pot to brown your beef, add what ever you like, add the beans and just simmer in the pot without the lid, perfect.
Think about the time on pressure when you come across an internet recipe, does it seem right? When in doubt, check the time on the site at the top of this post. A few days ago I came across a recipe for Rajma, an Indian kidney bean curry. First thing I read is the reviewers comments and see what they say and what they changed. Many people said very bland, mushy, horrible, things they did to make it flavorful, etc. So I read through the ingredients, those seemed ok, and then read through the instructions, and one item seemed very odd “place the lid on the cooker and bring to high pressure for 40 minutes, then reduce to low pressure for another 15 minutes, then allow a natural release of pressure.” That seems extremely long for red kidney beans, that were soaked as well! So when in doubt, double check the time! 40 minutes on high pressure would certainly result in bland and mushy beans. I wrote the recipe to use 8 minutes on high pressure.
You need a liquid in the pressure cooker. Say you want to pressure cook beets, I use 1 1/2 cups of water and as many beets as I want, as long I do not go over 2/3 full on the pot. The liquid provides the steam to lock up the cooker, after that, the heat and pressure do the cooking. When the cooking is done, the liquid amount is nearly what you started with.
There is no taste and adjust using a pressure cooker. Once the lid goes on and on high pressure, go for the time indicated, once the pressure is released, you can taste and adjust, most times you will adjust and just simmer for a few minutes without the lid then serve. If an item is not done, say beets are still not fork tender or beans are not tender, place the lid back on and bring up to pressure again (it is faster this time since the water is still hot) and cook for another minute or two, then let pressure release and check again. This can be caused by the type of heat source, your elevation, misread the time required, and the weight on the vent – meaning 12, 13, 14, or 15 pounds depending on your model of pressure cooker.
Stay near the pressure cooker. I have a Thai family, some are quite curious to see what I am cooking and are lid lifters. Since they cannot open the pressure cooker when it is locked up, I do not want them removing the weight, as that results in serious burns and the contents of the pot on your kitchen ceiling. So I stay near it when using it, I just go about prepping or cooking other items, and keep the family away from the cooker.
Once comfortable with using the pressure cooker and understanding how it works, then work your way to cooking an entire meal, say a stew for example.