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The pressure cooker is a workhorse in the kitchen. It comes with a long list of functionalities, which means it can make almost anything you would ever want in a matter of minutes. Of course, you can also use it as a slow cooker and leave it unattended for hours. There’s nothing this popular multi-cooker can’t do… or is there? If it’s that mighty, can it also fry?

In a pressure cooker, you can make yogurt and bake a cake, but unfortunately, you can’t fry – in most cases.

Why should things be simple, when they can be complicated, right? If you’re looking for a short answer, then you absolutely can’t and should never fry in a pressure cooker. However, there are different types of frying, so in some exceptional cases, you could use the pressure cooker as a fryer. Keep reading to find out what we’re talking about.

Pressure Cookers and Types of Frying

The idea of frying in your pressure cooker is tempting, especially when you consider the speed at which your crunchy nuggets or french fries can be done. But before you dump oil in your pressure cooker and potentially cause a fire, here’s what you need to know.

Pressure cookers are not designed for frying. And, if you’ve heard the word pressure frying, then that’s because there are specifically designed fryers that fry food under pressure. Nine out of ten times, pressure fryers are used commercially. They’re not and should not be mistaken for home pressure cookers.

Aside from pressure frying, you might also wonder whether you can deep fry with your pressure cooker. This is still not a good idea because some pressure cookers might release toxic fumes into the oil.

Other types of frying include pan-frying and air frying. These two are the only types of frying that can be done with a pressure cooker. In fact, some pressure cookers even have accessories for air frying.

Let’s break down all types of frying and explain the reasons why it’s dangerous to try them in pressure cookers.

Pressure Frying

We’ll start with pressure frying, a method commonly and mistakenly associated with pressure cookers. Yet, the only thing pressure cooking and pressure frying have in common is the use of pressure, hence the shared word.

Pressure cooking is a water-based method. Adding water or another water-based liquid such as broth is essential. The pressure cooker needs enough water (at least one cup) to be able to exert pressure and cook the food properly. The steam from the water reaches temperatures well above the water’s boiling point and transfers that heat to the food, which is how it is cooked so quickly.

On the other hand, pressure frying is a variation of pressure cooking that uses oil and a sealed container to reach high temperatures to cook the food more quickly. The specially designed containers used for pressure frying are called pressure fryers, and they’re mostly used in industrial kitchens.

Aside from the water versus oil distinction, pressure cooking and pressure frying operate at different temperatures. Pressure cooking reaches temperatures of around 121 °C (250 °F), whereas pressure fryers that use oil heat up to around 160 °C (320 °F) and more. Because of this, using pressure cookers to pressure fry can cause the gasket in home cookers to melt, explode, or release toxic substances into the food.

In conclusion, never use your home pressure cooker for pressure frying!

Deep Frying

If pressure frying is not an option, can you improvise and use the pressure cooker to deep fry? This would mean filling the vessel with oil – enough to fully submerge the food in oil and leave the lid open while the food is frying.

Unfortunately, the answer is still no! While it’s technically possible to use it as a deep fryer, you should not use the pressure cooker for deep frying. The reason for this is the same as pressure frying.

The ideal temperature for deep frying is between 350 and 375 °F (176°C to 190°C). This is way too hot for home pressure cookers and the material of the vessel is not suited for such high temperatures. While there might not be an explosion, accidents such as melting, fire, and the release of toxic fumes are all possible outcomes.

Therefore, do not try to deep fry in a pressure cooker. Instead, grab a deep pot or a pan suitable for frying. They’ll get the job done just as fast, make the food crunchy and delicious, and let you cook accident-free.

Pan Frying

Unlike deep frying, pan frying or shallow frying is a popular cooking method that requires a minimal amount of oil or fat to fry the food. The method calls for a skillet or another stove-top pan brushed or filled with oil. So, can you mimic pan-frying in a pressure cooker?

Fortunately, you don’t have to. Pressure cookers, such as the Instant Pot come equipped with a very similar, if not identical, function called sauté.

Sautéing is a cooking technique that derives its meaning from the French word for jumping. And, while it’s meant for the food to be cooked in a very hot pan over a stove-top without oil, some people use oil or fat in very small amounts. Both pan-frying and sauteing brown the food and get it slightly crisp on the outside and moist on the inside.

Therefore, you can use the sauté function of the Instant Pot and/or other pressure cookers and add a little bit of cooking oil to achieve the same results as you would if you pan-fry food. It’s totally okay to do this as most sautéing Instant Pot recipes include cooking oil in the ingredients lists.

Air Frying

Traditionally frying means cooking food at a very high temperature in cooking oil or fat. However, with the rising evidence that fried food is bad for health, people have been looking for ways to make frying healthier. One way to do that is to eliminate oil and fat out of the equation, which is possible thanks to a super popular product – Air Fryer.

Air Fryer was invented about a decade ago, but the words air fryer and air frying are now used generically. Air frying took the world by storm because it offers a very simple cooking solution that fits people’s busy and dynamic lifestyles perfectly. It’s a healthy and quick method that simulates deep frying – but without the added calories and health risks of fried oil.

The manufacturers of pressure cookers have found a way to add this functionality to their products. Most pressure cookers today have an air frying feature or sell special air frying lids that can transform traditional pressure cookers into powerful air fryers.

Depending on the kind of pressure cooker you have, you can easily air fry your food with small adjustments, or buy the necessary accessories to do so.

If you’re thinking of buying a pressure cooker and frying is important to you, then look for one that comes with an air frying functionality or doubles as an air fryer.

Pressure Cookers with Frying Options

How do you choose the best pressure cooker for frying? Well, that depends on your cooking habits.

First, you need to decide what frying method you prefer, or you plan to use frequently. For example, if you’re interested in deep frying, then you might benefit more from buying a deep fryer instead of a pressure cooker. If you regularly pan-fry your food, then you can use a regular pressure cooker to simply saute your food. Finally, if you want to opt for a healthier meal, you might want to invest in an air fryer.

That being said, sometimes you might want a two-in-one solution. What would be your best option then?

This, too, depends on your preferences and habits. Today, there are some incredible pressure cookers that double as air fryers. If you choose one of those,  you’ll get a versatile multi-cooker in which you can pan fry (saute) and air fry.

There are products (multi-cookers) that claim to have a pressure frying function as well, but we do not recommend those, as pressure cooking and pressure frying are quite different.

Conclusion

As you can see, asking whether you can fry in a pressure cooker is not something we can answer in a simple yes or no manner. That’s because when people say frying they mean different things. In other words, frying might refer to several very different cooking methods: pressure frying, deep frying, pan frying (saute), and air frying.

If we’re talking about pressure cooking, which is common in industrial kitchens, then the answer is absolutely not! Pressure frying in home pressure cookers can lead to explosions, melting, fires, and toxic fumes.

The same applies to deep-frying, which is a very similar method except for the lack of pressure – the lid is open. However, this still doesn’t change the fact that deep-frying is done at very high temperatures that exceed the capacity of home pressure cookers. Trying to deep fry in pressure cookers could lead to similar hazardous accidents as pressure frying.

On the other hand, pan-frying (shallow frying/saute) and air frying can be done with a pressure cooker. Pan-frying is similar or almost identical to sauteing, which is a popular function in most pressure cookers, including the Instant Pot. With this function, you can achieve the same results as with pan-frying. Air frying is also doable but usually requires an additional accessory (air frying lid) or a pressure cooker that doubles as an air fryer.

Think about how you prefer to cook and what you’ll like most. Then, look for an appliance that would suit your needs best. A pressure cooker with an air fryer function is the most versatile option and can serve many delicious dishes that are both hearty and healthy.

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