Air frying has become one of the most popular cooking trends in recent years. The air fryer’s ability to make foods deliciously crispy using little to no oil is undeniably appealing. At the same time, pressure cookers have been a staple in many households for years thanks to their speed and versatility.
For those who own and love using both an air fryer and pressure cooker, a common question arises: Can you achieve the magical crispiness of an air fryer using just your pressure cooker?
While a standard pressure cooker is not designed specifically for air frying, there are some methods you can use to mimic its results by encouraging browning and crisping in your pressure cooker.
How Do Air Fryers and Pressure Cookers Work?
First, let’s take a quick look at what distinguishes these two popular appliances:
- Air fryers circulate hot air around food at high speeds to create a crispy texture on the outside. The rapid air flow produces a similar result to deep frying, but using little to no oil. Air fryers cook at temperatures around 400°F.
- Pressure cookers use steam pressure to cook foods very quickly. The airtight lid allows pressure to build up internally, raising the temperature above boiling point. The pressurized environment helps food cook up to 70% faster. Typical pressure cookers only reach around 250°F.
So while the pressure cooker’s high-pressure steam is great for speeding up cooking times, it’s not specifically designed for crisping and browning like an air fryer.
Techniques to “Air Fry” in a Pressure Cooker
While you won’t get quite the same level of crispness as a real air fryer, there are some tricks you can use to get your pressure cooker to mimic air frying:
- Use a small amount of oil: Adding just a tablespoon or two of oil will help facilitate browning and crisping. Using cooking spray also works.
- Elevate foods: Sitting foods on a trivet or steamer basket instead of directly in the liquid helps promote airflow.
- Add a little liquid: A small amount of water, broth, or other liquid will turn to steam and help crisp the exterior. Too much liquid will make food soggy.
- Cook in bursts: Quickly release pressure and open to check crispness every few minutes. Close and bring the pressure back up to finish cooking.
- Naturally release pressure: Allowing pressure to release slowly at the end of cooking helps continue steaming the food a bit longer for better crispness.
Foods That Can Be “Air Fried” in a Pressure Cooker
You can modify various foods in the pressure cooker to achieve an extra-crispy texture:
- Chicken wings, drumsticks, and boneless thighs
- French fries and potato wedges
- Veggies like green beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower
- Breaded foods like mozzarella sticks or jalapeño poppers
- Apple chips
For best results, cut foods into smaller pieces to increase surface area for browning. Also, work in batches to avoid overcrowding, which leads to steaming instead of crisping.
More Tips for “Air Frying” Success
Here are some additional tips to help get your pressure-cooked foods as crispy as possible:
- Brush or spray foods with oil – Adding some oil helps facilitate the Maillard reaction which browns foods. A light coating provides just enough fat to encourage crisping.
- Bread or batter foods – Breading or battering foods before pressure cooking gives an extra crunchy exterior. Use panko, flour, or cornmeal for the coating.
- Pat foods dry – Make sure foods are dried thoroughly before cooking. Excess moisture on the surface will steam instead of crisp.
- Preheat properly – Allow the pressure cooker to preheat for 5-10 minutes before adding food. This helps ensure it’s fully heated.
- Use a cooking rack – Elevating foods on a rack increases airflow and promotes even crisping all over.
- Quick release pressure – Releasing pressure immediately rather than naturally maintains more heat for better crisping.
- Cook in intervals – Cook for 2-3 minutes, quick release, then repeat for perfectly cooked and crisped food.
- Let foods rest – Allowing cooked foods to rest for 5-10 minutes helps finish crisping as heat redistributes.
Key Differences Between Air Fryers and Pressure Cookers
While your pressure cooker can achieve decent crispy textures, there will still be some key differences between it and an actual air fryer:
- Temperature: Air fryers cook at around 400°F whereas pressure cookers max out around 250°F. The lower temp of a pressure cooker means less browning.
- Air circulation: Air fryers use a fan to circulate air rapidly around food. Pressure cookers have minimal airflow in a sealed environment.
- Cooking method: Air fryers use convection to circulate dry heat. Pressure cookers use steam and pressure for moist heat cooking.
- Crispiness: The turbulent high-speed airflow of an air fryer can never be fully mirrored in a pressure cooker. You’ll get good crunch, but likely not as much as an air fryer.
- Capacity: Air fryers typically have more generous capacity – some hold up to 6 quarts. Pressure cookers often top out around 8 quarts.
- Cook times: Air frying usually takes just 10-15 minutes to crisp up foods. Pressure cooking takes a little longer, especially with the quick-release intervals.
- Convenience: Air fryers offer quick one-step crisping while pressure cookers require more monitoring and intermittent quick releases.
So while your trusty pressure cooker can achieve good crunch, an actual air fryer is still ideal for getting that perfect crispy-on-the-outside texture.
Popular Foods to “Air Fry” in a Pressure Cooker
Let’s take a look at some of the top foods people like to prepare crispy and crunchy in their pressure cooker using these air fryer mimicking techniques:
1. Chicken Wings and Drumsticks
Chicken wings and drumsticks are a perfect choice for getting crisp in the pressure cooker. The high-fat content in the skin helps them get beautifully browned and air-fryer-crispy. Coat them with a bit of oil or dry rub seasoning before pressure cooking using quick-release intervals for the best texture.
2. French Fries
Crispy fries are easy to make in the pressure cooker! Cut potatoes into fry shapes, coat with oil, and pressure cook in batches for 2-3 minutes before quickly releasing and repeating. Double frying is ideal, but a single fry works too. Finish by tossing the fries with salt.
3. Breaded Veggies
Veggies like green beans, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower all take well to breading and crisping up in the pressure cooker. The key is keeping the veggies in small pieces before dredging in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Mist with oil before pressure cooking to perfection.
4. Breaded Cheese
Get your cheese fix crispy-style by breading and frying up mozzarella sticks or jalapeño poppers in the pressure cooker. The steamy environment will keep the cheese inside melted and gooey while the coating gets browned and crunchy.
5. Potato Chips
For homemade potato chips, thinly slice potatoes, mist them with oil, and cook them elevated in the pressure cooker in batches for the perfect crisp-tender chip. Season with salt, garlic powder, or other spices out of the fryer.
6. Apple Chips
Make your apple chips by cutting apples thinly, coating them in cinnamon and sugar, then pressure cooking until dried and crispy but still a little chewy. They make for a delicious healthy snack full of flavor.
7. Fish Fillets or Nuggets
Fish fillets or nuggets coated in breadcrumbs or battered take wonderfully to pressure-cooked “air frying”. The fish cooks quickly while the coating crisps up for comfort food bliss. Cod, tilapia, haddock, and more work great.
8. Onion Rings
Onion rings might seem tricky, but they cook up nice and crispy in the pressure cooker. Soak the onions briefly to soften them, coat them in batter, and fry in small batches for tender onions and crunchy coating.
As you can see, there’s an endless array of foods you can modify to get crispy in the pressure cooker using a few air fryer-mimicking tricks. From veggies to proteins to snacks, the options are unlimited.
Pressure Cooker Brands and Models That Work Best
If you’re looking to purchase a pressure cooker specifically to achieve these “air fryer” style results, some models work better than others:
- Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer Lid – This model has a special air fryer lid with a fan to provide true convection cooking. It air fries the best in a pressure cooker.
- Ninja Foodi – Many Foodi models have air fry, pressure cook, and combo settings making them ideal air fryer and pressure cooker 2-in-1s.
- Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus – The Duo Evo has an innovative heat diffuser that helps promote browning and crisping in pressure cooking mode.
- Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker – This features an adjustable steam release for more even heat distribution for crisper results.
- Cosori Pressure Cooker – The Cosori has convenient presets for foods like fries, chicken wings, and more, making air fryer-style cooking easier.
Look for pressure cookers with options that allow you to open and close quickly, adjust steam release, remove fryer baskets, and otherwise facilitate crisping. The more tailored it is for multi-cooking methods beyond pressure cooking, the better your air fryer mimicking results will ultimately be.
Should You Buy an Air Fryer If You Already Have a Pressure Cooker?
If you love fried foods and don’t own an air fryer yet, it’s worth investing in one even if you already have a pressure cooker. The specialized high-speed airflow will give you unmatched crispiness with little to no oil.
However, those who already own a pressure cooker may be able to hold off on purchasing an air fryer, at least initially. With some trial and error using the pressure cooker techniques above, you can make quite a variety of crispy foods that may satisfy your cravings. While not a perfect replica, your pressure cooker can still turn out satisfyingly crunchy potatoes, veggies, chicken, and more.
Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not you need an air fryer in addition to your pressure cooker:
Pros of Adding an Air Fryer
- Achieve the perfect crisp that’s hard to replicate in a pressure cooker
- Large air fryer capacity – make bigger batches of fries, wings, etc.
- Easier and faster than pressure cooker crisping methods
- Air fry an infinite variety of foods from steak to desserts
- Most affordable dedicated air frying appliance
- Make greasy takeout favorites healthier at home
Cons of Adding an Air Fryer
- Takes up more kitchen counter space
- A heating element may burn out quicker than a stove-top pressure cooker
- Not as versatile as a multi-cooker appliance
- You can get decent crisp in a pressure cooker with some effort
- Learning another new appliance and its functions
The bottom line? Your pressure cooker can mimic air frying decently, but air fryers are specially designed for the perfectly crisp, golden texture you love in fried foods. With the right techniques, you can get fairly comparable results between the two appliances. However, if you’re a big fried food lover, investing in an actual air fryer is recommended for the full experience.
That said, your existing pressure cooker is worth using to its full crisping potential before running out to buy another appliance. With some trial and error, you can create some shockingly good air fryer imitations in your pressure cooker. And for many households, the results may be more than crisp enough!
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
If you’re still curious about just how well you can crispy up foods in your pressure cooker, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Can you put an air fryer basket in an instant pot?
Unfortunately no, you cannot insert an air fryer basket directly into an instant pot. The base is not designed to hold a basket, and the lid would not properly seal. You can buy special accessory lids to convert some models into air fryers though.
Is a pressure cooker the same as an air fryer?
No, a standard pressure cooker and air fryer are not the same appliance. Air fryers use hot air circulation to crisp up foods; pressure cookers use steam pressure to cook foods fast. However, there are some pressure cookers designed to also air fry.
What is the best pressure cooker for air frying?
The best pressure cookers for air fryer results are the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, Foodi models, or others with special settings or accessories for air frying. Models that allow you to release pressure quickly or distribute heat evenly also work well.
Can I put a rack in my pressure cooker?
Yes, you can put a rack or trivet into your pressure cooker to elevate foods out of the liquid. This promotes airflow and allows steam to circulate for better crisping.
Should pressure release be quick or natural?
For the crispiest results, a quick pressure release is best to maintain heat. But a natural release can also work well to continue gently steaming and crisping the exterior slightly longer.
Can I get my pressure cooker as hot as an air fryer?
No, a standard pressure cooker will only reach around 250°F max, while air fryers get up to 400°F. This higher heat is what allows true air fryer crispiness. Even at max settings, pressure cookers can’t get quite as hot.
Hopefully, this FAQ helps provide more detail on how you can utilize your pressure cooker to achieve delicious crispy “air-fried” results!
The Takeaway: Mimic Air Frying in Your Pressure Cooker
While a pressure cooker isn’t a true replacement for an actual air fryer, with some clever tweaks and techniques, you can use it to get impressively crispy, crunchy texture in foods. Give it a try on items like chicken, french fries, breaded veggies, and more. With a little trial and error, you well be air frying with the best of them, even without investing in another appliance.
Though the results may not be 100% identical, you can achieve satisfying, crispy faux-fried dishes in your trusty pressure cooker. So break out your pot, grab some wings and fries, and get ready to air fry the pressure cooking way. Your family won’t believe the satisfying crunch you can create.