Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

You see, there’s this pressure cooker…

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

I had an old stovetop pressure cooker, which had been my mother’s, some 30 years ago, and was never really fond of it. For one thing, I was still eating white rice more than brown, canned beans more than dried, so the time saving there wasn’t as important. And I had to time everything carefully, so while cooking was fast, it was also – intensive – and I really wanted to relax when I came home.

But the deal breaker for me? Many recipes I tried required quick pressure release, which in a stovetop pressure cooker meant I was supposed to pick up the pot and put it in a sink full of cold water. While that kitchen was larger than this one, it managed to have even less counter space, but a huge sink – at the other end of the room from the stove – so three quarters of the way through cooking dinner the sink was full of everything I had used along the way – the cutting board, the knife, a mixing bowl, etc. Clearing all that away and pouring in gallons of water, then carrying a heavy hot pot over?  I don’t think so… I used it sporadically, then I couldn’t find the jiggler, and I did not mourn it. I preferred the slow cooker – it took longer, but that was not my time, and the whole experience was more laid back. And I’ve been using that for years.

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

But a few years ago I was regularly doing demos in a cookware store where I ended up working near a display of electric pressure cookers. They have new features. They have their own timers, I would not have to hover with a kitchen timer. You certainly don’t put them in a sink of water! So it was tempting… but I could not quite justify it to myself. But then, when a friend who was downsizing offered me his… I took him up on the offer.

But it sat for months carefully Put Away… while I researched. Then we found a more accessible place to put it, and I’d haul it out and set up on the dining table (because there was no counter space!) and try it. And… two weeks ago I rearranged the kitchen to make room for it… and I’m really using it.

One basic thing I have learned is that electric and stovetop cookers have different timing, and sometimes need slightly different methods – so everything I write will be about my electric cooker, since that’s all I have. And this is not my field of expertise! I am learning, and sharing the process with you.

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

Remember the browned stew meat I wrote about last March? I took a round roast, cut it in bite sized pieces, and browned them, then cooled and froze them for use in later recipes. It’s a wonderful method with a slow cooker – you don’t have to fool around with a frying pan in the morning when you’re trying to set up the cooker, just pop them in! But it is also a time saver with a pressure cooker. And – if you have that, it is actually not insane to make just one or two servings of stew in the pressure cooker… so if you don’t have room for leftovers (but do have just enough freezer space for the browned meat) this works. Or if you just would like to vary the recipe! (My slow cooker is large, so I have room for, say, a  pork shoulder – but that means it’s hard to make smaller recipes in it.)

I’ve made this pressure cooker beef stew a couple of times, now, and it’s ready to share. It’s very basic, very plain, throw together with very little effort… which is the point of having this gadget, as far as I’m concerned…

I took a pound of the cubed and browned stew meat out of the freezer and put it in the fridge that morning to start thawing. (OK, so the night before would be a good idea.) That’s all I had to do in advance.

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

I’m still really learning timing… One thing that annoys me a bit is that most things I read about pressure cookers tell you happily “Cooks in only 10 minutes!” without mentioning that it will take 10 minutes to come to pressure, and then after cooking you should allow a natural release of pressure, which is another 10-15 minutes, and we’re talking half a hour or more all together – which still much less than – say – the hour or even more that recipe might take conventionally, but also is not ten minutes! So right now, I allow more time for everything than I probably need, to make sure I get dinner on the table. (And I will count that time in my recipe!)

Anyhow – I took out the pound of meat (I made four servings, so we’d have a dinner for later in the week) an onion, and potatoes and carrots. Also a can of diced tomatoes. I have found that the tomatoes cook down into a rich beefy sauce… Washed them, and went to work. I turned the cooker on to Saute, and peeled and chopped the onion while it heated, then added oil and then the onion to the pan. I stirred that, and then stirred periodically while I cut the rest of the vegetables, in large chunks so they would not overcook while the meat cooked – we don’t like our vegetables mushy.

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

Once they were cut up and the onion was soft, I added – in layers, in this order – the meat, the can of tomatoes, a little dried basil and oregano, the carrots, and last of all the potatoes. Then I sealed the pot (Make sure the pressure valve is sealed! Surely we don’t need to discuss how I know this…) and set it on High Pressure for ten minutes. Then I went and sat down, and relaxed…

When it beeped to tell me that it was fully cooked, I made a note of the time, and asked Rich to set the table. I allowed Natural Pressure Release – let it go a little more than ten minutes, then released any steam left, and served. (And remember – read the manual of your own pressure cooker to know how to do all this!)

The carrots and potatoes were tender, not mushy (though I’m afraid I broke them up a bit, digging down to make sure we both got our share of meat.) the tomatoes had fallen apart, and picked up a great deal of flavor from the beef, which in turn had their flavor. The beef was very tender – for reasons I fail to understand, pressure cooking tenderizes meat when I would expect it to toughen it.

If I had already had the sauteed onions I sometimes keep, it would have been even more streamlined – I’d just have layered everything in and turned it on. On the other hand, if I did not have the browned beef, that would have just been another step – use the Brown setting to brown it first, then remove it and proceed with the Saute setting, the onions, and the rest of the recipe as written.

I stripped this down to basics. There are all kinds of suggestions for cooking vegetables separately, or adding them part way through, so they don’t overcook – but I found the small pieces of meat, large pieces of vegetables, and layering worked well enough for everyday… A very easy stew, made in well under an hour (including prep time) so a simple practical weeknight dinner.

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

Pressure Cooker Beef Stew

Anne Murphy
Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 4


  • Olive oil for pan
  • 1 onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 lb. stew beef pre-browned
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 4 carrots cut in large chunks
  • 6 potatoes cut in large chunks


  • Set electric pressure cooker on Saute. When it heats, add oil, then onion, and saute until onion softens. Turn cooker off.
  • Add, in layers, the beef, tomatoes, herbs, carrots, and potatoes on top.
  • Seal pressure cooker. Set on High Pressure for 10 minutes.
  • When the cooker beeps that it is done, note the time. Allow natural pressure release for 10 - 15 minutes, then release any remaining pressure, and serve.


Note: This recipe is written for an electric pressure cooker. If you have a stovetop cooker, timing and some technique may vary.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Fast and easy, a simple stripped down pressure cooker beef stew - using pre-browned beef cubes - is a wonderful weeknight dinner!

20 thoughts on “Pressure Cooker Beef Stew”

  • I’m reading a lot of recipes here lately that use pressure cookers and all I remember from pressure cookers is my grandparents used to can with them. Had NO IDEA you could actually cook with them! I’ll be trying this one out! Thanks for the recipe!

    • A pressure canner is actually a little different (I am given to understand…) including that it is much, much larger (which has something to do with heat regulation…) Anyway, there are warnings all over not to try to can in a pressure cooker – it may not keep the right pressure long enough for safety.

      That said… the new electric pressure cookers are so much easier to use! They’re wonderful for things that need long cooking on the stove – beans, stew, anything you don’t want to have to simmer for hours in hot weather.

      I’m really just starting to learn – but I do already see some real advantages!

    • LOL – that’s what I’m doing! Honestly, if I had not been given it, I might not have tried for another few years, but – I’m glad I have it. I’m just starting, but I already see so many possibilities!

    • Well, there are two factors here. One of course is the pressure cooker, which speeds things up so much.

      But the other is the pre-browned meat… and you can use that technique for any kind of stew meat, such as mutton, if you want. I’d written about it in the earlier post – I got a large (cheaper!) cut of meat, and cut several pounds of it up in bite sized pieces, browned them, and froze them. Which means I have then been able to skip that whole step for half a dozen meals since… I toss those cubes into stew, chili, other bean dishes, even soup (I cut them small enough for that!) and simmer until done. Easy, and well worth an hour’s work a month ago.

    • As I head into summer… LOL (It was a cool day, though.) I really get a kick out of the way we all read blogs from all over the world.

      Enjoy it!

    • I’m just dipping my toe in, these days – but I really like it! It’s particularly useful for beans, I find… I don’t have to remember to set them up hours earlier!

  • Oh dear, I’m pretty tempted to ask how you found out about that pressure valve… 😛 Thanks so much for this helpful post, I don’t have a pressure cooker yet but we definitely want to invest in one asap. It’s turning cold here in Australia and it’s time for delicious stews like this one, or a Hungarian goulash recipe I’ve had my eye on for a while now haha. So much to cook, so little time! 🙂

    • LOL – well, it eventually occurred to me that it really should have come up to pressure by now… (I’m a little slow, sometimes. 😉 )

      You know, though, as it gets hot here – one thing about pressure cookers is that they don’t heat up the kitchen, because they cook so quickly. I’ve been fascinated to find that they are very common in India, I gather for that reason!

      We’re having weird weather, jumping from hot to cool and back, and I did want to finish the pre-browned beef… but even so, this didn’t feel heavy.

  • I just recently started using a pressure cooker. My husband insisted that WE need one LOL!! I will say I am amazed at the speed and the flavour it produces. This looks like the perfect comfort food….yummy!!

    • There is a bit of a learning curve – but I’m very excited by what I am getting!

      And thank you!

    • I’m new at it myself – which is one reason this recipe is so stripped down simple… I wanted something you could reasonably make on a weeknight after work! But it was really good – wonderful gravy… Enjoy it!

  • I’ve always used a pressure cooker for different things. But my husband bought me a Power pressure cooker XL (the one on tv) would i still use your recipe the same way in this one?

    • I honestly don’t know! Sorry, I wish I did… Probably?? I think it should?

      OK, to begin with, I really don’t know much about pressure cookers myself. It sounds as if you have much more experience than I do! I’ve just started using this Cuisinart electric one a few months ago, and am really getting used to it myself, and I’ve never used any other electric model. (And my experience with stovetop cookers is years old – I don’t remember enough for it to be helpful.)

      As I understand it, stovetop and electric models cook a bit differently, and I’m not really clear on the differences yet. I’m not at all familiar with the model you got – I assume electric, and that you’re used to stovetop? I would read your manual, see what it says (if anything…) about using other recipes, and maybe become familiar with the machine. I’d probably make one of their recipes, then a similar one I already had, to see what the differences were…

      That said – all the disclaimer LOL – I think this should work as written in other electric pressure cookers, but since I have not used them myself, I can make no guarantees. It probably needs some adaptation for stovetop cookers.

      But thank you for asking!

      Sorry to be vague – but I really don’t know enough about this subject to be more precise. I usually only write about subjects I know more about, but I’ve been excited enough about the pressure cooker that I wanted to share it!

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