Can you smoke in a pressure cooker? Process explained

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 18, 2022

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Have you ever wanted to try smoking meat but been hesitant because of the time commitment?

Smoking meat is a great way to add flavor and juiciness to your favorite cuts. But it can be a long process, especially if you’re using a smoker.

What if there was a way to smoke meat without using a smoker?

How to Use a Pressure Cooker to Smoke Meat?

Enter the electric pressure cooker. It’s a handy kitchen appliance you can use to make flavorful smoky foods.

But you’re probably wondering can you smoke meat in a pressure cooker considering it’s such a different cooking method?

You can use a pressure cooker to smoke meat, and it’s a much quicker process than using a smoker. You can either place wood chips on the bottom of the pressure cooker or use liquid smoke to give the food a wood smoke flavor.

In this guide, I’ll share how to smoke meat and other foods in a pressure cooker and still get a delicious smoky flavor!

Can you smoke meat and other food in the pressure cooker?

Yes, it’s possible to smoke meat and other foods like vegetables in the pressure cooker.

In fact, you can smoke meat and other food in a pressure cooker using two methods.

  1. First, you can place soaked wood chips on a foil tray and place them on the bottom of the pressure cooker. Then you have to use a steamer basket on top and place the meat in there so the smoke can penetrate it.
  2. The second option is to use liquid smoke in your meat marinade or place a few drops in the pressure cooker. This infuses the meat (or other food) with a flavorful wood smoke aroma.

Smoking meat in the pressure cooker is a great way to get that classic BBQ flavor without having to fire up the smoker.

So if you’re short on time or space, this could be a great option for you.

What is the meat like if you smoke it in a pressure cooker?

The texture of the meat may be slightly different since it is not cooked over indirect heat in the smoker. Pressure cooking meat will make it more tender since the moisture is sealed in.

To be fair, you can’t expect the meat to have the same texture if you were to smoke it in a smoker. But the flavor will be very similar!

If you’re looking for a juicier and more tender piece of meat, smoking it in the pressure cooker is a great option.

Benefits of smoking in a pressure cooker

  • The food will cook faster than in a smoker
  • The pressure cooker will intensify the smoky flavor
  • You can use liquid smoke to flavor the food
  • It’s a great way to cook meat if you’re short on time
  • You can also smoke other things like fish or vegetables
  • It’s easier to control the temperature in a pressure cooker than in a smoker
  • Pressure cookers are more versatile than smokers (you can use them for other things besides smoking meat)

Wood chips vs liquid smoke: which one to use?

Smoking in a pressure cooker is a great way to infuse flavor into your food. But what’s the best way to do it? Should you use wood chips or liquid smoke?

Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each method:

Pros of using wood chips

  • You can control the amount of smoke flavor you add to your food.
  • Wood chips offer the best smoky taste and come in many flavors.
  • Wood chips are easy to find and relatively inexpensive.

Cons of using wood chips

  • You have to soak the wood chips before you use them, which can be a hassle.
  • They can make a mess in your pressure cooker.

Pros of using liquid smoke

  • It’s easy to use – just add it to your cooking liquid.
  • It doesn’t make a mess.

Cons of using liquid smoke

  • You have to be careful not to add too much, or your food will taste bitter.
  • It can be hard to find in stores.

So, which is the best way to smoke in a pressure cooker? Ultimately, it depends on your personal preference.

Just keep in mind that nothing really beats the flavor of natural wood chips.

What wood chips to use in a pressure cooker?

You should use flavorful medium-strong wood chips like hickory, pecan, or mesquite. If you want a milder flavor, use wood chips like apple or cherry.

Generally, if you want a true Southern-style BBQ aroma, hickory or pecan wood chips will do the trick, even in a pressure cooker.

Learn all about pairing wood with food for smoking here

Do you soak wood chips?

Yes, it’s best to soak the wood chips before using them in your pressure cooker because this will help prevent them from burning.

Soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes, then drain them before using.

You can also soak them in your favorite BBQ sauce or marinade for extra flavor.

How to smoke in a pressure cooker

When smoking in a pressure cooker, the goal is to give the cooked meat like smoked brisket a similar smoked flavor as smoking outdoors on a charcoal smoker with flavored wood chips.

So, here’s how to smoke:

Marinate and season the meat

Let’s say you want to smoke beef brisket – the first step is to flavor the meat.

The obvious way to do this is to use a dry rub or wet rub.

If you’re going to use liquid smoke to give the beef brisket (or other meat) that rich smokiness, you should use a marinade.

Soak the wood chips

People who’ve smoked meat in the pressure cooker recommend that you soak your wood chips for 30 minutes before using them.

This way, they’ll be less likely to burn when you put them in the pressure cooker.

If you’re using liquid smoke, there’s no need to soak the wood chips.

Add in the wood chips or liquid smoke

Use 2 or 3 drops of liquid smoke per pound of meat. You can either mix it in the marinade or directly into the pressure cooker.

Grab some aluminum foil and make a packet.

If you’re using wood chips, place them on the aluminum foil and make a little packet. Be sure to poke some holes in the top so the smoke can escape.

Once the foil packet is ready, place it on the bottom of the pressure cooker. This will create smoke that will flavor the food as it cooks.

Add liquid

You need to add a cooking liquid, preferably beef broth or chicken broth. A cup of water will do too but it’s important that you add liquid because a pressure cooker needs steam.

I like to add a spoonful of barbecue sauce in there too for extra flavor.

The liquid also prevents the wood chips from burning.

Place the steamer basket on top

Put the meat in the steamer basket and close the pressure cooker.

If the meat pieces are too big, cut them into smaller bits so they fit into the steamer basket.

Make sure the valve is in the sealing position.

How long to pressure cook meat?

Now it’s time to set the pressure cooker to low pressure and cook for 1 hour per pound of meat.

You need to cook on the low setting at a low temperature to mimic the “low and slow” method.

You’ll need to cook the meat, especially beef brisket and other large cuts for a minimum of 90 minutes because it takes a while for the pressure cooker to come up to pressure.

Pressure cookers have a quick pressure release function but you let the pressure release naturally for 20 to 30 minutes.

Now your food is ready and “smoked”.

There are plenty of instant pot recipes you can use for various types of smoked meat.

Pressure cooker vs smoker: what’s the difference?

Pressure cookers and smokers are both great for cooking food quickly. However, there are some key differences between the two.

Smokers use indirect heat to cook food slowly over a period of time, whereas pressure cookers use direct heat to cook food quickly under high pressure.

Smoking is done using the low and slow method which means it can take hours to cook meat properly. This allows the smoke to penetrate the meat and give it that classic flavor.

On the other hand, pressure cooking is a quick-cooking method that uses high pressure to cook food in a sealed environment.

This means that you can cook meat in a fraction of the time, but it will not have the same smoky flavor as it would if it was cooked in a smoker.

So, if you’re looking to smoke food in a pressure cooker, you’ll need to use liquid smoke to get that desired flavor or you can place soaked wood chips in a foil pouch at the bottom of the pressure cooker.

How does pressure cooking work?

Pressure cooking is a method of cooking food using steam pressure.

The steam pressure cooker was invented in the 1680s, and since then, many different models have been created.

Pressure cookers work by sealing in steam, which raises the internal pressure and temperature.

This allows food to be cooked faster than with other methods, such as boiling, oven cooking, and smoking.

Essentially, when you pressure to cook food, the device raises the water’s boiling point and traps all the steam inside the cooking chamber.

Thus, the cooking time is reduced by as much as 70%.

What kind of pressure cooker to use for smoking meat?

When it comes to smoking meat in a pressure cooker, you’ll want to use an electric pressure cooker.

This is because electric pressure cookers can maintain a consistent temperature, which is key for smoking meat.

There are plenty of pressure cooker options on the market.

Most people prefer to use an Instant pot cooker which has many functions. Others like a smart pressure cooker with many features and cooking options.

The most popular pressure cookers, which work very well for smoking food include the

While you can surely smoke in a pressure cooker, did you know you can also bake in a smoker?

What is liquid smoke?

Liquid smoke is a water-soluble solution that contains the concentrated flavors and aromas of woodsmoke. It is used as a flavoring agent in food.

Thus, liquid smoke is NOT natural smoke from burning wood chips or chunks.

To use liquid smoke on meat, poultry, or fish, mix it with water, vinegar, or oil, and then brush it on the food. You can also add it to marinades, sauces, or rubs.

If you want to experiment with cooking with liquid smoke, the assorted mixed box of Colgin is a good set to start with. It has the most popular smoke wood flavors of apple, hickory, pecan and mesquite.

How is liquid smoke made?

Liquid smoke is made by burning wood in a specialized chamber. The smoke that results is condensed and collected in water.

This solution is then filtered and concentrated to create liquid smoke.

What food can you smoke in pressure cooker?

The most obvious option is meat, like smoked brisket or smoked pork chops. Chicken and turkey are good options too if you prefer lean meat.

But you can also smoke other things, like fish, or even vegetables. I am a bit skeptical about vegetables though because they might get too mushy.

Here are some ideas for things you can smoke in your pressure cooker:

  • Smoked brisket
  • Smoked pork chops
  • Smoked chicken
  • Smoked turkey
  • Smoked fish – including salmon
  • Smoked vegetables like corn on the cob or carrots.

Smoked brisket is a classic pressure cooker dish, and for good reason.

The cooking time is short, so the meat doesn’t have a chance to dry out. And the pressure cooker intensifies the smoky flavor.

Takeaway

Smoking meat in a pressure cooker is a great way to cook food quickly and with intense flavor.

You can use wood chips or liquid smoke to add even more flavor to your food, and smoking in a pressure cooker is a great way to cook meat if you’re short on time.

You can use any brand of pressure cooker you have on hand as long as it’s electric. Since there’s a reduced cooking time, pressure cooking is a great way to make smoky dishes.

Next, find out if you can put a cookie sheet in a smoker?

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.