Whether you own an Instant Pot or you’re researching while looking to buy one, there’s so much about them that you may not know! These revamped pressure cookers are taking over the modern kitchen, and for good reason – it can cook your food ridiculously fast, and replace many other kitchen gadgets you’ve been using all these years. It’s called a 7-in-one, and that’s because it’s capable of so many different cooking methods all in one gadget. While kitchen cupboard real estate is high value in homes these days, this one is worth the sacrifice. So yes, we know that the Instant Pot can do a lot of things, but there’s tips and tricks that will help you optimize your success with it. Hopefully, by the end of this list, you’ll either be convinced to buy one or discover new ways to use the one you have!
Let me explain. When a recipe calls for “8 minutes on high pressure” for example, those 8 minutes are not accounting for the amount of time it takes for the Instant Pot to generate the pressure before it cooks.
When you set your Instant Pot, expect to wait several minutes before the timer begins. This is key when you’re trying to time out all your dishes perfectly. Account for those pressure-building minutes, and you’re going to be a well-timed cooking machine!
This is often a very overlooked feature of the Instant Pot. While many consider the pressure cooker just a time-advanced version of a Crock Pot, this is something that the Crock Pot can’t do.
By simply pressing the “sauté” button on the Instant pot, the bottom of the pot heats up, and you’re able to sauté anything you need to in the hot pan. This is wonderful when you really want a good saute flavor to your onions and peppers before creating the rest of your dish, or perhaps browning your meat before cooking, giving it a great sear on the outside. Whatever you do, do not skip over the sauté feature. It might just be a favorite.
YUCK. Even the word “curdle” makes my stomach turn. So here’s a downside of the Instant Pot, while it can do many amazing things, sometimes it has the misfortune of creating a heat that’s so high, it causes the milk proteins to separate.
Good news is, it’s perfectly safe to eat, but chances are you’re not going to want to. However, many dairy-inclusive recipes work just fine in the Instant Pot. For example, many say that cheese is great in it! But, this may take some testing to find out what kinds of dairy and recipes are going to cause this issue. This isn’t an isolated issue either, slow cookers are known for doing the same. The best thing you can do is add your dairy to the recipe at the end when it’s finished pressure cooking.
Slow cookers can’t do this, or at least, it’s not recommended. However, with an Instant Pot, you get a green light! This is great when you’re truly last-minute in your dinner planning and don’t have time to thaw your meats.
All you need to do to make this dream a reality is increase the cooking time by 50%. One exception would be large roasts, you’ll likely not want to cook those from frozen, as it will create an overcooked outside, and undercooked inside. Not ideal. But for meatballs, chicken breasts, steaks etc – you’re golden.
While you absolutely can use your Instant Pot to steam vegetables (it even comes with a handy basket for such things) when it comes to cooking most of your food – it’s not steaming, it’s pressure cooking. When you think about it, who wants to eat steamed meat?
In a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, it’s creating pressure from the steam, creating a force that breaks down the food very quickly. It’s the same method of a slow cooker, but much much faster.
On the top of the Instant Pot is the most important piece of the gadget, and that’s the venting switch. When pressure cooking, this should be set to “seal”. When your cooking is complete there are actually two options when it comes to venting.
The first is to do a quick release, where you turn the knob to “venting” (use an oven mitt for safety) and let all the steam out in just a minute or so. The quick release method is best for stopping the cooking process quickly, ideal for vegetables and pasta. Or, you can opt for a natural release, where the pressure will be released gradually. You do this simply by just letting the pot sit, still on “sealed” while the pressure gradually diminishes which is ideal for meals such as porridge or soup. You’ll be able to tell when both methods are finished releasing when the indicator button drops down.
To build that pressure to cook, the machine needs something to create that pressure, and that comes from the liquid. Even if you’re cooking meat, you’ll need a minimum of a cup of liquid to properly prepare it.
The liquid can be water or broth, which will both create a great steam for pressure cooking. Be careful though, too much liquid will result in a loss of flavor. If you’re using a thicker liquid for cooking, you should dilute it first to make sure it’s able to create a steam pressure for cooking. If you’re hoping for a thicker sauce, just add thickeners such as cornstarch after the pressure cooking is complete.
In the 1600’s the first pressure cooker was invented. Back then, they didn’t have the technology or the safety testing we do today. Even dating back ten years, pressure cookers were known for being dangerous, explosive, hazardous and not something to trust in your own home.
While you’ve likely heard the horror stories, the good news is that the newly revamped versions of the pressure cooker, like the Instant Pot, have so many safety measures built into them now, that with a little bit of knowledge and some basic common sense, the device is entirely safe. Common sense, for example, would mean not opening it before it’s been properly vented.
There’s a lot of buttons on the Instant Pot. Truthfully, when I first bought mine, it sat for about 2 weeks because I was just overwhelmed by how to use it. It seemed complicated, too complicated, and I wasn’t in the mood for reading the novel of an instructional guide.
Then I learned, that the manual button is the one button you’re going to use the most, and when you start with that, everything else starts to make sense. I’ll be honest, I’ve only ever used the manual button and the saute, and I’m still overwhelmingly in love with my Instant Pot. The manual button allows you to set it to low or high pressure, and then set a time. That’s it, so no guesswork needed! Just look up the cook time for what you’re making and go ahead and manually enter it.
Imagine for a moment, that in an error in judgment, you open the Instant Pot and get a face full of painful steam. Not exactly the steam facial that you’d typically enjoy.
When opening the Instant Pot, think of the lid as a shield, and once you’ve unlocked the lid, simply open it slowly and tilting so that the steam exits away from you. Even after venting, there will still be steam, so this is a great trick to keeping your face out of steam’s way.
We’re so used to cooking pasta by submerging it into a liquid and boiling it to a cook. In a pressure cooker, submerging it in the liquid will likely end up with some mushy noodles. While they still may taste okay, we’re not aiming for mediocre, when amazing is a possibility.
When adding all your ingredients to a pasta-based dish, add the pasta noodles (uncooked) last, right on top. The steam pressure from the liquids will cook the pasta to the perfect density and be much more enjoyable.
Ok so forget for a hot second what I said about milk curdling in an Instant Pot because with every rule, there seem to be exceptions to them. This is one of them.
Following the instructional guide, you can successfully make yogurt at home, simply from milk. There’s even a button built in, just for this. This may seem like an incredibly bizarre use for the Instant Pot, but the proof is in the pudding (err, yogurt) and fans are saying it’s amazing!
I hate dishes, and I’m going to assume that’s a blanket statement for everybody who’s ever cooked. After slaving in the kitchen to create a satisfying meal, only to turn around and realize “oh right, the dishes”. With a typical recipe, this can mean many pots and pans. Luckily with the Instant Pot, you’re already saving yourself the dishes.
With an easily removable inner stainless steel pot (where all the cooking magic happens), it’s a quick clean up of one dish, and usually a small wipe down of the lid. It’s cleaned up and put back away in just minutes.
When you’re Pinteresting and Googling for pressure cooker recipes, note that while yes, the Instant Pot is indeed a pressure cooker, older recipes are likely not accounting for the differences in the newly revamped versions.
Older models of pressure cookers operate at about a 15 psi (pounds per square inch, pressure) whereas the Instant Pot operates at an 11.6 psi. You can still use those recipes you find, just make sure you convert them by setting your Instant Pot for a few minutes longer than the traditional pressure cooker recipe calls for.
Before you get all excited about the idea of using your Instant Pot as a canner, sorry to say – it’s a no-go. If you’re looking to can some jams or pickles, you’ll have to stick with the traditional methods.
Why exactly? Well, it’s just not been safety approved to do so. Not only that, but canning is usually monitored by a thermometer, whereas the Instant Pot regulates itself with a pressure sensor and not temperature. Don’t get too upset though, you can still use it for a million other things, just not this.
When you go shopping for an Instant Pot, you’ll quickly realize that there’s a variety of sizes ranging from 3-8 quarts! The most common one is the 6-quart and will do most of the recipes you’re hoping to do. A 6-quart can fit one whole chicken, where an 8-quart may be able to fit TWO!
When you’re considering sizes to get, bigger is likely always better and not something you’re likely to regret. While the 3-quart size may be appealing when it comes to storing it, you’ll be bound to second-guess your decision later when you want to cook a whole spaghetti squash in it, and can’t. If you’re not sure, do what most people do, and stick with the middle of the road 6-quart size. Unless you’re feeding a large family every night, in which case – it’s best to go up in size.
We talked about pasta being on the top of the pile when cooking in an Instant Pot, but the opposite is the rule of thumb for meats. Generally, it works best to keep the meat at the bottom for proper cooking.
The main reason for this is to keep things from browning and burning on the bottom, like tomato sauces and anything that may burn or carmelize. Your meat isn’t likely to burn, so it’s best to do what’s best for the whole dish, and place it into the pot, first.
Sorry, slow cooker…you’re taking up too much space in our cupboard. One of the 7-in-one features of the Instant Pot is that is can work as a slow cooker.
So, while the big gimmick of the Instant Pot is that it can speedily cook the recipes you once did in a crock pot in record time, it always has the ability to do the low & slow game, too. Not only can it replace your slow cooker, but it can replace your rice cooker, too. Looks like it’s time to start donating those soon-to-be unused kitchen dust collecting gadgets.
Yes, my carb-loving friends, BREAD. There are hundreds of recipes online dedicated to this, and they all look amazing. While I’ve yet to try this myself, the results of everyone else’s creations look absolutely incredible.
There’s a catch though, as most recipes use the Instant Pot only for Step 1 of making a bread, the most important part – the rising. After it’s done rising, it’s still baked in the oven for about 30 minutes. I mean, that’s still pretty easy, but not as “instant” as we’d like it to be. However, there are some who have been able to make a bread right inside the Instant Pot, using a tin can!
One of the biggest factors in the Instant Pot – is trust. Which, can be stressful for anybody preparing a meal. Typically with most meals, you’re able to take a peek, grab a taste, check for doneness and re-season and adjust if necessary. Since the device runs on pressure, and “peeking” means releasing all that…you’ll ruin your dish, or delay your cooking time.
This is where the recipes you follow, and some practice will help you come along in your Instant Pot trust issues. The whole “set it and forget it” is a hard concept for most of us. When dinner is due on the table, and you’re hoping and praying that the machine is doing what it promised, it can be a little nerve wrecking. In time you’ll come to learn and know that this one-gadget wonder, is definitely worthy of your trust.