So you’ve finally braved into the world of pressure cooking with your Instant Pot. The machine is a popular addition to everyone’s countertops lately for good reason, this thing can *nearly* do it all. There’s a lot of features on an Instant Pot, and it can be easy to get quickly overwhelmed by all of them. Plus, have you looked at the manual? Basically a novel. So it can be easy to try and DIY your way through using the Instant Pot, making common mistakes along the way. All this leads to is frustrations and messes when you’re “instant” meal turns into an instant fail. So we’re going to talk about the most common mistakes that are made with an Instant Pot, hopefully, so that you can avoid them.
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It’s easy to default our methods of cooking to what we know, like ovens and microwaves where the timer means the cooking time.
However, with the Instant Pot, you’re not going to be cooking anything if you use the timer button to cook your food. Make sure you’re using the “MANUAL” button, then set your cooking time.
This may seem like a foolish move, but it’s actually surprisingly common. The inner pot is the removable piece that cooks and contains all the food, then is washed and returned to the Instant Pot for its next meal.
The fact that it can be removed, can also mean it can be forgotten. If you’re living in a shared cooking space, with those who might want to try out your Instant Pot, be sure that the inner pot is returned to it’s the right place at all times, before your machine is ruined.
There are three buttons on the one side of the Instant Pot. Rice, Multigrain & Porridge. Yet, when we are cooking rice, we often just want to go ahead and set it to “rice”. But, not all rice and grains, such as quinoa. are alike.
It’s best to do a quick online search for the specific type of rice you’re cooking and decide if you want to use one of the Instant Pot preset buttons, or go ahead and use a manual cook for more control on your cooking time.
In many cases, the food your cooking needs room to expand. Therefore, make sure you’re not overfilling your Instant Pot more than half or 2/3 of the way with food.
If you’re finding that you’re not able to make ample portions of the foods you’re cooking, maybe it’s time you go up a size in the Instant Pot. They come in 5, 6 and 8qt sizes.
When we foolishly abide by the word “instant” meaning “right now”, it can ruin an entire meal when it comes to the Instant Pot.
The “quick release” is when you move the seal on the top of the pot to “vent” immediately after the time is up. Doing so, you can open the lid once fully vented, and remove your food. However, some food is meant to have a “slow release” meaning you leave the knob to “seal” and let it slowly and naturally release the pressure (you’ll know this is done when the little seal button indicator drops down).
Ah, classic. You follow all the instructions, set your dish to it’s cooking time, walk away and await your meal.
When you come back, you find that it’s slowly escaping steam out the top, not actually pressure cooking at all. You have forgotten to seal the venting valve. We’ve all been there, or likely will be if not yet, and it’s a very common mistake.
When washing the lid of the Instant Pot there’s a rubber sealing ring that’s removed for cleaning, in many cases.
Forgetting to place it back into the lid before cooking again can cause quite the mess and potentially a loss of a meal. Just like the Instant Pot inner pot, make sure after washing, all pieces return to their place.
It happens. The first time I was cooking pasta in the Instant Pot, I had a hard time NOT filling water like I would if I were boiling the pasta.
Pressure cooking is different. You’re not boiling the food, you’re creating a steam from a liquid that cooks the food, using pressure. Meaning you aren’t typically straining the liquid off afterward, it absorbs into the food during its process of cooking. So if you’re second-guessing the liquid amounts of a recipe, try trusting it instead. It’s likely just the right amount.
This was my first and biggest mistake. We read that the cooking time of a dish is only 4 minutes and we plan ourselves just that amount of time, forgetting that the Instant Pot needs time to build pressure.
Depending on the amount of liquid or foods you’re cooking, the pressure building time can take several minutes. Make sure you account for those minutes when planning out your dinner.
When the cooking time is up, the pressure cooker will immediately stop cooking and move into a slow release.
However, this means it’s actually still cooking the food. This is a requirement of many Instant Pot recipes, where others need a quick release to stop the process of cooking. Don’t make the mistake of walking away for TOO long, because a mushy meal may be ahead of you if you do.
If you’ve owned an Instant Pot for long, you may be noticing a rainbow-like shine to the inner pot after washing.
This is perfectly ok, so you can put down the scrubbers. It’s a result of cooking high starch foods or perhaps the dish detergents reaction, but it’s completely food safe and nothing to worry about.
We talked about not using enough liquid, but if you’re cooking something like, let’s say, a chicken breast – you may be keen on opting to use no liquid at all.
Again, the pressure cooker requires liquid to cook. If you added meat without liquid, it will simply draw moisture out of the meat, and leave you with something your garbage can may love.
The saute feature is SO underutilized. Due to its multi-function cooking mechanisms, you can easily use the inner pot in place of a saute pan on the stove.
This feature is great for browning onions and garlic or creating a sear on your meat. After you’ve created that crispness, you can go ahead and add your liquid, lid your pot and set your cooking times.
Self admittedly, I do this all the time. I quickly poke at the venting valve, and race against split second time to get my hand out of the way from hot steam.
Don’t do this, you likely will get burned at some point. Not to mention – the lid is very hot and without using an oven mitt or towel when venting, you’re treading in dangerously hot water.
One of the fun features of the Instant Pot is that the lid can second as a shield against the steam that will release from the pot when opened.
Always make sure you vent it before opening, but as a safety step, it’s best to open the lid towards you so that the steam escapes away from you.