Instant Pot 101: using your instant pot or pressure cooker for the first time can be very intimidating. Here are some tips to help you along the way!
The Instant Pot is essential for me in helping to create quick and easy meals for lunches and weeknight dinners!! Some of our family favorite instant pot recipes are:
Instant Pot 101: Introduction to Your Instant Pot
I just want to stress that this post should NOT replace reading your instruction manual and everything that comes along with your instant pot.
What is an Electronic Pressure Cooker (EPC) or Instant Pot?
An electronic pressure cooker is a kitchen countertop appliance that has the ability to cook food faster than conventional cooking methods and it also saves energy. It is a closed system that does not allow steam to escape under certain pressures.
Your Instant Pot is also a multipurpose cooker, meaning it can steam, sauté, slow-cook, pressure cook, and even make yogurt!
How does an Instant Pot® work? How does it cook faster?
The trapped steam increases the pressure inside the cooker. As the pressure increases, the temperature at which water will boil increases. This resulting higher temperature is what cooks the food inside faster.
It lets you achieve certain shortcuts, like cooking dried beans without soaking them first or cooking polenta without stirring. It braises meats, which never dry out and always cook up tender and luscious. You can even throw in frozen meat and cook it in the instant pot.
Instant Pot Parts
There are three main parts. The outer body (like the outside of your slow cooker), the cooking pot insert (like the ceramic insert of your slow cooker) and the lid. Most instant pots also come with a steamer rack or basket.
This valve allows the pressure cooker to either build pressure or release it. It has a sealing (locked) position and a venting (open) position. When pressure cooking, the valve must be in the sealing position. (consult your manual for any questions)
This metal valve indicates when the cooker is pressurized and when it is not. When the cooker reaches pressure, it will pop up. When the pressure is released, it will drop down. (consult your manual for any questions)
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO THAW YOUR FOOD BEFORE PLACING IT INTO YOUR INSTANT POT.
You can add frozen ingredients straight into your Instant Pot. The only difference I have noticed: this will add a bit of time to reach pressure in your pot as you are starting off at a cooler temperature, so plan accordingly.
COOK TIMES IN MOST RECIPES ARE NOT COMPLETE TIMES.
It takes additional time for Instant Pot® to reach pressure and release pressure. It is not until the pot reaches pressure (15 psi to be exact) that the timer starts to count down.
My rule of thumb is to add about 10 minutes to each recipe time for your total time. This may or may not include the time it takes to release the pressure.
YOU NEED AT LEAST 1 CUP OF LIQUID IN THE POT AT ALL TIMES.
Pressure cookers need steam and you need liquid (water) + heat to get steam. If you don’t have enough liquid, you will not get the great results everyone is telling you about.
You can use water, broths, stocks and sauces. If you are using a thicker sauce, like a rich BBQ sauce, with lower moisture content I just add in an extra 1/2 cup of water on top of my sauce and it has worked perfectly every time.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE AND QUICK RELEASE.
As the pot stops cooking and cools, it naturally will release all that stored-up pressure inside using the vent and pin on the top of the lid. This is called Natural Pressure Release. It varies on times of how long this can take depending on cooking times and the amount of food inside your Instant Pot.
Quick Release is when you manually (and CAREFULLY) flip the top knob from “sealing” to “venting” before the pot has the ability to cool naturally on its own. This will release the steam manually. I will always use a wooden spoon to help me do this.
When using quick release: it is VERY Important that you use a long-handled wooden spoon or use a silicone oven mitt to ensure you will not be burnt by the releasing steam. It’s also a great idea to manually release steam away from your cabinets as well.
YOU CAN COOK DRY BEANS AND GRAINS WITHOUT SOAKING OR COOKING THEM FIRST.
ALWAYS RINSE YOUR DRY LEGUMES AND GRAINS BEFORE ADDING THEM TO YOUR POT.
While you don’t have to soak grains, it’s a great idea to rinse your legumes and grains in a colander first in order to remove any non-food particles as well as clean them as you never know what was added to them for packaging purposes.
YOU CAN USE YOUR INSTANT POT® AS A ONE POT WONDER
You can brown meat, add your veggies, add your sauce and cook it all in one pot. It has the sauté feature which is AMAZING. I use it often to create an extra layer of flavor. I can brown most of my thawed meat in there creating a beautiful brown “crust” and then finish by cooking it to completion. It’s truly amazing and I recommend you take the time to sauté if the recipe calls for it.
You can also use this Sauté feature to thicken sauces after cooking. The Instant Pot is incredibly useful and truly multi-purpose: it cooks with steam so you can remove your meat and veggies and then add some corn starch or arrow root and thicken up sauces beautifully right in the same pot you cooked your food in, capturing all that great flavor left in the sauce and bottom of the pot.
RESPECT AND PAY ATTENTION TO THE FILL LINE.
There is a fill line on the inside of the cooking pot. Respect this. If you have your pot too full, most times it will never reach pressure and you will left with uncooked food, and a potential countertop mess.
THE SEALING RING IN THE LID CAN BE REMOVED.
You can easily remove and replace the sealing ring in the lid of your pot if you need to clean it. I leave the lid flipped over the opposite way so the inside of the lid can air out.
Sometimes when you cook savory foods, they can leave the scent in the ring. People sometimes prefer to have a ring for savory and a ring for sweets. You can buy additional rings online.
Check out these recipes: