These days it seems like everyone and their mom is talking about the Instant Pot. Who can really blame them, especially when the gadget promises to make fall-off-the-bone tender meat in less than 30 minutes? It’s so popular, it seems the multi-purpose tool has become the Crock-Pot of millennials. But, unlike slow-cookers, which typically have one or two straightforward settings, an Instant Pot has 16 different buttons, numerous different capabilities (like rice- and yogurt-making), and therefore more room for error. If you’re just about to crack open that Instant Pot for the first time, these are the six mistakes you might run into and how to fix them.
1. You didn’t add enough liquid; you added too much; or you used the wrong kind.
Since an Instant Pot primarily functions as a pressure cooker, it’s absolutely essential that you add liquid in some form or another to the pot before you start cooking, otherwise things could get messy. On the other hand, you also don’t want to add too much liquid. That could increase the pressure release time, which may leave you with overcooked food. In general, always add between 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid.
As for what kind of liquid to add, you need one that will evaporate into steam, since the pressure cooker setting on your Instant Pot uses steam to cook the food. Avoid creams or sauces, like cream of mushroom soup or marinara. You’ll also want to steer clear of adding thickeners like cornstarch or tapioca flour, as those can also inhibit the ability of the liquid to steam.
2. You filled the pot up more than halfway.
When pressure cooking, you’re never supposed to fill the pot up more than halfway. When it’s too full, it takes longer to depressurize, which can lead to overcooked food. Alternatively, the pot may have trouble getting fully pressurized if it’s too full. There is one caveat: When you’re slow-cooking, you can fill it up toward the measuring lines at the top of the pot.
3. You’re adding all your ingredients at once.
As nice as it would be to just throw everything in the pot and chill for 15 minutes, different ingredients cook at different rates (for example, rice and beans). Start with the basics and cook grains first, then beans, and so on. Then practice and stick to trustworthy recipes to learn what works and what doesn’t.
4. You followed a recipe for a standard pressure cooker.
Old fashioned pressure cookers actually cook differently than an Instant Pot. Over the stovetop, old-school pressure cookers can get up to pressure faster than an electrical Instant Pot. If you’re using a recipe that calls for a traditional pressure cooker rather than what you have, you’ll have to factor in a little more cooking time to get the same result.
5. You didn’t open the pressure valve fast enough.
When the timer’s up, release the pressure valve right away. If you wait even for a couple of minutes it might result in mushy food. Yuck.
6. You forgot to put the inner pot back in after you finished cooking.
Skip this step and you may wind up throwing your ingredients into a bare Instant Pot. Gasp! You’d be surprised how often it happens to avid Instant Pot-users. The same goes for the sealing ring. When you’re done cleaning everything, put it all back together, so it’s ready the next time you want to get cooking.
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