Perhaps your Instant Pot has been sitting in the box for six months, you just brought it home, or you’re seriously thinking about making the investment. You know it’s different from slow cookers and traditional pressure cookers, and it definitely comes with a set of instructions all its own. The thing has 16 buttons to learn, after all! Settle in, and take a look at the 10 tips you need to know about working your Instant Pot safely and successfully.
1. You’ll rely on pretty much one button. Sure, there’s a poultry button, a rice button, and a multigrain button, but the one you’ll use most often is manual.
2. Don’t ignore the sauté function. Unlike a slow cooker, which cooks food through prolonged indirect heat, the Instant Pot has the ability to sauté and sear ingredients for optimal flavor. If you’re cooking something like skin-on chicken thighs, you’ll start with the sauté function to sear the meat, then add your cooking liquid, lock the lid, and use the manual button to finish out the cooking process.
3. There’s more than one way to relieve pressure. You can release pressure from the Instant Pot in two ways. There’s the natural release method and the quick release method. Once your timer goes off, you can allow it to sit and depressurize naturally, which takes approximately 10-30 minutes depending on your amount of liquid. The more liquid content, the longer it takes. The quick release method is used by manually turning the steam release handle to the “venting” position to let the steam out of the cooker for faster cooling. This method takes about 1-2 minutes to depressurize and you’ll actually see the steam releasing from the vent.
4. You always need liquid. At least one cup, to be exact. Too much liquid will weaken the flavor of your dish, and increase both the pressure release time and the amount of time it takes to get to pressure.
5. Beware of over-filling the Instant Pot. The lines on the inside of the bowl indicate how much the Instant Pot can safely hold when using the sauté function only.
6. Don’t force a locked lid. When the Instant Pot is finished depressurizing, it will automatically unlock to indicate that it’s safe to open. There’s a floating valve on the lid located by the venting knob that will drop when all of the pressure has been released.
7. Your 10-minute recipe may actually take 30. The time indicated on most recipes refers to the time it takes for the dish to cook once the Instant Pot comes to pressure, which could take 10 minutes depending on the liquid content. By the time your Instant Pot comes up to pressure, cooks the food, and then depressurizes, you’re looking at tripling the time the recipe typically says. The good news is that there’s little effort involved, and that dish may normally have taken an hour on the stove.
8. Play with the adjust function. If you want to go back and forth between functions, the adjust button will be your best friend. For example, if you’ve been cooking something on the slow cooking function for several hours and you want to bring it to a boil at the end, press the adjust button whenever you’re ready, and then push the boil button to start that process.
9. Start simple. Don’t unbox your new Instant Pot and then try to make the most complicated thing you can think of. Start with something basic like rice or hard boiled eggs to get your feet wet and get used to the venting process. Then, you can move on to fun things like beef bourguignon.
10. Invest in a few accessories. Your Instant Pot will come with a few basic accessories, but there are all kinds of goodies you can get to make your cooking process more fun and simple. Stackable metal containers will allow you to cook multiple dishes at one time, large steamer baskets accommodate eggs and veggies, and springform pans are great for lasagna and cheesecake.
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(Photos via Instant Pot)