Tips to Help Up Your Instant Pot Game

5 minute read

By Jordana Weiss

The Instant Pot has become a popular household tool, bringing pressure cooking into the mainstream. Fortunately, if you start a search online, you can explore tips and tricks to make the most of your Instant Pot.

Even though pressure cookers have been a common household tool for decades, the introduction of the Instant Pot in 2008 revolutionized the market. Their products have now dropped to a price that’s attainable for most home cooks, so let’s get cooking!

1. You Can Sear and Sauté Food Without Liquid, But If You Want to Pressure Cook, You’ll Need At Least Half to One Cup of Liquid

Although there are currently five unique models of Instant Pot, all of them come with the basic sauté function. This function activates the burner at the bottom of the device, allowing you to cook just like you would on a stovetop. To do this, you don’t need liquid.

However, once you put the lid on and seal the device for pressure cooking, you’ll need to make sure it has enough liquid to pressurize. Generally, a half cup to one cup is enough. Just make sure that it’s liquid, as sauce isn’t viscous enough to pressurize the interior. You can use a combination of anything from water to stock, beer, or juice.

2. Add Time When You Use the Manual or Pressure Function

Once all your ingredients are loaded into the Instant Pot, you’ll need to put the lid on, switch the pressure valve to “sealing”, and select the function you want. If you’re using the Manual or Pressure function, your device will need to come up to pressure before it will start cooking.

Unfortunately, if you’re in a rush, there’s no way to hurry this process along. Therefore, it’s a good idea to mentally add 10 to 15 minutes to the time a recipe takes to be ready to serve.

3. If Your Instant Pot Doesn’t Seal, Check That the Pressure Valve Is in the Right Position

One little thing that many people forget when they’re setting up their Instant Pot to pressure cook is the pressure valve. There are two positions: venting and sealing.

In order to bring the device up to pressure, the valve must be in the “sealing” position. If it’s not, it won’t build up pressure. Just flick the little valve into place when you put the lid on and you’ll be good to go.

4. Learn the Difference Between Manual and Quick Release

There are essentially two ways to release the pressure on your Instant Pot.

The Manual release is essentially the natural process that happens when you just leave your Instant Pot alone after cooking is finished. After 10 to 30 minutes, the pressure will have dissipated. As such, the pressure valve will move on its own from “sealing” to “venting”. Many people use the “venting” setting to help keep the meat tender. While there is still pressure, your food will continue to cook. This could lead to overcooked, soggy veggies or grains.

Quick release stops the pressure immediately. To quick release the pressure on your Instant Pot, all you need to do is flick the pressure valve from “sealing” to “venting”. A large plume of steam will erupt out of the valve. Don’t panic, this is normal.

5. Buy a Second Sealing Ring If Your Original Starts to Smell

One of the best things about the Instant Pot is how much flavorful food you can cook in such a short amount of time. It makes quick work of dishes, like pulled pork, chili, or risotto, that would otherwise need to be braised or cooked for hours.

However, all of these delicious smells can start to permeate the silicone sealing ring that sits between the lid and the body of the Instant Pot. If the scent puts you off, you can always purchase a new one.

6. You Can Prep a Bunch of Meals and Cook Them in the Instant Pot Directly from Frozen

One of the best parts of the Instant Pot is that it automatically adjusts the cooking time when you’re using frozen ingredients. Many people have had a lot of success with prepping meals in advance, then popping the whole frozen block into their Instant Pot. Voila, dinner in less than an hour.

Some people have even gone the extra mile and found Tupperware or other storage containers that are a similar size as the inner pot of their Instant Pot. That way, the entire block can be slid out and popped into the pot, covered, and cooked with no mess at all.

7. Save Your Bones and Vegetable Trimmings for Flavorful Stock

One of the best ways that you can save time and money with your Instant Pot is by making stock. Pressure cooking stock cuts the cooking time down to less than an hour.

Homemade stock is always going to taste better than store-bought. Plus, you can customize it to your taste with herbs and spices.

Start saving chicken carcasses, beef bones, and vegetable trimmings in a bag in your freezer. Once it’s full, throw everything in the Instant Pot with some water and you’ve got a flavorful kitchen staple.

8. Browning Ingredients in Your Instant Pot Before You Bring It Up to Pressure Will Add Flavor

One of the reasons why the Instant Pot has eclipsed the slow cooker is because it cooks much more flavorful food. The Instant Pot allows you to brown your ingredients on the sauté setting, building up plenty of flavor, then you can put the lid on, and pressure cook the final dish.

If you’re going to brown your meat, spices, or veggies, remember to deglaze the pot and scrape up all the food before closing the lid. Otherwise, you may get an error message that just says BURN.

9. Don’t Overfill Your Instant Pot

You’ll need to use at least a half cup of liquid in the Instant Pot so it can properly pressurize the inner pot. Be careful that you’re not using too much liquid.

Some people figure that using more liquid is better than less. In actuality, your dish will have much less flavor than if you’d used the recommended amount.

Also, remember to check for the fill line. Your Instant Pot can overflow. When it does, it won’t be fun to clean up.

10. Even the Most Basic Instant Pot Has a Yogurt Setting

Every Instant Pot has a yogurt setting. This setting holds milk at a specific temperature for a long period of time, turning it into delicious yogurt. Once it’s finished, you can swirl in any flavor or addition you like or use it plain for cooking and baking.

11. Add Cheese or Milk to a Recipe After the Pressure-Cooking Phase Is Over

Some types of dairy don’t deal well with the high heat of pressure cooking, separating or curdling during cooking. To avoid this, make sure to add dairy in at the end. For example, if you’re making a risotto, you would put the rice and stock in the Instant Pot, pressure cook it, then add any cream or Parmesan cheese at the end while it’s still on the Keep Warm setting.

Jordana Weiss