Instant Pot Beginner Tips

February 16, 2017

Wondering how to use your instant pot?

instant pot

If you’ve hopped on the Instant Pot train and still have it collecting dust in your pantry, you are not alone.

Yes, there is a learning curve. But once you start learning how to use Instant Pot, you’ll never look back.

If you’re still not sure what an Instant pot is – it’s an all in one kitchen appliances that works as a slow cooker, a pressure cooker, and a rice cooker.

Once you learn how to use the pressure function, you’ll never go back to slow cooking!

I’ve put together a list of questions with pointed resources for Instant Pot beginner tips. I hope it helps!

Why are there so many buttons and how do I use them?

The buttons on the Instant Pot are confusing. To start, you need to get comfortable with 3. For now, pretend the others don’t exist.

Manual button

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Press the manual button and you can use the – and + buttons to add or reduce time.

The manual button lets you adjust the amount of pressure cooking time. You’ll learn how much time for what as you experiment with the pot.





Saute + Adjust button

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Press the saute button, then press adjust to set the temperature.

The saute button allows you to heat the instant-pot insert so that you can saute onions or veggies, reduce sauces or sear meat. The adjust button lets you adjust how hot you want the saute heat to be. You want low or medium for cooking veggies, high for searing meat. The saute button allows you to use the Instant Pot like a stove burner. This way you don’t have to dirty two pots.




Cook aromatics

When you have a recipe that calls for sauteing onions/garlic/aromatics, you can cook them directly on the low saute mode (press saute button, then adjust button to low. Cook like you would on the stove!)

Reduce sauces/liquids

It can also be used after you’ve brought a recipe to pressure.  Once you’ve released the pressure, you’ll see if you have extra liquid that needs to be reduced. If so, turn the saute button on and reduce until the desired consistency.

Sear meats

Searing meat in the Instant-Pot is not as good as using the stovetop, but it works better than I expected. Press the saute then adjust button to the highest setting, let it heat up 4-5 minutes, and sear your meat like you would on the stove top.

Bring the Instapot to pressure more quickly

The pressure cooker needs time to come to pressure. When it’s full, it takes quite a bit of time. The less full it is, the more quickly it comes to pressure. But if you want to speed up the process use the saute button to heat your ingredients. Once hot, press cancel, and choose the manual button and set to desired time.

The rest of the buttons…

Don’t mean much: the soup, stew, rice, poultry, bean buttons are merely the suggested cook times for each item. But they’re a solid guide when you don’t know where to start.

What are the best things to cook in your Instant Pot? 

First, anything you can make in a slow cooker can be made in the Instant Pot. This is a great article for learning how to convert recipes. We took this soup recipe and threw everything in the Instant Pot 5 minutes and it was incredible.

Here’s what else can be made in your Instant-Pot with awesome, sometimes better results than the stovetop or oven

  • Soups (5-10 minutes pressure time. The Instant Pot is programmed to 10 but we’ve found it takes less time than this)
  • Bolognese sauce
  • Meatballs in sauce
  • Stews (35 minute cook time, the key is to reduce the liquid in the original recipe by at least 1/3)
  • Roasts (a whole roast will take much longer to cook than a stew. 60 minute minimum)
  • Carnitas, Barbacoa (for best results cut the roast in chunks – it cooks in much less time that way, similar to stew cook time)
  • The best chicken broth you’ll ever make with the least effort. Veggie stock and beef stock too.
  • Dried Beans from scratch (you can even do a 4 minute hot pre-soak if you forget to soak them)
  • The BEST mashed potatoes (whole potatoes, peeled, 10 minutes cook time with the steamer insert and a cup of water. Cooks potatoes perfectly so they’re not waterlogged)
  • Burrito Bowls (I use a version of this  chile chicken and rice recipe but with 5 minute cook time – saute the onion, garlic, and chicken, then add the rice/beans/broth and bring to pressure for 5. Slow release for about 10 minutes.)
  • Indian or Thai Curries
  • Rice (it makes perfect rice – so far this pressure cooker formula has worked well)
  • Risotto!! It makes excellent risotto without having to stir!
  • You can even use it to make perfect caramelized onions in less than 30 minutes!

How much water do you need?

The recommended rule of thumb is 1 cup of water.

How long do things REALLY take to cook?

I love to brag about how a soup takes 5 minutes to cook. It does, but only once the Instant Pot reaches pressure. This can take 5 minutes or it can take 15, depending on how much liquid is in your pot and how hot that liquid is. As soon as you can see the time on the cooker, you know it’s up to pressure and counting down. Once it’s cooked, you can release the pressure valve to save time.

Why is it so messy when I release the pressure? 

You can release the pressure (moving the lid valve from “sealing” mode to “venting” mode once the food has finished cooking.

You can also let it depressurize naturally by waiting 15-20 minutes. The lid will be locked until the pressure is released.

Items that have a lot of liquid – soups, stews, beans – have a tendency to be pretty messy when releasing the pressure. If you’re in a rush, put a towel a little above the lid (so you don’t block it completely) and let it release. If you have time, let is release naturally.

Where do you find recipes to cook in your pressure cooker?

Nom Nom Paleo has some excellent Instant Pot recipes.

The Kitchn is a decent resource.

Hip Pressure Cooking is a comprehensive resource.

And Serious Eats is great as well. I made this mushroom risotto last week and it was perfection.

Why should I use my Instant-Pot over the stovetop/oven?

  • Saves energy, lowers energy costs
  • Keeps your house cool in summer
  • You only have to clean one pot
  • You don’t make a mess on the stove
  • Saves time (not true of every single recipe, but for most)
  • Improves flavor of many recipes
  • Less work: with things like chicken stock, you don’t have to monitor the temperature, spending hours skimming. And for things like risotto, you don’t have to stir to get a creamy result!

A few other instant pot tips

  • Some ingredients take longer to cook than others. It’s perfectly okay to break up the cooking process. For example, if you’re making a stew, the meat will cook more quickly than the veggies. You can bring to pressure for 25, release the pressure, and put the veggies in for another 10. Because your recipe is already hot, it doesn’t take that much time to get it back to pressure, and your veggies won’t be mush.
  • Yes, you can wash the lid in hot soapy water. And you can wash the Instant Pot insert in the dishwasher.
  • Apparently, wine doesn’t evaporate so use less, or reduce it in Saute mode before bringing to pressure
  • Don’t use hard liquor alcohol in there, as it could be flammable

Want to learn more advanced Instant Pot skills? In the spring of 2018, we are launching The Home Chef project, a course that blends how to cook healthy weeknight meals with chef techniques, nutritionist knowledge and the Instant Pot. To learn more, click here and get on the list when we launch! If you’ve liked this post on Instant pot beginner tips please share.

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