Instant Pot Tips For Beginners

So you just bought an Instant Pot or you’re leaning towards buying one.  You’re sure to find some useful information in these Instant Pot tips for beginners.  When I opened the box containing my Instant Pot, I was a bit nervous.  When I pulled it out of the box, set it on the counter, and began looking at the manual, I was overwhelmed.  I’ll never forget the time I did the “water test” and stood in the dining room, peeking into the kitchen wondering if the thing was going to explode.  Boy, have I come a long way since then.

An appliance that once frightened me a little now has a permanent place on my counter and is used 3-4 times each week.  I first started hearing about it in 2016 when it was a popular Black Friday item.  After some research, I was convinced I needed one too and bought mine on Prime Day.  I have the Duo 8 Quart and love everything about it.  In fact, I love it so much, I’m considering getting a second one.  (UPDATE:  I bought a second one!  I now regularly use BOTH of my Instant Pots several times a week!)

Here are some things to keep in mind as you learn to love your Instant Pot.

  • The cook time is the time the appliance takes to cook once it has come to pressure.  If a recipe calls for a 20 minute cook time, the meal could actually take closer to 45 minutes.  It could take about 10 minutes to come to pressure and another 15 after cooking to naturally release pressure (unless your recipe calls for quick release).
  • Dive right in with the Water Test.  This will allow you to burn off any of those yucky chemicals from the manufacturing process as well as get the hang of your new (soon to be favorite) kitchen appliance.  Here are some step-by-step instructions:
    • Plug in your Instant Pot (this automatically turns it on).
    • Pour 1-2 cups of water into your inner pot.
    • Lock your lid into place and make sure that the valve is set to “sealing”.
    • Select the “Steam” function.
    • Lower the time to 2 minutes using the “-” button.
    • Wait for the pot to come to pressure and go through the 2 minute cook time.
    • When the Instant Pot beeps, you can either naturally release the pressure by not doing anything until the float valve drops down, or Quick Release by turning the valve to “Venting”.  Be sure that you do not have your face near the steam release valve.
    • Either select the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button to turn off the Instant Pot or simply unplug it.
    • You did it!  You completed the water test!
    • If all went well and you didn’t get any errors, you’re ready to get cooking.  I recommend starting with Hard Boiled Eggs – you can’t really mess those up.
  • Here is some common Instant Pot terminology:
    • IP = Instant Pot
    • NPR = Natural Pressure Release (leave the steam valve closed so that the IP releases pressure naturally)
    • QR = Quick Release (open the stem value to release pressure)
    • EPC = Electric Pressure Cooker
    • HP = High Pressure
    • PIP = Pot in Pot (food is put in a pan/bowl before putting in the IP)
  • You can cook food from frozen.  The cooking time is the same, but it will take your IP will take longer to come to pressure.
  • Make sure you have at least a one cup of liquid (water, broth, etc.).  The Instant Pot relies on steam to function properly.   If there’s not enough liquid in the pot, you’ll end up with a scorched inner pot and ruined dinner.  Trust me on this one.
  • You can cook dry beans and grains without soaking them first.  Just be sure to rinse them before cooking.  (Recipe here: No Soak Instant Pot Beans Recipe)
  • Make sure that you set the venting knot to the “sealing” position before cooking or you won’t build pressure.
  • If you’re cooking foods that expand, be sure not to fill your pot more than halfway full.
  • The saute function is awesome.  If you need to brown meat with onion and garlic, etc., it is a great way to get the pot nice and hot before throwing in your other ingredients.  A warmer pot means it should come to pressure quicker.
  • If the sealing ring gets smelly, you can take it out and run it through your dishwasher.  You might consider having a separate ring for savory and sweet dishes since the rings tend to hand on to the aroma of what you’ve cooked. (Check out some awesome accessories (including rings) on the Accessories page)
  • What on earth are all of those buttons!?!?!  This can definitely be an overwhelming part of beginning your Instant Pot adventure.  I’ll try to break it down for you:
    • Saute – Use this function to saute ingredients with the lid off.  It’s perfect for browning meats or cooking veggies before pressure cooking your ingredients.  It also heats up the pot and tends to help it come to pressure a bit quicker.
    • Manual (or Pressure Cook on newer models) – This is the all purpose, jack-of-all-trades, kitchen sink button.  I use this one most, honestly.  If your recipe calls for a specific number of minutes, use this button.
    • Keep Warm / Cancel – This will cancel your current program or turn if off.  If you’re letting something naturally release pressure, it will stay nice and warm in the meantime.
    • Soup – High pressure 30 minute cook time.
    • Meat/Stew – High pressure 35 minute cook time.
    • Poultry – Hi pressure 15 minute cook time.
    • Porridge – High pressure 30 minute cook time.
    • Steam – High pressure 10 minute cook time.
    • Rice – Low pressure and fully automatic.  It’s designed to cook white rice and will adjust the cook time based on the amount of rice/water in the pot.
    • Cake – New models have this function and are meant for making cheesecakes and other cakes.
    • Egg – New models have this function.  Adjust the time based on if you want soft vs hard boiled eggs.
    • Sterilize – This is also a function on the new models.  You can sterilize utensils and canning items.
    • Slow Cooker – The default is a 4 hour slow cook time.
    • Pressure – Changes between low and high pressure.
    • Yogurt – This setting is used for making yogurt either in the pot or in jars.
    • Timer – This is for delayed cooking.  Select your function, then press the button and adjust to select your time.
    • On many settings, use “Adjust” to adjust the temperature and “+” or “-” to adjust the time.
  • The Instant Pot website has a lot of useful videos to help you get started.
  • Check out Instant Pot’s Care & Use page for detailed cleaning instructions.

Instant Pot Tips for Beginners

Be sure to check out the tips page for more information!  Do you have any Instant Pot tips for beginners you’d like to share?  Contact me!

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