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This is a beginner’s guide to using your Instant Pot so you become an instant believer. If you can use a smartphone, you can use an Instant Pot. And the results will be more delicious. Chili that once took all afternoon is on the table in an hour and frozen chicken that needs thawing overnight can go from frozen to the dinner table in 30 minutes.
You might find yourself making your own yogurt, bone broth, or absolutely perfect rice.
What is an Instant Pot?
Famous for its time-saving pressure cooking function, which chops hours off slow-cooking dishes, the Instant Pot is also a multi-use appliance that works as a slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, food warmer, or yogurt maker. It comes with a sauté feature to brown food before pressure or slow-cooking. Only one pot to wash!
What is pressure cooking anyway?
Pressure cooking dramatically speeds up cooking times by using a tightly sealed vessel where high pressure and steam work together to rapidly cook food. Big Bonuses: Compared to an oven, plug-in pressure cookers are energy-efficient and eliminate the constant hovering needed for a stove-top pot.
Guidelines for pressure cooking with the Instant Pot
- Pick dishes that benefit from long cooking. To maximize time-saving qualities of the,I.P, think of using it for stews, chilis, curries, certain soups, and tough cuts of meat, even artichokes.
- Read the safety precautions and do the Initial Test Run when using for the first time.
- Watch your liquid levels. The liquid is necessary to create steam for pressure cooking. So, always add the recommended amount, which. varies by model and recipe. But, do not add too much, because there is no evaporation.
- Always mind the maximum fill lines marked on the inside of the inner pot. The lower one is for foods that expand – rice, grains, or vegetables – and includes the water they are cooked in. The upper line is for everything else. Filling above these lines will cause malfunction and your IP will shut off.
- Tuck the silicone sealing ring into its track in the lid firmly before tightening the lid.
- Make sure the steam release handle is turned toward the back to the “Sealing” position. On newer models of the IP, this happens automatically when you lock the lid.
- Use the handle of a wooden spoon to avoid being burned by the released steam when manually releasing the pressure valve. You can also cover with a dish towel. This only applies to the older models.
- Never attempt to open the lid when the float valve is in an upper position.
- Expect to hear some hissing sounds. Filled to capacity your IP may hiss a little and release steam as it reaches pressure and cooks. That is okay.
- Press cancel and completely release pressure if you get a “BURN” message on the LED display. This means your dish needs more liquid. After you open the Instant Pot, add water or appropriate liquid and proceed.
Quick release versus natural release
- Quick release: Manually quick release steam by pressing the release button. In older models, move the steam release handle from “Sealing” to “Venting.” In 1-2 minutes, the steam fully releases, the float valve sinks, and you can open the lid. Use for dishes whose textures are ruined by overcooking, think fish, rice, and eggs.
- Natural release: Do nothing when cook time ends. Just wait for the float valve to naturally sink in 10 to 25 minutes. Recommended for soups or starchy recipes like porridge which could foam up clogging the release valve or splash out and cause burns when the lid is unscrewed. Also gives large cuts of meat resting time.
Other useful features
The IP also comes with various food presets and cooking program buttons located around the LED display. Depending on your model, up to 15 presets/cooking modes also include:
- Slow cook: This turns your pressure cooker into a slow-cooking crockpot, saving cabinet space. There is an optional glass lid available for this function, too, if you use slow cook or the “keep warm” function frequently.
- Soup/Broth: Cooks soup at the perfect slow simmer resulting in beautiful, clear broth.
- Sterilize: Some of the Instant Pot models have this feature and it can be useful for baby bottles.
- Sauté: Lets you brown food before slow cooking or pressure cooking and saves on dishwashing multiple pans.
- Porridge: Perfect for cooking overnight oats and letting them stay warm while you sleep.
- Yogurt: Save money and control the ingredients by making your own yogurt.
Instant pot cooking times
Below are some cook times for favorite ingredients that appear on Feel Good Foodie. Find more information in your instruction manual and time tables on InstantBrands.com.
Cooking times for frozen foods
One fantastic Instant Pot timesaver is its ability to cook proteins from frozen in about 30 minutes. It takes only 2 minutes longer than regular cooking but you skip the 24-hour fridge defrost! Watch the video below to learn more about the methods for cooking chicken, ground beef, and fish from frozen.
Instant pot recipes for beginners
Frequently asked questions
For plain cuts of protein, see above. However, generally, the cooking time and water content will remain the same due to pressure cooking’s unique properties. However, a fuller pot takes longer to come to pressure, increasing total time. Reminder: never double a recipe if the food will go above the IP’s fill line.
One trick is to take an IP recipe similar to your conventional recipe and adjust amounts and cooking times accordingly. (FYI, the free IP recipe app has thousands of recipes.) Finally, New York Times food writer Melissa Clark roughly recommends using 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of liquid and cooking for 1/3 the recommended time.
Your Instant Pot is infinitely safer than old-fashioned stove-top pressure cookers where the heat had to be continually monitored. In fact, the Instant Pot – depending on its model – comes with 11 to 13 built-in safety features. It will automatically turn off or stop heating if a problem is detected.
Remove the IP’s lid and use the “Sauté” function to let the dish cook down.
More cooking guidelines to check out
- How to organize your fridge
- How to cut an avocado
- How to cut an onion
- How to stock a freezer
- Tips for making meal time delicious
- How to grill
If you find this Instant Pot Guide for Beginners helpful, we’d love to hear from you! You can grab an Instant Pot Duo for yourself by clicking here! And if you snapped some shots of any of these tips and tricks, please share them on Instagram so we can repost on the Feel Good Foodie stories!