How to Use Your Instant Pot

Knowing how to use your Instant Pot to its utmost, whether it’s your first time or your thousandth, is the secret to getting your money’s worth and also to saving exponential time in the kitchen. Here’s all you need to know for using it as a pressure cooker and more.

: Bill Milne

Maybe you have an Instant Pot. Maybe you’re considering one. Either way, it always helps to be educated as you go about your life. Here’s a cheat sheet on what you need to know about using it from the The Instant Pot Kosher® Cookbook.–LC Editors

How to use your Instant Pot®

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Today pressure cookers are safe and extremely easy to use. Your IP® comes with an instruction booklet that should be read and followed. The Instant Pot® isn’t a complicated device, despite all the buttons. I spent nine months writing this book and used it six days a week, and I didn’t even use half of the buttons. After three recipes, you’ll be an expert. After five recipes, you will start adapting your own family favorites for the IP®. Be sure to follow these basic rules:

  • Fill the pot no more than two-thirds full. There is a line in the inner pot to remind you of this.
  • No deep frying in the pot.
  • Follow the recipe precisely—I say this all the time, but seriously, FOLLOW THE RECIPE.
  • Stay away from the steam while the IP® is venting.
  • Use an aluminum foil sling (see below), silicone or other mitts, or a dishtowel to lift things out of the pot.

Insider Instant Pot® info

I love the sauté function on the pot to brown aromatics, chicken, or meat before adding liquids and pressure-cooking. The mess stays inside rather than splattering all over your cookbook and stovetop, and best of all, the Sauté function helps add deep flavors to your dishes.

Deglazing the pan

After you sauté anything, before you add the next recipe ingredients, add some liquid to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape anything that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot. This step is critical to avoid the dreaded burn notice.

Pot-in-pot cooking

When you cook or bake something in a pan that goes inside your pot, on the steam rack, or over water, that’s called pot-in-pot cooking. (Think of things you have traditionally baked in a water bath, such as meatloaf or cheesecake.) Pot-in-pot cooking—a method I use a lot—is also great for making rice, kugel, cake, and so much more. You can insert and remove your pan of food by using an aluminum foil sling (see below).

A large dish of pressure cooker bittersweet chocolate pudding, some of it scooped out into a smaller dish : Christopher Testani

Aluminum foil sling

This is a great hack, invented by Instant Pot® cooks before me, that helps you lift pans into and out of the inner pot when you do pot-in-pot cooking. Tear a piece of aluminum foil, about 20 inches (51cm) long, and place it on your counter. If you have heavy-duty foil, use that, and if not, use regular foil. Fold it in thirds the long way and flatten it with your hands. When you’re ready to insert your pan into the pot, after you’ve added the water and steam rack into the inner pot, place the pan in the center of the foil and use the sides to lift and place it inside the pot on top of the rack. Fold the sides of the foil toward the center of the pan. When cooking is complete, you can use the ends of the sling to lift the pan out of the pot.

Thickening sauces and stews

This can be done either by cooking down the liquid by using the sauté function, or by adding some cornstarch or flour. I scoop some of the liquid into a bowl, add the cornstarch or flour and mix it in, and then return it to the pot to cook for a few more minutes.

Browning finished dishes

A quick visit to the oven broiler can give your dish the look of an oven-baked one.

Adapting recipes

If you want to adapt recipes that you love to make for cooking in the IP®, add more of the spices and sometimes more liquid to make sure the food doesn’t stick to the bottom. Dishes with tomato sauce always need extra liquid.

The dreaded burn notice

From time to time, when I was developing recipes for this book, the display would read “burn” when the IP® was coming to pressure, which meant that food was stuck to the bottom of the pot and was burning. I’d have to do a quick release of pressure, open the lid, and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom clean. I’d then add more liquid. If you have to do this, reset the cooking time for a shorter period—by about 20 percent—than originally planned. Next time add more water.

You forgot to add an ingredient

Until the IP® comes to pressure and the float valve pops up, it is safe to open the lid and add an ingredient.

An exploded view of the components of an Instant Pot : Instant Pot

Standard Instant Pot® features

What size to purchase

I have 6-quart and 8-quart pots that I use for meat, and I love the larger 8-quart size for stock. All of the recipes in this book were tested in the 6-quart model. You can add one-third more of the ingredients in a recipe to cook in the 8-quart. The 8-quart takes longer to come to pressure. For meat dishes, you can add 25 percent more meat without changing the amount of liquid. Recipes in the 8-quart need at least 2 cups (500ml) of liquid, compared to the 1 cup (236ml) needed in the 6-quart.

Inner pot

The inner metal bowl that fits inside the device.

Float valve

The pin that goes up when the pressure has been achieved and drops when the pressure has been released.

Steam rack

The metal trivet that comes with the device. You can place food to cook on top of it with liquid below or use it for the pot-in-pot cooking method.

Steam release handle

The knob you turn to Sealing when you’re cooking, and turn to Venting to release the pressure. On some models the steam release function is a lever, and on others it is a button that you push to release the pressure.

Lid

The cover of the pot that you lock in place before cooking.

Silicone ring

The ring inside the lid; should be replaced every 12 months or so, as it absorbs odors over time. To reduce odors, store an open box of baking soda in the device between uses.

How to work your Instant Pot® display panel

An Intant Pot display.

The panel has many buttons to use for cooking different types of food, and your instruction booklet explains how to use each cooking program option.

I typically use the manual feature by pressing the Pressure Cook button and setting the cooking time I want. Many people like the Rice button feature (see pages 146 and 147 for instructions). The recipes in this book always indicate which buttons to use. If they just state to pressure-cook for a specific number of minutes, just press Pressure and set the cooking time.

Steam

This feature is great for poaching fish.

Pressure cooker Vietnamese caramel salmon, sliced green onion, and soy sauce on a white plate : Christopher Testani

Sauté

To sauté, press Sauté. When the display reads “Hot,” add the oil or food to the inner pot. It usually takes 3 to 4 minutes for the pot to heat. You can adjust the level of the sauté heat by pressing the Sauté button until the desired level lights up on the display panel as low, medium, or high. Unless a recipe states otherwise, use the high level.

Pressure

Use this feature when you want to manually set the cooking time. Please note that the amount of time you set the IP® to pressure-cook is not the total cooking time. The device needs time to come to pressure, which could be as little as 5 minutes or as much as 25 minutes. The recipes in this book indicate the approximate time it takes for the IP® to come to pressure, so you can plan accordingly. You can press the Pressure button to adjust to low and high pressure. All of the recipes in this book use high pressure.

Warm

After the cooking time is done, the device automatically shifts to Warm—if the Auto Keep Warm button is on—and the panel will indicate how many minutes your dish has been warming. The warm feature can be used for 10 hours.

Slow Cook

I use this feature to keep food warm for Shabbat lunch.

Cancel

Press Cancel after the cooking time is achieved, unless you want your dish to remain on Warm, which the device shifts to automatically if the Warm button has been pressed.

The different types of Instant Pot® release

Natural release

Natural release occurs when you allow the pressure inside the pot to release gradually by letting the device cool down. When the float valve drops, often after 10 to 40 minutes, natural release is complete. Some of the recipes in this book call for a natural release for a certain number of minutes, and then the steam release handle is turned to the Venting position to release the remaining pressure quickly.

A brown bowl of Instant Pot pork stew with hominy with a spoon resting inside and a dish of cilantro and a blue napkin on the side. : Ghazalle Badiozamani

Quick release

When cooking time is complete, turn the steam release handle to the Venting position to quickly release all of the pressure inside the pot at one time. Once the float valve drops, you can safely open the lid.

Intermittent pressure release

This method is used for starchy foods. The idea is that you release a little pressure at a time to keep the valve from spitting out the starch and making a mess. Turn the steam release handle partway and hold it to release some pressure, then move the handle a little closer to the Venting position and hold to release more pressure.

Instant Pot® accessories

How to care for and clean your Instant Pot®

The inner pot, lid, and steam rack are all dishwasher safe or can be hand-washed with normal dish soap. Remove the silicone ring and wash it with soapy water. Dry it well before putting it back on the lid. Clean the outside of the device with a sponge or cloth that was immersed in warm soapy water and has been thoroughly wrung out.

How to use your Instant Pot® at high altitudes

If your machine doesn’t adjust automatically for altitude, you need to increase cooking time. Some models of IP® allow you to program your altitude, and the appliance then adjusts the cooking time. Add 15 percent more cooking time at 5,000 feet (1500m) and then an additional 5 percent more time for every additional 1,000 feet (300m) of altitude.

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