January 14, 2019

Instant Pot 101: Q & A about the Instant Pot

Instant Pot 101The Instant Pot is a versatile and popular kitchen tool, but it isn’t always intuitive. I use mine for a lot of recipes, so I am sharing some of my knowledge with answers to common Instant Pot questions. Consider it Instant Pot 101.

What is the Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is one appliance that has many functions: electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté pan, slow cooker and warmer. The function that most people praise the Instant Pot for is the electric pressure cooker feature.

Is the Instant Pot a Slow cooker?

No,  but there is a slow cooker feature.

Is it Safe?

Yes. Can it explode? No. The Instant Pot has a safety feature of locking until the pressure is released and safe to open so there is no guessing. Your Instant Pot is locked when the little metal piece right next to the valve is UP. However, the “quick release” function, also known as “venting” or QR, releases some pretty hot steam that could easily cause harm or injury. Your Instant Pot is locked when the little metal piece right next to the valve is UP. Also, the metal part on the top of the Instant Pot gets HOT.

What can I make in the Instant Pot?

So many things. Beans from dried without soaking overnight, Beef roasts will be fork tender, chicken will shred in just 10 minutes and seafood will be done in 4 minutes. You can also make desserts, such as cakes and puddings, as well as yogurt, broths, stocks and stubborn grains like faro, barley, wild rice and steel cut oats. The hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot are perfect for peeling. I share some favorite recipes below!

Do things cook in an instant?

Cooking times are much shorter in an Instant Pot, but it does take time for the pot to come up to pressure. One of the biggest disappointments in most recipes is they do not calculate the time it takes to get to pressure or release pressure.

Do I need to use liquid in the Instant Pot?

Yes, by definition, pressure cookers need some amount of liquid to build pressure. You need at least 1/2 cup to 1 cup of liquid for your Instant Pot to work.

Why isn’t the timer starting right away on my Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot needs to come to pressure to cook your food. Plan for anywhere between 10-15 minutes additional time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. Once the timer starts the food is “cooking” at pressure.

What is natural pressure release or NPR?

Natural pressure release means you are going to gradually (and naturally) allow the pressure to release. This process takes about 15-20 minutes. Food will continue to cook while on natural pressure release.

What is QR or quick pressure release?

It is the opposite of NPR. Instead of allowing the pressure to gradually release, you vent it out super fast. Be careful though, as this steam is HOT and can cause injury. Also, don’t do it under your cabinets or around anything that has a painted finish- it will literally peel the paint. Release pressure in an open space on the counter.

What is the Instant Pot burn message?

It can be kind of terrifying if the word “burn,” appears on your cooker. Luckily, the message does not mean your meal is burned, it is just means your Instant Pot is overheating. It is one of the safety features that keeps the device from overheating, and is created to warn you before your meal is ruined. If you are cooking something fast and it is almost done, you can probably ignore the burn message, but if you are cooking something that takes longer, you’ll want to check the components to make things are sealed correctly, ensure there is enough moisture and check for scorching on the bottom of the pot that may need to be cleaned before continuing. You can also check out this great guide to some of the Instant Pot safety features.

What is venting and sealing on the Instant Pot?

The knob on the Instant Pot has two settings: venting and sealing. Venting means that you are not building up pressure at all, instead the pressure and steam is releasing during the cooking process. This is used for steaming. Sealing means that you are pressure cooking and all of that good stuff is staying inside the Instant Pot.

Do I still need a slow cooker if I have an Instant Pot?

Technically, no, the Instant Pot is also a slow cooker. One of the things I love about the Instant Pot as a slow cooker is that I can use the sauté function either before slow cooking to brown the meat or at the very end to reduce or thicken sauces.

How do I use the trivet?

The trivet can be used in multiple ways. Put the “legs” down and you can cook two things at once — meat on the bottom and set the steam basket on top or vice versa or… put the “legs” up and now you can use them as handles to pull out things like the springform pan.

Southwest Chicken Soup in the Instant Pot | Stephanie Hansen | Stephanie's Dish

Why does my Instant Pot smell?

It is most likely due to the silicone sealing ring. This ring holds in smells like no other. You can buy extras and use one for savory dishes and another for sweet meals. I have one I use just for curry. Also, make sure to rinse the lid of the Instant Pot to get out smells. Many folks wash the inner pot, but not the lid! The rings are cheap.

What is the difference between low and high pressure cooking?

The quick and dirty answer is that high pressure is better for cooking heartier items, like meats, chicken and pasta, while low pressure is better suited for delicate items like eggs, fish and some desserts.

What is PIP?

PIP stands for “pot in pot” cooking. Basically, another pot that goes into the inner pot. You need this for casseroles, cakes and if you want to cook multiple things at once. The Instant Pot makes some fabulous cheesecakes!

What Instant Pot accessories are most used?

  • 1-quart casserole dish
  • 7-inch springform pan
  • Steamer basket

What Instant Pot should I buy?

My classic style 6 quart is perfect for my family (3 people). If you cook in batches I would suggest the 8 quart. If you want to expand beyond the basic model, the Instant Pot website has a great comparison chart to help you choose the model that it is best for you.

Are Instant Pot lids dishwasher safe?

Yes. This is one of the best things about the Instant Pot for folks who don’t like to spend a ton of time in the kitchen. Every component other than the cooking base is dishwasher safe, and that includes the lid. Your meal will be easy to prepare, and cleaning up will be just as easy.

What is the Weekly Dish Instant Potters?

This is a Facebook group of over 3800 people who interact, share tips and recipes for the Instant Pot. To join search the group on Facebook or head straight to the Weekly Dish Instant Potters Facebook page.

For videos about how to use your Instant Pot, visit the website at instantpot.com.

Instant Pot Recipes