I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and one of my favorite small appliances is my Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1. It's not only useful for cooking items you'd typically slow cook in a fraction of the time, but it's great to "set and forget," allowing you to dump in ingredients, then let them pressure cook until done and be kept warm until you're ready to serve.
A lot of people who buy an Instant Pot leave it in the box for months because they're intimidated by it, but there's really no need to be. Once you get the hang of using it, it will become second nature. Here are my best Instant Pot tips and tricks to keep in mind along the way that I've learned after several years of using mine every week.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Use only the features you need
Starting off, you might find the number of buttons overwhelming. These vary from model to model but usually include ones like Cake, Chili, Rice, Soup, and so on. Don't worry about all of those. After several years, I find I only use a handful of the buttons for most things, and in fact, haven't even used some of them at all!
For everyday cooking, there are two you will find most useful: Pressure Cook (named Manual on some models) and Saute. You can get by using just these two, and you won't be missing any of the benefits of the appliance. The buttons, with a couple of exceptions, are effectively pressure cooking at a pre-programmed temperature and time. But it's easy for you to enter your own time and just press the pressure cook button so that it cooks to your liking or recipe. If you're in a rush, though, tapping the Rice or Porridge buttons might be useful and save you a couple of seconds of having to input time and setting manually.
In most cases, you can simply throw meat and sauce inside and don't even need to saute first. But if you like, like with ground beef for stroganoff (one of my favorite Instant Pot recipes) or to sear pork tenderloin or chicken breasts, do it right in the Pot, then switch to Pressure Cook and continue the recipe.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Always use the high setting for slow cooking
One of the most common things people say they don't like about the Instant Pot is that it isn't a very powerful slow cooker. Some even go so far as to warn users against even bothering with this function. Indeed, the Instant Pot's primary value is in cooking food you would typically slow cook, like pulled pork or stew, in a fraction of the time at high pressure with the same tender results. But you can absolutely still use it as a slow cooker, too.
If you want to be able to use the Pot as a slow cooker, don't listen to the naysayers. Do it! The most important thing is that you switch to the High-temperature setting. High Slow Cook on an Instant Pot is the equivalent to Low or Medium on a standard slow cooker. The low temperature on an Instant Pot will simply keep food warm, but it won't really cook it.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Try homemade yogurt
If you have a model that has the yogurt button, try it! It's not difficult, though it does take a long time. All you need is whole milk, a yogurt starter (which can be a small spoon of plain store-bought yogurt, as long as it has active bacterial cultures), and a thermometer.
Once you go through the first few steps and ensure the temperature is just right, all you have to do is leave the Pot to do its work for 10 hours (more or less) depending on how thick and how sour you like your yogurt. Grab a strainer if you want thicker Greek-style yogurt, or bottle it up with your favorite fruit or other flavorings, and you'll be amazed at how much yogurt you get from a one-liter jug of milk.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Always factor in coming to pressure and manual release times
You might think you can get dinner on the table in 10 minutes when you see that you can pressure cook something in just 8 minutes. But keep in mind that the Pot can take up to 10 minutes to come to pressure, to begin with.
Then, if the recipe calls for a "natural pressure release," that means letting the pressure slowly release from the Pot on its own versus pressing the vent and forcing it out of the spout, which Instant Pot fans know as a "manual pressure release." You'll usually want to do a natural pressure release (NPR) with certain cuts of meat, for example, to prevent them from drying out. It can take the Pot up to another 10-15 minutes to naturally release pressure so factor that time into your recipes.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Invest in a second ring
The ring, which runs around the perimeter of the lid to ensure it seals to the Pot while pressure cooking, will pick up the smell of every food you cook in the Pot. And it is tough to get the smell out. While it doesn't seem to transfer a taste to foods, some people like to have multiple rings of different colors and use one for dinners and one for desserts.
You can also try soaking the ring in hot water and baking soda to get the smell of extremely pungent foods out, but this doesn't always work. One tip I've found that helps with the odor is to store the lid upside down on the Pot when you're not using it. This helps the smell to dissipate versus keeping it locked up and sealed inside the Pot.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Convert slow cooker meals
One of the biggest advantages with the Pot is that you can slow cook food that would often take you all day in far less time. You can pressure cook flank steak, for example, in 35-40 minutes and have it just as tender for tacos as it would be if you had slow cooked it all day.
If you do this, however, make sure not to cook vegetables at the same time as they will turn to mush at high pressure. Instead, take the meat or poultry out when it's done and while it's resting, pop the veggies and potatoes in the pot and steam them on their own. You can steam vegetables like fresh broccoli in one minute! And with the Pot already warm, it will take less time to come to pressure. This means that the side dishes will be ready by the time the meat has rested.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Cook from frozen
Another great benefit of the Pot is that you can pop meat, chicken, fish, or other ingredients into it and cook right from frozen. This allows you to make a meal even if you forget to take the chicken out of the freezer the night before.
When cooking from frozen, you don't actually need to add any time to the cooking time of your recipe. Instead, the Pot will just take a bit longer to come to pressure. Sometimes I want to be extra careful with foods like chicken, so I'll just add an extra minute or two to the cooking time when I'm using frozen poultry just in case!
Best Instant Pot Tips: That groove has a use
It's hilarious to see that "mind blown" moment when novice Instant Pot users discover this handy design bit that many don't figure out for months. On each side of the top of the Pot is a rectangular groove. That groove is designed for inserting the lid when you open the Pot after cooking so it can stay neatly in place while you dish things out.
The lid has a rectangular protrusion on either side that is explicitly designed to fit in that spot. Neat!
Best Instant Pot Tips: Use it as a secondary cooking device
If you host a lot of parties, you have probably run into an issue where you can't cook everything you want because you only have one oven and four stovetop burners. Then people come by with dishes they hope you can keep warm for them in the oven.
When I host big events, I always use my Instant Pot to cook one food, which frees up stove and oven space for other things. I'll make mac and cheese for the kids, for example, or scalloped potatoes for a side dish. The great thing about the Pot is that once it's done cooking, it can keep the food warm indefinitely using the Keep Warm button.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Always use Keep Warm
Which brings me to my next tip: make sure to activate the Keep Warm setting, so it kicks in whenever a cooking session is done. If you set something to cook while you popped out to the store and you got stuck in traffic on the way home, even if the cook is done, the Pot will continue to keep the food warm until you arrive back home.
This is also great if you've cooked and your partner is going to be home late, for example. It allows you to "set it and forget it," having dinner cooking while you tend to other things in the house without worry that you have to turn the Pot off when the cook is done to prevent the meat from burning.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Position it by a vent
Sometimes recipes call for a manual release; this means that you need to press the little valve at the top and let the steam come out, similar to a regular pressure cooker. But watch out, because the steam comes out fast, furious, and hot! Most people like to position their Instant Pots on the counter under a cabinet. But if you let all this steam rise and go on the underside of your cabinet, it can cause damage over time.
Try to put your Instant Pot near the vent in your kitchen so the vent can suck up the steam and direct it out of the house. If this isn't possible due to your kitchen set-up, at least use a cloth or paper towel to position loosely over the vent to redirect the steam from going right onto your cabinets or ceiling. Just don't put your hand close to the valve while steam is coming out, as it's hot!
Best Instant Pot Tips: Prep ahead to save time
If you really want to save time, prep Instant Pot meals ahead of time, including chopping vegetables or potatoes, and mixing sauces (anything you put in the Pot requires at least one cup of liquid even if it's just water under a trivet). There are so many "dump and go" meals that you can get done in a flash and with little effort if you do the prep work ahead of time.
Try dedicating every Sunday, for example, to prepping veggies and sauces, then storing them in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer with labels and dates. Pop one into the Pot, cook for the appropriate time, and it's ready when you are!
Best Instant Pot Tips: Add more spices
Sometimes you might find that your foods come out bland. Because of the high pressure the Pot cooks at, sometimes the seasoning can get lost. So always add more than you think you'll need to ensure that your meal satisfies your taste buds.
This might require that you experiment a bit to find the perfect recipe. But don't get discouraged if you pressure cook something that always turns out great in your slow cooker but doesn't taste the same. It might just be that you need to double the seasoning.
Best Instant Pot Tips: Invest in accessories
You'll find that once you get used to using the Instant Pot, you'll start researching and wanting to get your hands on tons of accessories for it.
Alongside an extra ring, other accessories that can come in handy for an Instant Pot include a tempered glass lid for using the Pot to do things like pop popcorn, a silicone egg mold pan for making your own egg bites, an egg tray for hard-boiling eggs (many Instant Pot fans swear it's the best way to hard boil eggs), a small springform pan for baking cakes, a mesh steamer basket for things like vegetables, a set of sealing rings for color-coding, and more.
Will meet all your needs
This version of the Instant Pot is one of the best, with auto-locking of the vent when the lid goes on and every cooking option imaginable, including yogurt. The 6-quart size is perfect for up to a family of five or a single individual who wants to keep leftovers.
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