You’ve heard of them and know they’re on a lot of most-wanted lists, but you’ve also wondered how to use an Instant Pot. I mean, it’s a pressure cooker, it gets steamy, and isn’t that supposed to be a little…risky?! Fear not, friends. My Instant Pot is one of my favorite kitchen appliances, and it will be yours too as long as you avoid these common mistakes!
1. How to Use an Instant Pot 101: Add liquid before cooking.
Always, I repeat, always add liquid to your Instant Pot pressure cooker. Pressure cooking requires steam to build pressure. If you don’t add any liquid, or your foods are dry to begin with, you’ll be going out for dinner that night.
Add a minimum of 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid before starting your pressure cooker.
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2. But don’t add too much liquid — or use the wrong kind.
Pay attention to the “Max Fill Line” — it’s there for a reason. Certain foods expand when cooking (rice, beans, dried veggies), and the pressure in the pot needs ample space to function properly.
As for the right type of liquid to add to your Instant Pot, you’ll need a liquid that can turn into steam to cook your food. So avoid using heavy cream sauces, cornstarch, arrowroot, potato starch, or tomato paste.
Instead, wait for your food to be done cooking, then set it aside and use the saute function to thicken your sauce.
3. Don’t forget to seal the Instant Pot steam valve.
There should never be steam blowing out of your appliance while cooking — if there is, you didn’t seal the steam valve, and your food won’t be cooked.
Properly close the Instant Pot steam valve every time you use your pressure cooker.
4. Don’t use the same sealing ring for every type of Instant Pot recipe.
Use different sealing rings for different Instant Pot recipes. You don’t want to use the same sealing ring you used to cook spicy fajitas and then a sweet treat.
Your cheesecake will come out tasting like spicy fajitas.
5. Don’t overcook food by using the “Keep Warm” function.
That “Keep Warm” function may be helpful, but if you leave food on that setting too long, you may accidentally overcook your food, leaving it dry.
6. Consider the time it takes to build and release pressure.
You have to allow enough time for your appliance to build pressure and release pressure. So the 15-minute recipe you just found may actually take 35 minutes to fully come to pressure, cook, and release pressure.
The amount of time needed to come to pressure and release pressure depends on the recipe and the amount of liquid.
7. Pay attention to the timer and start buttons.
Make sure you set the cooking function and then set your cooking time.
8. Don’t forget to put the inner pot back in before cooking again.
What may sound like a no-brainer is actually a pretty common mistake.
Since the inner pot is removable to clean, you may forget to stick it back in before dumping in your ingredients.
9. Don’t underestimate the saute function.
Because people are often looking for, well, instant results when using their Instant Pot pressure cooker, the saute feature is often the most underutilized function on an Instant Pot.
You can actually use the inner pot to saute onions, garlic, or even sear your meat before cooking it, which unlocks a deeper flavor in savory recipes.
10. Use the Instant Pot natural release and quick release accordingly.
Both the quick release and Instant Pot natural release will stop food from cooking. But the quick release will release the pressure immediately, and food will stop cooking quickly. The natural release will gradually stop cooking the food.
When cooking vegetables or other foods that can get overcooked easily, use the quick release. When cooking a pot roast or other slow-cooked meals, use the natural release.
TIP: Use a towel, pot holder, or silicone gloves to turn the valve vent. When you switch the steam valve to vent, steam will come out hot and fast — so protect your hands.