Instant Pots can be risky if you’re not comfortable using one.
Here are 10 common mistakes you should avoid when you’re cooking with an Instant Pot:
1. Don’t forget to add liquid before cooking.
Always, I repeat, always add liquid to your Instant Pot. 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 ½-1 cup of liquid before starting your Instant Pot.
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 steam valve.
There should never be steam blowing out of the instant pot while cooking — if there is, you didn’t seal the steam valve, and your food won’t be cooked.
Properly close the steam valve every time you use your Instant Pot.
4. Don’t use the same sealing ring for every type of food.
Use different sealing rings for different 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 and leave it dry.
6. Consider the time it takes to build and release pressure.
You have to allow enough time for the Instant Pot 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. You accidentally use the timer button instead of starting the Instant Pot.
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, 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 quick release and natural release accordingly.
Both the quick release and natural release will stop the Instant Pot 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.