The Instant Pot is one of the most versatile, time-efficient, and flavorful additions you can make to your kitchen. The pressure cooker can prepare anything from chili to cheesecake — and everything in between. Advanced Instant Pot models can even be linked to your home Wi-Fi for remote temperature and timer controls. These phenomenal devices can do quite a bit, with most models offering a handful of features and capabilities that many folks won’t even touch. It’s time to shed a light on some of these less-obvious functions.
We have the cooking hacks and tips on how to pack the most flavor possible into each meal. You’ll learn everything you need to know to feel like an Instant Pot expert.
A pressure cooker uses steam to build pressure that ultimately cooks the food. To create that pressure, the inner pot must have at least half to one cup of liquid. This is the only way to pressurize the unit, and it’s a crucial tip you’ll want to remember when using the pressure cooker setting on your Instant Pot.
Adding flavorful liquids like broths, juices, and stocks can add a ton of flavor to your dishes. You can turn basic rice into a flavorful side simply by swapping the water with a mix of tomato broth and chicken broth, and then adding in a bit of sauteed onions and garlic. Or, you can add flavor to your chicken by swapping the water for chicken broth.
Don’t think you’re required to use just one button in each cooking session. You can start with the saute button to help caramelize your onions or brown your meat at the beginning of the cooking process, then use the pressure cooking button when it’s time to add the remaining ingredients. Once the food is ready to eat, you can keep the pot on the Keep Warm setting until everyone in the family is ready to eat together.
You might think that once you’ve selected a cooking function, that’s that. But you can adjust the temperature when using the Saute or Slow Cooker functions. This helps you get the perfect cooking temperature catered specifically to whatever dish you’re making. Some dishes may need a slightly higher temperature, while you may want to turn down the heat on other dishes.
The Instant Pot takes about 10 minutes to build the necessary pressure within the inner pot. So whenever you’re using one of the pressure buttons, you’ll want to add about 10-15 minutes of cooking time to let the unit sufficiently pressurize. For example, if your pot roast dish recipe mentions 30 minutes cooking time, you’ll want to let your family know dinner will be ready in about 45 minutes (after you press the button).
While the Instant Pot is a very safe kitchen appliance to use, you’ll want to practice common-sense safety measures when using the pressure modes. When you manually release the pressure using the sealing valve, burning hot steam starts shooting out of the valve. Do not look down at the valve, or you’ll get a face-full of steam. We’ve seen it happen, and it’s no fun!
Your Instant Pot can fully cook your foods extremely quickly. Depending on the size of the cut, boneless chicken breast can cook in around 10 minutes, while a frozen cut takes only a few minutes longer. You can cook most veggies in under five minutes (except for potatoes, artichokes, beets, and a few others). If you overcook your meats and veggies out of fear of eating under-cooked ingredients, your meal won’t turn out as well. Keep in mind, you can add more cooking time if needed, but you can’t go back in time and cook your foods less.
The Instant Pot comes with an inner pot you use to cook your food, but many Instant Pot owners like to have multiple inner pots at their disposal. This allows you to cook multiple dishes in one cooking session without having to wash the pot in-between. This makes it easier to cook multiple recipes in one single Instant Pot.
You should purchase a set of extra sealing rings, keeping one ring for savory dishes and one ring for sweet dishes. This is because the sealing rings tend to hold onto the smells of previously cooked dishes, and you don’t want that beef broth you cooked yesterday seeping into the delicious cheesecake you’re making today.
While many Instant Pots include a yogurt-making function (which works really well), this appliance doesn’t always cook creamy and cheesy sauces very well. That’s because milk can scald quickly, and cheese can get watery and even congeal. If you try to pressure cook a cheese sauce, it can sputter, and escape out of the vent when you release the pressure. When using dairy products to make a creamy or cheesy recipe, add the dairy ingredients after the pressure cooking process is complete. This way, you’ll be left with a creamier dish that isn’t watery and curdled. Plus, you won’t have a huge mess in your kitchen if the cheese sauce sputters out of the sealing valve.
One thing the Instant Pot does really well is retain liquid. However, this can actually turn into a negative when you end up with dishes that have a little too much liquid. When this happens, add a bit of cornstarch mixed with water to help thicken up the dish. Be sure you add the thickener after the cooking process, and not in the beginning. This is because the cornstarch or other thickening agents can interfere with the steam being generated by the Instant Pot.
Most of the Instant Pot’s non-electronic parts, including the inner pot and steam rack, can go in the dishwasher, making for a very straightforward and time-saving cleanup process. The outside of the Instant Pot can easily be wiped down with a wet towel. Keep in mind that the lid does need to be hand-washed, but hey, you can wash one part by hand, can’t you?
The brim of an Instant Pot (where the lid sits) can get extremely dirty after a few uses. Rice, sauce, and juices can accumulate, making your Instant Pot look and smell pretty gross. Wipe out all of the nooks and crannies after each use to keep your pot looking and functioning its best.
Most Instant Pot models come with a steaming rack. And sure, the rack works great for steaming veggies. But, you can also use the rack for endless other purposes — basically, any time you don’t want your ingredients to come into contact with too much of the liquid at the bottom of the pot. It’s especially useful when you want to make hard-boiled eggs, desserts, and meats you want to keep whole (and not shred).
You can find a variety of accessories for your Instant Pot — springform pans, silicone muffin cups, protective grips for your hands, colanders, and more. But, one of the best accessories for your Instant Pot is probably already in your kitchen: Plain old aluminum foil. You can use it to make a sling to help you grab something out of your pot, you can use foil to create packets for your ingredients, and so much more.
With the addition of lid handles on the latest Instant Pot models, there’s less risk of getting hit with a bath of steam when you pop the appliance open. Not only that, but you can use the handle to prop the lid open, allowing easier access to the freshly cooked food you may be keeping inside the pot. No need to transfer your batch of chili to individual dishes when your dinner guests can scoop straight from the Instant Pot.
There’s no need to wait for meats to defrost before tossing them in your Instant Pot. With items like chicken, fish, and other meats, the only thing you’ll have to do to compensate for the freeze is to add a few minutes of prep time to the initial pressurizing. Just pop your poultry in, and your Instant Pot will cook through as if the meat were already defrosted.
If you’re done cooking an Instant Pot meal but aren’t ready to put the contents into a Tupperware container, double-check that the Keep Warm function is turned on. This function will keep your food nice and hot if you get distracted or simply can’t make it to the cooker right away. Smart Instant Pot machines can also be switched to a convenient Keep Warm mode directly from your phone.
Maybe your Instant Pot is beginning to emit an unpleasant odor. If this smelly situation is happening to you, you can try this all-natural cleaning method. Simply mix two cups of vinegar with a few drops of lemon, sprinkle in a small amount of baking soda, and combine with water. Start the Instant Pot on quick cook mode. You should notice that the nasty smell has gone away. This particular technique can also help eliminate caked-on stains in the inner pot, making your Instant Pot smell and look a whole lot better.
You also have the option to choose a wide range of add-ons that could take your Instant Pot from incredible to downright amazing. Steamer baskets are fantastic accessories that can help you cook vegetables and various meats. An Instant Pot Air Fryer lid can also turn your family meal pot into a powerful fryer able to whip up batches of french fries, mozzarella sticks, and other fried goodies.
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