The best Instant Pot tips, tricks, and hacks

Your Instant Pot is a versatile, functional, kitchen powerhouse. You can do so much with it, but far too many people understand only the basics of their machine. There is so much more to this pot than just pressure cooking, and the more you know, the more you’ll love it. 

We have the cleaning 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.

1. Use at least half a cup of liquid when pressure cooking

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 1 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.

2. Use liquids other than water to add flavor

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.

3. Use multiple features when cooking (saute first)

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.

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

4. Adjust the temperature

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.

5. Add 10-15 minutes to your meal planning time when using pressure

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).

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

6. Don’t put your face over the steam

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!

7. Don’t overcook

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.

8. Have an extra inner pot on hand

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.

9. Purchase extra sealing rings

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.

10. Be careful with dairy

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 value.

11. Be prepared to thicken

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.

Instant Pot 7-in1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker

12. Use the dishwasher

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?

13. Clean the nooks and crannies regularly

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.

14. Use the steaming rack for more than just veggies

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).

15. Take advantage of aluminum foil

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.

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