The Beginner’s Guide to Instant Pot, Part 1 – A Simple Way to Get Started
This is Part 1 of series of 4 posts about how to use your Instant Pot.
- Part 1 – A Simple Way to Get Started
- Part 2 – Pot in Pot Cooking
- And Part 3 – Which Instant Pot to Buy, Features, Accessories and Cleaning Tips
- Part 4 – Instant Pot FAQ
The Instant Pot. It’s a small appliance that has earned huge accolades in the last few years. Whether you are casually scrolling through your Pinterest feed or perusing your favorite recipe site, chances are you’ve come across an Instant Pot recipe (or twelve!).
If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, you may be wondering – what’s the big deal? Likewise, if you have taken the plunge but find yourself in the overwhelming position of an Instant Pot newbie, you may be confused where to start.
What is an Instant Pot?
While the Instant Pot name may be something you’ve only just recently heard about, the brand itself has been around since 2009. Developed by a team of Canadian techno-buffs, the first Instant Pot hit the markets in 2010. Today, it is among one the top selling small appliances.
In a nutshell, an Instant Pot is a multi-use, programmable pressure cooker. It has the capability of performing the tasks of several small appliances you may already own. A few common features include:
- pressure cooker
- slow cooker
- rice cooker
- yogurt maker
- sauté/searing pan
- warming pot
What are the benefits of cooking in an Instant Pot?
First and foremost, it saves time. Pressure cooking uses steam to cook foods in about 1/3 of the time it takes using traditional methods. Trapped water vapor raises the temperature within the cooker to a heat level higher than you could ever achieve by cooking food in an oven or on a stovetop. The steam also prevents food from drying out, giving you moist tender food every time.
Second, you can still achieve that rich, low-and-slow flavor. You know how the flavors of your favorite pot roast intensify and concentrate after simmering in a slow cooker all day? An Instant Pot can provide the same benefit, but your pot roast is ready to eat within an hour.
Third, pressure cooking is a heathier way to cook. Modern cooking methods can really deplete all the vitamins and minerals found in our food. The less time it takes for a food to cook, the more it retains those healthy nutrients.
Finally, you can cook foods directly from frozen. Ever planned something for dinner only to realize you forgot to take it out of the freezer to thaw? That’s not a problem with an Instant Pot. It can cook both frozen and thawed foods. Just allow for a little extra cooking time.
Instant Pot Safety Tips
Over the years, pressure cookers have gotten a reputation for being dangerous. Everyone has heard a story about someone’s grandma who had a pressure cooker explode. While this may have been a reality a few decades ago, pressure cooker designs have improved over the years with safety in mind. Depending on the model of Instant Pot you choose, there are between 10-13 safety mechanisms in place.
Even so, there are a few safety guidelines you should follow when using your Instant Pot.
- Don’t overfill your Instant Pot.When pressure cooking, you should never fill your Instant Pot more than halfway full. As the pressure builds inside the cooker and the heat rises, any liquid will begin to boil over. This can clog the venting tube that allows excess steam to escape. If you do overfill your pot, be sure to let the pressure release naturally before opening the lid.
- Don’t force the lid open.To ensure user safety, the Instant Pot comes with a locking lid that prevents the user from opening the lid while the contents are still under pressure. The lid should slide to the open position easily once the pressure is released. If not, give the pressure a few more minutes to dissipate and try again.
- Know when to use natural release or quick release. Once cooking is done, the pressure can be released instantly by moving the pressure release valve from SEALING to VENTING. You can also leave the Instant Pot and it will slowly release the pressure on its own, usually within 20 minutes. Foods that foam — such as rice, grains, beans or pasta — can spew hot liquid if the pressure is released too soon. It’s best to use the natural release method for these items.
- Don’t cook without the stainless steel insert. This can cause major damage to your Instant Pot. After the insert is washed, immediately place it back inside the Instant Pot to avoid this mistake.
- Use caution when releasing pressure or opening the lid.Ever accidentally scalded your hand after lifting off the lid of a hot pot? An Instant Pot is no different. Remember that the contents are hot and steam will escape once the lid is removed. Wear oven mitts or use a wooden spoon when releasing the pressure valve during Quick Release. Carefully remove the lid and stand away from the Instant Pot until the steam has escaped.
Other Important Instant Pot Tips
The Instant Pot is a great small appliance for any busy home cook. Here are a few more tips to ensure your success.
- Always use enough liquid.The Instant Pot requires a minimum of one cup of liquid, though some recipes may call for more. Not using enough liquid will prevent steam from forming and your cooker won’t reach optimum pressure.
- Allow 15 – 20 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. While the total cook time for an Instant Pot recipe may be only 15 minutes, the appliance needs time to come to pressure. Keep this in mind if you’re trying to get dinner on the table by a certain time.
- Purchase more than one insert.If you use your Instant Pot as much as we do, you’ll want a second insert in case the other one is dirty.
- Always wash and replace the sealing ring after each use.The sealing ring is important because it helps trap the moisture in the pot and build pressure. It’s a good idea to wipe it clean after each so debris doesn’t prevent a proper seal the next time you use it. Just remember to put the seal back in place once its dry.
- Add thickeners, such as flour or cornstarch, after cooking. Pressure cookers depend on liquid to form steam. Adding a thickening agent during cooking can absorb liquid too quickly and affect cooking time.
5 Easy Instant Pot Recipes for Complete Beginners:
- Start with Instant Pot Water Test
- Instant Pot Eggs (Perfect Hard-Boiled and Soft-Boiled Eggs)
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes
- Award Winning Instant Pot Chili Recipe
- Instant Pot Ribs
This article was written by Lisa Bynum for Busy Cooks.