Welcome to the fabulous world of Instant Pot cooking! Here’re tips, safety guidelines and easy recipes to start cooking in your electric pressure cooker! It’s easier, safer and more fun to use it, I promise!
What is an Instant Pot?
In a nutshell, an Instant Pot (IP, in short) is a multi-use, programmable electric 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
FUN FACT: 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’s one of the top selling small appliances.
Benefits of cooking in an electric pressure cooker:
- It saves time. Pressure cooking uses steam to cook foods in about 1/3 of the time it takes using traditional methods.
- You won’t compromise flavor. You’ll still enjoy rich and flavorful meals in less time!
- Pressure cooking is a healthier way to cook. 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 IP.
Instant Pot Safety Tips
Over the years, pressure cookers have gotten a reputation for being dangerous. And honestly, I too was intimidated in the beginning!
Rest assured, pressure cooker designs have improved over the years with safety in mind. Depending on the model of your IP, there’re between 10-13 safety mechanisms in place.
Even so, there’re a few safety guidelines you should follow when using your IP.
Instant Pot Safety Guidelines:
- Don’t overfill your IP. Never fill your Instant Pot above max line, and preferably no more than halfway full. As the pressure builds inside the cooker and the heat rises, liquid begins to boil over. This can clog the venting tube that allows excess steam to escape.
TIP: If you’re making a big batch of soup, like my Instant Pot chicken stock, be sure to let the pressure release naturally before opening the lid.
- Don’t force the lid open. To ensure user safety, IP comes with a locking lid that prevents the user from opening the lid while the contents are still under pressure.
TIP: 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.
- Make sure the stainless steel insert is in place before adding food into the pot. This can cause major damage to your pot. You’d be surprised how many people had added liquid into an unlined pot and damaged their pot!
TIP: After the insert is washed, immediately place it back inside the pressure cooker to avoid this mistake.
- Use caution when releasing pressure or opening the lid. Make sure to keep your hand away from the steam holes on the valve when releasing pressure and open the lid away from yourself.
What is natural pressure release (NPR) and quick release (QPR)?
Once cooking is done, the pressure can be released instantly by moving the valve from SEALING to VENTING. This is called a quick pressure release, or in short QPR or QR.
Natural Pressure Release (NPR) is when you let the pot release the pressure slowly on its own, usually within 20 minutes. The time depends on how much food is in the pot. During NPR, you don’t need to do anything, and you can even unplug the pot. When the pressure pin drops, it means the pot is ready to be opened.
TIP: Whenever you’re cooking meat, I highly recommend to do at least 10-minute NPR, or you may end up with dry meat.
Other Important Instant Pot Tips
Instant Pot is a great small appliance for any busy home cook. Here’re a few more tips to ensure your success.
- Always use enough liquid. 6qt pressure cooker requires a minimum of 1 cup of clear liquid, such as water, broth, etc. For 8qt pot you need at least 2 cups of liquid.
- Allow 10-20 minutes for IP to come to pressure. Keep this in mind if you’re trying to get dinner on the table by a certain time.
TIP: A lot of recipes don’t mention this important note. IP doesn’t start counting down the cook time until it’s under pressure. And it could take up to 20 minutes depending on how much food is in the pot, and whether they’re frozen or not. More food, or frozen food = more time to come to pressure!
- Purchase more than one insert. If you use your IP 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 crucial for trapping the moisture in the pot and building pressure.
TIP: Buy multiple sealing rings in different color for sweet and savory food. And/or place a clean sealing ring after cleaning the lid without waiting for the dirty ring to get cleaned and dried.
- 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 IP Water Test to make sure everything works as intended.
- Then make this game-changing Instant Pot Egg Salad recipe + hack!
- Instant Pot Mashed Potatoes – a truly effortless side dish.
- 25-minute Instant Pot Fried Rice – such a great weeknight meal!
- Instant Pot Ribs never disappoints.
Want to learn more about Instant Pot cooking?
- Check out our Instant Pot Pot-in-Pot Cooking
- Learn about different models of IP in Which Instant Pot to Buy article. Plus, you’ll find information on additional accessories and cleaning tips!
- Still got more questions? Check out our Instant Pot FAQ