Since its creation back in 2011, the Instant Pot has taken over the multicooker market, even selling over 215,000 units during the Black Friday sales in 2016.
It’s not surprising. This appliance has the potential to erase half your utensils in the kitchen, reduce your cooking time drastically, and allow you to cook healthy and delicious meals, even after a busy day at work.
These days, Instant Pot are regularly introducing new models to the market. They’ve released models that include air fryers, smart WIFI functionality, and even a multi-use blender.
So what’s so great about the Instant Pot? And how can you make the most out of it? We’re glad you asked…
What is the Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot is what is known as a multicooker. That means it incorporates several different types of cooking into one appliance. For instance, you can slow cook, fry, oven bake, and pressure cook, all in the one pot.
The main functionality used on the Instant Pot is the pressure cooker (also known as the “Manual” setting on some models). Once you seal your pot, the pressure cooker builds up heat under that seal to a temperature much higher than boiling water. It then uses that trapped steam to cook the food. That’s why it cooks food a lot quicker than other traditional cooking methods such as stovetop or ovens.
Your Instant Pot Settings
Depending on your model of Instant Pot, you’ll find lots of different cooking settings to choose from. Here are some of the most commonly used:
PRESSURE COOK/MANUAL – This is the main way you’re likely to cook using the Instant Pot. Under this mode, you can control pressure levels, temperature, and cooking times.
CAKE – The cake setting allows you to cook a variety of cakes according to different densities.
SLOW COOK – You can even slow cook but in a much quicker time than traditional slow cookers.
STEAM – Steaming food helps retain all its nutrients, so it’s particularly good for cooking vegetables. Plus, the Instant Pot allows you to steam your food super fast.
STERILIZE – From pasteurizing dairy products to sterilizing jam jars, the sterilize function is so handy. You can even use it to sterilize baby bottles!
KEEP WARM – Lots of modes on the Instant Pot automatically transition into a useful “Keep Warm” setting to keep your food ready to eat for an extended time.
You’ll find a mixture of these cooking modes used for different dishes in various recipes for Instant Pot.
Pressure Release Methods
When using pressure cookers, you need to release the pressure once cooking is complete by releasing the valve. There are two ways to do this:
Natural pressure release (NPR/NR) means allowing the appliance to steadily release the pressure on its own over time. This can take up to 40 minutes depending on the volume of food in the pot.
Quick pressure release (QPR/QR) means opening the valve yourself to quickly release the pressure. It’s more suitable for foods that shouldn’t sit in the cooker once cooking is finished, such as delicate cuts of meat.
Lots of Instant Pot recipe collections, like the ones over on Corriecooks, will tell you precisely which method to use and how to use it to get the best results.
Setting Your Timing
Cooking times tend to be drastically shorter when using the Instant Pot. But you’ll still need to set them and sometimes adjust them depending on the volume and type of food.
It’s very easy to do. You just select Pressure (or Manual depending on your Instant Pot model) and use the “+” or “-” symbols to set your desired cooking time.
The Instant Pot website even has a convenient cooking timetable which is especially useful for beginners.
Like any electrical appliance, the Instant Pot display comes up with different messages to indicate updates on the temperature, cooking time, and safety mechanisms for your food.
Some of the main Instant Pot display messages to be aware of include:
ON: This shows up when the Instant Pot is busy rising to the temperature you set.
END: This means the Instant Pot is finished with the cooking process.
HOT: This appears under the “Saute” function to let you know the Instant Pot has now reached the temperature needed.
BURN: This means food is burning in your Instant Pot! It doesn’t happen often, and starchy food stuck to the bottom of the pot is usually the culprit.
LID: This is a safety display that comes up if your lid is not properly secured (or is not on at all).
What NOT to Do
You might have heard of pressure cooker kitchen disasters before. So it’s important to remember that safety comes first when cooking, and the Instant Pot is no different.
It’s not just about safety, either. There are some things the pressure cooker just isn’t designed to do. And if you try it anyway, you could end up with disastrous cooking results.
With that in mind, it’s not recommended to try deep frying or air frying in the Instant Pot. Also, recipes that include cooking with dairy usually won’t work. In fact, many easy Instant Pot recipes recommend adding cheese/cream separately once a dish is cooked to avoid it curdling inside the inner pot. If you’re cooking something crispy, the steam used to pressure cook in the Instant Pot won’t do the trick, either.
Pro Cooking Tips
While you should definitely dive right into getting familiar with your Instant Pot, there are some best practices and essential tips to keep in mind:
- Water is essential! Always add at least half a cup
- Be careful when using the quick pressure release method to avoid a nasty steam burn
- Buy a second sealing ring for sweet dishes to avoid a savoury after-taste getting added to your desserts
You’re ready to go!
Using the Instant Pot is a constantly evolving learning experience. But the good news is, these tips are all you need to get started! What’s the first Instant Pot meal you’ll cook?