The Dos and Don’ts of Owning an Instant Pot

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Many of our moms and grandmothers relied on stovetop pressure cookers to can the year’s harvest, or just make a roast really fast. Younger generations found them intimidating and old-fashioned, until one company fused the power of pressure cookers with the convenience of a countertop appliance like the crockpot. Today, we’re all nuts about the hybrid branded as the Instant Pot.

The key difference here is cooking time. Instead of waiting all day for your stew, the Instant Pot has it cooked to perfection in 30 minutes. It’s also safer than the old version, and has a variety of functions. Still, there’s quite a learning curve. Here are some key dos and don’ts of using an Instant Pot.

DO: Make sure to add liquid.

Do not pressure cook foods dry! It’s a bad scene. The official word from Instant Pot is that you need 1 ½ cups of liquid for pressure cooking, although many get away with one cup. Just remember, one cup is the absolute minimum. It’s that liquid which creates the steam that cooks the food properly.

DON’T: Overfill the pot.

That handy “max line” inside of your pot? Yeah, that’s not for pressure cooking. If you fill the pot up to that line with rice and liquid, you’ll have a real mess on your hands. If you’re making rice, beans, pasta, or anything else that grows as it absorbs liquids, only fill the pot halfway.

DO: Try a variety of uses.

Rice, bread, yogurt – would you believe you can make all three with an Instant Pot? You can even sauté, poach eggs, roast an entire chicken, steam veggies, keep food warm, and more. Don’t get stuck with endless pots of chili; once you’re apprised of what all those buttons do, spread your wings.

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DON’T: Use it as you would a traditional pressure cooker.

Sadly, you can’t use the Instant Pot for pressure canning. Also, if you’re using a recipe that calls for a traditional, stovetop pressure cooker, you’ll have to adjust it for the Pot. However, there are tons of blogs out there solely dedicated to cooking with an Instant Pot, so you should have no trouble finding your most desirable dish.

DO: Read the manual carefully.

Online Instant Pot advice is gold. For instance, we’ve learned that the “manual” or “pressure cook” button is a more reliable mode than others. Still, the exact process, including steam release, should be reviewed, and then reviewed again. While the Instant Pot is considered safer than old pressure cookers by many, people do get burned.

DON’T: Forget about the inner pot!

You can know the Instant Pot backwards and forwards, yet still forget that one vital component – the pot that sits inside of the unit. There is no way you can use your Pot without this, so if you accidentally put your ingredients in the outer unit, you’re going to have to take them out and start from scratch.

DO: Clean it well.

The insert is dishwasher safe, so you’re good there. The lid is also said to be dishwasher safe, but many still like to give it a good hand wash. Don’t forget to hand wash the lid’s sealing ring and the steam valve, too. The outside of the generally just needs to be wiped down.

DON’T: Forget to put it back together properly.

One of the biggest rookie mistakes new Instant Pot users make is forgetting to put that seal back on the lid. This never works out, as that gasket is what keeps the steam inside. Speaking of seals, never forget to set your valve to “sealing” before pressure cooking.

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DO: Trust the process.

When you set a certain time to pressure cook, you might have noticed that it’s not through for, well, a little bit longer than your specified time. This isn’t a glitch, and you shouldn’t try to interrupt the cooking process. What’s occurring is that the Instant Pot is building pressure, so factor that time in if you’re in a huge rush.

DON’T: Leave it alone.

Owning an Instant Pot demands that we’re more hands-off with our cooking, since you can’t just lift the lid and see how it’s coming along. Even so, don’t run to the store or leave for work while it’s cooking. It might be safer than the old-fashioned cookers, but it’s still a pressure cooker.