How to Use an Instant Pot
A quick and easy introduction on How to Use an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker as well as Instant Pot recipes for beginners.
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What is an Instant Pot?
An Instant Pot is a multicooker that can function as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and more! This handy little kitchen appliance makes dinner time quick and easy. There are many different models and sizes range from 3 quarts (good for a small family or 2-3), 5 or 6 quart (4-6 person family), or 8 quart (6+ family members). I recommend this article for determining which mode is right for you.
What Pressure Does an Instant Pot Reach?
On high an electric pressure cooker operates at around 12 psi. The Instant Pot operates at 11.6 psi or approximately 242 degrees F. Stovetop pressure cookers operate at around 15 psi. So if you are using a pressure cooker recipe made for a stovetop pressure cooker you just want to cook the recipe slightly longer in your Instant Pot. Note: With the popularity of the Instant Pot and electric pressure cookers I think the average recipe will refer to an electric pressure cooker.
Instant Pot Accessories:
The Instant Pot can do so many different things and there are accessories to make it all easier! My favorites are the silicone lid, extra stainless steel insert, and the silicone egg cups. Make sure you check which size insert the item is for before ordering.
Trivet – This lifts ingredients out of the cooking liquid.
Steamer Basket – Mainly used for steaming vegetables.
Springform Pan – This can be inserted into the Instant Pot stainless steel insert to cook cakes, lasagna, and other recipes requiring a form.
Glass Lid – This lid is only used when you are not using the pressurized functions on your Instant Pot. It’s great for stopping splatter as you are browning meat!
Silicone Egg Cups – They are the perfect size for making egg bites in your Instant Pot!
Egg Steamer Rack – For cooking eggs in the Instant Pot!
Silicone Lid – So you can take your Instant Pot insert and put everything straight in the refrigerator.
Stainless Steel Insert – Having an extra insert makes it so much easier to cook several things in a row. Now more worrying about cleaning the bowl between each recipe.
What is the Difference Between Quick Release and Natural Release?
There are two ways to release the pressure once your Instant Pot has finished the actve cooking process:
Quick Release – Stops the cooking process immediately. When the timer goes off you press CANCEL to turn the Instant Pot off and then you flip the pressure valve at the top from SEALING to VENTING. Be careful, this will release a stream of steam into the air. Keep your hands and arms clear.
Natural Release – This allows the pressure inside the pressure cooker to naturally depressurize over time. When the timer goes off you press CANCEL and then leave the Instant Pot alone for the amount of natural release time specified in the recipe. The cooking process continues during this time. At the end of that time you flip the pressure valve from SEALING to VENTING to release whatever pressure is left in the pot. The Natural Release method is most often used when you cook meat, soups or stews, or anything that is primarily liquid. It allows the contents of the pressure cooker time to depressurize so they don’t spray out when pressure is released.
HOW TO USE AN INSTANT POT
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Using an Instant Pot as a Pressure Cooker:
- When you are making an Instant pot recipe or pressure cooker recipe follow the instructions for everything that goes into the pot.
- Many recipes will have you brown meat, or saute vegetables, before you begin pressure cooking. To do this you press the SAUTE button. Each press of SAUTE button will cause a light to light up under Less, Normal, or More. These are different levels of heat. The default will be Normal which is perfect for saute or browning. More also works for browning. Less is good for simmering and thickening sauces.
- When you are ready to pressure cook lock your lid in place and turn the valve on top to SEALING.
- Press PRESSURE COOK, then press PRESSURE LEVEL to select Low or High pressure.
- Use the – and+ signs to set the cook time. The Instant Pot will begin to build pressure inside and when it reaches the correct pressure the timer will start. When the timer is done it will beep to let you know.
- Press CANCEL and do either a quick release or a natural release depending on the recipe instructions. If you are doing a quick release you will immediately flip the valve on top to VENTING. Be careful, there will be a big rush of steam escaping from the top, keep your hands clear. If you are doing a natural release you will simply leave the Instant Pot alone for the specified amount of time and at the end of that time you will flip the valve on top to VENTING (much less steam will come out, if any).
What Do You Cook in a Pressure Cooker?
You can cook everything from soups, stews, and meats, to casseroles, rice, yogurt, and even cake! in your Instant Pot. Here are a few of our favorite Instant Pot recipes:
- Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork
- Pressure Cooker Braised Short Ribs
- Instant Pot Hoppin’ John
- Pressure Cooker Taco Soup
- Pressure Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup
- Low Carb Instant Pot Sausage and Kale Soup
How to Clean an Instant Pot:
The Instant Pot is really easy to clean! The base unit should not washed in the dishwasher or the sink as it can’t be submerged in water. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the outside. The inner pot is removable and is dishwasher safe. The lid is also top-rack dishwasher safe. You should remove the sealing ring and the anti-block shield before placing them it in the dishwasher. Hand wash the sealing ring and the condensation collector by hand. I suggest checking out the detailed cleaning instructions HERE.
That’s the Instant Pot basics! Let us know what you’re making in your Instant Pot in the comments!