How to Use an Instant Pot to Make Just About Anything

Instant Pot is the pinnacle of small kitchen appliances and a perfect fusion of slow cookers, pressure cookers and many other nifty countertop appliances. You can roast beans, steamed vegetables, braised meats and more, all in a fraction of the time it would normally take you to bake these foods. The Instant Pot is a recipe champion, but, until you know how to use it, veteran cooks and novice cooks are all on equal footing.

Check out our easy-to-follow instructions, tips and tricks for using your brand new Instant Pot.

What is pressure cooking?

The primary function of most Instant Pot models is pressure cooking. Pressure is what makes the Instant Pot such a versatile cooking appliance. But what exactly is pressure cooking? It is a method of food preparation that seals the food inside a container with liquid, using heat to create steam, which increases the pressure in the container.

The device then traps or releases steam to control the pressure level. With more pressure, the boiling point of the liquid increases and the food cooks faster at a higher temperature. Pressure cooking retains the flavors and nutrients in your food while creating chewy, delicious results and saving energy in the process.

How to use the parameters?

The front of your Instant Pot can look quite complicated, with all the different buttons pointing to various programs. But once you understand what all the buttons mean, it’s pretty straightforward. Basically, each button refers to a different cooking method and has a preset cooking time and pressure setting to make things more user-friendly.

BUTTONPRESSURE ADJUSTMENTCOOKING TIME
Slow cookingNormal4 hours
PressureLow or highManual
SoupHigh30 minutes
Meat stewHigh35 minutes
Bean / ChiliHigh30 minutes
PoultryHigh15 minutes
RiceLow or highAuto
MultigrainHigh40 minutes
PorridgeHigh20 minutes
SteamHigh10 minutes
Yogurt3 programsManual
BlowN / AManual
ManualDefault is high (can be adjusted)Manual
AdjustN / AN / A
TimerN / AManual
Keep warm / CancelN / AN / A

On some models there will just be a “Pressure Level” button that you press to change the pressure levels. A high pressure setting indicates that the Instant Pot is cooking at high pressure and the lid is sealed to keep the pressure trapped. A low pressure setting indicates lower pressure, but the appliance is still cooking under pressure.

When it comes to cooking times, some recipes come with preset times, while others require you to manually enter the desired duration of the cooking process. The “Keep Warm” setting will automatically activate when cooking is complete.

Some Instant Pot models also have additional features and functions. For example, the Instant Pot Duo SV has a vacuum cooking program, and the Instant Pot Duo Crisp has an air fry function.

How to release the pressure

There are two ways to safely release the pressure from the Instant Pot: the natural release method and the quick release method. Some models perform these functions automatically, and other models have pulse release, but quick and natural release are the most common release methods.

Natural release allows pressure to slowly dissipate on its own, depressurizing as heat is released through the cover. Depressurization can take between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the amount of liquid in the pot. Recipes with more liquid will take longer to depressurize than dishes with less. The natural release method allows food to remain intact during the depressurization process, as there is less movement inside the device. It is best to leave foamy foods or dishes with a lot of liquid to the natural release method. According to Instant Pot, to speed up the process, you can place a cold towel over the metal part of the lid to help the device cool down faster.

To use the quick release method, you can manually turn the steam release valve to the “purge” position. This cools the stove down faster and only takes 1 or 2 minutes to fully depressurize. The company considers the steam release handle to be a safe mechanism for allowing steam to escape from the pot quickly. The quick release method is great for foods like salmon and crab that you don’t want to overcook, or vegetables like broccoli and bok choy that cook very quickly. However, keep in mind that this is not recommended when cooking high starch recipes as the quick release method can cause food to bubble out of the valve.

Please note that it is crucial to wait until all the steam has been released from the Instant Pot before removing the lid. It is not safe to open the cover until the depressurization process is complete. Your Instant Pot should have safety locks so that you cannot open the lid until the depressurization is complete.

How to clean an instant pot

It is not difficult to maintain an Instant Pot, which is one of the reasons they are so much more practical than other kitchen appliances. All you need to do is wash the lid, seal ring, and insert of your Instant Pot every time you cook. Then, quickly wipe down the outside of the jar to get rid of any food residue, and you’re good to go.

Problems with closing your Instant Pot almost always means it’s time for a deep clean.

First, peel off the silicone seal ring and remove any greasy residue that might prevent the jar from closing properly. Other small parts, like the steam release handle, anti-jam shield, or float valve, can also get sticky after a while, so it’s a good idea to clean these parts every now and then in addition to clean the rest of your Instant Pot. This will help prevent the build-up of stubborn residue or food particles. Do not neglect to clean the spoon rest and the recess of the Instant Pot, to get rid of the accumulated grease and dirt.

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