Are you new to cooking with the Instant Pot? Or maybe you’ve had your Instant Pot for a while, but don’t know how to use all the buttons?
I’ve got you covered. I was in your shoes, but eventually learned how to use it all and want to share with you. I’ve had mine for nearly a year now, and it’s hands-down my favorite kitchen appliance. We used it 2-3 times a week. I’ve got a bunch of delicious, gluten-free Instant Pot recipes you can easily make tonight.
So first, what’s the big deal with the Instant Pot? It’s basically an electric pressure cooker that can speed cooking times by 2-6 times using about 70% less energy. The design of the Instant Pot makes it easy to de-pressurize and release the steam – which honestly was something I was always afraid to do on a traditional stove-top pressure cooker. The buttons on the Instant Pot make it intuitive to use. Need to make chili? Press the Bean/Chili button. Easy peasy, right?
What I love about the Instant Pot is that it’s a 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Cooker – including a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute/browning, yogurt maker, steamer and warmer. Plus, it has a stainless steel cooking pot and steam rack – LOVE that! I have literally gotten rid of my old slow cooker and rice cooker because I can do it all with the Instant Pot.
So if you’re just getting started with the Instant Pot, just know that it has 7 programmable and 16 buttons. I explain how to use the buttons on the Instant Pot here.
The Instant Pot itself has four basic parts:
- Cooking unit
- Inner stainless steel pot
- Sealing ring
I explain how to use them as you get started with pressure cooking below.
Be sure to check out my blog post on How to Use the Buttons on the Instant Pot.
Where to Get Kitchen Pantry Essentials
Before I share my favorite Instant Pot cooking hacks, I wanted to let you know about my one of my favorite real food secrets: Thrive Market: it’s like Whole Foods meets Costco. I get my cooking and pantry supplies like baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, etc. and it’s way cheaper than Amazon or the health food store usually. Organic vanilla extract, for instance, is about $5 at my local health food store and $5.30 on Amazon. But it’s only $3.95 (YES!) on Thrive Market. Great deal right? And the raw honey?! Don’t even get me started how much that costs at the health food store. But on Thrive Market it’s just $5.45 for a 10.5 oz jar of raw honey.
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Top 10 Instant Pot Tips and Tricks (Hacks) You Need to Know
1. Use 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid in the inner pot when pressure cooking.
When you use the pressure cooking feature, you need to use at least 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid (water, broth, etc.) in the inner pot. That liquid is needed to get the Instant Pot to pressurize in the unit. This is one of THE most important things to remember when you use the Instant Pot for pressure cooking.
2. Use the Saute button for cooking as you would in a skillet or pan.
Want to saute vegetables in the Instant Pot? You can do that and basically cook up anything as you would in a skillet or pan. You don’t need the 1 cup of liquid. Just press the saute button, add some cooking oil (l like avocado or coconut) or animal fat like beef tallow or lard to the inner pot and add food you want to cook like a skillet or pan. You can even adjust the saute temperature (keep reading to find out how).
3. Use multiple buttons in a cooking session.
What I love about the Instant Pot is that ALL the cooking for a meal can be done in the same inner pot. I will often use the Saute button to cook onions and garlic in avocado oil or lard, and then add the ingredients for a pressure cooking dish (like this Best Homemade Paleo Chili recipe) and use the Manual pressure cooking button. Once it’s done, I will use the Keep Warm button to keep the food warm until my family is ready to eat it.
4. Adjust the temperature for certain functions.
There are 3 adjustable temperatures for the Saute and Slow Cooker functions. Just use the Adjust button to increase or decrease the temperature.
You can also adjust the cooking, time and pressure setting for the preset buttons (e.g. Bean/Chili or Rice). Check out How to Use the Buttons on the Instant Pot for more tips.
5. Add about 10-15 minutes to cooking time when you use the Manual or Pressure button.
When you use the pressure cooking function on the Instant Pot, it will take the unit about 10 minutes to come to pressure. That means if your recipe calls for 30 minutes at High Pressure, then the total cooking time will be about 40 minutes (10 minutes to come to pressure + 30 minutes for actual cooking time). You may even need to add another 5 minutes to the end of the cooking time to allow the Instant Pot to de-pressurize (keep reading to learn about natural pressure release and quick release).
6. Be sure the pressure value is turned to Sealing.
When you use the pressure cooking feature, be sure the pressure value is set to Sealing. If it is set to Venting, the Instant Pot will not be able to come to pressure. It can be easy to miss if you’re cooking in a hurry. You’ll hear a whistling sound from the Instant Pot if the pressure value is not set to Sealing. Simply turn it, and then the unit will come to pressure.
7. NEVER open the Instant Pot while it’s in Manual / Pressure mode.
Once you close the lid and select the Manual / Pressure mode, be sure the pressure value is set to Sealing. That will ensure the pressure cooking feature will work. You have 10 seconds to press the Cancel mode to stop cooking. After that, the Instant Pot is coming to pressure – and if you open the lid you’ll be hit with a face full of steam. It’s actually difficult to open the lid while it’s cooking for that reason – that’s why the Instant Pot is so intuitive. So once you close that lid, let it cook for the full time you’ve set.
8. Know how to use natural pressure release (NPR) vs. quick release (QR).
Once the Instant Pot is done with Manual / Pressure mode, it will beep so you know it’s done. Depending on the recipe, you’ll do a natural pressure release (NPR) or quick release (QR). Some recipes – usually with meat or chicken – call for NPR to keep the meat tender. Other foods like steamed vegetables use the QR to keep it from going soggy.
With NPR, don’t touch the Instant Pot. Just let it sit and naturally release the pressure in the unit – usually 10-20 minutes. Once it’s done for that time, you can release the steam vent on the top of the unit and then open the Instant Pot.
With QR, you can release the steam vent once the Instant Pot beeps that it’s done. Wait for all the steam to be released, and then open the Instant Pot. Avoid using QR with meals that have large liquid volume or high starch content (soup, porridge, etc.) as food may platter out from the pressure release valve. Opt for NPR instead.
Another option to QR and NPR is a combination of the two. You could let the Instant Pot depressurize in NR mode for 10 minutes, and then press Cancel on the unit and turn the steam release valve to Venting.
9. Change the inner pot or lid as needed.
The Instant Pot comes with a stainless steel inner pot. You could get a second inner pot too. Cook food in one pot and keep to the side or store leftovers. Then use the second pot to cook another dish. The same goes with the lid. You can get a glass lid (similar to a slow cooker lid) to use when for Slow Cooker or Saute function.
10. Get a second sealing ring.
If you ever make broth or stock in the Instant Pot, you’ll never go back to making it in the slow cooker again. It’s so fast, and just as flavorful and nutritious. The downside is that the sealing ring on the lid will smell – literally like bone broth. That can be off-putting for some. So get a set of sealing rings and use one for savory dishes and one for sweet dishes. Yep, you CAN make sweet treats, like cheesecake and rice pudding, in the Instant Pot. You can learn more about the top 10 best Instant Pot accessories here.
What Are YOUR Favorite Instant Pot Tips?
Comment below with your favorite tips and tricks to use the Instant Pot.
p.s. Looking for tips to transition to a real food or healthy gluten-free lifestyle? Check out my free Real Food Guide email course and e-book.
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