Got an Instant Pot? You don’t want to miss these top 10 tips and tricks. Learn how to use the Instant Pot properly to make quick, delicious meals.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my affiliate disclosure.
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.
What is an Instant Pot?
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.
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
Can you Cook Frozen Meat in an Instant Pot?
Cooking frozen food in your Instant Pot will make it take longer to come up to pressure. The extra time does start cooking your food though, so you only need to add a few extra minutes to your cook time.
For ground meat or chopped veggies, add 1-2 extra minutes to your cook time. For chicken breasts, add about 3 extra minutes. (Larger cuts of meat should be thawed before cooking to ensure they get cooked all the way through.)
Cooking a brick of frozen meat is very likely to result in undercooked food. So if your chicken breasts have stuck to each other in the freezer, allow them to thaw at least until you can detach them. (To avoid things sticking together in the freezer, freeze them on a baking sheet first before putting them in a freezer bag.)
Benefits of Using an Instant Pot
There are many benefits to using an Instant Pot! Here are a few…
Stainless Steel Interior
As compared to various other electric pressure cookers, the Instant Pot has a stainless steel interior. The exterior of the cooker is built of plastic, however, these parts never touch food. Moreover, it doesn’t possess Teflon or any other non-stick surfaces.
It is a multi-purpose cooker, it can perform tasks of various cookers such as rice cooker, pressure cooker, steamer, warmer, slow cooker, sauté, and yogurt maker.
Instant Pot will save a lot of your time. Using the Instant Pot, you can cook a recipe which takes 6-8 hours in just 1-2 hours. You can cook roost food in just 40 minutes. This appliance is very much useful when you have less time.
Instant Pot will save a lot of space, as it will replace 5 gadgets in your kitchen. The Instant Pot is available at an affordable price.
The Instant Pot can be programmed for up to 24 hours and a few pre-programmed options which are simple-to-use.
Similar to a normal pressure cooker, the difference is that heat-source is just electric. It doesn’t require a gas or electric stove, thus making it more energy efficient.
Simple to Clean
As the interior is made from stainless steel, it can be cleaned easily by hand and also it is dishwasher free.
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?
What’s the Best Instant Pot to Buy?
1. The LUX ($60 to $110)
Instant Pot Lux series is the most basic Instant Pot, usually coming in 3, 5, 6 and 8-quart sizes. They all have 12 preset programs (Soup, Stew, Cake, Egg, Sauté, Rice, Multigrain, Steam, Porridge, Pressure Cook, Keep Warm, and Slow Cook) and 7 preset temperatures. This is a good fit for the chef on a budget who does not plan on using low-pressure and yogurt-making options.
2. The DOU and DOU PLUS series ($70 to $130)
The Instant Pot Duo and Instant Pot Duo Plus are the most popular models on the market today, and can be found in 3-quart, 6-quart and 8-quart sizes. Apart from all the basic functions present in Lux models, they can also be used to make yogurt and cook at low pressures. I personally have an Instant Pot Duo and love it.
3. The SMART ( $160 to $299)
There are two versions of the Smart Instant Pot: the Smart Bluetooth and the Smart Wifi. The Wifi models are more intelligent in the ability to compatible with Alexa which allows you to control your pressure cooker through voice command while the Bluetooths can not.
The biggest improvement that sets the SMART model apart from other electric pressure cookers is the self-controlled Smart Pot App which connects the cooker to your phone via Bluetooth or Wifi. Beyonds the improved control over cooking temperature and duration, this app also allows you to create and share your own recipes.
Additionally, these models are now the only pressure cookers on the market that can pressure cook at any desired temperature rather than preset temperatures only.
Beyond the 12 programs found on the LUX models, the SMART features two additional functions: Yogurt and Cake. The price is a bit extreme, but if you don’t mind paying for quality, it certainly won’t let you down.
4. The ULTRA (From $150 Upwards)
The Instant Pot Ultra stands out for providing higher capacities than their counterparts. Well known as the 10-in-1 cooker, they can handle all the cooking tasks.
The cooking time, temperature, pressure level, and even a time delay can also be programmed in for the perfect personalized recipe, which is a great selling point to many people.
Other Top Tips for the Instant Pot
- Be a little wary of the Warm button on the Instant Pot, because it’s pretty powerful stuff. Sure, it’ll keep your meal warm, but it’s also still cooking during that time so you might end up with overcooked food. Instead, keep the pressure cooker closed to lock in the heat until you’re ready to eat.
- When you use the Instant Pot, make sure you’re using the Manual option and not accidentally just setting the Timer so you’ll actually have a steaming hot plate of food when you want it.
- Once you do the sautéing, you need to deglaze the bottom before you turn it to pressure cook to ensure any bits of food that might have gotten stuck there aren’t stuck any longer. If you don’t deglaze the bottom of the inner pot, you’ll get the Burn message.
- Make sure your pressure valve is in the right position. Once you go into pressure cook mode, you need to set the valve to the sealing position. Some people accidentally leave it in the venting position, and if it’s not sealed, it won’t come to pressure properly.
More Instant Pot Recipes
- 25+ Gluten-Free Instant Pot Breakfast Recipes
- 20 Instant Pot Meals in 30 Minutes or Less
- 25 Gluten-Free Instant Pot Recipes Kids Love
- How to Clean Your Instant Pot
Instant Pot Recipes Made Simple
Do you wish you could find one-pot meals that are simple and easy to make… and your family will love?
You’re about to find out how simple it is to make healthy, one-pot meals with your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker with my cookbook Instant Pot Recipes Made Simple. You can download it instantly to your phone, computer or e-reader, so it’s portable and can go with you anywhere!
With this book, you’ll get:
- Tried-and-true recipes the whole family will love – including pot roast, spaghetti, tacos, carnitas, soups, and easy breakfast meals
- Instant Pot starter guide on how to use the buttons, tips and tricks, and more
- Printable shopping lists for ingredients
- Step-by-step video lesson on how to use your Instant Pot, pressure cooker safety, and some of my favorite tips and tricks
- Two-week meal plan that you can put into action for no-stress weeknight dinners