Instant Pot Do's and Don'ts

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September 28, 2018
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No Pressure

By Sara Quessenberry, author of the Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook, for Food Network Kitchen

You finally did it — you bought an Instant Pot. And yes, for all the hype, it can help make life in the kitchen stress-free (plus, it's fun to use). And as with any new appliance, there's a learning curve. To help you navigate possible pitfalls, we’ve put together a list of do’s and don’ts cribbed from someone who actually wrote a book on the subject.

Haven't taken the plunge yet? Use this guide to get to know what the Instant Pot can (and can't!) do. And when you're ready to buy, you probably want to start with the six-quart version — it will make plenty of food your family.

Do hard boil eggs.

They'll be tender (not rubbery) with a perfectly cooked yolk. Best of all, the shells peel away easily, leaving you with an unblemished egg, not egg salad. Pro tip: Plunge the cooked eggs into ice water when they come out of the pot to stop the cooking and prevent a green ring from forming around the yolks.

Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Hard-Boiled Eggs

Do cook dried beans.

The time it takes to cook dried beans on the stovetop is usually a deal breaker — typically 1 1/2 to 2 hours, plus the many hours of presoaking. With the Instant Pot, there's no presoaking and beans come out plump and evenly cooked in less than half the time — just 5 to 10 minutes for small beans like black-eyed peas and adzukis and 25 to 40 minutes for black beans, cannellini beans and chickpeas.

Do make cheesecake.

It will come out silky and creamy — from the edges to the center. Plus, no cracks! How? The pressure cooker stays at a steady low temperature (about 250 degrees F), so the cake cooks evenly with no risk of overdone sides.

Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Vanilla Cheesecake

Do cook inexpensive, tough cuts of meats.

With the pressure cooker function you’ll get tender, melt-in-your-mouth results in less than half the time you’d need in the oven — think 30-minute spare ribs, 45-minute pulled pork sandwiches and 40-minute beef stew. Or make it an all-day thing and braise them low and slow on the slow cooker function.

Get the Recipe: Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Do make risotto.

The bonus here is that on top of the 4-minute cook time, you don’t have to babysit the grains with constant stirring. To adapt your favorite stovetop risotto recipe to an Instant Pot, lower the ratio of liquid to rice to 2:1.

Do the math correctly.

The time you set on the pressure cooker function is not the total time the food will take to cook. Be aware that pressure takes time to build (from 5 to 20 minutes) and to release (up to 30 minutes), so plan accordingly.

Do buy an extra silicone ring.

The silicone ring that seals in your chili can also hold onto its odor and impart flavor to other foods. Not so nice if the next thing you cook is a delicate vanilla pudding. Buy a second ring and reserve it for cakes, custards and breakfast items like yogurt and oatmeal.

Do use the sauté function.

It's what really makes the Instant Pot an all-in-one appliance, letting you sauté onions and sear meats for added flavor without dirtying an extra skillet. So don’t be tempted to skip browning as you do with most slow cooker recipes. And if your stew or sauce is thin after cooking, the sauté function will reduce the liquid to the perfect consistency.

Do use the steam function to reheat leftovers.

It’s great for warming up stew and chili, and it really shines with trickier-to-revive dishes like pasta, rice and mashed potatoes. Put the steamer rack in the bottom of the pot and add 1 1/2 cups water. Put the leftovers in an ovenproof glass or ceramic dish, cover tightly with a lid or foil and lower onto the rack. Lock the lid in place, close the steam vent and set to steam. If you're stacking multiple dishes, put the heartiest one on the bottom.

Do make an aluminum foil sling.

It’s awkward lowering tight-fitting baking pans (like for cheesecake) and casserole dishes (like for reheating leftovers) into an Instant Pot. A foil sling helps. To make one, fold a 20-inch piece of foil lengthwise into thirds, place the dish in the middle, grab the ends of the sling and lower (or lift).

Do finish in the broiler.

The one thing that a pressure or slow cooker can’t do is brown the top of a dish. So if you want to add char to your cooked BBQ spareribs or chicken wings, transfer them to a sheet pan, baste with sauce and broil a few minutes. Slide your Instant Pot lasagna under the broiler until the cheese bubbles and starts to brown.

Don’t cook a whole chicken.

If a golden brown and crispy-skinned bird is your dream, use the oven or a grill. An Instant Pot turns chicken skin rubbery and unappealing.

Don’t cook meats that are best eaten medium-rare.

If you want a juicy red New York strip steak or tender pink lamb chops, skip the pressure cooker. It will steam the meat, leaving it grey and chewy. Stick to a grill or a cast-iron skillet instead.

Don’t make quick-cooking vegetables.

If a food takes less than 5 minutes to steam or boil on the stovetop, you won’t save any time by pressure cooking. And with veggies like asparagus and broccoli, chances are they'll lose their bright green color and come out overcooked. Save the pressure cooking for produce like root vegetables, artichokes and spaghetti squash.

Don’t overfill the pot.

A good rule for pressure cooking: Fill the pot no more than halfway with foods like beans and grains that need room to expand, and no more than two-thirds full with recipes like soups and stews. If you have too much in there, the valves can clog and seals may leak.

Don’t forget to close the vent for pressure cooking and open it for slow cooking.

Pressure cannot build if the vent is open, meaning the pressure cooker cycle won't properly start. Conversely, if the vent is closed when you hit the slow cook button, your food may cook faster and hotter than you planned.

Don’t forget the inner pot.

Since the pot insert is removable and dishwasher safe, it’s easier than you think to find yourself dumping ingredients into a machine without an insert. To avoid this mishap, leave the lid on the machine when the pot has been removed. P.S. The lid is not dishwasher safe.

Don’t forget to add water if you're using the steamer rack.

The pressure and steam functions need water to perform, so before you lower in your casserole dish or pile vegetables on the steamer rack, add 1 1/2 cups water (the recommended amount). Otherwise, you run the risk of burning the pot.

Don’t open the steam valve with bare hands.

The steam releases very quickly and can burn you even faster. Use an oven mitt or dishtowel to protect your fingers.

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