The Instant Pot seems to be the “it” item in kitchen appliances right now. But not everyone knows what an instant pot actually is. In fact, there are some common questions that come up when telling someone about this popular gadget. People want to know, “What is an instant pot?” And the other question is, “What can it do?” I just acquired an instant pot very recently myself, and am still learning about it. But the best way to gain knowledge, at least according to my preceptor when I was a newbie graduate nurse, is to “Learn one, Do one, and Teach one. ” So here’s some basic instant pot information that I have obtained so far!
*This post contains affiliate links/ads so I may receive compensation if you choose to click on them and make a purchase. But it won’t affect your cost. See Disclosures/Policies.
First of all, the Instant Pot is a particular brand of electric pressure cooker. Just like KitchenAid is a brand of mixer. There are other brands of electric pressure cookers as well. I personally chose to buy the popular best-selling Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-functional Pressure Cooker, 6 quart size. I did not get one over the great sales at Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and Amazon’s price has gone up more recently. But I wrote a post called Want to Save Money on an Instant Pot, Try eBay!, explaining how I was able to buy an Instant Pot for less money.
And guess what? This particular cooking device does more than just pressure cook. Did you notice that it is 7-in-1 multi-functional? It can also saute, be a slow-cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and yogurt maker, besides the pressure cooking. It even has a timer feature that allows you to schedule when you want it to start cooking. I find it safer and less scary than your stove top pressure cookers. It has a handy-dandy cancel button you can hit at any time! You do have to wait for the pressure to be released before opening the lid, but it’s pretty easy. Below is a picture of my Instant Pot on the left and my stove top pressure cooker on the right. (Note: neither of these are for pressure canning.)
Like some other new gadgets, I have found there to be a learning curve to cooking with an Instant Pot. My first few attempts weren’t the smashing, impressive successes I was hoping for. But I am trying cooking different items, and different methods of cooking the same items.
Hard-Boiled Eggs In A Instant Pot
For instance, I have done hard-boiled eggs in my Instant Pot twice now. Well technically, I think they are steamed. But anyway, I tried the 5-5-5 method of cooking them I saw recommended in a Facebook Instant Pot group.
This meant I put a cup of water in the pot, and set my eggs on the rack that came with the pot. Then I programmed it for 5 minutes of high pressure using the “Manual” button. I slipped up here, and actually did 6 minutes of natural pressure release instead of 5. After that I turned the valve by hand to release the rest of the pressure. And immediately put the eggs into ice water for 5 minutes.
But I felt the eggs were overdone slightly, and not the super-easy peel that supposedly you could even get with fresh eggs. So today I tried the Pressure Cooker Easy Hard Boiled Eggs recipe from This Old Gal. I used only 2 minutes manual pressure, and then about 13-14 minutes natural pressure release. And I got nearly perfect-looking eggs.
She had suggested 15 minutes of NPR (abbreviation for natural pressure release), but my personal perfectionism would suggest about 12 minutes. I had a very faint tinge of green on the outside of some of the yolks which I understand to be a sign of over-cooking. I still did not get the easy egg-shell peeling promised, but it did seem better than the first method I tried. Whether that was because I was more careful or because this method is better I can’t say. I did use fresh eggs from our own chickens. And I did do an ice water bath afterwards. This is a picture of the second batch of eggs.
Cooking is not an exact science. How many cooks have you heard of who “wing it” and can’t tell you the exact measurements when asked for a recipe? And I’ve seen discussions on the previously mentioned Facebook instant pot groups on why one method of instant pot cooking works for one person, but doesn’t for another. I think a general conclusion is that there are just multiple factors that affect the end result. So don’t be afraid to try different stuff with your Instant Pot. I find it to be a trial-and-error type of cooking. Although there are some cookbooks available.
Basic Instant Pot Information
But what does a new Instant Pot user need to know to get started? When I got my Instant Pot, I first took it out, and looked at the manual to make sure all the pieces were there. One thing I couldn’t figure out immediately, and I have seen many others’ asking is, “Where the anti-blocking shield is?”
Well. apparently on some models, you had to install it. It’s just a tiny round piece of metal with holes in it, that goes over the exhaust valve. But on mine, it was already in place for me. So don’t panic if you can’t find it at first! I understand that they can be removed to clean if necessary. Here’s a picture of mine after I took it off and showing how it pops back over the exhaust valve.
I installed the little clear plastic condensation collector with my husband’s help. I couldn’t figure out where it was supposed to go on the side of this machine. 🙂 And you must check to make sure the sealing silicone ring is in place inside the rim of the lid. It’s a pretty tight fit and not so easy to get that ring in and out at first! It does seem not quite as tight after a few uses.
Condensation Collecter. Silicone Ring Inside Lid. (unfortunately stained yellow by tomato sauce.)
Of course the manual recommends that you always check the valves on the lids for any blockages before using. That applies to any type of pressure cooker for safety.
One very important piece of advice I would give. Always make sure the stainless steel inner pot is in place before putting anything in your Instant Pot! It has happened that people pour liquid directly onto the heating element of the outer portion of the pot. This could mean the death of your Instant Pot.
Also make sure you understand the difference between a quick pressure release (QPR) and a natural pressure release (NPR). It needs to be released by one of these methods before you open the lid! With the quick pressure release you use a spoon or spatula to turn the black-handled valve on top the lid from sealing to venting. In the natural pressure release, you simply do nothing, and wait for the pressure to dissipate on it’s own until the silver float valve has dropped. The silver float valve is to the right of the black-handled valve in the picture. It’s not very big.
Always use at least a cup of liquid when pressure cooking anything in the Instant Pot. I can’t find this specifically in the manual. But I picked that tidbit up somewhere, possibly the Facebook Instant Pot Community.
Do The Water Test
After my husband and I checked that my Instant Pot appeared to be in satisfactory shape. I did the recommended water test to ensure that it all worked properly. We were a little over-cautious checking everything out, as I had bought my Instant Pot off eBay in a damaged box. But it’s still good to check it all. Your manual should have instructions on how to do the water test. This will let you know that everything is in working order, and give you a little practice before cooking anything.
Read The Manual
I know many people don’t like to read directions or manuals. But they are there to help you. As I said, I am still learning myself to use the Instant Pot. I need to refer to my manual. For instance, under “Sauteing”, you will find you can adjust the temperature with the “Adjust” button depending on whether you are browning ground beef or trying to thicken a sauce. Yesterday, I found out that even though only white rice can be done using the “Rice” button, I can cook brown rice using the “Multigrain” button. For many things you may end up just programming the amount of time you want to use with the “Manual” button. But I say play around and try out the different features. I have tried the pre-programmed “Soup”, “Poultry”, and “Saute” options so far. But even in those you can adjust some settings. I have of course used the “Manual” button most often.
More Resources To Help You
I feel like the Instant Pot is a bit of a newer cooking device. When googling recipes on Pinterest there aren’t as many out there for this type of cooking as there are for other methods. I have started a group board on Pinterest called Instant Pot Recipes And Tips. You are welcome to check it out. I am inviting other bloggers to collaborate with me there. There will be tips we have found on Pinterest or elsewhere with Instant Pot cooking information. We will also be adding our recipes!
And there are Facebook groups you can join that I have found helpful information in. The Instant Pot Community is one Facebook group. This group is one that I learned a lot of important tips from! I have also joined the Whole30 Instant Pot Community, as well as This Old Gal Pressure Cooker Recipes.
I would like to mention a few blogs that might be helpful to you as well. This Old Gal seems to have popular pressure cooking recipes in the Facebook community. Once A Month Cooking has videos on Instant Pot cooking as well as recipes. You can search their site for recipes and follow them on Facebook.
Don’t expect the Instant Pot to work miracles. 🙂 It takes time for this cooker to get up to pressure. Then it will start counting down the amount of time you programmed into it. If using frozen food it does take longer to reach pressure. I think that it is not always faster to use the Instant Pot because it takes time to reach pressure. The advantage may come in when cooking a roast that would normally take hours in the crock pot. But I haven’t tried that yet. I did get falling-apart delicious BBQ chicken from completely frozen chicken thighs. I also found it improved the texture of frozen store bought vegetables when cooked in the Instant Pot vs. baking in the oven. When I pressure-cooked a turkey shepard’s pie, the vegetables had a perfectly soft, much better texture than normal.
And by the way, once you get into Instant Pot cooking, you will find there are more methods of cooking besides just using the equipment the pot comes with. There is something called pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking, where people make cheesecakes in springform pans and then cook them in the Instant Pot. But it’s not just cheesecakes, there are many other things they are cooking in these versatile Instant Pots. The pots only come with a wire rack and a few utensils. But there are accessories you can buy. Many people like to have an extra sealing ring on hand, because it absorbs odors from meat dishes that they might not want to risk transferring to a dessert.
I definitely could see a steamer basket coming in handy for vegetables at least. And the silicone mitts I’ve seen mentioned on Facebook. I just would be careful to be certain that whatever you use to cook in the Instant Pot is something safe and meant to stand up to the heat and cooking. Oh, and apparently you can also accessorize by pimping out your Instant Pot with decals as well! 🙂
I would be happy to try to answer any questions you might have about starting cooking with an Instant Pot. If I don’t know the answer, maybe we can figure it out together!
* I want to acknowledge the Instant Pot owner’s manual and the many helpful people from the Instant Pot Community from Facebook as resources for this post.
Want to learn more about the Instant Pot? Here's some basic info and more resources to help.Click To Tweet