Tis the season and lots of you have yourselves a brand new shiny Instant Pot. The Instant Pot requires a bit of exprience to learn and get a hang of. Lets rip it out of the box and get you started with your new toy:
1. Start by pressure cooking a cup of water to clean and
sterilize the unit.
You may also add a splash on vinegar. Simply add a cup of water to your Instant Pot, close the lid, and set your pressure release valve to sealing. To begin cooking you simply press the manual button, then adjust the cooking time using the – and + buttons. Starting with 5 minutes is just fine. This is displayed in the GIF below. After selecting your cooking program time, you have 10 seconds to make any adjustments to time or heat before the Instant Pot begins its program. For more detailed instructions on how to program your Instant Pot and set delayed cooking timers, check out this post of mine about the Instant Pot buttons.
2. Learn how Instant Pot cooking time works.
In the world of the Instant Pot, you have 3 time variables that total up to the net cooking time.
- Time it takes for the Instant Pot to reach pressure and being the cooking program
- + Programmed cooking time
- + Pressure release time (natural or quick)
- = Total Cooking Time
Keep in mind that not all Instant Pot recipes on the internet accurately represent the cooking times. After a while, you will learn to assume the amount of time it will take you to get a pot up to pressure, as well as estimating the difference between quick and natural pressure release times.
3. Understand that the required cooking time of a food is directly correlated to it’s thickness.
It simply takes longer to cook a thicker food item thoroughly to the center. Larger cuts of meat such as pork shoulders will still take over an hour, yet for this reason you really do not want to attempt cooking large frozen portions of meat. Even when cooking chicken breasts, their girth drastically affects the require cooking time. For this reason I always cut my large chicken breasts into smaller portions before freezing them. If you try to cook thick cuts of frozen meats, you will likely find yourself with an uncooked core. Just give them a day or so to defrost in your fridge before cooking.
4. Hard boil a dozen eggs
I like to have hard boiled eggs in my fridge as a backup plan for protein. Now you can do them in 20 minutes flat without having to do anything.
Hard boiling eggs has never been so easy. Always make sure you have adequate protein sources on hand at all times!
5. Cook a frozen chicken breast
How to cook frozen buffalo chicken breasts in your Instant Pot – Learn how the cooking times vary based on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts.
6. Try out all 3 sauté settings
After entering the sauté mode, use the ‘adjust’ button to cycle through the 3 saute settings.
- Normal – 160°C (320°F)
- More – 170°C (338°F)
- Less – 105°C (221°F)
I rarely use the less setting in sauté mode. Experiment with the normal and more settings when browning meat. Have some water and a flat-edged spoon on hand to de-glaze your pot in the event food sticks.
7. Set a delayed cooking timer for the slow cooking mode
I love the delayed cooking feature! This allows you to load up the pot in slow cooker mode before you leave for work, delay the start of the cooking program so that the food has only been warming for a short period of time before you arrive home. Food continues to cook when held in warming mode, so it’s not always ideal to let a slow cooker recipe go for 8+ hours. On a 6 hour recipe I simply delay the cooking time 2 or 3 hours, which is well within the time-temperate danger zone of 4 hours. This post of mine covers all of the buttons and how to set the timer.
8. Cook a cup of rice
I eat rice, I know a lot of my readers eat rice as well. If you do not eat rice, I am sincerely sorry for wasting this bullet point for you. The rice setting is the one pure-automated cooking program on the Instant Pot. I love how it can easily cook me a cup or two of rice to go with dinner in around 20 minutes total. The key to cooking rice is the rice to water ratio. I personally use 1.5 cups of water per cup of rinsed rice.
9. Experiment with steaming vegetables
I highly recommend getting a better steamer basket so that you can use your countertop Instant Pot as a steamer as well. Simply add water and the steamer basket and set to sauté mode, adjusting the temp to “more.” I bought the Instant Pot glass lid so that I could help speed up steaming and also prevent splatter during sauté mode.
10. Make Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes
Cooking these simple recipes will help you get a hang of your unit:
- Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash in under 20 minutes
- Perfectly Cooked Instant Pot Sweet Potatoes in 30 minutes flat
- Super Fast Instant Pot Sweet Potato Mash
- Super Easy Instant Pot Acorn Squash – 20 minutes flat
- Easy Instant Pot Butternut Squash