Instant Pot – Tips & How to .!!

Instant Pot – Tips & How to .!!

Instant Pot is a versatile modern Electronic Pressure Cooker with so many functionalities that is a huge selling point.!  

I use it for everything making curries, rice, biryani, yogurt, soups, stews, steaming veggies etc. But we all face so many questions especially when using the Instant Pot for first few times, so I am hoping to cover so many tips and How to’s to help solve those questions. I also made 3 useful posts to help Instant pot beginners Instant Pot Terminology , Instant Pot Review and Instant Pot Menu buttons details , check them out if you are interested.

How to Use the Pressure valve/Black Knob : 

This Black Knob should always be used with a horizontal motion i.e. rotating motion. Never lift it Vertically ( upwards). The only time you lift upwards is when you are cleaning it. Usually there are two words written around the Black knob “Sealing” and “Venting”. For pressure cooking you need to point the black knob towards “Sealing” . To release the pressure point the knob towards “Venting”. 

When the Pressure in the Instant Pot is fully developed, the small stainless steel pin(float valve) will rise top and if you try to press it down , it will not go down. (Although don’t try to do that). When the pressure is released you will hear a pop sound and the pin will go down, indicating now there is no pressure inside and safe to open the lid. 

How to decide whether to do NPR or QR:

Often if we are following a recipe from a book or a blog, there will be instructions to do NPR or QR. But if we are trying to make our own thing then it may be difficult to decide what to do, although with experience it will be a piece of cake. Usually I prefer to do NPR all the time as I am in no hurry and it will also ensure that the food is well cooked. I will give couple of examples to help understand when to do NPR or QR. 

Scenario 1 : I am cooking Rice and I prefer the rice grains to be separate and dry ( like Basmati Rice) – I do Quick Release (QR)

Scenario 2 : I am cooking Rice but I prefer well cooked & slightly moist rice( like Sona Masoori Rice or Jasmine Rice), then I do Nature Pressure Release (NPR)

Scenario 3 : I am cooking Cauliflower , I prefer the cauliflower florets to stay intact and not mushy, then I do Quick Release to avoid over cooking

Scenario 4 : I am cooking large amount of liquids like soup then I will do Natural release as I mention in my other post that with hot liquids we always do NR. 

Scenario 5 : I am cooking apple sauce or any kind of sauce, always do NPR to avoid any splatter of the hot sauce all over. 

For hot foods like soups, sauces, stews etc. Quick release will make food splatter everywhere and you might also notice the food/liquid will start coming out of the knob and pin ( also will clog the inside of the knob). So I will repeat again, never do Quick release with liquids or sauces.

How to do Water test :

It is always good to make sure whether out Instant Pot is working properly and building pressure as required. So a handy dandy and easy water test is a great way to ensure that. Although it is optional but most of us performed it like a ritual to be on safe side. 

Step 1 : Make sure the inner steel pot is placed and sealing ring is placed correctly inside the lid.

Step 2 : Although Instant Pot manual recommends filling water till mark”3″  on the inner pot, I would suggest adding 2 cups of water which is enough.

Step 3 : Put the lid and point the black knob towards “sealing”. This will ensure that pressure will be locked inside.

Step 4 : Press the ” Steam ” button and use “-” and “+” to set cooking time to 2 mins.

Step 5 :Now the Instant Pot will start doing its thing. first it will start steaming the water inside and steam starts coming out of float valve ( steel pin near the black knob). After couple of minutes the float valve( steel pin) will come up indicating that pressure is building up. Now the steam function will run for 2 mins and goes to warm mode.

Step 6 : At this point you can cancel the warm mode and do NPR. 

Step 7 : Drain all the water and cook your favorite foods.

Useful Tips :

* To avoid “Burn” showing on your LED display always ensure that you use enough liquid/water inside the pot. Half cup to 1 cup is a great point to start.

* Use “Saute” button to preheat the pot while prepping foods for manual or other functions, which means for example : when I am doing cooking in rice in another small container then I pour in the water inside the main pot and turn on saute mode, so the water starts heating. So meanwhile I wash my rice and put the rice container inside the main pot using a rack. Because the water is already hot because we turned on saute mode, it will come to pressure faster thus cooking faster. Alternatively you can use Steam button as well.

Many don’t use condensation collector , as it is not a major part which I think is ok. It is just a cup to collect excess moisture( water).

You can silicone material, Pyrex glass bowls, corning ware, ceramic ramekins, steel containers etc safely in Instant Pot. If any container says oven safe, you can use it. 

* You can turn off any cooking function in between, just click “cancel” button to stop further cooking. 

* For sauteing or using steaming or slow cook functions, you can use a clear genuine Instant pot glass lid(check out my accessories page) for easy monitoring of the food. 

* Reheat the foods in Instant Pot than in microwave, simply place a cup of water, place the trivet inside. Now stack the containers on the rack.Put the glass lid and do steam function for 5 mins or as desired( you may need to place more water if steaming for longer time). 

* For frozen foods there is no need to thaw and you can directly place the frozen stuff inside the pot.

* You can make foods like Cake, Cheesecake, popcorn, tea, sauces etc inside the Inside pot. 

* Do PIP cooking i.e. stacking several containers inside the main inner steel pot and cook multiple things at one time.

* To get rid of smells from the sealing rings and spots from stainless steel inner pot, use vinegar and baking soda paste , let it sit and rinse well. You can use spices( like cinnamon), baking soda( 1/2 cup), lemon and lime peels along with water/vinegar (approx 2 cups)inside the pot and do manual high (vent to sealing) 5 mins, NPR for an easy cleaning. 

* Never place your Instant Pot on the stove or stove burners when you are cooking. As you might accidentally turn on the stove or turn on the oven beneath which will melt off the Base of Instant pot, which you don’t want. Use a thick Cutting Board between the IP and stove that can contain heat, flat and stable to put the Instant Pot.

* Although I do not cook meat , this tip I picked from several groups, that never put meat in a pot and leave for delayed cooking for up to 24 hours ahead,this will make your meat go rancid and eventually leading to sickness.

* Don’t be afraid of the Instant Pot Exploding, it is not going to happen ( Hoping that you followed all the instructions correctly)

* This happened to so many people I lost count, Always make sure you have the stainless steel inner pot is there before dumping your food or water or anything. Many people without noticing dump rice or water etc directly in the casing/base and regret it badly. Although many were able to dry it out for couple of days and use it but better be safe than sorry..!!

* Instant Pot recipes are usually developed at sea level . So if you are facing under cooked food situations all the time, altitude can be the culprit. Any altitude above 3000 ft you may need to adjust(increase) cooking time.

I will keep adding more tips as I learn from my experiences and others as well. Keep checking back for updates. 

Let me know in the comments what is your favorite tips when it comes to Instant Pot cooking??

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