instant pot

How to Use an Instant Pot—It’s Safe and Simple!

Over the last decade we’ve seen a pressure cooker renaissance in America thanks to the modern electric multicooker appliance known as Instant Pot. Our grandmothers knew that day would come, that we would return to her favorite kitchen tool to make fast braises, stews, soups, and casseroles. They just didn’t know how we’d get there.

Instant Pot Duo

If you’re a Nervous Nellie who grew up hearing stories about a great aunt who shellacked her ceiling with country stew when the thing nearly blew her to Oz and back, relax. I’ve powered through the fear and discovered modern pressure cookers have amazing safety features to put all fear to rest.

What is an Instant Pot?

An Instant Pot is a multifunctional electric dpressure cooker that can cook anything from roasts to chicken to desserts, and in much less time than most other cooking appliances.

Whatever your situation—even if you’ve never heard of a pressure cooker let alone how or why you need to—today’s the day. It’s time to put away all preconceived notions, rumors, and failures and start over on the right foot. Instant Pot is about to completely revolutionize your home cooking.

It’s different

Pressure cooking is a completely different kind of cooking. You can’t just throw stuff in willy-nilly and expect perfection five minutes later. There are guidelines and rules, which when followed, pay off in spades. But you have to know them, learn them, and follow them. It’s not hard, but it is completely different than what you might be used to.

Join a group

One of the most helpful things I did the day I got my Instant Pot was to join Instant Pot Community, a Facebook group. It’s free and so helpful. With more than 3 million Instant Pot fans and fanatics in the group, this is the place to learn anything and everything there is to know about how to use your Instant Pot successfully.

Get a cookbook

You need specific recipes for pressure cooking, at least in the beginning. It’s not the same as slow cooking or traditional stove top cooking, trust me on that!

I have reviewed so many cookbooks written specifically for Instant Pot and related types of pressure cookers and all of them have something to add. But the best and most complete—the one I refer to constantly and laugh a lot because there is a photo with every step of every recipe—The Step-By-Step Instant Pot Cookbook by Jeffrey Eisner.

Not only is this cookbook the best tutorial on the art of pressure cooking, it has 100 recipes for everything you can imagine from breakfast to dessert. Each recipe is specific for Instant Pot. I have not had a bad experience yet using recipes from this book. Did I say it’s a big book? Yep, more than 250 pages and worth its weight in gold.

I suggest that you follow recipes for a while until you begin to understand the specifics of pressure cooking and how to experience success every time. Soon you’ll be able to adapt your own recipes, but for now—lean on recipes specifically created for pressure cooking.

 

Bookmark a website

If you google Instant Pot or pressure cooking websites, you’ll be overwhelmed in no time flat. Let me help. There is one site that is all-around helpful, which I suggest you bookmark: HipPressureCooking.com. This is not my go-to for recipes (I love my  Step-by-Step cookbook for that), but when I have a question on how stuff works or what to do, Hip Pressure Cooking is great.

Boil water

You’re going to learn quickly that your first experience with Instant Pot should be to boil water. Do it. See how this thing works. Follow the steps HERE.

Cook eggs

One of the most remarkable things I do with Instant Pot is boil eggs. Seriously. From soft boiled to full-on hard boiled, they come out perfect every time, provided I follow the rules. Easy peasy! Pour 1 cup water into the pot and position the trivet over the water. Place 1 to 7 eggs (whatever you need, as many as want) on top of the trivet. Close lid and set the steam valve to “sealing.” Press “Steam” setting, and adjust time down to 4 minutes for medium, 5-6 minutes for hard boiled. At end of cycle, place a cool cloth on the lid and quick release the steam valve. Use tongs to transfer eggs to a cold water bath for 1-2 minutes. Peel and enjoy! Here’s a helpful video.

Mac n’ Cheese

Here’s a quick and easy recipe specifically for Instant Pot. It is fabulous.

  • 2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni (you can use other types but cooking time may need to be adjusted), uncooked
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

Place the macaroni, chicken stock, cream, salt, and pepper into the pressure cooker. Set to High Pressure and timer to 7 minutes. (I think this time is perfect but you may want to adjust it depending on how “done” you like your macaroni and according to your altitude if you live above 5,000 ft.). Once the timer goes off, let the steam out of the pressure cooker manually, according to your machine’s instructions. Open it and add the butter, milk, and cheeses to the pot and stir. That’s it. Best Mac n Cheese ever.

Cranberry Maple-Glazed Chicken

Here’s a favorite recipe that has autumn written all over it. It is so good, so easy, and so Instant Pot friendly. I think you should make this for dinner tonight.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken leg and thigh quarters
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup canned whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons loosely packed fresh sage leaves, minced

Instructions

Set Instant Pot to “Saute.” Melt the butter or heat up the oil. Season chicken with the salt and pepper and brown the quarters two at a time. Brown well, turning once, about six minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside. While still set to Saute, stir in the cranberry sauce, maple syrup, broth, and sage until well combined. Slip the chicken legs back into the pot and ladle some of the sauce over the chicken leg quarters. Lock the lid on the top, set the valve to sealing, and press  “Poultry” and then the time to 18 minutes.

Use the natural release method (instead of the quick-release above, which is best for soups, stews, and non-meat dishes) to release the pressure. Turn the machine off and allow the pot to release by itself, which can take between 10-20 minutes. When the silver button next to the valve falls, the pressure is released and the lid is unlocked.

Not exact science

One last thing. Pressure cooking is not an exact science. Once you get into this, you are going to see that. However, there are some exact rules. For example, boneless skinless chicken breasts are NOT pressure cooker friendly. They will turn out bland, tough and dry even if they’re cooked in liquid. Ditto for lean cuts of beef and pork. See? That’s not an exact science, but an underlying principle or rule for pressure cooking. There are many, which you will learn quickly once you get into this. Jeffrey Eisner does a great job of teaching in his The Step-By-Step Instant Pot Cookbook  cookbook.

So, there you go—a quick-start guide to becoming acquainted with your Instant Pot. Take the plunge, get started and take it easy. You’ll be pressure cooking like a rock star in no time at all!


 

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3 replies
  1. Ann L says:

    I wonder if I would actually use an Instant Pot when am usually cooking for one, and from scratch, and I don’t have space for a lot of leftovers or freezer meals. I decided against an Airfryer when I saw that it didn’t do anything I didn’t already do in my saute or frying pan or my toaster oven. But I am open to different ideas.

    Reply
  2. Jean says:

    WHOOPS! Unfortunate typo fixed. By the looks of my inbox, I gave many readers a good laugh. Me? Red face.Not true: “Jeffrey Epstein does a great job of teaching in his The Step-By-Step Instant Pot Cookbook cookbook.” That is not the author’s name!

    Reply
  3. Stephanie Beth says:

    Your article came at a perfect time. I’ve just begun shopping for an Instant Pot. I have no idea how to use one, all the settings, etc. Thanks to your article and references, I’ve got a roadmap.

    Many thanks

    Reply

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