Since I got an Instant Pot, it’s all I can do to keep myself from shouting my love from the rooftop. I even went so far as to buy one for all my family members this Christmas, and I found myself talking to strangers on a plane about it! Like so many of you, I’m totally in love with the Instant Pot, but I have a confession to make: It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really figured this thing out.
I mean, I knew that it helped me put healthy, real food dinners on the table (even on busy weeknights). But I really learned to appreciate the Instant Pot and what it’s capable of when I mastered these techniques to save time and effort. So I’m here to help you learn how to take advantage of this hands-off cooking machine to get the most out of your Instant Pot.
1. Don’t worry about the buttons
There are a ton of buttons on this thing, but I only use a few of them. Most notably: the Manual button (which may be called the “Pressure Cook” button on newer models) to start cooking on high or low pressure; the Adjust button to switch from high to low; the + and – to adjust time; Saute to brown foods or simmer soups; and Keep Warm/Cancel to stop the cycle.
By using these six buttons, you can do anything and everything with the Instant Pot—so forget about all those other buttons. They basically just suggest cooking time and temperature, so skip ’em if they confuse you. Get started with these Instant Pot recipes.
2. You can use (but don’t need) the rice cooker function
I’m sure you’ve noticed that the Instant Pot also doubles as a rice cooker. While it’s no faster than the stovetop method, it’s definitely more hands-off and there are no chances of burning the rice while you’re not paying attention. You can use the rice cooker function, but I like how fluffy the rice gets when you cook it on Manual pressure.
Just add equal parts rice and water to the Instant Pot, set the Manual button to 10 minutes for white rice (or 15 minutes for brown rice). Let it sit for 5 minutes before releasing the pressure manually. Combine that perfectly cooked rice with a quick and easy sheet pan dinner and it just became that much easier to put dinner on the table!
3. Use the Instant Pot as a steamer
Don’t forget that the Instant Pot is a great steamer, too. While it probably won’t save you any time over the stovetop (once you account for it coming up to pressure and releasing pressure), it will definitely free up a burner. This is a great way to have an effortless side of healthy vegetables or a nice appetizer. You can even steam eggs to make the easiest-to-peel hard boiled eggs in 6 minutes.
Just put one cup of water into the Instant Pot, insert the steamer basket, and pop in your favorite veggies. Hit “Manual” and use high-pressure for a head of cauliflower or broccoli and low-pressure for any other vegetable. For most vegetables, you can set it to 0 minutes and it will cook in the time it pressurizes and depressurizes. For larger vegetables like spaghetti squash, set it to 5 minutes. Get inspiration from these quick veggie recipes.
4. The saute function is a game changer
This is the one main reason that we ditched the slow cooker in lieu of the pressure cooker. You can use this function on the high setting to brown meat (and deglaze once it’s seared) and make the most amazing pork ribs right in the stainless steel bowl. No need to dirty up another pot or pan! This is spectacular for developing layers of flavors for braises.
You can also use the saute function on the low setting to simmer foods. This lets you simmer stock or beans after you’re done pressure cooking them, which means instant soup! So add some spinach or noodles to the pot and simmer away for a great one-pot meal. Try these super saucy Instant Pot recipes.
5. Take advantage of short cooking times
The best way to use the Instant Pot is to shorten long cooking times. I wouldn’t normally make Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal in the morning before work or Red Beans and Rice from dried beans on a weeknight. But the Instant Pot is perfect for these types of items because it significantly shortens their cooking time (by hours, not minutes).
1 cup of steel oats plus 3 cups of water only takes 3 minutes on Manual, and beans take a fraction of the time using this cooking chart. You’ll still want to soak the beans for best digestive effect, but they’ll cook significantly faster in the Instant Pot. Try out these pressure cooker breakfast recipes, ready in an instant!
6. Save some time with the quick release method
I have very little patience, so that means that unless I’m cooking something that might expel out of the top (like, a super full pot of stock), I’m probably not going to wait for the pressure to naturally release. That can take up to 30 minutes!
To save some time, don’t wait. Let the pot naturally cool down for 10 minutes, then manually release the pressure. Just beware, because that steam is SUPER hot, so be careful when moving that sucker to venting.