We’re Here to Answer Your Tough Instant Pot Questions

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The Taste of Home Test Kitchen has the answers to your most pressing questions.

Instant Pots are taking over kitchens everywhere—and with good reason. This incredible kitchen tool can help you put dinner (or even dessert!) on the table in no time. Plus, it eliminates the need for multiple appliances.

But with so many functions on your Instant Pot, from saute to steam to slow cook, it can seem a bit daunting. Fortunately, we’re here to help!

What are some of the most common Instant Pot questions? We asked our readers, and the Test Kitchen delivered the answers. Read on to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to dive in on a delicious Instant Pot recipe and master this kitchen appliance in no time.

Getting Started With an Instant Pot

What should I do if my Instant Pot didn’t come with an instruction book?

There is plenty of information online regarding Instant Pots, so please do not guess and compromise on safety. There are recipes, guidelines and tips galore to read. Plus, Instant Pot has its own user manual online for reference to be sure you’re using this appliance safely.

What is your advice for someone who has an Instant Pot that hasn’t taken it out of the box yet?

Go online and read reviews, and then check out all of the recipes that will be available to you once you open that box! An Instant Pot can open up a world of possibilities, and people who use the Instant Pot often swear by it. You’ll find new cuisines, recipes and dishes that are simple and ready for you to indulge in, and they take no time at all. Start off simple by pressure cooking chicken breasts for pulled chicken or steaming vegetables for a healthy side dish. Or, you could even start off making an Instant Pot soup. You will see that it’s easy to get the hang of.

How do I get over my fear of the Instant Pot?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are many new users who fear the Instant Pot. It’s all about becoming familiar and embracing this wonderful appliance. Although it may look intimidating, it’s very easy to use. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be addicted. Instant Pots are extremely safe, and simple common sense will keep you in the clear. The high pressure and steam in the Instant Pot may make you nervous at first, but try it out, and you’ll see how quickly delicious meals come together in no time. With more time and practice, your comfort level will increase.

Is the “keep warm” setting safe on an Instant Pot?

The “keep warm” setting will keep your hot food at 140° F or higher so that it remains safe to eat, and it will hold it at that temperature for 10 hours. It’s not recommended to keep perishable items in the “warm” state for that long, as they should really be consumed within a couple of hours.

Can you leave an Instant Pot unattended?

The Instant Pot should not be left unattended while the food is cooking. The beauty of an Instant Pot is that it cooks your recipe extremely fast, but it’s at high pressure and high heat. The Instant Pot is so quick that once you start the cooking process, by the time you’re done prepping the rest of the meal, it’s finished. With that, there’s really no need to leave it unattended.

Many people are more comfortable with leaving a slow cooker on while at work or out of the house because it cooks food much slower and at a lower temperature. If you do feel confident leaving the slow cooker unattended, make sure it’s on low heat the entire time, away from walls, filled properly and on a well-protected, sturdy surface.

Cooking With an Instant Pot

How do you add vegetables to an Instant Pot dish?

If you want to add vegetables to an Instant Pot dish, try doing the recipe in stages to avoid the vegetables turning to mush.

If there is a meat component to the recipe, cook that first, and then safely quick-release the pressure. Unlock the lid and add in your vegetables, and then either simmer until they are tender using the “saute” function or re-lock the lid and cook under pressure for 1-5 minutes longer.

Can you roast chicken in an Instant Pot?

Cooking a chicken in an Instant Pot is simple and makes for a quick and easy dinner! You can brown the chicken using the “saute” function to get golden brown skin, but eventually, you will add at least ½ cup to 1 cup of liquid to the pot and pressure cook it. It will not be a true roasted chicken, but it will be tender and juicy. For crispy skin, broil the chicken in the oven after pressure cooking for 5-10 minutes.

How do you avoid over-cooking wings in an Instant Pot?

To prevent this from happening, be sure to check Instant Pot cookbooks or a recipe like this for how long to cook chicken wings. Since wings are much smaller, you wouldn’t use the “poultry” function. Instead, manually set the time and level of pressure. It is recommended for chicken wings to be cooked for 10 minutes, under high pressure, then quick-release after 5 minutes.

Instant Pot has cooking guidelines available to everyone online so you can check how long to manually cook food based on the weight, cut or variety you are using.

Can you cook frozen meat in an Instant Pot?

Yes, you can cook frozen meat! Although it may take a little more time to preheat and build pressure, and it may need a few extra minutes of cooking time, it is safe to cook frozen. It doesn’t take nearly as long to heat the meat up to a safe temperature as it does with a slow cooker.

Can you add raw meat to an Instant Pot?

You don’t have to precook or brown meat before adding it in. It is perfectly fine to place raw meat into the Instant Pot. However, most people do tend to brown it ahead of time with the “saute” button so that there is some color and caramelization on the meat, ultimately adding more flavor to the finished dish.

How do you cook the best chili in an Instant Pot?

If you’re having trouble with your favorite chili burning in your Instant Pot, there is a solution. First, make sure there is enough liquid from the beginning of the cooking process. Although it may seem like the chili has too much liquid, it is necessary for creating pressure. There needs to be at least 1 cup of true liquid such as broth or water present from the start. Tomato sauce is too thick, so it isn’t considered a true liquid, and it will burn on its own. If a thick sauce or paste is included in the chili recipe, make sure it is whisked into water or stock before adding it into the Instant Pot.

If you notice halfway through the cooking process that there is not enough liquid, stop, quick-release pressure and then add in another cup of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any burnt parts and lift the mixture upwards to allow the liquid to sink to the bottom. Be sure to keep all diced tomatoes on top of the mixture so that they don’t sink to the bottom and burn as well.

Lastly, check all mechanical functions, including the vent, to be sure it is in the “sealed” position and the sealing ring is on properly. That way, you can be sure excess water isn’t evaporating out and drying up the recipe.

What can you steam in an Instant Pot?

Vegetables, fish, boiled eggs and meat are all some of the possibilities you can steam in the Instant Pot. The best part about the steam function is that it keeps more nutrients and flavor in the ingredients versus alternative methods.

Instant Pot Recipes

What’s the best way to find recipes for an Instant Pot?

If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, you can find a huge variety of different Instant Pot cookbooks all over the internet and available on Amazon. Some cookbooks focus on dinner meals, some focus on specific ethnic cuisines such as Mexican or Indian cooking (like Madhur Jaffrey’s Instantly Indian Cookbook) and some offer a large variety of recipes based on healthy and quick meals. Taste of Home even has a wonderful Instant Pot cookbook with over 100 different recipes.

Can you make recipes for one or two in an Instant Pot?

Absolutely! Instant Pots come in different sizes, so if you are cooking for just one or two people, look into the smaller 3-quart size. However, if you enjoy making meals ahead of time and freezing or saving for later use, cooking full recipes in the standard 6-quart Instant Pot may be your best bet. That way, you can have meals already cooked and ready to go when needed.

Are recipes the same for off-brand Instant Pots?

If you have an off-brand Instant Pot (such as an option from Costco or Aldi), the recipes will work the same. There may be a slight variation in button options on different pressure cookers, but you should be able to use different brands interchangeably. If you’re not using an Instant Pot brand, keep the size differences in mind (3-quart versus 6-quart versus 8-quart), and be sure to consider how much room is required for the recipe you’re making.

Instant Pot Versus Slow Cooker

How do I covert slow cooker times to Instant Pot times?

The Instant Pot will reduce your slow cooker time by several hours. If your slow cooker recipe calls for a specific meat to be cooked for 6-8 hours, it most likely will only take an hour in total in the Instant Pot. We recommend using the “manual/pressure cook button” when converting because all recipes are different and contain a variety of meats, vegetables and liquids. Plus, they vary in size. Using the “poultry button” or “beef/stew button” might not be enough time for your recipe. There are guides online you can use to have a better idea of how much time you should manually plug in for your recipe based on the ingredients in your dish.

How do I convert Instant Pot times to slow cooker times?

Converting your favorite Instant Pot recipe to a slow cooker version is possible, but just keep in mind there are no specific set times for everyone’s own special recipe. There are guidelines available that can help you figure out how much time a typical cut of beef takes in a slow cooker. Temping your food will be the most important thing to do. As always, do not consume food until it is at the proper food-safe temperature.

With the answers to these tough questions, it’s time to get cooking! Ready to fire up your Instant Pot and tackle a great meal in no time? Our Instant Pot recipes are sure to satisfy any craving.

Sarah Fischer, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant, contributed to this article.

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Molly Allen
Molly Allen is a previous bakery owner and former event planner. Now, a freelance writer and editor focused on food and beverage, lifestyle, travel and parties, she brings her years of experience and industry knowledge to readers across a variety of platforms.