The Ultimate Instant Pot Guide: Instant Pot Tips, Hacks, and Recipes
Over the past few years, the Instant Pot has really taken the world by storm.
I believe it was Prime Day last year that I decided to buy one…and I’ll be honest – I wasn’t even quite sure what I was getting.
Up until that point, my only experience with a pressure cooker was watching them use it frequently in the Master Chef finals…so I knew that it could cook meat quickly.
And then I had a couple of rather discouraging experiences with mine (more on that in a minute), and it sat on our shelf for awhile.
But then I saw how you could make hard boiled eggs in it…and while I still love my perfect hard boiled egg method, it won me over…and I’ve loved my Instant Pot ever since!
I know that a lot of people are getting their new Instant Pots this week (due to their popularity on Prime Day), so I thought I’d put together a little guide to get you all started.
You know…basic tips for getting started, my favorite places to find recipes, etc.
But first, I wanted to start with what I wish I knew when I got mine. I actually asked this question on Facebook as well, so hopefully you will enjoy these answers. Below are the sections covered in this post:
What I’d Wish I’d Known About My Instant Pot
Which Instant Pot Should You Get?
Getting Started with the Instant Pot
You Might Not Know the Instant Pot Could . . .
Instant Pot Hacks and Tips
What Setting Do You Use?
Instant Pot Accessories
How to Clean the Instant Pot
Instant Pot Terminology
My Favorite Instant Pot Uses
What I’d Wish I’d Known About My Instant Pot
1) Read the manual
I’m so bad at reading instructions for anything…it’s a problem! I think Forrest read a few things from the manual, as he was the first person to use it. But I just thought it couldn’t be that hard to figure out (famous last words).
Well, there are a lot of important things in the manual – such as a water test. Did I do that? Nooo. Did it greatly affect my Instant Pot? Who knows. But I do recommend thoroughly reading your manual before you get started.
2) Put the Pot In
This is probably one of my lamest moments ever. It was my first time using it – earlier in the day, I had washed the pot out and put it in the drying rack.
For a reason beyond my comprehension, I forgot to put the pot in.
I was so excited to get started. I put my ground beef in and turned it to saute. I started cooking away, thinking it seemed kind of weird, but I just went with it.
And then I realized the pot wasn’t in it. I told Forrest, he said to unplug it right away, and I did.
Tons of ground beef fell inside the machine. I thought for sure it was ruined. Forrest did too, but being the wonderful husband he is, he took the Instant Pot apart, cleaned it all out…and it’s worked ever since. Though I was skeptical that it would.
It cost $99 when I bought it, so that was a lot of money we almost lost. So don’t be like me. Always make sure you have that pot in there!
3) It will hiss and you won’t know why
I’ll admit, I sometimes still am not sure why it makes the noises it does, or why the pressure sounds like it is being released. I’ve learned to just double check the steam release valve, and if that’s good…I just trust that it will work out! It hisses as it comes up to pressure…it hisses when it releases pressure. There’s just a whole lot of hissing!
4) Be careful with meat
I made a roast several months ago – the recipe I was following claimed it would be done in 45 minutes.
Well, 45 minutes came and went, and when we went to take it out…it was completely raw.
Normally, we could have put it back in…but we had the missionaries from our church over, and they have only an hour set aside where they can eat for dinner. I was so embarrassed!
I have since learned that it’s not the weight of the meat that matters so much as the thickness of the meat. The recipe I followed called for 4-5 pounds of chuck roast – which I got. However, it was about six inches thick. From everything I’ve read, you should aim for the meat to be about 2″ thick…which just requires some cutting beforehand 🙂
I’ve followed this philosophy since, and I’ve had some pretty amazing roasts and pulled pork!
5) Recipes might take longer than you think
I remember when I first got my Instant Pot seeing recipes that were titled “Five Minute ….” Or “Roast in 45 minutes!”
It just seemed to good to be true.
And well, it was. You see, many recipes state the amount of time that it takes for the recipe to cook when at pressure, however, they choose to omit that it takes time for the Instant Pot to get to pressure, as well as to release the pressure.
6) Spray it
I think it’s a good idea to spray the inside of the pot with cooking spray before you cook with it. I haven’t done this several times, and I always end up with the food being stuck to it and hard to get off!
7) It’s not going to explode
I hear so many people saying they want to use their machine, but they are afraid it might explode. I’ll admit, we were worried about that, too. I’ve seen pictures of pressure cookers that have exploded, ruined kitchens, etc., and it’s a bit unnerving.
However, I can say with about 99% confidence your Instant Pot is not going to explode, assuming you follow the instructions and don’t do anything crazy! Here are 7 Instant Pot Safety Tips to follow.
8) How Much I would Love It
I use our Instant Pot ALL The time. I’m constantly finding ways to adapt other recipes to make them Instant Pot Compatible. It really does save me time and prevents us from going out to eat as much (due to me forgetting to get out the chicken to thaw or put food in the slow cooker).
I wish I would have known how much I would grow to love it, because I wouldn’t have put it on the shelf for so long after my first initial experience!
9) Is the pin (float valve) up or down?
There is a little pin (red or silver, depending on your model) on the top of the Instant Pot that indicates whether the Instant Pot has come to pressure or not.
The second time I was using the machine, I couldn’t remember where the pin was when it wasn’t at pressure. When it is at pressure, it’s still in the slot…just at the top of it. But I wasn’t sure if it had to pop up higher.
Just remember, it starts out deep in the slot and raises to the top of it once pressure has been reached 🙂
10) It is hot
The Instant Pot gets hot! I have definitely burnt myself on the lid, as well as from the steam. It does say “Caution” on it, so just remember that (especially if you have little hands working with you).
I do think that altitude matters – whenever I see someone saying a recipe didn’t turn out (often due to the meat not being down/being overdone), and I think it has to do with altitude.
For instance, I observed a conversation in a group about how to cook hard boiled eggs. Some people swore by the 6-6-6 method and others by the 8-8-8 method…and others said neither of those worked. I definitely think it was altitude. The longer you use your Instant Pot, the more you’ll know what works with where you live.
12) Triple check the vent
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to cook with my Instant Pot, and about half way through, I realized the vent knob was not turned to seal. Make sure it’s closed!
13) I still like my other appliances
I remember seeing people say that they have completely replaced most of their other appliances. That’s great and all…but it definitely hasn’t been the case for me! I still use my slow cooker, my stove top, and my rice cooker quite regularly!
14) You might not like it (at first…or ever)
Here’s the thing – most everyone I know LOVES their Instant Pot…but I know several people who just don’t. It either doesn’t fit their needs, they don’t like how the food tastes, or they just feel it’s too complicated.
If you don’t like it at first, I would say that’s normal. I didn’t, either! However, don’t give up after your first couple of tries.
But if you have used it quite a few times and still don’t love it…there’s nothing wrong with you 🙂 There are plenty of people who have retired their Instant Pots for other means of cooking. Here are two examples of my friends:
“Knowing how much time to increase when doubling a recipe would be helpful. I find that we almost never use ours because all the recipes I find are not geared for feeding an army & can’t feed 5 adult sized people. It becomes trial & error & I just don’t like to gamble when I’m hungry. I want amazing food & I have yet to create that with it.” – Gina K.
“The only amazing food I’ve made in mine is creme brulee and cheesecake. I wish I would have known I would hardly every use it.” – Danielle M.
And here is some advice from some fellow IP users:
“There is a learning curve (such as it’s not “instant”), but once you’ve learned it’s a great resource for meals. And 1 IP is never enough – you’ll need at least 2 😂 -” Full time working mom of 2 toddlers, who uses them 3-5 times a week.
“What I wish I’d known before getting my Instant Pot? Hmmm… I would have to say that I just wish I’d known much sooner just how useful it would be for me. Then I would have gotten one sooner. I got mine in December of 2016 (DUO60) and recently bought the Ultra.” – Tink M.
“It took my daughter a yr. to convince me to get one because I have been using stove top pc for decades. I wish I had listened earlier! I made 13 qts of bone broth. I started it before bed and skimmed it by noon and canned in the afternoon. I just used 2 qts today to make beef stew. You can not do that with the stove top variety!” – Martha D.
“Sounds extra dumb, but I didn’t imagine the top would get so hot. I burned my fingers when I opened the lid for the first time. It DOES say “caution :hot” both in English and French. I was too desperate to see if it cooked inside!!!
Additionally, I would have liked to know that milk porridge would scotch and you should add water.” – Tatiana B.
“For about a month I was cooking my rice and chicken. It always took so long. Then I learned about pot-in-pot cooking!! Now I almost always have a dish on the trivet cooking. Game changer.” – Justine W.
“Apparently there is a water test that you are supposed to do before you cook with it. So reading the instructions would have been a good idea.” – Lisa J.
“That the plug will go up on its own.” – Kristen G.
“That it’s pretty hard to make it explode 😜” – Kylie H.
“I thought it would be a faster way to prepare my meals. In some ways it is faster but I still find it takes me awhile to prepare the food and then wait for it to be done. I have come to like it though. It gives me time to work on other parts of the meal or go be with my kids!” – Julianna G.
“That I should have two. So I can make rice in one, and beans in the other. (Or chicken, or meat, or whatever.) Love my IP!” – Brianna H.
Which Instant Pot Should You Get?
There are many different models of the Instant Pot – it can be a little overwhelming.
I think the first thing you need to decide is if you want a six quart or an eight quart.
I personally have a six quart, and it works just fine for my family. I’ve fed six adults with plenty of leftovers before with mine. The eight quart is a little bit bigger, so if you are low on space, that’s something to keep in mind.
After you decide what size you want, now it’s time to decide what model! I have the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. It works great for us.
These are the main models to decide between:
- Lux – This is more-or-less the most basic model offered by Instant Pot (I believe it’s a second generation). It’s definitely more basic in features, but it’s still a great machine. It doesn’t make yogurt or have a low pressure setting.
- Duo – This does everything that the Lux does, but it has the added yogurt feature and low pressure setting. It has a few functionality improvements as well.
- Smart/Bluetooth – This is the newest model. It does everything that the Lux and Duo does…and a whole lot more! It can connect to an app via Bluetooth, which I suppose could be helpful! This is the only model that works with the app that allows you to control temperatures and time. It has a larger screen than the other models.
You can read about all the different kinds of Instant Pots and comparisons here.
Finding the best price just comes down to watching sales. Amazon often has sales, so I would keep your eyes pealed there, but I occasionally see sales at places like Kohls (for instance, I recently saw one for under $70 for Kohls Card Holders!).
Getting Started with the Instant Pot
As I mentioned earlier, the best thing you can do is read your manual, as that will help you know exactly what your machine can and cannot do. Here are all the manuals in case you misplaced yours.
But as a refresher, here’s what you should do when you are first getting started!
First, check to make sure your machine has all the accessories that are supposed to be included. This may vary depending on your machine, so reference your manual to see what’s included 🙂 In general, you may find:
- Stainless Steel Inner Pot
- Sealing Ring
- Stainless Steel Long Handled Trivet
- Rice Paddle
- Soup Spoon
- Measuring Cup
Now, you will want to wash the pot and inside of the lid with warm soapy water. Do not submerge the base in water at anytime!
Next, you will want to install the condensation collector. This is a little plastic container that you will attach to your lid.
You will then install the anti-block shield and the sealing ring.
Once your machine is all setup, you can run your water test – here is a great step by step tutorial on this.
And now you can start! I recommend starting with something simple – like rice – just to test the waters. When looking for a recipe, try and read the comments (if there are any) to see what people have said about the recipe.
You Might Not Know Your Instant Pot Could . . .
I think just about everyone knows they can make soups, boil eggs, and cook rice…but did you know it could do these things?
- Homemade Bread
- Vanilla Extract
- Beauty Products – such as lotion
- Bone Broth
Instant Pot Tips Hacks
Pot in Pot method
This is something I think everyone should know about…but not everyone does! Essentially, it’s cooking your meal (or dessert…or side) in an Instant Pot safe dish (such as Pyrex Bowls).
Why would you do this?
- It’s great for dips like my White Queso Dip or recipes that you don’t want sitting in liquid. I would say this is one of the biggest pulls of PIP – some things just should not be sitting in liquid as it cooks!
- Preparing multiple recipes at a time- I know people who feel like their Instant Pot hasn’t saved a ton of time because they still have to prep items on the stove/oven, or they have to run the Instant Pot more than once. With Pot in Pot, you can cook multiple recipes at a time!
- Reheating meals
- Recipes that are notorious for sticking to the bottom of pot
When you do the PIP method, you can create a tin foil sling for the bowl so it’s easier to remove. Otherwise, the bowl can be hard to get out.
Tin Foil for Multiple Items
In addition to doing Pot in Pot, you can also cook multiple items by putting up tinfoil to make a barrier between them!
Keep it away from cupboards
The steam can ruin your cabinets – so it’s best to use your Instant Pot somewhere else. We have a little table in the corner of our kitchen that is the dedicated Instant Pot and slow cooker area.
Freeze Leftover soups and other leftovers in round storage containers
This makes for easy reheating in the Instant Pot!
Using as a Slow Cooker
There is a slow cooker setting on the Instant Pot – wahoo! So if you can only get either the IP or a slow cooker…you may want to consider the IP.
However, you should keep in mind that the slow cooker works a little bit differently than a traditional slow cooker…you kind of have to play with the settings to figure out how it cooks. From everything that I’ve read, the Instant Pot does run a little bit warmer than a traditional slow cooker.
Cooking with Frozen Meats
One of my favorite parts of the Instant Pot is that you can easily cook frozen meats such as chicken! I would search around online to find out the best recommendations for temperatures, but it can take up to 50% longer to cook over fresh meats. It usually takes mine about 15 minutes to cook two frozen chicken breasts.
How much liquid?
In order for the Instant Pot to work, you need to have liquid. I’ve seen some people say at least 1/2 cup, but I typically would recommend at least one cup of liquid – this can be water, broth, etc.
Use as a microwave
You can reheat things by using the “keep warm” or slow cook button!
Cooking with pasta
This is a tricky one, because I believe some manuals actually say not to use pasta…however, they have pasta recipes on the Instant Pot website, so we’ll just ignore that suggestion 😉
Pasta can easily get mooshy and gross, but from what I’ve read and experimented with, if it takes longer than seven minutes to cook on the stove top, it should turn out okay. Usually, you will device the stove top cook time by 50% in order to figure out the Instant Pot at pressure cook time.
Start in Saute Mode
Turn your Instant Pot to saute mode for a few minutes to help bring the Instant Pot to pressure faster. This is a great idea if you are browning meat or sauteeing vegetables for a dish!
What setting do you use?
In general, I think manual is the setting I use the most. The other settings can be helpful, but most of the recipes I follow go by manual settings, simply because there are many different Instant Pot models, and manual is on all of them.
On most models, there is a low and high setting, though on the Lux model, there is only one.
I really like the Saute feature because it makes it so I don’t have to use more than one dish for many recipes (such as those that have ground beef or round sausage). I also use it when I’m trying to thicken up sauces at the end of cooking (such as in my chicken tikka masala recipe).
There are three settings for saute, and you can choose a different one by pressing “saute” and your “adjust” button. Normal is for regular browning, more is for dark browning, and less is for light browning.
For the rest of the settings, there are three different settings for each. I recommend reading your manual to see how each setting will affect the food you are making 🙂
Instant Pot Accessories
The Instant Pot comes with everything you need to get started – however, there are a few accessories you can get to make things a little bit easier.
- When you are using the pot-in-pot method, you need a dish that is smaller than the diameter of your Instant Pot and no more than about 4″ tall. I personally love using my Pyrex bowls, but I know plenty of people who use stainless steel bowls (which makes sense, as they are less breakable!).
- Stainless Steel Steamer
- Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid
- Pressure Cooker Dessert Pans
- Meat thermometer
- Silicone Cupcake Holders perfect for making this recipe!
- Silicone Mini Mitt
- Silicone Instant Pot Lid
- Fat Daddio’s is known for having great Instant Pot bakeware. Everyone claims the 7×3 pan is essential. I just ordered one myself.
How to Clean the Instant Pot
Cleaning your Instant Pot can be surprisingly tricky, especially when cooking with stinky food.
Keep in mind that you should never submerge the electronic base into water – only spot clean this. However, the stainless steel pot and the interior of the lid can be washed and cleaned.
First, make sure your machine is unplugged!
That may seem a little silly to say…but you just never know!
Second, remove the pot and the lid from the base, as you will clean these separately.
Hand wash the lid with warm soap and water. Typically, the lid doesn’t get too dirty with food (unless you are dripping things on it), so it doesn’t usually need more deep cleaning than that.
Then, remove the steam-release handle and the anti-block shield (following instructions in your manual) to clean out any particles that may have gone into there.
You can hand wash the stainless steel pot by hand or in the dishwasher. Using vinegar can help get rid of any particularly pungent smells that have stuck around.
How to clean the ring
The silicone ring on the inside of the lid definitely takes on the smells of the foods you use it for…which can easily ruin a dish (no one wants their cheesecake to taste like roast beef!).
First off, I do recommend buying separate rings for different kinds of dishes – at least have one for sweet and one for savory.
However, you should also know how to properly clean the rings. Just soak it in a combination of vinegar and hot water or baking soda and hot water for about 15-20 minutes – rinse clean with soap and water and then air dry.
Instant Pot Terminology
IP – Instant Pot
EPC – Electric Pressure Cooker
QR – Quick Release (letting all the pressure out quickly)
NPR/NR – Natural Pressure Release (this is where the Instant Pot releases all it’s pressure slowly and naturally. It usually takes about 15-20 minutes)
PIP – Pot in Pot
Trivet – the little metal stand that comes with the Instant Pot
Steam-release handle – This is the handle on the top of the Instant Pot that allows you to release the pressure.
Float valve – This is a silver or red pin that indicates whether pressure has been reached or not.
Sealing ring – This is a plastic ring on the interior of the lid that helps with sealing.
My Favorite Instant Pot Uses
Here are my top three favorite things to cook in the Instant Pot – they are so simple, but they can be used in so many recipes…and I just love the versatility of it!
Potatoes – I have cooked potatoes for mashed potatoes, as well as for potato salad. When I cook potato salad, I actually cook the potatoes with the eggs at the same time, and it works beautiful. Here is a great recipe for baked potatoes, and here is a great recipe for mashed.
Chicken – I think what gets people most interested in the Instant Pot (in my experience) is when I mention that you can cook frozen chicken in less than 20 minutes. I set my Instant Pot for 15 minutes of manual high pressure, with about 10 minutes of natural pressure release, and they are totally perfect.
I like adding salsa, BBQ sauce, enchilada sauce etc. when I’m not cooking just plain chicken breasts.
Hard Boiled Eggs – I love IP Hard Boiled Eggs! They are *amazing* and so easy.
You’ll see some variation on the instructions for these (again, altitude), but the most common recommendation I see is the 6-6-6 method – 6 minute cook time, 6 minute natural pressure release (then release the rest), and then 6 minutes in an ice bath. They are VERY hot once they are done, though, so make sure you have the proper tools for moving them to an ice bath.
I also saw another really neat method for cooking eggs – this would be perfect for something like potato salad where you don’t need them in an egg shape:
“I saw this online earlier today and decided to try it. Works like a charm! I’m making potato salad and needed 8 boiled eggs, chopped. Did you know you can just crack them in a bowl and put the whole bowl in the pot? No ice bath or peeling required. The resulting bowl-shaped egg loaf is initially horrifying, but once you chop it up, it’s wonderful! I sprayed the bowl with Pam, placed it on the little wire rack thing and put 1 cup water inside the pot (not inside the bowl.) I cooked it on manual for 5 minutes with a natural release.”