First there was stovetop cooking. Then came the crockpot. Now, you can take your meal preparation to a whole other level with the Instant Pot. You might have seen a lot of Instant Pot recipes popping up online. You might have even gotten an Instant Pot for Christmas but were afraid to use it. Yes, this is a form of pressure cooking but there is no pressure associated with the actual use of the Instant Pot.

Here’s what you need to know about making amazing meals in your Instant Pot:

The Instant Pot Basics

Instant Pot is a pressure cooker but it can to a lot more. It slow cooks one-pot dishes like stews, soups, and chilis. It also sautés, steams rice, veggies, and poultry. All of this happens in less than an hour. Instant, remember?

The reason that cooking takes a short amount of time is the pressure-cooking function. Your pot is locking in the steam that is created by the liquid your recipes call for. In some cases, that steam is also released from the items themselves like meat and veggies. The device takes all of that steam and pushes it back into the food through that locked in pressure. It is also a safe device with a lid that locks down creating that pressure until your release it.  

What Can You Cook in An Instant Pot?

The list of what you can cook in an Instant Pot is a long one. It will be easy to cook an entire meal for the family in under 30 minutes. That can be anything from a whole-roasted chicken to a beef stew. You can even bake bread in your Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot is terrific for braising meats like ribs or brisket. But it also provides a source for vegetarians to cook butternut squash soup, sweet potatoes, and mac and cheese. Have you ever had to soak beans overnight? Now those beans can be ready to eat in just 30 minutes.

How to Use Your Instant Pot

You’ll find that your Instant Pot has a few settings to utilize. Which setting you use will depend on what you’re the cook. Every Instant Pot recipe will tell you the setting of your need. You might start on sauté mode and then switch to manual. Your Instant Pot will also have a timer to let you know when the meal is done. Just don’t go far. A crockpot lets you set up the cooking in the morning, and then come back in the afternoon for the dish. The Instant Pot might let you watch one show on TV but that’s it!

When the time is up, you need to release the pressure. This can be done naturally or manually. With the natural release, the lid will stay in the sealed position and will dissipate over time when activated. Just know that while that process goes on, your food will still be “cooking” at some level. The manual pressure release is also referred to as the quick release. This doesn’t mean whipping off the lid. You will still need around 15 minutes to release the pressure manually.

Additional Tips

You should always have a “based” of at least ½ cup of liquid for whatever you’re cooking. Even the simplest dish like cooking chicken breasts or thighs should include ½ cup of sauce, broth or just plain water. This will help the pressure process.

After owning my Instant Pot for about a year, I’ve made some mistakes and learned a few lessons I’d like to pass on. Here are some tips to help you zip through the Instant Pot learning curve.

Make sure your lid valve is always set to “sealing.” If it is set at “venting,” then you won’t get the pressure that you need.

Be sure to clean your Instant Pot. This is not like a cast-iron skillet where you want those flavors to “build up.” You need to thoroughly clean your pot after every meal to make sure it won’t stain.

You will also have to adjust your cooking times to conform with the recipe. It might take 10 minutes for the pressure to build up in your pot. This is like preheating the oven. The only difference is that your food will be in the pot. It might also take 10 minutes to release the pressure. That means a meal that calls for 30 minutes of cooking time could actually take 50 minutes. The more you cook with your Instant Pot, the more quickly you’ll become familiar with how the time will impact your recipes.