10 Things you Need to Know about the Instant Pot

Published on December 26, 2016 by Lauren
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    It’s not often that I rave about a product. But in this Instant Pot Review, you’ll see why I’m raving about my Instant Pot. I’ve had several readers over the past couple years tell me “Lauren, you gotta try the Instant Pot!” or, “Lauren, we need Instant Pot recipes!”, and I just didn’t get what all the fuss was about. But now I do.

    Seriously, I don’t do this often, but if you’ve got the money in your budget this month, you should go pick one up now. Here are 10 reasons why I love the Instant Pot – and why it has mostly replaced the venerable slow cooker in my house. PLUS 5 recipes that work amazingly well in the Instant Pot.

    intant pot review

    Instant Pot Review: 10 Things you Must know about the Instant Pot

    What is old is new again. That’s my take on the resurgence of pressure cookers. My parents always had one growing up. But it was on the stove top – it was loud, and it only did one thing – pressure cook food. It also wasn’t the safest of kitchen appliances.

    These new electric pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot are fantastic. While conducting my Instant Pot review, I tried a whole bunch of different types of recipes and cooking methods. If you’re considering buying one, or if you’ve bought one already, here’s what you must know:

    1. Cook meat longer than it tells you to

    I learned this the hard way. The first thing I tried to make with my Instant Pot was beef short ribs. I seasoned them, browned each side, added my other ingredients (including about a cup of red wine), and hit the beef button.

    What I ended up with were the toughest beef short ribs I’d ever had. It was as if I had boiled them for 15 minutes. Not good. The “beef” button cooked them for only 35 minutes, but they really needed to be cooked for at least twice as long.

    Oh – and in case you’re interested, I’d LOVE to send you a FREE Meal Plan! 10 super easy meals prepared in about an hour for $80! These can all be adapted to the Instant Pot easily. Sign up right below:

    2. Use the Saute feature A LOT

    The Saute feature of the Instant Pot might just be my second favorite feature (the pressure cooking being the obvious favorite). Here’s the thing, I don’t just use it to saute vegetables and brown meat – it can do lots more! Here are the 4 things I use the saute feature for:

    • Saute vegetables prior to cooking the dish to soften them up and get a more complex flavor.
    • Brown or sear meat prior to cooking (not completely necessary, but I do it sometimes). However – if you really want to sear meat well before putting it in the instant pot, nothing beats a good cast iron pan.
    • Cooking pasta – If you’re making a soup that needs pasta, the saute feature is amazing. After the cook cycle is complete and depressurized, open the Instant Pot and turn it to saute. It will boil within just a couple minutes. Add your pasta and cook until it’s done. This works great with chicken noodle soup 🙂
    • To thick sauces – after the cook cycle is complete and you need to thicken your sauce (like with this zesty orange chicken), mix your cornstarch with a bit of cold water. Then add it to the sauce in the pot and turn it to saute. This will thicken it up in minutes.
    • To make a roux – the best way to thicken sauces for those savory meals is with a roux. Using the slow cooker, this step needs to be done at the end. But using the saute feature of the instant pot, you can do it at the beginning! I just did this last night with these amazing Swedish Meatballs.

    3. It’s a fantastic rice cooker!

    Not only does it cook rice, it does it WAY faster. I even tried some organic basmati brown rice which usually takes about 40 minutes if I was cooking it on the stove or in a normal rice cooker. In the Instant Pot, it took about 15 minutes – and it was PERFECT.

    instant pot

    4. Let it depressurize by itself

    When I made those beef short ribs that turned out like leather, one of the other mistakes I made was that I manually vented it immediately. Maybe I was hungry, but I was in a hurry to see how the ribs turned out – so I made the rookie mistake of turning the vent to the left (quick release or “QR”) as soon as the cook cycle was done. A whole bunch of steam roared out for a couple minutes.

    I don’t exactly know the science behind it, but the rapid change in temperature and pressure makes the meat VERY tough. It’s fine for veggies, but not for meat.

    What I should have done – leave it alone for 10 minutes. This cools it down just a bit, and allows some of the steam to naturally turn back into liquid slowly. Then vent it by pressing down on the knob (not turning it). This is called the Natural Pressure Release (NPR).

    5. You need liquid

    Even if you are just tenderizing meat, a pressure cooker needs steam. And to get this steam, you need water – at least 1/2 cup.

    6. This is not the same as steaming your food

    Yes, the Instant Pot uses steam to cook your food. But this isn’t like steaming vegetables… it’s much different. Have you ever steamed a piece of beef? If you have you’d know it’s absolutely a horrible way to cook meat. It’s dry, tough, stringy… the WORST.

    But with the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker), the steam is under extreme pressure and forces it’s way into the fibers of the meat and breaks them down VERY quickly. It’s the same process that happens in a slow cooker, but it happens much faster in a pressure cooker.

    7. Put the pasta on top

    It’s crazy that you can cook entire dishes – pasta, meat, sauce, everything in one pot. But it’s true! For example, lemme tell you what I did with these Swedish Meatballs. After preparing the meatballs in a mixing bowl, I made a roux in the Instant Pot using the Saute setting, whisked in the water to let it thicken, added the meatballs, and then the pasta on top.

    You do not need to submerge the pasta in the liquid. The high-pressure steam will force its way into the pasta and cook it. but by placing it on top, you ensure that you won’t have any pasta sticking to the bottom of the pan.

    After if cooks, just mix in the milk and sour cream. I guess you could add the dairy at the beginning… but see number 9.

    8. Put meat on the bottom

    It’s not just pasta that should be on top – order matters with the instant pot. In general, it works out best if you put meat on the bottom. Here’s why – anything that has sugars in it can burn if cooked too long. For example, if you are cooking a chuck roast that will require an hour of cooking, any ingredients with sugar might caramelize on the bottom. And tomato based sauces can definitely burn on the bottom too.

    If you’re cooking chicken and only need it to cook for 30 minutes, then you probably won’t run into that problem.

    9. Milk isn’t so great in the Instant Pot

    Just as dairy isn’t so great for the slow cooker, turns out it’s not great in the Instant Pot either. In fact, it might be worse. The high heat (higher than boiling) and pressure separate the milk proteins (curdling) to an extreme degree. While it certainly is perfectly safe to eat (just because milk curdles doesn’t mean it spoiled), it might be unappetizing.

    Personally, I’ll eat most things. But curdled milk, I’ll pass.

    However, I did just make Spinach and Artichoke Chicken in the Instant Pot (which has cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, and butter), and was pleasantly surprised. It scorched a little bit on the bottom, but other than that, it was delicious! No curdling at all. Maybe it’s not necessarily that’s the issue, but milk specifically.

    10. You can place meat in frozen*

    The USDA doesn’t like the idea of placing frozen meat in the slow cooker (although I do occasionally do it anyway). It can result in the meat sitting at an unsafe temperature for too long, particularly if it’s a thick roast.

    But with the Instant Pot, you have much more freedom with frozen meat. Hamburger, chicken breasts, chicken thighs, steak, you can put it all in completely frozen. You will want to increase your cook time by about 50%, and it will also take longer to attain the proper pressure, but I’ve done it a few times and there was no noticeable effect on the end product.

    For example, I made the Spinach Artichoke Chicken mentioned above using completely frozen chicken breasts. It took about 45 minutes of cook time. The longer time is what might have caused the slight scorching to the bottom of the pan… but it was still yummy!

    However, with large roasts, I would still recommend thawing them first. It’s not exactly a matter of safely, but flavor and texture. You don’t want your roast to be overcooked on the outside and falling apart, while the inside is still tough and chewy.

    5 AWESOME Instant Pot Recipes

    Here are 5 recipes that I created using slow cooker instructions, but added Instant Pot instructions too 🙂

    intant pot review

    Texas Roadhouse Pot Roast – this is the absolute best pot roast you will ever have. And this isn’t just me saying that, I’ve gotten literally hundreds of emails using that exact phrase! It’s so good.

    instant pot review

    Spinach and Artichoke Chicken – I got the inspiration for this from an amazing spinach and artichoke dip recipe. I thought, what if I added chicken, and served it over pasta? Welp… the results were even better than I had envisioned. One of my favs.

    instant pot review

    Chicken Noodle Soup – No need to make a stock from scratch to get an amazing homemade Chicken noodle soup. The chicken thighs do all the work for you as they cook in the slow cooker. It’s crazy that a dump recipe can produce such an awesome chicken noodle soup, but it does!

    instant pot review

    Slow Cooker Zesty Orange Chicken – Just like the name says, it’s very zesty. It gets the orange flavor from some orange juice concentrate. And after adding some garlic, ginger and sugar, this tastes just like something you’d get for Chinese takeout!

    instant pot review

    Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs – Oh man. This dump recipe… it is creamy, perfectly seasoned, and filling. This is my kind of meal when the weather is cold.

    Most recipes that work in the slow cooker will work in the instant pot too. You might just have to switch around the order that you do things. Check out this list of 40 dump recipes for even more ideas!

    COMMENTS

  • Yay! Thanks for sharing this, Lauren! My boyfriend just purchased an Instant Pot on Black Friday. We’ve been experimenting with recipes, but it’s great to hear from someone who already knows what works! I’m enjoying the Facebook Groups, too! 🙂

  • My rule of thumb with pressure cookers and beef is: 1 1/2 – 2 lbs is 35 minutes & 3 – 4 lbs beef is 45 minutes of cooking + natural release. However, chicken can be cooked much faster + natural release An Excellent resource is:
    https://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cookers/cooking_times_pressure_cooker.php

    From Lauren’s Recipes I adapted them for a Pressure Cooker here are a few more:
    (T=thawed)(P.C. = pressure cook)(N.R.= natural release)(Q.R.=quick release)
    1. Asian BBQ Fusion Chicken if T. – P.C. for 9 minutes + N.R.
    2. Chicken Tortilla Soup if T. – P.C. for 16 minutes + Q.R (Note: do flour and cornstarch steps after cooking the soup)
    3. Cuban Rice Bowls if T. – P.C for 45 minutes + N.R.
    4. Mongolian Beef if T. – P.C. for 40 minutes + N.R.
    5. Ropa Vieja if T. – P.C for 45 minutes + N.R.
    6. Shredded Beef & Black Bean Chili if T. – P.C for 45 minutes + N.R.
    7. Korean Beef Tacos if T. – P.C. for 45 minutes + N.R.

    Note: I used a Cook’s Essentials 4qt. SS Digital Pressure Cooker not an Instant Pot.

    • Hi, I just got an Instant Pot and have tried 3 recipes. So far not impressed, but I’ll keep working with it…my biggest issue is that when I do a pot roast I don’t want stewed roast. I followed thre recipe adding 1 1/2 cups of liquid. I think this was too much because the meat let out it’s own fluid, so it doubled and eventhough I browned the mean really well and looks like sewed roast. Would it help if I just did 1/2 cup liquid and put it on the rack? I made jambalaya as per recipe and rice turned to mush.
      Help please. Also I cook black beans. Can you suggest liquid needed for 1lb? I have a regular pressure cooker but I just eyeball it.
      Thanks

      • I am asking the same questions elsewhere – just got my IP – do you have an answer yet? (I have only had my pot for two days (Christmas); I’m learning (reading, watching, and toying – so far I’ve (over)heated soup and used a PIP method to re-heat a roll), and intrigued, but I have a question. Some of the food bloggers I watch and most of the recipes I read of course include putting al that water in with the meat, etc, in order to induce pressure to cook the food. This makes me think that the food is poached or boiled (cooked with hot water), and the thought of eating poached or boiled meat turns my stomach. Can you please straighten me out? Thank you — also — is there a WAY to prepare the meat meals WITHOUT having a ton of water and/or liquid added to the recipe in order to get the food cooked in the pot with other ingredients without everything sitting in water – i.e., can I use the pot in a pot concept with meat, or can I raise the meat up above the water on a trivet and get the right effect? Thank you.)

    • Here is my tip for perfect rice:
      one cup of rice
      one regular can of chicken broth

      Swish it around in the pot.
      Use “steam” button (20 minutes) not “rice” button.
      Let it cool naturally. Open the pot and “break up” the rice. It has been perfect for me every time using the 1 to 2 ratio. I use various liquids to give the rice different flavors. Great fun!!!

  • The swedish meatball link goes to a slow cooker recipe. Could you help explain how to adapt that to a pressure cooker please?

  • I just came across your website and the recipes look delicious. I had 2 questions though. Can you use crockpot liner bags in the instant pot? I am currently trying to lose 50lbs and following a low carb, high protein diet, do you have any meal plans that would fit this?

  • I purchased all of your recipes for the Slow Cooker before you started using the Instant Pot. I have purchased the 8 qt. version and need to know if you have updated your recipes to include the conversion from Slow Cooker to Instant Pot times. If so, where do I find those?
    I have stopped using the recipes because of this and would like to go back to using them. I stopped using the crock pot due to possible lead concerns.
    Thank you!

  • Most of these meals I can make in the same amt of time on the stove or in the oven. Days I’m not home, crock pot does all the work. My husband and I are masters at freezer to oven meals in 45 minutes less. This just seems like one more convenience to have to clean. I like tried and true.

  • About cooking meat in the pressure cooker. I find that meat (especially the cheaper cuts) does well in the slow cooker. It takes a lot of time, but the taste and texture can’t be beat. I haven’t gone to Facebook yet (I’m not into social media) but I am going to have a look tonight. Thanks for your tips.

  • When cooking in the Instant Pot (Duo 6 Quart), if the meat (pork) is still not cooked enough after the lid is opened do I need to put it back in, repressurize the pot and cook it again and for how long? This would seem to be a long process, any suggestions?

  • Thanks for the tip on the meat. I have always made a delicious, tender pork roast in the slow cooker, and the first time I used the Instant Pot (carefully following the directions in the manual) I practically had to cut it up with a knife, even after putting it back on for an extra 20 minutes of cooking time.

  • I grilled some spareribs they were still tough. I am considering putting them in my instant pot and pressure cook to make them more tender. Do you know if this would work on meat that has already been grilled?

  • Just bought an instantpot and I have a question about browning meat in the pressure cooker. We just tried to make BBQ drum sticks and damn the browning process took forever and there was so much oil spitting up that we had to constantly adjust the sauté on and off. Any advice?

  • My rice comes out looking like malnutrioned maggots. Very weird and definitely not appealing. This is my third try. Someone mentioned steaming instead of “rice” button. Anyone else try this. I’m tired of throwing the rice out.

  • Steam would pour out, but rarely pressurize and cook. After trying to get support and being required to take iPhone videos that were too large in size to upload, I finally fixed my InstaPot on my own…with a half-dozen swings with a wood softball bat. I sent THAT photo to the company and they permanently banned me from support.

  • Whoops, I didn’t follow an instapot recipe, and cooked my homemade clam chowder on the “soup” setting.
    Surprise! Yes: the dairy separated and though it LOOKED curdled it wasn’t sour like curdled milk in a tot’s forgotten milk cup. . I skimmed the butter fat then removed the potatoes and celery with a slotted spon. Then I blended the separated broth. It came together smoothly and was delicious albeit not a lovely white, but a tad gray. Perhaps it was not guest worthy, but no need to trash.
    Thanks for posting your need to know list. It should be included by the manufacturer

  • Frozen chicken tastes funny to me after cooking it in the instant pot, I lose my appetite. One recipe called for. Spaghetti sauce, like classico. The smell reminded me of vomit. So far the best fail safe recipe is meatballs. I keep trying… I’ve only owned the pressure cooker for 3 weeks.

    Here was something interesting… I use the pressure cooker on the stovetop. The steam release… OMG… Under the stove hood in my apartment… It has been loosening all the gunk and there’s a lot of icky stuff the drips/drops from the stove hood…. GROSS!

    Anyway… I keep plugging along. I am just not liking the chicken. My husband says it’s fine, but sometimes he worries me. He has a bottomless stomach and I wonder if I put dog food I front of him n tell him it’s Coco puffs he’ll eat it. He already ate waxed fruit n didn’t taste the difference. Oy! Of course he got sick later…but so far… He’s ok with what I have been making in the pressure cooker.

    Thanks for your post… It’s been helpful.

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