Five Hacks to Get You Actually Using Your Instant Pot

After covering many of the small kitchen appliances recently, the Instant Pot is finally getting its time to shine. While pressure cookers have been around for decades, what sets the Instant Pot apart is its ease of use, safety, and so many other features! If you haven’t hopped on the Instant Pot bandwagon yet, you’re missing out on the best friend your weeknight meals need. Trust us; once you dive into the world of pressure cooking, there’s no turning back.

What’s So Great About Pressure Cookers Anyway?

First things first, let’s talk about why pressure cookers are absolute game-changers. Picture this: you come home after a long day at work, and you’re craving a hearty meal, but the thought of spending hours (or even an hour) in the kitchen feels like death. Enter the pressure cooker. These magical pots use steam pressure to cook food faster than conventional methods, slashing cooking times by up to 70%. Yes, you read that right – 70%! That means you can whip up a mouthwatering meal, tenderize tough cuts of meat, and even cook grains and rice in record time.

Pressure cookers also lock in flavor and nutrients like nobody’s business. The high pressure and steam infuse flavors into your ingredients, resulting in more flavorful dishes. Plus, since you’re cooking with minimal water, vitamins and minerals stay put instead of leaching out into the cooking liquid. So not only are you saving time, but you’re also creating healthier, more delicious meals.

Plus, we love the added bonus of putting ingredients in and walking away. You mean we don’t have to stand at the stove for 30 minutes, stirring and sweating from the heat? Yes, please!

But How Do I Actually Use It?

Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of using a pressure cooker. Don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit intimidated at first – we’ve all been there. But trust us when we say that once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without one. Here are some basic steps to get you started:

  • Familiarize yourself with your pressure cooker: Every pressure cooker is a little different, so take some time to read the instruction manual and get to know the ins and outs of your specific model. Pay attention to safety features like pressure release valves and locking mechanisms – they have come lightyears in advancing their safety, which we love. No more worrying about the top flying off!
  • Start simple: For your first few pressure cooking adventures, stick to tried-and-true recipes that are designed for pressure cookers. This will help you get a feel for how your cooker operates and build your confidence in using it. (There’s nothing worse than trying something new and having it not work out!)
  • Don’t overfill: One common mistake new pressure cooker users make is overfilling the pot. To ensure proper pressure build-up and cooking performance, never fill your cooker more than two-thirds full, and for foods that expand during cooking like grains and rice, aim for only half full.
  • Be careful with your liquids: Pressure cooking typically uses significantly less liquid than traditional cooking methods. However, you do want to make sure there’s enough liquid so steam can be created and things don’t burn. (This is why we suggest following some simple recipes the first few times so you can get a feel for how much liquid is needed.)
  • Get creative: Once you’ve mastered the basics, don’t be afraid to experiment! Pressure cookers are incredibly versatile and can be used to make everything from soups and stews to desserts and even yogurt! Let your culinary imagination run wild and see what delicious creations you can come up with.

Raising the Bar

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s talk about some tips and tricks to up your game:

  • Practice patience: While Instant Pots save so much time because you’re letting the device do the cooking for you, you do have to be aware of the time it takes for the Instant Pot to build up and release the pressure.

    For example, the recipe may tell you to set the Instant Pot for 5 minutes of cooking time. That does not mean your meal will be done in five minutes. It will take around 10 minutes (longer, if the item was frozen) for the Instant Pot to get up to pressure and then the 5 minutes of cooking will start. After the cooking time is over, it will need time to release the pressure (again, around 10 minutes).

    With these times, our meal will take 25 minutes to cook (10 minutes to get to pressure, 5 minutes of cooking, 10 minutes to release the pressure). However, that was 25 minutes that I wasn’t standing in the kitchen because the Instant Pot was doing the cooking. This is why we love them.

  • Embrace the natural release: When your food has finished cooking, you have two options for releasing the pressure: natural release and quick release. Natural release involves letting the pressure cooker depressurize on its own, which can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the recipe. While it requires a bit of patience, natural release helps ensure that delicate foods like meats remain tender and moist.
  • Quick release with caution: Quick release involves manually venting the steam from the pressure cooker using the release valve. While this method is faster, it can also cause food to become overcooked or mushy if you’re not careful. To avoid this, always use a utensil to turn the release valve and keep your hands away from the steam.
  • Invest in accessories: While pressure cookers are incredibly versatile on their own, investing in a few accessories can take your cooking game to the next level. From silicone steamer baskets and trivets to egg racks and cheesecake pans, there are countless accessories available that can help you get the most out of your pressure cooker.
  • Don’t forget to deglaze: One of the best parts of pressure cooking is that you can sauté and brown ingredients right in the pot before pressure cooking. This adds an extra layer of flavor to your dishes, but it also leaves behind delicious browned bits on the bottom of the pot. To unlock all that flavor, be sure to deglaze the pot with a splash of liquid like broth or wine before pressure cooking.

With a little practice, you’ll discover why pressure cookers are the ultimate kitchen tool for busy cooks and why they have been best sellers for years. So dust off that pressure cooker, roll up your sleeves and join in the movement of taking back your time.

How do you use your Instant Pot? Do you have a different brand you love? We love hearing from you! Join the discussion on our Facebook page!

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