How to cook with Instant Pot

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How to cook with Instant Pot


The pressure cookers like the Instant Pot brings a small revolution to our kitchens. This appliance is not suitable for all types of cooking but offers a multitude of possibilities to save time and energy in the kitchen.

Braised Beef shanks with carrots in the Instant Pot
Braised Beef shanks with carrots in the Instant Pot

Among other things, I find it great to cook some vegetables including beets (9 minutes for medium size), make yogurt, prepare a rice pilaf, pasta in sauce, broths and soups. Using the “saute” program and the slow cook slow  program like this beef steak with carrot dish, you have to wash only have to wash one pan.


The unit is quiet, very well insulated and is not hot to the touch with most programs. It is popular in hot weather for cooking recipes that take as long to cook as in the traditional way.

As it plugs anywhere you will like to include it in your luggage to prepare meals in a hotel room or camping. I even saw on a YouTube a trucker who cooks his meal while driving

Choice of models

The Instant Pot is available in several models and sizes of 3, 6 and 8 quarts. The 6-quart format is the most popular but if you cook for several people you may prefer to get an 8-quart. The Duo 9 in 1, Ultra and the New Max models have more cooking programs than older models. For example it is not possible to make yogurt or sterilize jars or bottles with models of the first generation.

Curently, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture does not recommend making canned food with a multicooker and I leave to my readers to decide whether or not to prepare or not  to prepare canned food with the Max sterilize program. Personally I stick to the recommendations of the USDA. The Max sterilize option indicates that canning is done at a pressure of 15 pounds which is usually required for canning but the USDA mentions that multicooker pressurization conditions are different from that of a canner used on a stove. The “sterilize” program at 11.6 pounds of other models is used to sterilize containers only. The “low” and “high” positions of the Max are almost equivalent to “low” and “high” of the other Instant Pot models. Cooking is slightly faster with a Max because its pressure is 12.6 psi at “high” while that of other models is 11.6 psi at high.

To Cook  sous-vide, you can use some models such as the Max and Duo Crisp appliances you can do it without an immersion sous-vide circulator. Refer to your user manual to check if it is possible to cook sous vide with it. The first Instant Pot Ultra’s user manual indicated that it was possible to do sous-vide cooking with it but the company has since removed this information from the manual and does not recommend it because the  variation of the temperature of +/-5 ° F  is not safe as sous-vide cooking requires a stable temperature. An immersion sous-vide circulator is recommended for any Instant Pot model which can be used in any of the Instant Pot models as well as a pan on the stove.

To determine which model suits you, I suggest you consult the online instruction manuals of the different models.


Extra utensils

Only glass, metal or silicone containers can be used to cook food in the Instant Pot. As the smell of food permeates the silicone seal and it persists even after a good cleaning, it is a good idea to get a second one. You will have one for savory food and one for sweet food.

  • A metal or silicone steam basket
  • Small silicone handles useful for handling the thin rim of the pan.
  • A 7-inch”springform mold, a souffle mold or Pyrex mold of the same shape are also practical.
  • A silicone sling is useful for removing pans or, a cake from the pressure cooker. Without a silicone sling you can make one with aluminum foil



Cooking Programs

Soup / Broth

The unit heats a little less with this program to give a better flavor to soups and broths.

Meat / Stew

In general, the low pressure “low” results in a tender meat while the highest “high” produces a meat that can be shredded.

Bean / Chili

The “high” selection makes soft beans while with “low” you get firmer beans.


This setting is used to make cakes. With this program pastries do not brown like in a conventional oven. A 7 inch “hinge mold is useful for this program.


This setting is use to cook soft-boiled eggs and boiled eggs. You will find that the white of the cooked egg is softer.


The outer wall of the Instant Pot is very hot in this mode. It is used to simmer, sauté or sear foods. It is best to set more time than expected to ensure that the appliance will not stop heating during cooking. When done, press the cancel button. You can start cooking as soon as the inner pot is in preheating mode. This mode is frequently used following another program such as for thickening a sauce.


This program is used to cook all kinds of white rice and the device determines the cooking time as the rice cookers do. The “low” selection produces a lighter rice while “high” results in a slightly more sticky rice. When the alarm sounds at the end of cooking let the rice stand 10 minutes before releasing the pressure. Brown rice is cooked in the “multigrain” program or in “pressure or manual” mode, referring to the time suggested in the recipe booklet. Personally I keep my rice cooker handy when I cook a dish that does not allow me to cook rice at the same time in the Instant Pot


This programme is used to cook brown rice and other grains as well as legumes. Some models have a 45-minute warm-soak mode before cooking the beans.


Use this program to steam with Instant Pot rack or metal or silicone steam basket. This program is mainly used for vegetables and eggs and the evacuation of steam is done immediately after cooking.


This program is used to cook oatmeal (but not fast cooking oatmeal 1 or 5 min; it’s faster in the microwave), grains and legumes. The pan should only be filled to more than half of its capacity. With this program we always evacuate the pressure in a natural way.

Slow cook

You can use this program to cook your favorite slow cooker recipes. Since the instant pot slow cooker does not work like another standard slow cooker, you need to slow cook at “high”. A glass cover of the right size can be used with this program and the standard cover of the Instant Pot is also suitable but it must be ensured that the button for the pressure is not activated.


This program has two functions, one to heat the milk and one to ferment the yogurt when the milk has cooled to the required temperature. Yogurt can be made by heating and cooling milk or with cold milk mixed with a culture or yogurt to ferment. We have tried both ways and prefer the taste of the yogurt made with heated milk. To find out what kind you will like most I suggest you try my recipes including a cold one. The button for the pressure should not be activated.


This program is used to sterilize jars of cans and bottles. We put water in the pan and place the pots on a rack. The company mention that the Max model, which has a higher pressure (15  pounds pressure) than the other models (11.6 pounds) can be used to preserve vegetables, meats, fish, poultry or sauces containing these foods.

On the other hand, by consulting the website of the USDA, National Center for Home Canning, I learned that curently this government agency does not approve making canned foods that require pressure in a multicooker. Pressurized cooking conditions in a multicooker are different than with conventional pressure cookers and tests have not yet been done to ensure that it is safe. To learn more, I invite you to read this article published on February 1, 2019.


The ultra program allows cooking with or without pressure. There is a “Custom” function for cooking without pressure which allows you to adjust temperature to the desired degree. Note that there is a minimum and maximum temperature preprogrammed by the company.


This setting is used to keep food warm. Some models like Ultra have this feature built into programs and it’s best to turn it “-off-” unless the recipe says to use it. By default the “warm” button is automatically activated for some programs on Instant Pot models. If the recipe says to cook with “warm to off” just press the button to turn it off.

Pressure or Manual

Whether your device has the Pressure or Manual button these two buttons have the same function. It’s only the name that’s different. You can prepare the same cooked meals with your pressure cooker that you can do on the stove. The cooking times may be longer because the Instant Pot cooks at a little lower pressure.

Pressure release

Quick pressure release, abbreviated QRP   is to evacuate the pressure with the steam evacuation button as soon as the end of cooking alarm sounds.It is mostly used for vegetables, eggs and quick recipes containing 1 cup or less of liquid.
Natural pressure release, abbreviation NPR  is to let evacuate steam naturally by letting go down the float valve (metal pin) without using the button to evacuate the steam. When the float valve is lowered the lid can be is mostly used when the pan is full, for legumes, soups, oatmeal and grains, fruits, compotes and jams.
Modified natural pressure release involves waiting for the time specified in the recipe before proceeding with the evacuation of the steam.


Important to know

  • If you’re new to using the Instant Pot or another multicooker, I suggest you cook recipes written specifically for the device for greater success. The recipes must be adapted to the different cooking modes of the appliance.
  • The preparation and cooking time of most Instant Pot recipes do not take into account the time the appliance takes to reach the desired pressure as well as the pressure release time. (Personally, I show a total time for my Instant Pot recipes so you have a good idea of ​​the time required.)
  • The cooking time does not vary with a larger amount of food; 3 chicken legs take the same cooking time as one leg. On the other hand, the appliance will take longer to reach the pressure before starting cooking if there is more food in the Instant Pot.
  • The pressure release can take from 1 to 2 minutes for vegetables or up to 30 minutes for another dish.
  • Instant Pot Max cooks at a higher pressure and cooks food faster than other “high” models
  • The Delay function will not be used often because it is not safe to pre-load perishable foods before you start cooking.
  • In Coco Morante’s book “The Ultimate Instant Pot Cookbook” I learned that we need to adapt recipes that contain tomato products and dairy products. A tablespoon of tomato paste requires 3/4 cup of water, 1 cup of canned tomato sauce requires 1 cup of water and 2 cups of diced tomatoes including the juice requires 1 cup of water.
  • Recipes that contain a lot of dairy products tend to stick or curdle so it is best to add them after the cooking is done.

Reasons for “burn” messages

  • Food sticks to the bottom of the inner pot because you have not or insufficiently deglazed with a liquid after cooking it to “sauté”.
  • Steam escapes through the improperly placed or defective sealing ring.
  • The steam exhaust button is not in the “sealing” position.
  • The float (metal pine) is not clean or is stuck.
  • The recipe does not contain enough liquid.
  • Food accidentally dropped directly on heating element and has not been sufficiently cleaned.
  • Some ingredients such as tomatoes, tomato paste or thick sauces have not been placed on top of ingredients and have been stirred in the preparation.
  • If messages appear very frequently for no apparent reason, the device may fail. Contact the company to verify if this is the case.

To avoid “burn” messages

  • Prepare tested and edited recipes for the Instant Pot and start adapting your recipes only when you have more experience with the device.
  • Always deglaze well and scrape the bottom of the inner pot with a wooden spoon or spatula after cooking food with the “sauté” function
  • Finish the sauces with flour or starch with the “sauté” function after depressurizing the appliance.
  • Use the “pot in pot” method (which consists of putting water and a support at the bottom of the container on which you place the baking dish) for dishes that tend to stick like a gratin for example. This method is often preferable for oatmeal and small amounts of rice.

What to do if there is a “burn” message

  • Cancel the program and immediately evacuate the steam.
  • Open the lid, carefully remove the inner pot and place it on a heat-resistant surface. Make sure that there is no food stuck on the heating element or in the bottom of the inner container.
  • Check if the sealing ring is in place and free from defects, the steam pressure release button is clean and that the float (metal pin) is free and moves freely.
  • Stir gently without scraping to check if food has stuck to the bottom of inner pot. Most of the time the food is not burnt and stuck to the bottom. There may not be enough liquid or tomatoes, tomato paste or thick sauce may have been stirred rather than placed on top of the ingredients.
  • If the food has burnt or stick, do not stir, pour the content into another Instant Pot or other container, clean the inner pot and cook again with a little more liquid.

Cooking vegetables

Vegetables are steamed  at “high” in a steam basket with 1 1/2 cups of water for the 6 (quart) liter pot or 2 cups of water for the 8 (quart) liter pot.

According to the tests that I have done with several kinds of vegetables, there are some that are delicious cooked in the Instant Pot while others have disappointed me. Vegetables from the cabbage family are best cooked in a large saucepan filled with boiling water without a lid. The sulfurous substances that make broccoli and brussels sprouts less tasty when cooked in a covered pan, evaporate in the air and preserve the color, freshness and delicate taste of these vegetables in the Instant Pot.

Since freshly picked vegetables take much less time to cook, so I prefer start by setting  less time and add more time as needed. With the fast releasing of the pressure it does not take much time to restart the unit.

Because of the time required to reach the desired pressure, you do not save time cooking whole potatoes.

These “high” cooking times are only a guide;  I will update this table when I try other vegetables.


VegetablesCooking time
Asparagus1 to 2 minutes
Beets (small)9 to 13 minutes
Carrotts, whole or in pieces4 to 6 minutes
Corn, fresh local3 minutes
Fennel bulb10 minutes
Green beans or Wax beans 1 to 2 minutes
Peas, frozen2 minutes

I hope this article will help you to prepare tasty meals with the Instant Pot. I’m going back to my kitchen to offer you even more Instant Pot recipes as good as recipes prepared in the conventional way.

See you soon,




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