People like me who have limited kitchen space can’t afford to keep single-use appliances or cooking utensils. I always look for such products that have several purposes or functions. Luckily, a few months back, I came across an amazing instant pot that is perfect for people with limited kitchen space like me. Since it was a multi-purpose product, I had to try it. An instant pot is a seven-in-one cooker that functions as a rice cooker, slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, warmer, steamer, sauté pan, and yogurt maker, all in one.
However, at first, it was a little tricky for me to use it. I was ready to start cooking nutritious meals for my family, but the first few days didn’t go as planned. Nevertheless, I’m an expert in cooking food in an instant pot now after a few awkward mistakes. In this article, I’m sharing ten things that everyone must do with their instant pot, which I have learned from my experiences. So, if you’re planning on buying an instant pot or have already bought one, do go through this article as it can save you from making some avoidable mistakes.
1. Cook meat longer than the time listed on the pot
This might sound weird, but for meat, go at least twice the time it tells you. When I first tried cooking beef in my pot, I ended up with the toughest raw meat pieces. It felt like I had only boiled them for just fifteen minutes, but they were inside the pot for about thirty-five minutes (which is also not technically enough for cooking beef). The saddest part was that everything went to waste – all the seasonings and ingredients I used, everything. However, the next time, I used the manual option and cooked beef twice as longer than I did before, and the result was incredibly brilliant!
2. Never doubt its ability to cook rice
Due to my first failed experience of cooking beef, I became very cautious about its time settings. When I tried cooking brown rice in it, the screen set the timer for fifteen minutes, which made me uncomfortable as brown rice usually takes up to forty minutes when cooked on a stove or in a regular rice cooker. Even though I wanted to give it a try, I increased its time manually, which overcooked the rice. At that point, I understood that I shouldn’t doubt its single time setting. On my second try, it cooked amazingly perfect rice in just fifteen minutes.
3. Add water whenever necessary (almost always)
You need to add water whenever you think you require it. The pot won’t ask you to do so and neither can you find it in the manual as it is a common thing that every person who cooks knows. For tenderizing meat, you’ll require steam, and there is only one way to make your cooker steamy, and that’s by adding water. You need to add at least a half cup of water, depending on your food.
4. You can even steam beef
You must be thinking that steaming beef is the worst way to cook it. It makes the meat dry, stringy, and tough. However, this is not the case with an instant pot. It uses steam to cook almost all sorts of food, including beef and gives excellent results. This is because the steam in this pot is under extreme pressure, forcing its way into the strands of the meat and breaking the fiber down pretty quickly, which makes it softer and juicier.
5. The sauté feature is not limited to sautéing veggies
The sauté function can be used for a variety of things. Through the sauté button, I have browned and seared meat before the actual cooking to soften it and give it a nice, complex flavor. I even cooked pasta through this feature. Just turn on the sauté function, boil the water, add pasta, and cooked until it’s done. It works excellently for making soup and can be used for thickening sauces too. I added cornstarch and a little amount of cold water to my already-prepared chicken curry, added it to the pot, turned it to sauté, and my sauce thickened within minutes.
6. Let it depressurize by itself
I’ve also learned that venting it manually (Quick Release, QR) isn’t the right thing when you’re cooking meat. It’s fine for veggies, though. When I vented it immediately, it turned my meat leather-like because of the quick change in temperature. Always leave the meat for ten minutes after the cooking time and vent it by pushing down on the knob (which is called Natural Pressure Release, NPR).
7. Meat should be placed at the bottom
Putting your food in order is important while cooking in an instant pot. It worked out best for me when I put the meat on the bottom, which is the correct way.
8. Pasta should be placed at the top
As you can make everything in one pot, you have to be careful with the food placement since it is a pressure cooker and slow cooker at the same time. When I cooked pasta in this pot, I didn’t try to submerge it in the liquid; instead, I placed the meatballs at the bottom and the pasta at the top. The pasta was cooked thoroughly with the help of steam and not a single strand got stuck to the base.
9. Place frozen meat without hesitation
Frozen meat isn’t suggested to be put in a slow cooker for an extended period, especially if it’s a thick roast. However, with an instant pot, there are no such limitations. I have placed everything, from frozen hamburgers to steak, and it worked completely fine.
10. Be careful while using dairy products
For me, using dairy products didn’t turn out as expected. The pressure and high heat can separate the milk proteins (curdling) to a high degree, which is awful. It is safe to eat, but it makes the food less appetizing. I also made creamy spaghetti with whipped cream and cheese, but that turned out surprisingly great. The pot was a little scorched from the bottom, but the food was great. Hence, this issue may not necessarily be with all dairy items but milk in particular.