The Instant Pot is a fantastic tool in the kitchen. It makes things like slow cooking a roast or making bone broth or Greek yogurt so much faster to do, and it can even help you make a pasta dish or a vegetable side dish in just minutes.
All of these things seem a little too good to be true, but they are what makes the Instant Pot so wonderful. If you still have questions about your Instant Pot – how to use it, how not to use it, and what you can make in it – read through our list of common Instant Pot questions to make sure you’ve got all the info you need.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Instant Pot
#1 Is the Instant Pot safe?
This is a basic question, but it is asked more times than any other question. It’s easy to be fearful of a machine that builds pressure and can cause injury. However, there is nothing to worry about if you use the Instant Pot properly.
The Instant Pot is a popular kitchen appliance and many people use it without incident. However, like any appliance, there is always the potential for injury if not used properly. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using the Instant Pot and follow them closely.
There are a lot of safety mechanisms on the Instant Pot that keep it safe to use. These features weren’t available on a traditional pressure cooker, so you can rest easy that the pot is safe.
- Steam release valve
- Anti-Block Shield
- Safety Lid Lock
- Lid Position Detection
- Automatic Temperature Control
- Overheat (Burn) Protection
- Automatic Pressure Control
- Electrical Fuse
#2 What is a Quick Release vs a Natural Release?
When you read an Instant Pot recipe, it will likely say whether you should do a quick release (QR) or a natural release (NR) of the pressure. What this means is whether you should allow the pot to come down in pressure naturally or whether you should stop the pressure immediately by releasing the pressure yourself. Which one you do has an affect on the food.
When you’re cooking something that can’t get overcooked, like a roast or soup, you can allow the pressure to release naturally. To do this, you do nothing essentially. When the float valve goes down, it is safe to open the lid. Some foods, like chicken breast or rice, can’t be held under pressure past the cooking time, so you will need to release the pressure yourself. You do this by opening the pressure valve, which allows the steam to rapidly escape.
#3 Can I double a recipe in the Instant Pot?
Some recipes can be doubled in the Instant Pot, while others cannot. The general rule is that you can only double a recipe if the ingredients don’t exceed the Instant Pot’s max line. If the recipe you’re working from is small, you can usually double it without issue. However, if you’re making soup and to double it would be very close to the max fill line, you should err on the side of caution and only add 50% more.
Another thing you need to be careful of is cooking rice or things that expand. You should never fill the pot more than 1/2 way full with rice. If you have any questions about a specific recipe and whether it can be doubled, please ask.
If you’re making a 6-quart recipe in an 8-quart machine, you can always double the recipe.
#4 What is the trivet used for?
Many recipes do not use the trivet. These are any foods that have enough liquid in them to cook the food, like soups and roasts – foods where the water content doesn’t negatively affect the food.
You would use the trivet when you want to raise the food above the water, for things like chicken breast or steamed vegetables that can’t sit directly in the liquid. You can also use the trivet when cooking pot-in-pot. You would pour the water into the inner pot, set in the trivet, then put the pot you wish to cook the food in on top of the trivet.
#5 Can I make a recipe using frozen meat?
Yes, you can use frozen meat to make a recipe. For instance, a chicken fried rice or chicken and rice bowls. The frozen chicken will cook in almost the same amount of time as fresh meat. Just put the frozen meat into the dish and cook it for 1 minute extra.
#6 Do I have to adjust the cook time if I change the amount of ingredients?
In general, you do not need to adjust the amount of cook time if you change the volume of ingredients. For instance, if you have chosen to double a soup recipe, it will not take more time to cook just because you doubled it. The pressure in the Instant Pot will allow the food to cook at the same rate.
The times that you will have to change the cook time are if the food is frozen when you put it in, or if the food is a lot thicker than what is called for. For instance, if you are making a pork roast that is 3 pounds instead of 2, or pork steaks that are 3″ thick rather than 1″ thick. You will need to add approximately 2 minutes extra cook time for these scenarios.
#7 What should I not cook in an Instant Pot?
The things that don’t cook well in an Instant Pot are delicate vegetables that don’t require a lot of cooking, like broccoli, and meats that need to be seared, like steak or burgers; and breaded meats, which will come out soggy.
Some vegetables can be cooked in the Instant Pot with zero minutes of cook time and they won’t be overdone. You can also use the steam mode rather than high pressure.
Another thing that cannot be cooked in the Instant Pot directly in the inner pot is any food that doesn’t require water or can’t be submerged in water. The Instant Pot needs water to pressurize, so you can’t put dry foods directly in the inner pot and cook them. You will get the burn notice.
To bypass this limitation, you can use a pot-in-pot cooking method that allows you to raise the food out of the water in another pan. You add the water to the inner pot and it cooks the food in the pan.
#8 How do I adjust Instant Pot recipes for a 3-quart Instant Pot?
If you have a 3-quart Instant Pot, which is fantastic for cooking smaller amounts of things for just 1 or 2 people, you can easily adjust the recipe by cutting the ingredients in half and just using the same cook time.
#9 What are the best things to cook in an Instant Pot?
Meats that require a long cook time, like roasts and whole chickens, are great when cooked in the Instant Pot, because the pressure helps cook it faster and more evenly. If you often cook things from frozen, like chicken or pork, you can cook them without thawing in the Instant Pot. Dried beans that take a long time to soak and then cook are also great to make. I make a lot of bone broth, because it can be made in a fraction of the time.
#10 Can you leave the house with the Instant Pot on?
While it’s never a good idea to run an electrical appliance when you’re not there to monitor it, you can leave the Instant Pot alone while it’s cooking thanks to the many safety features that are built in. It’s very unlikely that anything would go wrong that wouldn’t be mitigated by the safety features. Just as you would plug in a slow cooker and leave it to cook for the day, you can do the same with the Instant Pot.
The worst thing that is likely to happen is that the water dissipates and the food burns, but the Instant Pot will shut off automatically when a burn is detected.
#11 Have any Instant Pots exploded?
The Instant Pot comes with 13 built-in safety features that prevent it from mistakes that might cause an explosion. For instance, if the pressure or temperature gets too high, the machine will shut off. If a burn is detected, the machine will shut off. There have been a few incidents of Instant Pots exploding, but this is usually due to a faulty machine or inappropriate usage.
#12 What pots can I use in the Instant Pot?
When cooking pot-in-pot, there are specific pots you can use safely in the Instant Pot. Typically anything that is oven safe can be used, but you want to be very careful using glass because any imperfection can cause the glass to break.
I like to use only stainless steal and silicon pots. There are many different versions made by Instant Pot for use in the machine. You can also get one from another brand, as long as it fits and is oven safe.
#13 What do I do if my Instant Pot says “BURN”?
The burn notice is a safety mechanism on the Instant Pot that keeps food from burning and possibly setting a fire. If your pot doesn’t have enough liquid, or a piece of food because stuck to the bottom of the pot, it will begin to burn.
To avoid this, always add at least 1 cup of water to a 6-quart and 1 1/2 cups of water to an 8-quart. Be sure to deglaze the pot after sautéing or cooking anything that sticks to the bottom. If your pot says burn, turn it off and release the pressure, then try to assess what went wrong. If the food isn’t yet burned, you can salvage it by adding more water, or by removing the food to deglaze the pan, then starting over.
#14 What do I do when the Instant Pot won’t pressurize and start cooking?
You’ve closed the lid and set the time. The machine has tried to pressurize, but it just doesn’t get up to full pressure and start cooking. This can happen when the seal isn’t fitted properly or when food or other debris is caught in the anti-block shield.
To fix you, take the lid off, remove the silicon seal ring. Inspect the ring for cracks, tears, or food particle. If it’s damaged, replace the seal. If not, clean it. Also check there isn’t anything obstructing the anti-block shield. Then reseat the seal and try again. If the machine still just hisses and doesn’t seal, push down on the lid to lodge the seal. If that doesn’t work, replace the seal.
#15 Does the Instant Pot really cut down on cooking time?
The Instant Pot has the potential to cut down on cooking time for a lot of foods, like roasts and tough meats that need a long time to become tender, or soups that need a lot of time to develop flavor.
Even if you’re cooking something like spaghetti, it can be faster. You can cook the pasta and the sauce at the same time and it takes just 5 minutes to come up to pressure and 8 minutes to cook, with a quick pressure release.
However, it doesn’t always result in a time savings, especially because there is always an initial pressurizing time and a depressurizing time that has to be added. If you’re cooking hard boiled eggs, for instance, it will take 5 minutes to pressurize and 9 minutes to cook. It would take this same amount of time on the stove top, so there is no time savings.
There are many scenarios you will face with your Instant Pot that you might not be comfortable with because you don’t know what to expect. This list of common Instant Pot questions can help you become more familiar and more comfortable with your electric pressure cooker.
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Laura is a passionate home cook and the owner of A Pressure Cooker Kitchen. She is dedicated to helping people create delicious Instant Pot meals with ease. Laura is an expert at developing recipes that can be prepared quickly and easily using a pressure cooker.