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17 Instant Pot Tips For Beginners

This wonder of a machine can be really intimidating when you take it out of the box. Let's fix that!

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1. The cook time listed in your recipe is not the total amount of time it will take.

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Nearly every recipe will make it seem that way, but it's not: the Instant Pot needs time to heat up before it starts to cook and needs time to release the pressure afterwards. Add about 10 minutes to the total cook time, mentally, every time you see a suggested number and you'll always have a better idea of the actual cook time.

2. You don't have to thaw frozen foods before cooking them in an Instant Pot.

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Skip the defrosting process and add your frozen veggies, fruits, and any other frozen ingredients right into your pot. You won't taste the difference, but you may find that you want to add a little more cook time to the meal if cooking with primarily frozen ingredients.

3. You can use dry beans and grains without soaking or cooking them first.

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The beauty of the Instant Pot is how quickly it cooks your food all at once, especially with dried ingredients. My go-to's for after work are split-pea soup, spanish rice, and lentil dal — based on the dry ingredients I keep in mason jars.

4. But you should still rinse your dry legumes and grains before adding them into your pot.

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It's always a good idea to run your grains through water before cooking because you never really know where it's been. This should not be a difficult or drawn-out process — any colander or strainer will do — and will result in you eating the cleanest food possible.

Some people even suggest soaking beans in water for about an hour before cooking as a way to combat gas.

5. Don't forget to set the venting knob before you set your cooking function.

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Believe me, it happens. When I first started using the Instant Pot I definitely messed up and forgot about setting the venting knob until halfway through the cook time, or worse — at the end. This won't ruin your food (or hasn't in my case!) and if you do forget, you can just run the recipe through the set amount of time again.

6. Learn the difference between Natural Release and Quick Release.

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Quick release: This is done by turning the venting knob and takes about 1 to 2 minutes to release.

Natural release: This is when you leave the venting knob alone and let the machine naturally allow for the pressure drop slowly over a span of 15 minutes or so — you'll know it's done when the pin (next to the venting knob) drops.

7. Don't underestimate the Instant Pot's sauté function.

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The Instant Pot also doubles as a frying pan, which will save you so much time! Many recipes will call for you to sauté garlic and/or onions with the sauté function on the Instant Pot for a few minutes before dumping all of the other ingredients in. This is great for a one-stop place for cooking, but will also cut down on the cooking time since the pot will already be hot. You can also experiment with cutting down on some of the oil: I've made this recipe and swapped the oil for water — and it was just as flavorful IMO.

8. Make sure you have at least 1/2 cup of liquid in the pot at all times.

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It's important to have at least 1 cup of water, broth, or other liquid in your Instant Pot meals. Pressure cooking relies on steam, and if you don't have enough moisture in your meal it won't be cooked correctly or will burn.

9. And be careful not to fill your pot with too many liquids.

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When pressure cooking you should fill the pot 2/3 with ingredients because too much water will dilute the flavor of your food. If cooking foods that expand while you cook, like grains, beans, and dried foods) you should keep it around halfway full.

10. You can cook foods in glass jars inside of your Instant Pot.

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Instant Pot-ception! As long as they're glass and smaller than the bowl, it should work. You can make steel-cut oats, eggs, and yogurt with this method.

11. The Instant Pot may not give you perfect rice every single time you make it.

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Not every function on the Instant Pot is 100% perfect, and for me, that's been the case with the rice cooker. Rice perfectionists will tell you that the IP isn't a replacement for a rice cooker. The main complaint is that it's inconsistent. Something like barley takes about 25 to 30 minutes to cook and has a 1:4 grain to water ratio, while quinoa can take 8 minutes with a 1:2 ratio. Make sure you consult the guide to make sure you're cooking your grains correctly. I've heard that using the "Rice" function with white rice does work, though, so experiment for a while until you find what you like!

However, it goes a pretty good job (especially when making a rice recipe — not just plain rice) when using the proper times for the style of rice. It's not bad by any means, but you might want to consider the features that matter to you most when it comes to cooking your rice in the IP or a rice cooker. I actually have and use both, so that it's easy to make a recipe in the Instant Pot and have a cup or so of plain rice ready and waiting to go.

12. The sealing ring can easily be taken out for cleaning or replaced.

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A common complaint among Instant Pot devotees is how the sealing ring will often times pick up the scent of the food being made inside of it. Some people remedy this by cleaning the ring often, others have a ring for each scent family ("sweet," "spicy," etc.), and still others wind up replacing it every once in a while. For what it's worth, in three months of daily use mine doesn't smell at all — and I don't do anything particularly crazy to clean it.

14. Clean leftover residue at the bottom of your pan with aluminum foil.

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Sometimes you may improvise a recipe that doesn't have quite enough liquid in it, leaving the bottom to burn. What should you do when this happens? Soak the pan in warm water and dish soap and then crumble a piece of tinfoil into a ball and use that to scrub it all off. Easy peasy!

15. Use oven mitts when handling the inner pot, colander, and any other metal or glass bowls inside of your pot.

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It gets HOT inside of there and you *will* get burned if you touch these. Please learn from my mistakes.

16. Consider purchasing a second inner pot.

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This was one of the first tips given to me when I first started with my Instant Pot, and I didn't get it. Flash forward a few months and I've run into enough instances where I've made one meal in the IP and not wanted to wait to wash the inner pot to make something again. You may find that you're a "one pot meal" kind of person, and that's fine! But if you use your Sundays for back-to-back meal prep for the week, you're probably going to want to get a second inner pot to save you some washing time.

Do you have other tips for those who are just starting out with the Instant Pot? Tell us in the comments!

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