Instant Pot basics and recipes for beginners

Close up of the Instant Pot

You have probably heard about the Instant Pot, or its more basic description: a pressure cooker. Pressure cooking has its benefits, most notably in regards to time and energy, but it is also a great way to cook things in batches and ease your way into meal prep. I bought an Instant Pot around six months ago and while I did not believe in the “Instant Pot craze” at first, I quickly understood why people praised it so much. However, I was a bit intimidated by it and also scared that it would explode, so if you find yourself in the same situation, here some Instant Pot basics (and recipes) for beginners!

By the way, yes the featured picture is my Instant Pot and yes there are stains all over it. I accidentally made some of the soup splash on the outside and I didn’t notice when I took the pictures. Either way, the Instant Pot is 100% clean now, fear not.

What is an Instant Pot and what does it do?

An Instant Pot is, as I have said previously, a pressure cooker. But it is also, depending on the model you get, a : rice cooker, steamer, slow cooker, yogurt maker and warmer.

Model and size

Models

There are the LUX, DUO, DUO PLUS, SMART and ULTRA models. Each has its own characteristics and if you have some extra time in your hand, you can totally compare all of them. The most popular model is the DUO and that is the one I own. It is a great way to introduce you to the Instant Pot world.

Size

When it comes to sizes, there are 3, 5, 6 and 8-quart Instant Pots. Depending on the size of your household, you might want to go for the smallest or the biggest size available. I strongly recommend getting the 6-quart because even if your house is a couple (like mine), you might be into meal prepping or you might hold dinner parties. Having a bigger size can be good for these situations.

Instant Pot Picture

Instant Pot Terminology

There is a lot of terminology involved with the Instant Pot, and it is better to have a broad understanding of it because: most blogs online will use it (including me) and because it is a great way to introduce yourself to some Instant Pot basics. Here the full list of terms I have widely used since I have an Instant Pot.

Basic terms

  1. Instant Pot = IP = Pot
  2. High Pressure = HP
  3. Low Pressure = LP
  4. Natural Release = Natural Pressure Release = NR/NPR

This is when you choose to release the pressure of your Pot naturally aka, when the timer reaches 0:00, you don’t touch anything and you wait till the Floating Valve (Metal pin) is down.

  1. Quick Release = Quick Pressure Release = QR/QPR

The opposite of the Natural Release (NR), when the timer reaches 0:00, you turn the Venting Knob from Sealing Position to Venting Position. You will then let all the pressure inside the Pot be release and when the Floating Valve (metal pin) is down, you can open the lid.

Instant Pot Parts

  1. Sealing Ring

This part is super important to the pressure cooking process. Always make sure if its placed properly and it isn’t damaged.

  1. Sealing and Venting Position

These two are very important. The sealing position is what will allow the Instant Pot to build up the pressure. The venting position will allow it to release the pressure.

To set the Instant Pot to sealing or venting position, you need to use the Venting Knob.

  1. Venting Knob = Steam Release Valve

You turn the Venting Knob to Sealing Position after securing the lid and this will start the building up pressure process.

  1. Floating Valve = Pin = Metal Pin = Valve

The Metal Pin will go up (when the Pot has built enough pressure) and go down (when the Pot has depressurized).

The cooking process (timer) won’t go off till the Metal Pin is up. And you should not turn the venting Knob to venting position UNTIL the metal pin is down!

  1. Anti-block Shield

This is one of the many safety mechanisms of the Instant Pot (You can read more about them here). It can be a bit “tricky” to clean it the first time, so here a video that helped me understand better.

  1. Last but not least, the condensation collector

In your Instant Pot, there should be a flat plastic cup. You probably wondered what it was. It serves to collect the condensation that drips after you open the Instant Pot. I have never seen one drop of liquid in there, but I always use it because I have seen what happens if you don’t (Spoiler alert: it ain’t pretty).

The many many buttons of an Instant Pot

The Instant Pot comes with a lot of buttons but I have never used any button other than the “Manual/Pressure Cook” and the “Sauté” button. I think the more you use the Instant Pot, the more you get used to it and you understand better the timings of what you are cooking. Most recipes online will tell you to use this manual/pressure cook button and give you a time.

Why would I get an Instant Pot?

I did a lot of research before buying an Instant Pot because as with everything, there are pros and cons. In my own situation, the pros largely outweighed the cons, so I went and got myself one (and I do not regret it).

The main reasons why I got the Instant Pot were:

  • Time saving (relative, will develop further down)
  • Healthier eating
  • Unattended cooking
  • Energy saving
  • Less dishes
  • More flavor
  • Easier to meal prep
White beans stew cooking in the Instant Pot
One of the many recipes I do for my meal prep

Things to keep in mind BEFORE buying an Instant Pot

It is a time saving appliance but it isn’t always that way

Yes, the Instant Pot can be faster than cooking on the stove. But it isn’t always like that and sometimes it can take longer. What can be misleading is the recipe cooking time. The Instant Pot timing can be as short as 2 minutes, but that does not mean the recipe will be done in 2 minutes.

Basically the Instant Pot has three timings: building up the pressure, cooking and release timing. First one depends on the AMOUNT of liquid that there is inside and it is very hard to pin down to a precise number. It can go from 10 to 40 minutes. Cooking time is usually pretty low, depending again on what you are cooking. And release timing depends on whether you are doing a QR (Quick Release) or a NR (Natural release).

To give you an example, for a simple pasta dish with some veggies the timings would be the following (approximately):

  • Pressure time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 4 minutes
  • Release time: Quick Release, so just the time the Pot gets depressurized.

Total recipe time: Around 15 minutes.

Some people find it “tedious” to clean certain parts of the Instant Pot

The Instant Pot has three main parts: Body, pot and lid. The pot is easy to wash, but some people find tedious cleaning the inner ring of the lid. There are many tips out there on how to get rid of smells and what not, I personally follow this tip.


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Recipes for beginners

No Instant Pot Basics post can be complete without some recipes. I have featured many recipes since I got the Instant Pot and I want to continue doing so. The Instant Pot has been a game changer, specially for busy days and meal prepping. You can check out some of my best recipes here:

I don’t want to overwhelm you guys with a lot of Instant Pot basics content today, so I will see you next time with some extra tips & tricks. In the meantime, tell me if there are any specific questions you might have about the Instant Pot, and if you want to see something featured about it in the following posts!

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