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Becoming a Pressure Cooker Pro

Last week I shared all the sales I could find on the InstantPot.  LOTS of you ordered one, so I want to help with the “it’s here, now what?” part of learning how to cook with an electric pressure cooker.  Here are my best trips for beginners who want to become pressure cooker pros.

First, grab my free Pressure Cooker 101 ebook in our new resource library.

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Sign up here and you’ll receive a password to access all our goodies including this ebook.  It’s the same manual I teach from during live classes at Huntington’s Kitchen.  It’s walk you through the basics and help you with a few quick, easy recipes so that you can break in your pressure cooker and start building your confidence.

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And here are some tried-and-true basics you’ll need to know:

You need at least 1 C of water for the pot to come to pressure.
It doesn’t have to be water.  It can be any combination of liquids that add up to 1 C EXCEPT oil.  You may use oils IN recipes, but not as the only liquid.  That creates a situation where you are essentially pressure frying the food.  The IP isn’t designed for that and it’s mega dangerous.  So don’t do it.  🙂  Oil is fine as an ingredient, but not as your 1 C of liquid needed to reach pressure.  Liquids I’ve used in recipes: tomato juice, chicken/beef stock, beer, and marinades.

Never QR a dish that is primarily meat.
The ebook will teach you about the difference between QR and NPR.  Basically QR = Quick Release and allows you to open the pressure cooker almost immediately after it finishes cooking.  NPR = Natural Pressure Release and involves letting the pressure come down naturally.  NPR times vary based on the dish, but for the purposes of any of my recipes, +/- 10 mins should be plenty of time for NPR.  It may still release some steam, but it shouldn’t be a big deal.  The reason you ALWAYS NPR meats (think roast or weekly chicken, not a soup with a meat in it like taco soup) is because the quick release can dry out your cut of meat and make it tough.  Nobody wants that.  So give any meat dishes about 10 minutes before you release the steam and open the lid.

Don’t mess with your pot while it’s under pressure.
Electric Pressure Cookers have a ton of safety features to keep you from opening it when you shouldn’t.  And the InstantPot in particular has even more.  But don’t test those features.  Just leave the pot alone while it’s cooking.  And don’t forget that the metal panels on top get VERY hot.  The sides and plastic pieces are fine, but the two metal parts get toasty.  Leave em alone.

If adding water to a soup, add it to the top and don’t stir it in.
This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is helpful to ensure that the liquid in the soup isn’t too thick.  By leaving water at the top, you ensure that the pot can come to pressure quickly because it’s not having to pull water out of a thick soup to get going.

To speed up time to pressure, use hot water when possible.
Recipes built for the pressure cooker don’t include the time it takes for the pot to reach pressure because that time is so varied based on the recipe, the temperature of your ingredients, and the makeup of your foods.  You can I could make the same recipe, but you use frozen chicken and I use fresh.  Our cook times will be the same, but our time to pressure will be longer for you because the chicken is frozen.  Hot water can help get things to temp and therefore to pressure much more quickly.

Don’t be afraid to use your own recipes.
While there are a bazillion recipes out there already modified to fit the electric pressure cooker, you aren’t tied to those.  If you have a great soup recipe from your grandmother, use it.  Throw the ingredients into the IP and it “soup.”

Don’t not cook zucchini noodles under pressure.
They disappear.  #lifelesson #learnfrommymistakes

If your food is not still undercooked when you open the IP, put it back in and add some more time.
Nothing lost.  This happens sometimes.  Just cook it a little longer.

To thicken soups, use “Sauté” after the cooking cycle ends.
Things like chili need time to cook down.  Open the lid, turn it on sauté, and stir while it cooks down.  Water doesn’t evaporate under pressure cooking, so if you want to cook out some of the water, you’ll have to do it afterwards.

Surface area is key.
So if you can cut a potato or roast in half, it’ll speed up the cook time because you’re creating more surface area.  For this reason, I always do roasts in halves or thirds.

And finally, here are some of my favorite resources for IP recipes, tips, and tricks:

MacroEd Pressure Cooker Recipes

If we’ve tested it in the IP, it should be here.

Pinterest
There are TONS of recipes that have been modified to work in an electric pressure cooker.  Check out the link above for our Pinterest page.  For more, search “electric pressure cooker,” “instantpot,” or “IP” recipes.

Hip Pressure Cooking
HPC has a lot of helpful info on cooking times.  There’s a lot of useful information, but this chart is what I use most often.  Definitely check out their other things too.

InstantPot Community on Facebook.
Lots of helpful advice and feedback.  Use the search feature to look for your question/keyword.  It’s likely been answered before you even ask.  Great resource.

Button Equivalencies
And if you don’t have an InstantPot brand electric pressure cooker, here’s a list of time equivalencies for the IP pre-set buttons.  (For instance, if the recipe says “hit the soup button,” you’ll need to know how to replicate that on your pot.  I try to include equivalencies in my recipes, but sometimes miss one and some other recipes don’t include them at all.)

Now that your InstantPot is here, it’s time to unbox that puppy and learn how to use it.  I hope these tips have been helpful.

Catch our classes:

at Huntington’s Kitchen: Huntingtons-Kitchen.org/classes
at Wholi Moli: next class is March 7, from 6-8p.  Call Jamie at 304.733.5056 to register.  Cost: $15
at Your House, Online Webinar:  Join me online from the comfort of your house on Monday, Feb 20 from 6-8p EST and I’ll give you a front row seat to the same class I teach in person.  Recordings will be sent out afterwards so you can rewatch, pause, and replay at your convenience.  Register here.

Which to Buy:

There are many different brands and styles, but we adore the InstantPots.  The 6-in-1 serves as a pressure cooker, sauté pan, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and a warmer.  The 7-in-1 has all the features of the 6-in-1 plus the ability to make yogurt.  We use both in our homes and classes and have been very pleased with the quality, durability, and safety of them.

Accessories:

Sealing Ring:  If you intend to make both savory AND sweet dishes in your electric pressure cooker, it’s worth investing in a separate sealing ring because they can retain the smell and faint flavor of what they cook.  We have one for savory and a separate, differently-colored one for sweet items like cheesecakes.  You can find extra rings here.
Glass lid:  You may have a lid already in your cupboard that fits your InstantPot, but if not, it’s worth purchasing one so that you can cover your food if you store it in the refrigerator.  This is the one we’d recommend.
Silicone Colander: These are great for cradling eggs or steaming veggies.  We’re in love with this one.
Cheesecake Pan:  After the first 5 minutes of hanging out in the Facebook Instant Pot Community, you’re going to be drooling over IP cheesecakes.  Only certain pans will fit into the pressure cooker.  Here’s our suggestion for one that will work.
Extra Liner:  You may find yourself wanting to use the liner you cooked in as a storage container when you make something like a pot of soup.  If you’ll need more than one liner, stick with ones from InstantPot designed for this purpose like this one.

For pressure cooker veterans, what tips would you add to this list?  For newbies, what other questions do you have that we can answer in a future post?  Tell me in comments.

All the best,

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Looking for more recipes?  Check out our online recipe book!

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And don’t forget, our FREE Pressure Cooker 101 ebook is waiting for you in our resource library.

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