Now that fall weather has arrived, my craving for soup is back with a vengeance! I used to reserve my soup-making for specific occasions, since it’s a pain to have to simmer a soup on the stovetop for hours. But now that I have my trusty Instant Pot, I can easily make soup whenever I like! Making soup in the Instant Pot is so much faster than other methods, and it usually results in less cleanup too. That’s a win-win situation if you ask me! :-) Cooking just about anything in my Instant Pot is a breeze these days, but it wasn’t always that way!
While the Instant Pot is an invaluable tool that I would recommend to anyone, there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to operating it. During my first dozen or so attempts at using my Instant Pot, I think I made just about every mistake in the book! It was disheartening at the time, but I learned a lot from those mistakes. So today I thought I would put that knowledge to good use by sharing some tips for avoiding common Instant Pot pitfalls and mistakes! Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be an Instant Pot pro in no time. :-)
Author’s Note: This post may be a bit confusing if you’re unfamiliar with Instant Pot terminology. If you’d like a quick overview or refresher about how the Instant Pot works, check out my introductory post at the link below!
9 Instant Pot Mistakes You Should Avoid
Mistake #1: Forgetting To Add Liquid
Pressure cookers like the Instant Pot require a certain amount of liquid in order to create the steam that will pressurize the pot. Without liquid, your Instant Pot will never come to pressure—a lesson that I learned the hard way! Be sure to add a minimum of 1 cup of liquid to your Instant Pot before cooking. (Any liquid will work, even sauces.)
Mistake #2: Overfilling The Pot
Pay attention to the “Max Fill Line” on the inner pot. It’s there for a reason! The pot requires a certain amount free space for the pressure cooking process to work correctly. When cooking beans or other foods that expand while cooking, never fill your Instant Pot more than halfway.
Mistake #3: Adding Thickeners And Dairy Before Cooking
There are two things you should only add after the pressure cooking is done—thickening agents and dairy. Thickening agents tend to do strange things in a pressure cooker, so wait until after cooking to use them. (I like to leave the cooking liquid in my Instant Pot, sprinkle in a bit of cornstarch, then use the Sauté function to make an easy sauce!) Dairy has an unfortunate tendency to curdle under pressure, so you definitely want to wait to add cream or other dairy ingredients until after you’ve cooked something.
Mistake #4: Failing To Seal The Steam Valve
Don’t forget to turn the steam valve on top of your Instant Pot to “Sealing” before cooking! If the steam valve is left open in the “Venting” position, the pot won’t come to pressure and you’ll end up frustrated and hungry! If your steam valve doesn’t seem to be sealing properly, you may need to clean the valve guard. Remove it from the underside of the lid and use a toothpick to dislodge any food bits that may be stuck to it.
Mistake #5: Using The Same Sealing Ring For Everything
The sealing ring on the underside of your Instant Pot lid helps to create a tight seal between the lid and pot during cooking. This seal is made of silicone, a durable material that has the unfortunate tendency of absorbing food smells. If you use the same sealing ring to make cheesecake after using it to make fajitas, you may accidentally end up with fajita-flavored cheesecake! The easiest way to avoid this is to buy a few spare sealing rings, so you can keep sweet and savory flavors separate.
Mistake #6: Not Accounting For Pressurizing Time
Let’s say you’re looking at a delicious Instant Pot recipe, which says to cook the food on High Pressure for 15 minutes. But that doesn’t necessarily mean your food will be ready in 15 minutes! The 15-minute cook time will only start once the pot has built up enough pressure inside. Your Instant Pot can take from 10-20 minutes to pressurize before the cook time starts, so be sure to factor that time in when planning your meals!
Mistake #7: Using Quick Release With A Full Pot
If your Instant Pot is more than half full, do not use the Quick Release method to immediately depressurize the pot. If you do, food bits will start spewing out of the valve and make a real mess of your kitchen! (This is especially true for oats, beans, and other “foamy” foods.) Instead, keep mess to a minimum by letting the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes before using the Quick Release valve.
Mistake #8: Forgetting To Replace The Inner Pot
It’s very convenient to be able to remove the inner pot for cleaning, but don’t forget to put it back in! It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s actually a pretty common mistake. You don’t want to start putting food in your Instant Pot, only to realize you forgot to put the inner pot back in! That would not only be a huge mess for you to clean up, but it could also damage the electrical components inside.
Mistake #9: Underutilizing The Sauté Function
Don’t underestimate the power of the Sauté function on your Instant Pot! By taking a few extra minutes to sear meat or sauté veggies or aromatics (like garlic and onion) before pressure cooking, you can add a much deeper flavor to your finished product. It’s easy to do, and you don’t even have to worry about dirtying another pot or pan!
Armed with these tips, you can go forth and use your Instant Pot expertly and with confidence! :-)