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Avoid These 9 Mistakes When You Use Your Instant Pot

instant pot mistakes

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!

Related: If You’re New To The Instant Pot, Here’s What You Need To Know

9 Instant Pot Mistakes You Should Avoid

Instant Pot Mistakes

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.)

Instant Pot Mistakes

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.

Related: These Instant Pot Dry Beans Don’t Need Any Pre-Soaking

Instant Pot Mistakes

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 in Instant Pot recipes that call for a thickener, 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.

Instant Pot Mistakes

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.

Instant Pot Mistakes

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!

Extra sealing rings are one of the most vital Instant Pot accessories you can have on hand, so avoid this issue by buying a few dedicated sealing rings for sweet recipes and a few for savory.

Instant Pot Mistakes

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. This is especially important for foods like boiled eggs, since cooking a few minutes too long – or too short – can ruin the meal!

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!

Instant Pot Mistakes

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.

Instant Pot Mistakes

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.

Instant Pot Mistakes

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! :-)

Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.
I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Food & Recipes

  • So far we have made three meals in our instant pot the best was a pot roast and absolutely loved it it was cooked perfect I was a little nervous especially with the pressure but I figured it out and will continue to use it whenever I find a recipe that looks interesting The biggest surprise was hard boiled eggs they are beautiful yellow and so creamy

  • I would add “Don’t store your Instant Pot sealed.”

    I store mine with the lid turned upside down and the sealing ring loosely laid on it, rather than in the sealing position. I do this after cleaning the ring in the dishwasher, and I’ve never had a problem with ring odor.

  • Thanks, Jillee, for all your tips on using & caring for an Instant Pot. We haven’t had ours too long, & your information has really helped me understand this appliance better. Like you, I’ve made several mistakes along the way already, but fortunately nothing major. I’ve cooked 3 IP meals & my husband has been pretty happy with all of them (sometimes recipes you’ve cooked the regular way don’t taste exactly the same from an IP, which he’s not wild about, but that can be dealt with by making only new recipes in it.) I’m enjoying the incredible speed & convenience of an IP. It’s wonderful! Thanks again for your information & encouragement.

    • I agree with the “difference’ resulting from different cooking methods. I find that IP foods tend to be blander (because liquid doesn’t evaporate) and have remedied this by adding additional seasoning at the end and letting it simmer on the “saute” setting for 10 minutes or so.

  • When I first got my IP for Christmas I used it for everything. Now, I exclusively use it for yogurt. Every 3 days I make a whole pot and it is so easy and so delicious. Not to say it is cheaper than buying yogurt because I only use the best organic, grass-fed cow’s milk, but it is comforting to now what exactly I am eating.

  • Just used my IP for the first time. Did a few ribs – but they turned out to be just boiled meat as the book said to put at least 18oz of water in the pot. Not very tasty at all!

  • I always put a towel over the valve when releasing pressure. That way nothing can spew out. It also help the steam from rising to the ceiling. I would think after a while this would discolor the ceiling.

  • I have had my pot for almost two years. I wash the lid and ring often together and store the lid ring side up. There is no odor. I live with a smell detective! Once in awhile, I steam with lemon and water. I make lots of soups and lots of cheesecakes with no problem.

    • how to instapot by Daniel Shumski. He gives total cook time with the recipe. The recipes are easy. And he gives good advice for adapting recipes to the IP. One thing he recommends is starting a notebook for keeping notes on how things tuned out when using your IP. Keeping track of times and settings and other notes of changes made in the recipe would be of great help, instead of trying to remember what you did.

  • Great post! I hope you’re putting this on Facebook and I hope you can link it on the IP community on FB. So many newbies need this information!

  • What an awesome post! And so helpful. I bought my Instant Pot after reading your intro post about a year ago, but didn’t have much success with it. So there it sits on the shelf. I’m sure I was making some of these mistakes – especially the seal and valve ones. Thanks so much, Jillee! :-)

  • Don’t forget to put the sealing ring in the lid. Make sure the sealing ring is in correctly! It should not have any gaps. I’ve done both and ruined meals and an expensive roast I was preparing for guests!

    • I share your pain as I have forgotten to replace the ring after washing the lid and waited for it to seal. Time I will never get back…………………LESSON LEARNED………………………..

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