While I’m a huge advocate of the Instant Pot (I actually own 3 of them at this point), I’ll be the first to admit that it has a bit of a learning curve. It takes some getting used to, but I’ve always believed that experience is the best teacher! The more you use your Instant Pot, the more comfortable you’ll feel using it. And eventually, you’ll be eager to try out more “advanced” Instant Pot cooking methods, like the one I’ll be sharing with you in today’s blog post!
Today’s post is all about “pot-in-pot cooking,” a really useful technique I’ve been experimenting with recently. The information in this post should be easy enough to understand, as long as you have a basic understanding of Instant Pot cooking. If you could use a little refresher course before diving in, I highly recommend reading the post at the link below!
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And for even more useful Instant Pot info, I also recommend checking out my eBook Everything Instant Pot! It’s a great resource for both beginners and experienced users alike. I personally reference it all the time, and I know you’ll find it just as useful as I do! (You can buy the eBook in my shop, or download it for free if you’re an OGT Plus member!)
Alright, now that you’re all up to speed, let’s dive right in!
What Is Pot-In-Pot Cooking?
Pot-in-pot cooking refers to the process of cooking food in a dish or container within your Instant Pot, usually with the aid of a trivet or steamer rack. Examples of pot-in-pot cooking include making my favorite Instant Pot Creme Brûlée, or making cheesecake in a springform pan.
One of the main advantages of pot-in-pot cooking is that you can use it to cook foods slower and more evenly than using the traditional Instant Pot methods.
Another advantage of pot-in-pot cooking is that you can use it to cook two things at once in your Instant Pot. For instance, you could cook a chicken dish directly in the inner pot, and set a container on a rack above it to cook rice. (For more on that, see item #6 under the header “6 Situations When You Should Use Pot-In-Pot Cooking” later in this post!)
How To Do Pot-In-Pot Cooking In Your Instant Pot
Here are the very basic steps for cooking with the pot-in-pot method:
Step 1 – Add at least 1 cup of liquid to the bottom of the inner pot.
Step 2 – Place a metal trivet or rack in the bottom of the pot.
Step 3 – Put the food you’ll be cooking into a small, oven-safe dish, and cover the dish with a piece of tin foil.
Step 4 – Place the dish onto the rack, then put the lid on your Instant Pot.
Step 5 – Cook the food for the recommended amount of time, and release pressure according to the recipe instructions.
3 Bonus Tips For Pot-In-Pot Cooking Success
- Use a taller rack. The trivet that comes with your Instant Pot sits quite low, so it’s not ideal for the pot-in-pot cooking method. Instead, invest in a rack that has longer legs to give yourself more room to work with. I use a metal egg steamer rack for this, which sits about 2” off the bottom of the pot.
- Use an oven-safe dish. For pot-in-pot cooking, be sure to use a dish that would be safe in an oven. Materials like stainless steel, oven-safe glass, silicone, or ceramic are good options. Also, make sure that your dish is small enough that it won’t touch the sides of the inner pot or prevent the lid from closing.
- Cover your dish in tin foil. Before placing the dish of food onto the rack in your Instant Pot, cover it with a piece of tin foil. Condensation collects on the inside of the lid during cooking, and the tin foil will keep that moisture from dripping into your food and making it soggy.
Now that you know what pot-in-pot cooking is and how it works, let’s talk about when you should use it! I also included a few pot-in-pot recipe ideas that you can try to “get your feet wet,” so to speak!
6 Situations When You Should Use Pot-In-Pot Cooking
1. For Recipes You Would Bake In An Oven
Pressure cookers like the Instant Pot require a certain amount of liquid to function properly, so they’re perfect for cooking soups and other wet foods. But the pot-in-pot cooking method allows you to make foods that don’t require as much moisture, like the ones you might bake in your oven.
With pot-in-pot cooking, you can make casseroles, lasagna, meatloaf, cornbread, cakes, and more right in your Instant Pot!
2. For Foods That Tend To Burn In The Instant Pot
Certain sauces and foods, including gravies, rice, and oatmeal, tend to get scorched when you cook them directly in the inner pot of your Instant Pot. Pot-in-pot cooking protects these foods from the scorching heat of the inner pot, making it nearly impossible to burn them!
3. For Recipes That Require A Water Bath
Many desserts are typically made using a water bath in the oven, including creme brûlée, cheesecake, custard, and lava cake. These desserts are perfect candidates for pot-in-pot cooking, because it creates a humid cooking environment just like a water bath!
4. For Reheating Leftovers
Store your leftovers in small, oven-safe containers, then use the pot-in-pot method to reheat them. Pressure cook your leftovers on High for 3-6 minutes, depending on the density of the food.
(Important Note: When using glass containers, let them come to room temperature before putting them in your Instant Pot! Rapidly heating a cold glass container can cause it to shatter.)
5. For Steaming Veggies & Seafood
If you’re struggling to achieve perfectly steamed vegetables or seafood, try using the pot-in-pot method! It’s much gentler so you’re less likely to overcook those delicate foods.
Put your delicate food in a bowl, cover the bowl with two layers of tin foil, then place it on the steam rack. Pressure cook in High for 0 minutes (which will just bring the Instant Pot up to pressure without further cooking.) When the timer goes off, perform a Quick Release. You’ll never overcook anything this way!
6. For Cooking Multiple Foods At Once
If two foods call for a similar cook time and setting in the Instant Pot, you can cook them at the same time with the pot-in-pot method. It can be a little tricky to get the hang of it, but here are some tips that I’ve found to be quite useful:
- If one item cooks more slowly, cook it alone part of the way. Then do a Quick Release, add the second item, and cook until both items are finished.
- If one item cooks faster than the other, cover it with a double layer of tin foil. The will insulate the faster-cooking food and slow down the cooking process a little.
- Larger pieces of meat take longer to cook than smaller pieces. Cut up meats into smaller pieces to even out cooking times.
- Cook the faster-cooking food in a glass, ceramic, or silicone container, and not in stainless steel. These materials conduct less heat than steel, and will slow the cooking process.
- Cook the slower-cooking food directly against the bottom of the inner pot. This is the fastest way to cook anything in the Instant Pot.
Try These 3 Pot-In-Pot Meals
1. Chili & Cornbread
Put chili into the bottom of your Instant Pot and set a metal rack in it. Pour cornbread batter into a small bread tin and set it on the rack. Pressure cook them together for 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Natural Release.
2. Roast & Potatoes
Brown a small beef roast in the Instant Pot using the Sauté setting, then pour in 1 cup of broth and place the steam rack over it. Place potatoes onto the rack and pressure cook for 35 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of Natural Release.
3. Curry & Rice
Cook your favorite curry dish in the bottom of the inner pot, and set a glass container of rice and water on top of a metal steam rack. Pressure cook for 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of Natural Release.
Have you experimented with pot-in-pot cooking in your Instant Pot?