Even perfect appliances can be used in imperfect ways, fam.

By Betty Gold
March 24, 2020
amazon.com

“Set it and forget it”-style cooking means you can’t go wrong, right? Unfortunately, no matter how simplistic it is to make meals in an Instant Pot—drop in ingredients, lock on the lid, press start, enchiladas for days—there are several key slip-ups you’re likely making along the way. Here are the five most common Instant Pot mistakes, plus how to fix them. 

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1
Only considering the actual cook time.  

Chicken soup in 20 minutes, hard boiled eggs in five. What could be better? But pressure cookers—particularly electric pressure cookers—require quite a bit of time to actually reach the pressure that’s necessary for cook time to start (i.e. when the timer starts counting down). A full pot of beef stew ingredients could take up to 30 minutes to come up to pressure, which isn’t included in the cook time of most Instant Pot recipes. So remember to budget in extra time for this period, and be generous. The pressure is what allows Instant Pots to cook so quickly, after all.

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2
Using too much—or not enough—liquid.

Keep in mind that the max fill line inside your Instant Pot is intended for the slow cooking function rather than for pressure cooking. If you overfill it, you can accidentally clog the venting knob (don’t panic, just make sure to use the natural release function). For pressure cooking, don’t fill more than two-thirds full; if you’re cooking something that expands (like beans or grains), only fill halfway.

On the other hand, you need some amount of liquid for steam (and therefore pressure) to build. Forget to add a sufficient amount and you’ll likely get the unfortunate “Burn” error.

3
Not browning your meat first.  

Though Instant Pots come with a browning or Sear/Sauté function, this setting is pretty… well, meh. It’s a great option if you’re short on time or don’t want to do those extra dishes (we don’t blame you!), but you’ll get a lot more depth of flavor if you sauté meat or veggies the old-fashioned way: on the stove, in a skillet.

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4
Using the wrong pressure release.

There are two ways you can release the pressure in your Instant Pot once the timer chimes: quick release and natural release. Quick release means you gently turn the valve yourself (use an oven mit or tongs if this makes you nervous); natural release allows the pressure to drop slowly on its own without any physical intervention. And yes, the difference matters. Your recipe should indicate which to use, but if those instructions are missing, you can use this as a rule of thumb: Quick release is best for delicate foods that can be easily overcooked (eggs, vegetables, fish), while natural release is the go-to method for dishes that can benefit from extra cook time, like stews, beans, soup, and other liquid-y foods.

5
Forgetting to clean the silicone sealing ring.

Notice a slightly funky (dare I say a soup-, stew,- or last week’s Chili Con Carne-ish) scent coming from your Instant Pot? If you’ve been going to town cooking in it, the odor is probably coming from the silicone sealing ring. This skinny, circular piece of rubber, wrapped around the inside of the lid, is what’s responsible for keeping steam and moisture from escaping while your fish curry cooks. Because it’s made from silicone (which is prone to absorbing odors) and is the end-point for a lot of concentrated, super-hot steam, this thing can get dank. Find the easy way to keep yours clean here.

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