INSTANT POT FAQ, ACCESSORIES AND TERMINOLOGY
Ever since I started this blog, I come across many posts from people who are intimidated by their Instant Pots or are trying to figure out why they should buy one, or two. If they’ve bought one, how to use it, which accessories are really needed. I put together this page with some commonly asked Instant Pot FAQ, terminology and accessories recommendations. This page is for all my fellow home cooks. This is purely informational, based on what works best for my family of 4, I’m not getting paid for this by any product company:-) I do however, have Amazon affiliate links, on this page and through my blog, which will take you directly to the respective amazon.com link for that specific product. It won’t cost you a penny more, but it will give me a teeny-tiny commission, a means to keep Spice Cravings running!
SPICE CRAVINGS STORE
I often get asked for recommendations for kitchen gadgets and Instant Pot accessories. So, to put everything under one page, with images and convenient links, I’ve set up a dedicated page on Amazon- SPICE CRAVINGS STORE. Here’ you’ll find my tried, tested and favorite kitchen gadgets and accessories. Currently Amazon does not allow me to organize them by category, so they’re randomly placed- that feature should be coming soon…..hopefully:-)
Why do I like INSTANT POT ?
I have been pressure cooking all my life, and so has my mom, and my grandmom. Besides being the time saver it is, I love how the ingredients get a chance to mingle, the spices release their aroma and warmth evenly, and flavors come together in the dish like it’s been slow cooking for hours. Whether you’re cooking soups, chicken fajitas or pork ribs, the end result is a perfect harmony of infused flavors.
Ever since my Instant Pot 6 Qt arrived, it has replaced my trusted & reliable, grandmother approved Hawkins pressure cooker (stove-top pressure cooker). I even prepare some of my skillet recipes in Instant Pot. I call it my fill it, shut it, forget it device. Here’s why:
- No monitoring: Both pressure cookers, stove-top and IP, can sauté and produce similar results, but one BIG difference is that in the Instant Pot, I don’t have to set multiple timers, or adjust heat during the process of cooking.
- No babysitting: I make a lot of skillet/stove-top meals- stuffings for wraps, sides, rice based dishes etc. But I have to be present during that cooking time. One distraction (sounds familiar?), and things get over cooked or burn sometimes. In the IP, I am able to avoid that. Once I close that lid and set a timer, I can do whatever I want. Unless the recipe requires for a quick release of pressure after, I can even leave the house. THAT is a huge convenience.
- No Guess work: Another huge convenience for me is that when my kids or hubby are using my recipes, they are pretty easy to follow, without any guesswork. They don’t have to keep track of whistles, heat temperature changes and remembering to shut the cooker off at the right time.
- It’s Quiet: A considerable advantage for me is that it is QUIET. I work from home and like to cook in between my calls or during a break- it’s my stress buster! The IP doesn’t make any disturbing sound when it’s coming up to pressure or depressurizing, so I can continue to take calls while dinner is cooking:-)
- Timesaver: If you’re cooking stews or recipes that require a long simmer time, IP can cut that time in half, if not more. That to me, not only saves time, but also energy.
- Preserves Nutrients: I’ve read many articles which discuss the science behind pressure cooking and how it helps preserve nutrients in food by providing a steam cooking environment.
- No Smell: Most of my recipes use a lot of spices, which emit a strong aroma that often fills up my house, but gets into my clothes too. The sealing mechanism in the IP is so good that there is almost no smell, even when I’m making the most fragrant dishes.
How did I pick a SIZE ?
- How many people do you cook for? The 3 Qt serves 4-6; 6 QT serves 4-10; 8 Qt serves 4-12. (These are based on my family’s eating pattern)
- What kind of foods are you going to cook? If you like to cook a whole chicken or a big spaghetti squash, the 3 Qt will be very restrictive. A 6qt or 8 qt would be better. If you like making one-pot meals, get the 6 Qt or 8Qt depending on quantity.
- Do you cook for company often? If you’re going to be cooking for guests, 8 Qt is a better option. Remember, you can always cook less in a bigger cooker, but can’t cook more in a smaller one.
- Do you do big-batch cooking? If you make big batches food and/or freeze leftovers for future meals, the 8 Qt will be better, depending on your family’s size. For example, a friend of mine cooks a 10-12 chicken breasts in one go and freezes them for later meals. So, a 3QT or 6Qt will be too small for her.
- Are you planning on cooking PIP (pot-in-pot)? If yes, a 6 or 8 qt is the way to go, depending on how many dishes you are planning to cook at once. I typically make one dish in the main pot and another in a smaller pot. You can use a 3Qt for that, but the quantity will be small. For most PIP recipes, the 6Qt works perfect for me.
- Are you going to be making Yogurt? All the DUO and ULTRA models have the Yogurt preset- something to consider.
What SIZE works for me?
This seems to be the most popular model out of all existing ones, mainly because of the “Yogurt” function. The yogurt mode is pretty useful, not only for making yogurt, but also for fermenting batter, proofing pizza dough, making bean sprouts and more. The most common question I get from friends looking to buy an Instant Pot is about size. I always suggest the 6QT for a family of 4, (2 adults, 2 children). The reason is, that it takes the same amount of time and logistics to cook for 4 as it does for 8, so, with the 6QT DUO, you at least, have the option to cook a double batch or cook for company.
I cook with Instant Pot so much that I bought the Instant Pot Mini too! For a family of 4, it’s the perfect size, and it has now become my everyday cooker unless I want to have enough for leftovers.
This is why it works for me:
- It seconds as a rice/side-dish cooker when I am entertaining or need to stock-up the fridge.
- Takes less counter space.
- Inner bowl fits in the dishwasher easily without taking up too much space.
- Cooking times are the same as the big IP, so no ‘re-calculating”. I love it!
Here are some recipes that I have been cooking in my 3 QT!
This is everything that I love about the 6 Qt- just bigger. It’s a great size if you have a family >4. When cooking for company or a larger batch of food, this is a great IP to have. I have to admit, it is too big to be my everyday cooker, especially since I mostly cook one meal at a time.
This lid fits the 6 qt DUO perfectly. I use it when I have to use the Sauté function. Putting the lid on fastens the process of softening onions and aromatics. You can also use it to cover the pot when making yogurt or fermenting batter or dough.
As you must have read in many reviews, the sealing ring retains odors of dishes you cook in your Instant pot. So, after realizing that I don’t like carnitas flavored cheesecake, I decided to invest in these. The color distinction makes it easy to remember- I use red for savory, blue for sweet.
If you haven’t already made a Cheesecake in your Instant Pot, you’re going to make one, you just don’t know it yet 🙂 And then you’ll need one of these pans. It’s great for Cheesecakes, Dhokla (savory chick-pea cake), banana nut breads, etc. The springs open up pretty easily and removing the cake is a breeze. It’s non-stick, so no sticking business either.
I use these for making Chocolate Lava Mini-Cakes and Frittata Muffins/Egg Bites. I stack them on the trivets. For my family, these individual size portions works our great for both- lava cakes as well as Frittata Muffins.
I recently bought these. I have been using the cupcake mold for eggs and lava cake, but most of my friends have used these egg bite molds and swear by it. I am excited about these and look forward to using these molds. Will post the cooking times and quantities in my recipes soon.
I mostly end up using these for pot-in-pot cooking. The taller trivet comes in handy if I am cooking curry in the main pot and rice in a smaller pot. It is very easy to cook hard boiled eggs with these too. The trivet is great when you want to steam cook without the food touching the liquid or the inner pot. I cook chicken breast for sandwiches, steam fish, potatoes etc. using these trivets.
STACKABLE POT-IN-POT PANS
I use this when I am cooking pot-in-pot. I typically do lentils in one pot and rice in another, or Quinoa in one and vegetables in the other. As long as the cooking time matches, you can cook multiple things in the Instant Pot using this stackable pan set.
Whenever I cook a big batch of soup or chili, I cover the inner pot with with this lid and put it away in the refrigerator. Most of my friends have an Instant Pot, so when I am taking something for a potluck, it is much easier for me to take the Inner pot vs. the whole IP.
SILICONE STEAMER BASKET
I use this for making hard- boiled eggs, steaming vegetables.The long handles are very practical for lowering the basket in the pot and even more helpful, when you have to pull it out after cooking.
I have had this steamer for a very long time. The best part is that it fits my 6Qt as well as my 3 Qt. It has a flexible bowl, so it is very useful when steaming veggies or eggs.
When I first bought these, I honestly didn’t think I would use them this much. But now, I use them everyday with my Instant Pot or even for oven cooking. They are small and snug, so feel more comfortable than my traditional oven mitts, which don’t work with the Instant Pot.
9-INCH TONGS WITH NYLON HEADS
These work great when I have to saute or sear meat in the Instant Pot before cooking. It also comes in handy to lower pans for pot-in-pot cooking. The nylon heads keep a firm grip on the pan, so it doesn’t slip.
I use the steel steam rack that comes with the Instant Pot pretty regularly. My only problem with that is the handles aren’t deep/long enough and they get hot after cooking. This steam rack is the perfect replacement. The long handles are super practical plus they don’t get hot like the other one.
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FAQ- Frequently Asked QUESTIONS & IP TERMINOLOGY:
- Never open a pressured pot- this is the #1 rule to remember. Pressure cookers cook by building a ‘high-pressured’ steam environment in the pot. It seals the lid tight to do that. Don’t try to open the pot if it has pressure in it. ALWAYS, turn the pressure valve to “Venting” mode, let the pin drop to ensure that the pot has released all the pressure and then proceed to opening the lid. If it’s giving you resistance, you may not have released all the pressure so check the valve again.
- QR vs. NPR? Let’s get the basics out of the way first- QR stands for quick release of pressure, which means, you can manually turn the pressure valve to ‘Venting’ position. Do that with extreme caution since you’re dealing with hot steam after all. NPR stands for natural release of pressure, which means, leave the pot alone to cool down and depressurize. When the pin drops, you know the pressure is released. Cross check by turning the valve to “Venting” position. The times of NPR may vary depending on what and how much is in the pot. As a general rule for meat, I go for NPR unless I’m following a two-step recipe which either requires me to add more stuff to the pot after the first part of cooking, or, I have to finish the cooking by grilling or broiling in the oven. For vegetables, I “always” do QR otherwise the veggies get overcooked. When a recipe says “NPR 5 minutes” or “QR 5 minutes”, it means, let the pressure release naturally for 5 minutes after which you can manually turn the valve to “Venting” mode. My rule of thumb: As a general rule, I do QR for veggies and Seafood, NPR 10 for rice and chicken, NPR 15 for red meat!
- Common Instant Pot TERMINOLOGY used in recipes? We already discussed NPR and QR. Here are some more:
- IP: Instant Pot
- HP or Hi: High Pressure
- LP or Low: Low Pressure
- PIP: Pot-in-Pot, when you’re cooking multiple dishes using another insert or bowl inside the Instant Pot
- 5-5-5: Used for hard boiled egg recipe. It means, cook for 5 minutes, Naturally release pressure for 5 minutes, then put eggs in ice-bath for 5 minutes.
- Venting: Same as QR or Manually releasing pressure.
- Sealing: Turning the pressure knob to the “Sealing position”.
- Water test- is it really necessary? Yup! Please do it! I’m sure there are many reasons, but I would state two good reasons for it. First: The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker that works by building steam in the Sealed Pot. So, it makes sense to test out that very essential “steam building process”. It also ensures that the sealing ring is working, the pressure valve is fully sealed when at “Sealing mode”, the cooker is able to build steam etc. Second: It “deep cleans” your Instant Pot inside out, so it’s safe for you to use. The water test removes any odors or the funny plastic smells that we get when we first hook up an electrical appliance. It’s a fairly easy step too!
- My instant Pot display reads “L022”. What does that mean? That display means your pressure cooking was done “22” minutes ago, so this is effectively your NPR- Natural Pressure Release time. As soon as your pressure cooking time is done, unless you hit “Cancel”, the IP automatically switches to a “Keep Warm” mode and starts counting L001, L002…. and so on.
- Keep Warm Mode: The Instant Pot switches to this mode “automatically” after the cooking time is done. This is your effective ‘natural pressure release’ time. It will start counting up starting from L000, L001, L002….
- Saute Mode: The Saute mode has three temperature ranges- low, normal and more. Depending on the model you have, you can switch between the 3 settings using the ‘Adjust’ button or by pressing on the ‘Saute’ button. Once you turn it on, on whichever setting, it will display “On”. It will take a few minutes to come up to temperature. Once it does, it will display “Hot”. If you add oil or your saute ingredients before it displays ‘hot’, it will much longer, since now it has to heat and bring up to temperature the ingredients too. So if you’re looking to sear chicken or saute onions, set it to “more” setting and wait for it to display “hot”.
- My IP doesn’t have a “Manual” button? In the newer models, the “Pressure Cook” button is the equivalent of ‘Manual’.
- When cooking a meat in the pot, do you need liquid? Yes! There are two ways of cooking meat in the pot. First, on the trivet, if you want it to be a dry cook, vs. a wet curry/gravy dish. In this case, you would add the recommended water in the main pot, place the trivet and then the meat. The meat doesn’t have to touch the liquid. Second, when you add meat to the main pot (inner pot). In this case, you have to make sure the total liquid in the pot matches the recommended water level for your pot size. When calculating this liquid, include any wet marinade quantity, any sauce that you’re topping it with etc. Each pot has a recommended liquid level based on it’s size, for it to come up to pressure.
- How much water to add? In the IP, you have to account for the water/juices released by meats or veggies, plus some condensation that will happen in your pot while cooking. The extra water has no way to evaporate. In all my recipes you’ll see that I add minimum water, depending on what I’m cooking. Size and type of veggies and meats also determines how much liquid you’ll end up with. Check out some of my recipe videos on this site here to see how much water is really needed in different dishes.
- How to cook rice? The ratio that you use for cooking rice on stove-top will be different from the one in IP. Account for the steam turning into condensation, which has no way of evaporating, so will add to the rice. I have seen that generally 1:1+ 2tbsp ratio works for me for white rice, brown rice as well as quinoa. But again, how you like your rice will also determine that. If you like your rice more firm and el dente, reduce the cook time by a minute or so. If you like it more soft and sticky, increase the water by 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup. For me white Basmati or Jasmine rice takes 6 minutes, NPR. For Brown Basmati or Jasmine, it take 22 minutes, NPR.
- How long does meat take? One size doesn’t fit all here. There are many variables involved. Weight and size of the meat pieces is a big factor here. What you’re cooking is also a factor- dry or curry? If you’re wrapping the meat in a foil pack and cooking, it’ll take longer than direct cooking. Whether the meat is frozen, fridge cold or room temperature also affects the cooking times. If you’re going to shred the meat in the end anyway, I’d say, cut it into 2 inch pieces, that reduces the cook time to half. So I’d say, search up the specific recipe and adjust time based on the variables.
- Does double the recipe mean double the time? The answer is “no” in most cases. For example, cooking 2 chicken breasts takes the same time as cooking 6. Cooking 1 rack of Pork Ribs takes the same amount as cooking 2 racks. The reason is that it takes the Instant Pot a certain amount of liquid to come up to pressure, once it reaches that, the cooking process starts- doesn’t matter what quantity it’s cooking. The density of what you are cooking will determine your cooking time more than quantity. The increase in quantity will effect your total time since the pot will take a bit longer to come up to pressure.
- When a recipe says 8 minutes Manual/Pressure Cook- will dinner be done in 8 minutes? The answer to that is “no”. Unfortunately, nothing is ‘Instant’ in the Instant Pot. For example, if you put some chicken breasts and salsa in your pot to make shredded chicken Tacos for dinner, the timer you would set on Manual would be ‘8 minutes’. BUT, it will take roughly 10-11 minutes for the IP to come up to pressure, AFTER which, it will start counting down the 8 minutes. Then, you would want to let the pressure release naturally for at least 10 minutes, that would make your start-to-finish time for dinner to be served as roughly 28-30 minutes. Now, that’s all inactive cooking time for you, so you don’t have to babysit the pot while it’s cooking dinner for you- which is what makes the Instant Pot great.
- Can the Instant Pot replace all my cookware? The answer is ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. The answer to that will really depend on your situation and what you cook, how often you cook and for how many. Let me give you my example. If I have to cook a curry with rice, I use the Instant Pot. If I am doing steak and potatoes, I use the stove-top in combination with my oven- I prefer the heat and control of cooking a steak in a skillet, and the crispness of the potatoes in the oven. If I am cooking only for myself, then skillet it is most of the time, I just marinate and pan grill a chicken breast, throw in some veggies towards the end and my meal is ready in under 10 minutes, no waiting for pressure time or NPR time. BUT, if you’re like my nephew and niece who just started college and are renting apartments, the Instant Pot is one cookware that they can make everything in.
- Why do most recipes say ‘Manual xx minutes” when there are so many other buttons? Well, think of the Instant Pot as your microwave- my microwave has so many buttons, but I only use 4 out of them. The thing with IP is that they have all these wonderful buttons with pre-set pressure settings and timings, but I don’t remember them at the top of my head and most of the times, I want to cook something for a little longer or lesser time than the preset, depending on what I’m cooking. It’s easier and more uniform to remember recipes when you have to remember only two things at Manual (also called “pressure cook” in some models), pressure (high or low) and time. Just like the oven, you only have to remember what temperature to cook at and for how long?
- How do you know when the pressure is finished coming down? The pot is done depressurizing when the pin drops. The NPR time varies depending on the cook time as well as contents of the pot. In general, for red meat, I follow a 15 minute NPR. For chicken, 8-10 minutes is good. For soups and sauces, 10 minutes, else the hot liquid squirts out too. In any case, NEVER open the pot till you verify manually that the pressure is done- you can manually move the knob to venting position and you’ll know if the pot is depressurized fully.
- Trivet: Instant pot comes with a trivet or a stand on which you can stack something for steam cooking. It is used in many recipes, like hard boiled eggs, cooking meats or veggies in a pot placed over that trivet. It is also used for Pot-in-Pot cooking. The important thing to remember is to pour the recommended amount of water in the inner pot as per your pot size.
- The Pin: When the IP has built pressure to start cooking, two things happen. The pin, which is located right next to the pressure valve, pops UP. After this, the timer starts counting down. There is a few seconds or a minute delay in that sometimes, so don’t worry. Similarly, when the pot has depressurized, the pin DROPS. Sometimes, the pin gets stuck. So make sure that the pot has no pressure left by turning the pressure knob on venting position and then simply touch the pin with the tip of your finger or a wooden spoon. 99.9% the pin drops immediately. If it doesn’t, you may have to call support and check what’s happening.
- Burn Message: When you saute ingredients, especially to brown them, it is very important to “deglaze” the pot with some liquid after that. Which means, you can use broth, water, wine or whatever liquid you’re adding in your recipe and scrap the brown bits off the base of the pot. This will prevent them from sticking to the pot and continuing to brown, causing the pot to give you this error message. Sometimes, it is an indicator that there is not enough liquid in the pot.
Click here for some of my favorite INSTANT POT/PRESSURE COOKER RECIPES .