Your Instant Pot has arrived and you are excited to open the box and make those mouth-watering meals you’ve seen all over the internet! You want to dive right in, but feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the dozen buttons you see. Which button do you push? Where is the button for those enchiladas you seen posted online? Shove that frustration and confusion out of your mind. I got you covered! Together, we will examine all those little buttons so you know which setting you need to use for your recipe.
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Ok, so why so many buttons on the instant pot? Well, just like your oven, different foods need to cook at different temperatures. I’ve heard many people refer to the Instant Pot as a pressure cooker, but it’s not all about the pressure. Thus, your Instant Pot comes equipped with different functions.
Think of the Instant Pot as a combination of a pressure cooker and crock pot on steroids. The Instant Pot is programmed to cook your food to the proper temperature while using the correct amount of pressure. These button functions remove the guess-work. All you have to do is follow the manual to determine the proper cooking time. Before we continue, keep in mind that just because the cook time for something is 7 minutes doesn’t mean it will be ready to eat in 7 minutes. It takes time for the Instant Pot to reach the correct pressure and time for the pressure to be released. So your 7 minutes cooking time means your meal will be ready in about 20 minutes. You might be thinking, “What’s so instant about 20 minutes?” Pull up a chair and you’ll see.
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The Soup button allows you to cook broths and soups at a steady temperature for a longer period of time. When you cook soup on the stove, you start out on high heat and adjust the temperature when your soup has a good simmer. Well, your Instant Pot is going to do that for you when you use the soup function.
When I began cooking chicken in the Instant Pot, the recipes I found recommended I use the Manual function to cook my chicken. However, I can not seem to master cooking chicken using the Manual function without over cooking it. Since I am not a fan of dry chicken, I often use the Poultry function. When cooking frozen poultry or meat, make sure the meat is covered with water or broth. This will ensure the meat is boiled all the way through. You cannot pressure cook frozen meat with a small amount of fluid. This will result in one of those nightmare chicken dinners. You know, the chicken that looks really good on the outside but is raw in the middle? No one wants a nightmare chicken dinner.
This function has the same purpose as chicken, but with beef. I use this function when cooking both beef and pork. Again, you can use the manual function, but the temperature is higher than it needs to be so it may result in drying out.
This is the function you will select if the meal you are cooking has any uncooked beans in it. You can cook a whole pot of black beans in your Instant Pot and freeze them in portions for lunches. This function makes cooking beans and chili a snap.
My husband still has his rice cooker prior to our marriage. I love rice cookers in general. Needless to say, I was a little skeptical about the Instant Pot measuring up to my husband’s rice cooker. All that skepticism and nervous energy was wasted because the Instant Pot makes a mean pot of rice! This is the only function where you cannot adjust the time. The time is automatically determined based on the weight of the rice.
Before I continue, I have a small disclaimer to make. I just want to take a minute to talk about a very serious problem you will encounter. You are going to lose that rice measuring cup that came with your brand new Instant Pot. If you lose it (or in my case, lost it), don’t worry. You don’t actually need it. The rule of thumb for white rice is 1 cup rice to 1 cup water. I like my rice a little sticky so I add 1 ¼ cups water for every 1 cup white rice.
The Multigrain function is what you would use to cook wild rice, brown rice, or grains. These rice types have a different cook time, so while you could use the regular rice function, your multigrain might be a little crunchy. Some types of multigrain require soaking before cooking. When you need to soak your grain, press the Multigrain button and then press the Adjust button until the “MORE” indicator light is on. This setting includes the soaking and cooking time.
Let’s take a moment and think about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Just imagine if Momma Bear had the Instant Pot, they could have stayed home and Goldilocks wouldn’t have eaten Baby Bear’s porridge. The Porridge function is perfect for cooking steel-cut oats and grits. Overnight soaking of steel-cut oats is not required. You just add the oats and water and the results are perfectly cooked steel-cut oats that are ready to serve in a fraction of the time it used to take! Take that, Goldilocks!
The Steam function is perfect for vegetables, fish, or shell-fish. For this function you will need to use the metal rack that came with your Instant Pot or a stainless steel steaming basket. This will allow you to keep the veggies or fish out of the liquid while cooking.
The Slow Cooker function is a great addition. Do you have a slow cooker recipe that you really want to cook, but do not know how to convert it into a pressure cooker recipe? If so, this function is for you. When slow cooking your roasts, make sure to leave your pressure valve to venting. Meatloaf is one of those meals that can be cooked in a crock pot, but not so much in a pressure cooker.
This is definitely my favorite features. Pet peeve about slow cooker meals is that you have to pull out a pan to sear the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. That is not the case with the Instant Pot. You can sear meat or caramelize onions in the same pot by using the sauté function.
These buttons allow you to adjust the cook time. The only time you can’t use them is when using the rice function.
This button enables you to switch through different modes of a function. For example, if you’re making yogurt, you will use the adjust button after pushing yogurt to switch to boil mode.
This function gives you the power to perform magic in your Instant Pot. This is how those Instant Pot cheesecakes are made. The Manual function enables you to cook your meal on high or low pressure as well as adjust the cook time to your desire. Was your rice stickier than you like? You can fix it by using the manual function. The thing with manual is you get a lot of trial and error using this function. If you love creating your own recipes, the manual function just might be your favorite option.
Last but not least is the Timer function. This nifty button lets you delay cooking until you are ready. You can prep dinner in the afternoon, delay the cooking with the timer, run some errands or after school activities and come home to dinner.
There are only two functions with the steam – venting and sealing. Pressure will be released when the valve is pointing to venting. Pressure will build when it is pointing to sealing.
There are two ways to release the pressure in the Instant Pot – quick release and natural release. Natural release means after the cook time completes you allow the food to remain in the pot until the all the pressure released on its own. Hence, naturally. This typically takes approximately 10-20 minutes. Your meal will continue cooking during this time. Because of this function, many recipes adjust the cook time in consideration of the natural release function. Think of it as keeping food warm in the oven. Although the temperature is low, the food continues to cook slowly.
The quick release is just that – quick. The pressure and steam will billow out the valve, so make sure your hands are clear from this area. Instead, use a utensil to flip the valve from sealing to venting.
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I hope this helps you in your future Instant Pot endeavors. I recommend you begin with some easy recipes like rice or hard-boiled eggs to get a feel for your new Instant Pot. Once you have tested those, try something a little more difficult, but also easy like our teriyaki chicken recipe.
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