What to Know About Using an Instant Pot

Breeding, KY, USA – January 08, 2019: Instant Pot pressure cooker on kitchen counter with beans and rice.

Instant Pots are one of the hottest household items, and they have been for several years at this point. They’re a great way to make food fast, and they’re versatile.

Some people are afraid to use them, however, because they are pressure cookers. Pressure cookers are associated with explosions that have led to severe burns and other injuries.

With that in mind, the following are things to know about using an Instant Pot and how to do so safely.

How Does an Instant Pot Work?

Instant Pot is a brand name. These are electric pressure cookers, or in some cases, multicookers. A pressure cooker works by making heat under a very tight seal. Then, the temperature, which is higher than water’s boiling point, makes it so the steam can’t escape. The steam cooks food much faster than using the oven or stovetop.

Because of the steam and pressure, you can reduce cooking time by as much as 70%.

It does take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for the machine to come up to pressure, and in some cases, you want the pressure to dissipate gradually. For example, if you’re making meat and you release it right away, the meat can get tough.

Is it Safe to Use an Electric Pressure Cooker?

As mentioned above, pressure cookers can be dangerous. The traditional stovetop pressure cookers got a pretty bad reputation years back because the lids were somewhat easy to take off before the release of pressure. Now, the modern versions have safety features that are intended to help keep you from being able to release the lid while the pressure is high. You still need to be careful because they aren’t entirely risk-free, but they’re safer than some of the previous versions of pressure cookers that you might associate with this style of making food.

You do need to make sure that you don’t fill an Instant Pot more than around halfway because the pot has to be empty enough for there to be a safe pressure that stays that way through the duration of cooking.

Even if you don’t want an Instant Pot, there are also basic pressure cookers available, but again, they tend to be safer than older models.

You shouldn’t put any body parts over the Instant Pot during quick release because steam blows out, and it can burn you.

What Can You Make?

There are so many things you can make in an Instant Pot, and the versatility is likely why they’re such a popular kitchen item. You can make pretty much any recipe in under 30 minutes, or at least most, although some things can take up to an hour. You can bake bread, roast an entire chicken, make chilis and stews, and you can braise meats quickly.

There are a lot of features of an Instant Pot that tend to be overlooked. For example, you can saute, which is something that sets them apart from a crockpot or pressure cooker. You can also cook frozen

meats, so you don’t have to wait for them to thaw out, which is something else your slow cooker can’t do.

When you’re using your Instant Pot, the items you put in it need liquid to cook. The liquid helps create the pressure that cooks the food. Even with meat, you’re going to need a bit of liquid—a cup a least, to make it correctly.

At the same time, if you put too much liquid and make something like a piece of meat, it will lose flavor, so you have to find a balance.

Natural vs. Manual Pressure Release

When your cook-time is finished on whatever you’re making in your Instant Pot, you’ll have to release the pressure. There are two ways to do this. If you use natural pressure release, the valve on the lid stays in the sealing position. Then, the pressure dissipates naturally over time, taking anywhere from 20 minutes to more than an hour.

You can also use the manual pressure release or Quick Release. You move your valve to the venting position, then the steam comes out, and the pressure is released. This is a faster option, but with a lot of liquid, it can still take around 15 minutes.

Overall, an Instant Pot is much safer than an old-school pressure cooker and is a convenient way to prepare a lot of things quickly.

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