If there’s one thing my kitchen (and life) can’t handle any more of, it’s a one-hit wonder. Those huge items that can only be used to make one thing, like tortilla presses (have one, don’t use it), rice cookers that can only make rice, or those quesadilla cookers that were really popular Christmas gift items a million years ago.
Those appliances that can be used over and over for a bajillion things, like my food processor and my blender, now we’re talking.
The Instant Pot hasn’t gotten a good name and a lot of buzz lately for nothing. It can do a LOT of things in the kitchen, and not just making recipes for soup, meat or one-pot meals faster and with less babysitting than the stovetop.
As I dug into the IP’s capabilities, I was impressed to find out how many basic kitchen tasks it could help me accomplish! If you have an Instant Pot, you’ll love this list too. (And if you don’t have one, be careful – it might convince you. It would be an awesome Mother’s Day or birthday gift!)
The most important note I think any new Instant Pot owner needs to know is this:
It doesn’t really cook things in 30 minutes on those 30-minute recipes!
It really irks me that so many recipes are saying “whole chicken in 30 minutes!” and “perfect rice in 10 minutes!” because if you hung your hat (or planned your dinner) on those times, dinner would be late. It takes 10-20 minutes to get up to pressure, depending on how much is in the cooker, and some recipes call for a natural pressure release for another 15 minutes at the end – which means your “30 minute” recipe is nearly doubled.
My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once! She runs the most incredible online cooking classes with a total of 11 different topics and usually 2 dozen classes per topic.
Check out the pressure cooking modules HERE – I guarantee you’ll be impressed. And if you tackle the other classes, like sourdough, cultured dairy, or einkorn baking (they’re all included in the same membership), you might see a teacher you recognize, cough, cough.
Be sure to do that math on the whole process as you plan when you need to get started cooking something!
In spite of that little annoyance with most recipes, it’s still a pretty cool little hands-off tool, for lots of basic kitchen techniques…
…AND there is a trick to shaving off some of the time: Turning the Instant Pot to “Saute” while you’re prepping or adding ingredients (with some liquid or meat in there) definitely shortens the come-to-pressure time. Just press “Cancel” when you’re ready to start the regular cooking cycle.
1. Hard Boiled Eggs
Tired of eggs that won’t peel? The Instant Pot is a game-changer. Steaming them under pressure helps the white easily release the shell.
- Put a cup of water in the Instant Pot plus the steamer insert. Edit: My IP came with that insert in the photo below, but I guess they don’t all come with one! A helpful reader says this basket (found on Amazon) fits in the pot and you can bend and break off the handles if necessary. Thanks Kathy!
- Set eggs in the insert.
- Set the Instant Pot for Manual, 4 minutes on high, or 6 minutes on low.
- When the pot beeps that it’s done, open the pressure valve to release the steam.
- It takes about 10 minutes to get up to pressure, then about 1 minute to release the pressure.
- Cool in the fridge or eat warm. (If you want to peel right away, douse in cold water so you can touch them.)
- You won’t believe how easy they are to peel! Check out Hip Pressure Cooking for more specific instructions for soft, medium, and hard yolks.
- Note: The first time we tried this, we followed a recipe that said 8 minutes on high pressure. This is what happened – totally edible, but a bit explosive:
Is it really faster than the stovetop?
Of course, I ran a little race to find out.
Six eggs in the Instant Pot, six in my favorite pot on the stove.
My normal boiled-egg routine on the stove is to cover with cold water to an inch over, add salt, then turn on high heat until just boiling. (The salt keeps egg from leaking out all over if/when I let it boil too hard and shells crack, FYI.) Then I turn the burner OFF, set a timer for 12 minutes, and pour off the hot water and replace it with cold water. After a few minutes I pour off and add more cold, sometimes ice cubes.
The IP took exactly 10 minutes to come to pressure (high) and the pot took about 13, so the Instant Pot was 10 minutes faster (15 total) than the stovetop (25 total), not counting the cold water bath for the stovetop version.
The real time-saver, though, is that peeling the IP eggs is easy, every time, compared to hit-and-miss (even using my “crack the end of the egg a little first” technique) on the stovetop. Sold!
We just made the last of our fall apples into applesauce this weekend. The skins were so wrinkly they would have been awful to peel, so we just quartered them, threw them in the Instant Pot, and whizzed it all in the food processor afterward. Woo hoo!
- Wash and quarter apples to fill your Instant Pot (not toooooo close to the top – the valve needs to be open to the air). You should be able to see a “fill” line on the inside of your pot.
- Sprinkle on cinnamon to taste as you fill. I like at least a teaspoon for a full pot (but I love cinnamon and often add more).
- Add a cup of water or so to make sure there’s enough to get up to pressure – although the apples will produce a lot of water themselves.
- Lock the lid and close the valve.
- Cook on manual, high pressure, for 10 minutes and use the quick release. The apples will be completely soft and smell wonderful!
- If you like thicker applesauce (we do), pour off some of the water before whizzing in the food processor or blender.
- Store in the refrigerator for 5-7 days or the freezer for 6 months.
3. Perfect Rice
Brown or white, you can get perfect rice every time in the pressure cooker.
- For white rice, I prefer to do the “no thinking” method – just add the appropriate amount of rice and water per package instructions and hit the “rice” button. Walk away and it’s done when it beeps!
- I had another rice cooker/multi-cooker previously (the Vitaclay, which I did not love) and it took almost 45 minutes to cook white rice start to finish. Way too long! The Instant Pot is definitely under half an hour total, although I questioned whether it even cooked with pressure on the rice function as it didn’t seem there was any to release when I opened the valve. I checked and the rice function defaults to 12 minutes on low pressure – but it’s still nice to not have to watch a pot to get to a boil without boiling over, you know?
- For brown rice, the “multigrain” function is a 40-minute cook time, but the Instant Pot website says to cook it for 22-28 minutes, so you’ll have to adjust the time on that function.
Bonus: Rice Pudding
I’ve been making extra rice all the time because my kids looooove rice pudding for breakfast. I just stick the whole IP in the garage (in the winter in Michigan) and then in the morning, I cover the rice completely with milk (no measuring necessary) and set the Instant Pot to the rice function (which is 12 minutes on low pressure). In less than half an hour total, with no stirring, babysitting or worrying about the pot boiling over, we have perfect pudding consistency. UPDATE: I’ve since done it in a mere 5 minutes on manual!
Add a few big chunks of butter, a splash of vanilla or almond extract, and maple syrup to taste, and stir it all up. Serve warm with cinnamon (also great cold). My kids like to add extra milk to cool it down and to add moisture to cold pudding. (I first tried the porridge function, but that was too high and scalded on the bottom.)
4. Steamed Veggies
With the steamer insert in the Instant Pot, you can steam veggies quite quickly – although I’ll be the first to say that it’s probably not all that much quicker than the stovetop (if at all), and a negative to the process is that you lose some control over just how much they’re steamed since you can’t be cracking the lid open to check every few minutes.
The upside? It’s a no-touch process and frees up your stove for other things, so it’s awesome to know how to do it when you’re hosting company, need to have freshly steamed veggies somewhere without a stove, or if you just tend to cook a ton of things at once like I do!
- Prepare veggies to steam by cutting into equal sized chunks – shoot large to prevent overcooking.
- Pour one cup water under the steamer insert and arrange veggies on the basket.
- Lock in the lid and make sure the valve is closed.
- Cook on “Manual” for one minute. Manual will default to high pressure; if you’re steaming less than a whole head of cauliflower or broccoli, something small like green beans, or you simply prefer “al dente” steamed veggies, I would try low pressure for one minute.
- It will take about 10 minutes to get up to (high) pressure.
- After the one minute cook time, open the valve to quick release the pressure (this will take about 3-5 minutes). Edit: Helpful reader says you can even set it down to ZERO minutes! Love it!
- Remove the steamed veggies (immediately) and serve warm!
If your Instant Pot didn’t come with a steamer insert like mine did, you can buy this one from Amazon and it will either fit great or you can bend the handles off easily if need be (according to a helpful reader in the comments).
Steel cut oats have a great texture to them, but take a fair bit of time on the stove. However, you can combine 1 cup of steel cut oats with 3 cups of water and pressure-cook for just 3 minutes! (Serves 2-3)
To make enough for your entire family (plus leftovers) you might try my Apple Cranberry Steel Cut Oats, although on that recipe I started with the “porridge” function for 20 minutes (with a quick release)! Apparently that’s overkill, so it’s awesome that it will only take 3 minutes (+ 15 to get up to pressure and at least 10 minutes for a natural release).
The Instant Pot manual has an excellent chart for cooking any type of dried bean, both dry and soaked. This tool makes it so easy to have beans in a jiffy without opening a can. They’ve got the chart online as well.
Because of health benefits, I still soak the beans overnight, but if I forget and would just use a can of beans anyway, I’m so happy to just use the IP and add some kelp for digestibility and realize that it’s way cheaper than the cans, less waste, and at least as healthy if not moreso. It’s amazing to know I don’t absolutely have to be prepared overnight if I’m going to compromise on a can anyway!
My old stovetop pressure cooker instructions said to add a tablespoon of oil to beans to prevent foaming, so I still do that, and honestly? I just hit the “beans/chili” button instead of checking timing charts, but when I soak I could cut the cooking time in half or even further for most beans. Maybe I should print the timing chart… 😉
7. Whole Chicken (or Chicken Breasts)
I have made a lot of easy chicken meals in my slow cooker in the past – but for those days when I didn’t get it started in the morning…the Instant Pot has saved me!
The bonus of the pressure cooker over the slow cooker is that you can have dinner on the table quickly even if your morning doesn’t allow for prepping the meal.
Getting a whole bird cooked in 60 minutes total? Priceless.
Basic chicken breasts are another slow cooker favorite – but adding frozen meat isn’t advised in crockery and I’ve even heard of people cracking their crock insert with frozen items. With the Instant Pot, they can go from freezer to shredded chicken in under an hour total!
Whole Chicken in the Instant Pot
- Prepare your whole chicken if necessary (like if anything needs to be removed from the inside!).
- Press the Saute button and add some oil to the Instant Pot.
- When it’s hot, put in the bird, breast side down, and brown for 5-7 minutes.
- Add a cup of water to help the chicken release from the bottom.
- Carefully flip over.
- Add any desired seasonings. In the photo above, I used the spices generally from this roasted chicken post and some roughly chopped onions. Delish.
- Press cancel and then cook on high pressure for 35 minutes. You can set this manually or just use the Meat/Stew button (Poultry defaults to only 15 minutes, which isn’t quite long enough).
- Let the pressure release naturally, which is easy – just set a timer for another 15-20 minutes after the 35 minutes are up.
- You’ll get some very gelatinous broth around the chicken – save that!
- It totally fell off the bone – see?
Frozen Chicken Breasts in the Instant Pot
- 4 frozen chicken breasts
- 1 cup water + 1 cup chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp. salt
Cook for 12 minutes on the manual setting and then quick-release the pressure
- Note: I haven’t actually done the chicken from frozen. A reader says adding 10 minutes to the cook time makes it work, and that sounds about right to me. I’m not sure 12 + quick release would quite do it.
- EDIT 3/21/16 And I was right! We did frozen meat yesterday and it wasn’t even close after 20 minutes at high pressure. We added 5 minutes and then 5 minutes again, so I would say minimum is 20 minutes high pressure with the slow release or you could go 30 minutes at high pressure with a quick release, which would take a full 45 minutes from freezer to table. Not 30 – so many pressure cooker recipes mis-represent the timing!!
8. Bone Broth
It’s so simple and hands-off to make your broth in the Instant Pot! Put the bones right back in after you pick off the chicken, add some onion ends, carrots, celery and garlic, fill the pot to about 2 inches from the top with water, and you’re good to go! The photo above is so orange because it’s the actual batch from the turmeric-spiced chicken in the previous photo.
- Lock in the lid and make sure the valve is closed.
- The manual says to combine and cook 30 minutes on high, but I did mine for 90 minutes. Either way, your broth will be awesome – and you don’t have to play the “will I leave the stove on overnight to make stock or should I refrigerate the carcass after dinner, thus creating ore dishes?” game.
- I’ve also done a batch of broth using the slow cooker function, on low heat, for about 8 hours. It was more convenient for me that day to have the broth start in the morning and be finished for dinner time, and it also worked great.
- I still make 3 batches with one set of bones. So frugal!
The last time I was sick I had only frozen broth in the house, but I had some bones in the freezer too – it was quicker (since I don’t use a microwave) to make broth in my IP than to thaw a jar, and I cannot tell you how glad I was to have warming, nourishing broth in a mug and going into my parched body!!!
9. Spaghetti Squash
It can feel like you have the oven on for ages when cooking winter squash. However it’s really easy to pressure-cook it!
- Cut your squash in half crosswise.
- Scoop out the seeds and place in your steamer basket with water to the bottom.
- 7 minutes on high pressure and you’re ready to eat!
- I’m guessing other winter squash will be about the same, so you could easily prepare butternut, for example, for these awesome pancakes and store some in the freezer for later!
10. Cauli “Rice”
I tried some other recipe online for cauliflower rice, but I just wasn’t happy with how other people did it – so I had to perfect it and post my own version!
Just follow the directions here for easy grain-free Cauli Rice with only one pot, plus two variations of flavor. It’s faster and easier in the IP for sure, and just as tasty.
Still Questioning: Baked Potatoes
Baked potatoes are a total favorite in our house, and we love having leftovers for other days or to chop up in eggs. I like the idea of the IP not heating up my house in the summer, but I’m not sure if (a) we’d be able to fit enough for our hungry family and (b) if it REALLY cuts down the time!
I always figure on an hour for baked potatoes but can get it down to 45 minutes if we blast them at 450F and the spuds aren’t too big. The pre-heat time on the oven is always taken up by the time it takes to scrub the potatoes and take the bad spots out, so that’s a wash.
Here’s how they’re supposed to work in the Instant Pot:
- Add a cup of water below the bottom of your steamer basket.
- Cut your potatoes to uniform size (perfect for use in recipes) OR poke holes with a fork in whole potatoes.
- Use the manual setting for 10 minutes on low and let the pressure naturally release.
- You might want to crisp them in the oven if serving as whole baked potatoes. (My family’s favorite – if I wanted to cut potatoes and just boil them, that can be done in 15-20 minutes on the stovetop anyway IMO.)
So total time should be: 10-15 minutes to get up to pressure, 10 minutes to cook, 15 minutes to naturally release pressure = about 40 minutes. Eh. Plus 10 more in the oven if you want them crispy instead of “steamed!” More eh.
But overall I’m impressed with how well the IP has done on so many foods! We’ve use it a TON (it hardly gets put away) and you can always find the latest recipes I’m posting by clicking to the “Real Food in the Instant Pot” series.