Fall in Love with the Instant Pot

I’m an Instant Pot evangelist. This little kitchen gadget has revolutionized my kitchen and, simultaneously, my life. I’ve been known to spout off the 1001 reasons I love my Instant Pot to grocery store cashiers, my dentist, mom friends, and random strangers on the Internet. 

But, like many, I was completely intimidated by this complex kitchen tool at first. Once you get it out of the box and make your first pot of rice or super easy shredded chicken, there is no going back.

There are so many insider tips I wish someone would have told me about this amazing gadget years ago when I first got it. I was underutilizing it for months before I realized all it could do. 

What is an Instant Pot? 

In case you’ve been living under a rock, an Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. Its modern design takes away some of the risks involved with old school pressure cookers, like randomly exploding in your kitchen. 

There are several models, but they all can serve multiple purposes and are great for pressure cooking, slow cooking, making rice, cooking beans without soaking, and even making yogurt. 

Instant Pot Tips and Tricks

I usually keep it pretty simple with my Instant Pot recipes, but there are a few tools and tricks that have helped make the Instant Pot the star of my kitchen during these busy days of chasing kids. 

1. The Rules 

I actually read through the entire manual before I used my Instant Pot for the first time, but I still didn’t really get “the rules” until using it a few times with some mishaps. There are a lot of ways you can optimize cooking in the Instant Pot, but these two rules are requirements that you should follow every single time you cook in the Instant Pot: 

  • You MUST have liquid in the Instant Pot when you use it as a pressure cooker. You generally need about a cup of liquid to make it work. It’s powered by steam, and without liquid, there will be no steam. If you want to put the lid on and close it, you must add liquid. 
  • DO NOT fill the Instant Pot more than halfway with liquid. You can double your recipes and fill up that pot to the top with all sorts of veggies and goodness, but don’t be tempted to add too much liquid. When the pot comes to pressure, all of that liquid will spew out of the release valve all over your kitchen. There’s nothing like the smell of frothy bean liquid, and I promise you don’t want to smell it for eternity (speaking from experience here). 

2. Meal Prep

Trying to prep and cook dinner at 5:00 P.M. is a recipe for disaster. Washing and cutting veggies ahead of time helps, but what’s nice about the Instant Pot is that you can prep your entire meal ahead of time. I toss all of the ingredients for my recipe into the stainless steel pot, cover it, and put it in the refrigerator overnight and pull it out when I’m ready to cook the next day. 

3. Extra Sealing Ring 

The sealing ring fits onto the underside of the lid. It’s a porous material and absorbs a lot of the smells and tastes of whatever you cook. If you’re only cooking soups or only rice and beans, that’s not a big deal. But if you cook chili one night and then want to cook banana oatmeal the next morning, you may have a bit of a spicy bean aftertaste with your oatmeal. 

Consider having one ring for savory dishes and one for sweet dishes. Also, this is the one part of the Instant Pot that can wear out and needs to be replaced eventually, so it’s good to have a backup on hand. 

4. Hard-boiled Eggs

Peeling hard-boiled eggs can be a pain in the you-know-what. Not with the Instant Pot! We added chickens to our family last year, and fresh eggs can be especially difficult to peel. But the Instant Pot cooks them perfectly, and even my two-year-old can peel off the shells easily. 

Use the metal rack that came with the Instant Pot and place up to a dozen eggs on it. Add 1 cup of water and set the Instant Pot to “manual” mode on high pressure for 6 minutes. Do a quick release and then immediately transfer the eggs to large bowl filled with ice water for at least one minute. 

Hard-boiled eggs are a great staple to keep on hand for a quick breakfast or snack or salad topper. 

5. A Glass Lid 

I didn’t realize they sold glass lids that fit the Instant Pot until recently, and now I use it all the time! If you have another glass lid that fits the pot insert, that works too. Use the glass lid to cover your meal prepped pots until you are ready to cook or cover leftovers and store in the refrigerator without dirtying extra dishes. You can also use the sauté function and glass lid to reheat foods quickly or even make popcorn

6. Spaghetti Squash 

Spaghetti squash is a delicious, low-carb replacement for traditional pasta, but you may injure yourself trying to cut it open. Seriously, why is it so hard to eat this vegetable?! OK, so it’s not really that hard. You can poke holes in it with a fork, put it in the microwave for 10 minutes, cut it open, and scrape out the seeds before cooking. Or…you can just toss the whole thing in the Instant Pot!

Yes, you can cook a whole squash (any kind) in your Instant Pot. Just put it right in the stainless steel pot with 1 cup of water and set the Instant Pot to “manual” mode for 14 minutes on high pressure. Do a quick release and turn the Instant Pot off. Let the squash sit until it is cool enough to handle. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and shred with a fork. 

Wondering what to do with all that spaghetti squash? This Mediterranean chicken version is our favorite spaghetti squash dish.  

7. Reheat Food 

We try to avoid using our microwave as much as possible for health reasons and because food just doesn’t taste great when it’s microwaved. A few years ago I started using a toaster oven, which I love for many leftovers, but for more soupy and saucy foods, that obviously won’t work. The Instant Pot is fantastic at heating up leftovers and keeping them warm until we’re ready to eat. 

Just add the leftovers to the pot, add in a bit of water if needed, and set to “manual” mode for 5–10 minutes, depending on how much you have in the pot and how delicate it is (less time for things like pasta or vegetables, more time for stews and soups). 

If you want to heat up a small portion, store leftovers in heatproof glass containers that can go directly into the Instant Pot. Add one cup of water to the bottom of the pot. Set your leftovers in a glass container on the rack and cover loosely with a small piece of foil. Set the Instant Pot to manual mode for 3–5 minutes, do a quick release, and enjoy!  

8. Instant Kitchen 

Does it count as glamping if I camp with my Instant Pot? Forget the propane stove and slaving over a dutch oven, the Instant Pot is the best way to cook camp food when you’re trying to feed hungry kids. I’ve also been known to take my Instant Pot on vacation. We like staying at Airbnb rentals that usually have kitchens, but the last thing I want to do on vacation is cook. 

Making soup or chili is a breeze, but I often pre-cook meals at home and reheat them in the Instant Pot, too. I have also wrapped breakfast tacos and pancakes in foil and reheated them in the instant Pot too. Just add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pot, insert the metal rack, and place the foil-wrapped food into the pot. Set to “manual” mode on high pressure for 2–3 minutes with a quick release. 

The Instant Pot is true a kitchen workhorse. It can do so much! Just browse for Instant Pot accessories and you’ll get a taste for all the ways this magic little pot can change your life. 

Meghann is a mom of three little ones, proud lefty, and unexpected country dweller who lives in the Texas Hill Country on 6.5 acres with too many animals to count. Meghann is the creator of Rooted Childhood, a resource to inspire families with young children to create and connect through meaningful, seasonally inspired activities. She can be found online at www.rootedchildhood.com.