How To Use The Instant Pot For Beginners
Learn how to use the Instant Pot with step-by-step instructions and photos for manual or smart program pressure cooker settings, how to sauté foods, and how and when to select a natural release or quick release options. Plus, we cover some Instant Pot FAQs and general tips to make your learning curve as the Instant Pot beginner less steep. Lets get started!
Looking at your shiny new Instant Pot box and wondering where to start? Dont panic! This wonderful kitchen gadget might seem intimidating but its actually very friendly once you get to know it. Lets unpack the box, its time to learn how to use the Instant Pot.
As part of our Instant Pot For Beginner series, we have also covered what the Instant Pot is and how it works with its key features and cooking stages. Make sure to check them out!
Natural Release Vs Quick Release
Then of course you are probably wondering what the difference is between natural release and quick release.
Natural release is waiting for your food to release its pressure without you having to hit the valve from sealing to venting.
Whilst quick pressure release is moving the valve from sealing to venting as soon as the instant pot beeps.
For more information and to compare I recommend you check out how to quick release instant pot, which is episode 4 of this podcast series.
Why Use An Instant Pot
The Instant Pot drastically cuts down the cooking time for cuts of meat that usually have to cook slowly for a long time in order to become tender. And there are many accessories you can use with it to cook in lots of different styles. Its one of the most useful kitchen appliances you can buy.
The Instant Pot is an incredible tool in the kitchen for making dishes that usually take a long time. If you dont have one yet, check out our guide on which one to buy. You can also read up on how to use it, in case youre not sure if its for you.
- Dont Have an Instant Pot Yet?This guide can help you choose the right one.
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Timed Natural Release A Mix Of Quick Release And Natural Release
A Timed Natural Release is a hybrid version of the natural release and quick release methods.
This method is handy when you do not have much time on your hands, but your recipe demands a natural release process. Here, you get the benefit of both steam releasing naturally as well as quickly while the food continues to cook during the waiting period.
Instant Pot Natural Pressure Release Vs Quick Release
Last updated By Susan
Instant Pot Natural Pressure Release vs. Quick Release -What does it mean when an Instant Pot recipe calls for ” Natural Pressure Release” and/or “Quick Release”? and how do you know which method to use?
One of the first things youll want to understand when cooking in the Instant Pot is how to release the steam thats formed in the pot while youve been pressure cooking. How you release the steam will depend on what you are cooking.
Here’s a visual for the terms we will be talking about.
Anatomy of an Instant Pot
**Please Note- I have the Instant Pot Ultra model and the photo above is of my Ultra- depending on what model you own, the configuration may be slightly different. In some models the steam release valve and the quick release handle are combined.
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Instant Pot Parts And Accessories
The first thing youll want to do is wash the parts of your Instant Pot. The Instant Pot lid, steam release valve and stainless steel inner pot are dishwasher safe however, I wash mine by hand. The base unit is not dishwasher safe never immerse the base unit in water.
Reality: When Do I Use Natural Pressure Release For The Pressure Cooker
- Use NPR for larger cuts of meat. It takes a little time for the inside of a large roast to get hot. This happens via conduction heat–a layer of meat gives off heat and warmth to the next layer of meat closest to it, until the inside of the roast is hot. If you keep cooking until the inside is hot under pressure, you are likely to overcook the meat. So allowing the pot to rest undisturbed lets conduction occur, without applying additional heat to the outside layer of meat.
- Use NRP when I don’t want the water to boil vigorously when I’m making something like Instant Pot tea. You can read the post I linked to in order to see why I do this.
- Some people believe that allowing your soup to boil vigorously toward the end makes for a cloudy broth. In that case, you will want to avoid QPR.
- NPR is best for foods that foam such as beans, split peas, etc. These tend to spit foam and you’re better off letting the pot rest before trying to release pressure.
- If you have overfilled your pot , or you have a lot of liquid in the pot, it might spit, sputter, and foam as you release pressure. So in that case, NPR is safest for an overfilled pot, or one that has a lot of liquid in it.
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A Quick Recap On Npr And Qpr
What do NPR and QPR Mean?
NPR stands for Natural Pressure release. QPR stands for Quick Pressure Release.
Will using QPR make my Meat Tough?
If you QPR your meat, you’re shortcutting the cooking time. That is what is making the meat tough, not the process of QPR’ing.
When do I use QPR for my Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker?
1. When you are cooking delicate foods such as seafood or vegetables that will cook very quickly anyway.2. When you are cooking in multiple cycles.3. When you would like some of the water to evaporate.
When do I use Natural Pressure Release for the Pressure Cooker?
1. Use NPR for larger cuts of meat.2. Use NRP when you don’t want the water to boil vigorously.3. NPR is best for foods that foam such as beans, split peas, etc.4. NPR is safest for an overfilled pot, or one that has a lot of liquid in it.
How Long does NPR Take?
The more the liquid and/or the fuller the pot, the longer it will take for NPR.
Do I have to turn the pot off when doing a Natural Pressure Release?
No. Pressure is achieved at 240F+ temperatures. Keep Warm is a lot lower than that. So even at the KEEP WARM setting, the temperature will drop enough to let the pressure dissipate.
So now that you know how to use Natural pressure release and quick pressure release, it’s time for you to cook! Check out my 250+ Pressure cooker recipes here.
Don’t forget to share this article! Friends don’t let friends get confused about NPR and QPR.
Advantages Of Magic Release
This pressure release method is something of a compromise between the Natural Release and Quick Release methods. Its a good option to choose when youre not sure which method to use, or the Instant Pot recipe youre using isnt clear about how you should depressurize the pot.
Magic Release also mediates some of the disadvantages of the other two methods. Its faster than Natural Release and gentler than Quick Release, so you can eat sooner and have less of a mess to clean up afterward.
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Hybrid Or Shortened Pressure Release
I tend to use this a lot. I usually allow the pot to rest undisturbed for 10 minutes. Then I release all remaining pressure. You will see this method used most often in my pressure cooker recipes.
Many of my recipes ask you to NPR for 10 minutes and then release all remaining pressure. So you leave the pot alone for 10 minutes, and then you turn the valve from sealing to venting and allow the rest of the pressure to be released quickly.
Smart Program Pressure Cooking
If you choose to use one of the pre-set smart program options, the steps are even simpler. Please refer to our post on Smart Program Instant Pot Buttons Explained for how to adjust each setting.
Step 1. Start the Instant Pot. Insert the inner pot into the cooker base.
Step 2. Add ingredients and liquids to the inner pot. Stir if needed or leave layered.
Step 3. Secure and lock the lid. Make sure everything feels well sealed.
Step 4. Select one of the Smart Program buttons. Pre-set cooking time and pressure level will display. You can leave it as is or adjust things like the pressure level from HIGH to LOW. You can press the Smart Program button again to cycle through the Less, Normal and More time options or use the and + buttons to adjust the cooking time further. If you make any adjustments to the selected Smart Program, they will be remembered next time you use it.
Step 5. Preheating & pressurizing stage begins followed by cooking under pressure as per program settings. Once the Instant Pot beeps again and the timer has reached zero, the cooking process is done.
Step 6. You can do a quick release or allow the built-up pressure to release naturally , or do both depending on the food/recipe.
Step 10. Once pressure is released, open the lid and stir or remove the contents.
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My Instant Pot Isnt Searing Very Well
Sautéing with your Instant Pot is convenient, but it can be challenging to get a decent sear on specific cuts of meat. We recommend opting for a different appliance entirely to sear most larger-cut foods, like steak, because your Instant Pot wont get hot enough to execute a deep sear. Smaller cuts of meat may prove to be successful, but we cant promise that the meat wont become chewy or soggy. Searing is not the Instant Pots strong suit, so you should leave that job up to your trusted frying pan.
Does It Really Matter Which You Use
Yes, it is important to depressurizing your pressure cooker in the right way, according to the food youre cooking. It can make a huge impact on the foods texture and temperature. Just like leaving a steak on the grill too long, your food can become overcooked and dry if you release pressure in the wrong way.
Two of the main concerns are:
- Releasing the pressure too quickly when cooking a pot full of soup or foamy foods. When you do a manual release of a pot full of soup or broth, its possible that the steam will sputter and spray all over your kitchen. It can take quite a while for a pot full of liquid to release pressure, so it can take a good 5 minutes to release it with a manual release. During that time, steam is spraying and heavy aromas are filling your house.
- Overcooking delicate foods. If youre cooking asparagus in the Instant Pot and you allow it to do a natural release of pressure, its likely the asparagus will be complete mush before you take it out. The same applies to any vegetables youre steaming. It also applies to meats that dry out when over cooked, like chicken breast or salmon.
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How Do I Use Natural Release
When the cooking cycle is complete, users wont be able to open the lid right away. This is because there is still too much built-up pressure inside the pot. Never force the Instant Pot open as the escaping steam can be a burn hazard.
Instead, simply wait for the pressure to release naturally. When the floating valve on the top of the Instant Pot has settled, it will open freely, and the food is ready to be served. To ensure proper safety, follow these instructions:
Q: What Is An Abbreviated Natural Pressure Release
The different types of pressure releases can also be combined. You dont have to wait for all the pressure to release to get the benefit of a natural pressure release.
In many of my recipes, I will let the pressure release naturally for a certain number of minutes, then I will finish with a quick pressure release.
I almost always only wait 10 minutes before I release the remaining pressure. Combining the two release options reduces waiting time yet gives you many of the benefits of a natural pressure release, such as reducing foam and tenderizing meats.
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What Size Should I Get
The 6-quart Instant Pot is the most popular size by far, and the one we recommend for most folks. It offers plenty of capacity for weeknight dinners, soups and stews, a pot of beans, or even a whole chicken, yet doesnt take up a crazy amount of counter space or shelf space.
But the choice is entirely up to you, and dependent on your cooking habits and storage space. Both the Instant Pot Duo and Ultra also come in a 3-quart Mini size and an 8-quart size.
The 3-quart Mini version is a good option for one or two people, or folks with limited kitchen storage. But the appropriately named Mini has a tiny pressure-cooking capacity that tops out at 2 quarts. For foods that expand when they cook, such as beans and grains, the total volume cant exceed 1½ quarts.
If you cook for a lot of people or frequently make stock or broth, consider the 8-quart size. The hulking 8-quart Instant Pot will take up as much space on your countertop as a dish rack, which is why it isnt for everyone, but it can yield almost 1 gallon of stock. If for some reason you want to go even bigger, the Duo Nova model also comes in a 10-quart size.
How To Do A Pressure Cooker Natural Release
After the cooking cycle finished, wait until the Floating Valve completely drops before opening the lid.
Always turn the Venting Knob from Sealing Position to Venting Position to ensure all the pressure is released before opening the lid.
This pressure release method usually takes 10 25 minutes .
Whats the advantage?
Since the pressure is released gradually, there is less movement in the pressure cooker. Your stock and soup come out cleaner and food are more likely to stay intact.
Whats the catch?
- A pot full of stock or soup takes very long to release pressure naturally.
- If the recipe is designed for Quick Pressure Release, the food may overcook, as the cooking process continues during the natural release process.
The Hybrid of Quick Release and Natural Release
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Advantages Of Natural Release
Using Natural Release, the pressure inside the Instant Pot drops gradually over time. Theres less movement going on inside the pressure cooker, which can be a very good thing when your pot is extremely full or youre cooking something frothy like beans or grains.
The Natural Release method is also useful when youre cooking big cuts of red meat. The slow and steady release of pressure gives the meat time to rest and reabsorb its own moisture, resulting in juicer and more tender meats.
Disadvantages Of Quick Release
Using Quick Release creates a lot of movement inside the pot. If the pot is very full or youve just cooked something foamy or starchy, this can result in liquid or bits of food spurting out of the release valve and making a mess of your kitchen.
Another side effect of the rapid change in pressure is that some foods can break apart or burst, especially beans. And if youre using Quick Release after cooking something that was meant for Natural Release, its likely your food will come out undercooked or tough.
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Quick Pressure Release Safety Precautions
The jet of steam coming out of your Instant Pot is extremely hot. Keep your face and hands away from it.
Make sure the hot steam is kept well out of your childrens reach, too.
Dont let the pressurized steam come in contact with your skin. If you need to touch the hot lid, use kitchen tongs, a wooden spoon, a kitchen towel, or an oven mitt.
As the float valve drops and steam is released, make sure to move your Instant Pot away from low cabinets, walls, and windows. You dont want to damage the finish or paint.
The Quick Pressure Release method is safe as long as you take the right precautions.