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Instant Pot 101 – A guide for beginners

Let me start my saying, the first few days with my Instant Pot were rough! I couldn’t figure out how to put the lid on, I wasn’t used to pressure cooking and it took me a while to actually “fall in love” with this little firecracker. Yet now, I proudly back this product with my life, I use it on rotation at least 3 times a week, so I thought I’d write a few tips on getting you through those early days.

Did you read the manual? Nope, Didn’t think so. The good news is there are a ton of community groups out there to help across social media, so instead of letting it gather dust in the cupboard, join them, read this, and just take the leap to get started.

You can live without it

Yes I know, any good “influencer” would not say that, but you can. You lived without it for all your life. What it does help with dramatically is EASING your life. Things that used to take 5 hours to cook can be cut down to 45 minutes. So, you certainly CAN live without it, but once you have experienced it, you may not want to 🙂 Mine has literally become my mid-week meal lifesaver!

You need to Prepare your meals

Pressure cooking can deeply intensify the flavours of your dish, but because you can’t freely open and close the lid, and chuck in your spices as you go along, you need to pre-think your flavours. Add your spices and herbs in in the beginning, so that they all cook together.

What happens if I want to slow cook?

The main difference between an Instant Pot and a normal pressure cooker, is that the Instant Pot is a “multi-function” cooker. As much as you can “speed things up”, you can slow them right down by selecting the slow cooker function. You can also steam, saute and sterilise at the touch of a button, heck, I have even baked in mine.main difference between an Instant Pot and a normal pressure cooker, is that the Instant Pot is a MULTI-FUNCTION cooker. That’s right, as much as you can speed up things, select the slow cooker function to take a slow ride. Over and above the slow cook function, you can steam, saute and sterilise, all at the touch of a button! Heck, I’ve even baked in mine!

Always make sure you have enough liquid.

Make sure that you always have at least 250 ml of liquid in your pot. The pressure builds up from steam, so if there is not enough, it won’t come up to pressure.
Consider investing in Stackable steamers – This will really give you another take one “one pot” cooking.

Use the “Saute” function to thicken your liquids

At the same time, always use flour or cornstarch AFTER pressure cooking, not before, otherwise you will end up on the “burn” option, and your dish can stick. Sometimes sauces or cans with a high sugar content, like tinned tomatoes, can also make this happen. To fix this, add in ingredients that either release water or add in an extra half a cup of water to make sure that enough liquid is present to steam. the ‘Sauté’ function if you meal has too much liquid. This will help the excess liquid to reduce. Stir frequently while cooking on sauté.

Natural versus Quick Release

This was probably one of the most intimidating things for me. The first time I moved that steam vent for quick release, I had gloves on, a cloth around my arm, AND I used a spoon. The Instant Pot takes a while to build up to the pressure setting called for in each recipe, and, it also needs time to release that pressure. For the QR (quick release), turn the vent counter clockwise. If time isn’t an issue, the Natural Pressure Release (NPR) will happen on its own, most often in 10 to 15 minutes. Use the Natural release with large cuts of meat which take longer to cook and other items which have a good amount of liquid, or a high starch content like dry beans and soups

Cooking times can be deceiving

When you first see a recipe, you get super excited because you’ll see a cooking time of say 8 minutes. However, you need to realise that every recipe needs some time on the front end to come to pressure, as well as time to depressurise afterwards. Think of it like your oven having to preheat.

That’s it! Start off by cooking the more simple things like the stews or pastas and from there start experimenting. You’ll soon find that using this nifty little tool comes naturally.

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