These Common Instant Pot Mistakes can be easy to avoid with a little bit of preparation, reading, and planning. And, once you get the hang of using your electric pressure cooker, you won’t have to worry about ever making these mistakes again.
I wonder, have you made any of these common Instant Pot Mistakes, yet? I can tell you, I have.
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While people are snagging up Instant Pots like crazy, many are too scared to use them because they just don’t have experience with pressure cooking. It’s easy though, to avoid these common Instant Pot mistakes if you read the manual first and follow the guidance of experienced Instant Pot cooks.
Below you’ll see some very common mistakes and you’ll find the solutions, too.
1. You’re Forgetting About the Liquid
Mistake: Pressure cookers require liquid to come up to pressure. One of my biggest fails was when I took my Instant Pot to a friend’s house to show how I could make “Baked Potatoes” in my Instant Pot in the middle of summer. I set the Instant Pot and waited the full time twice only to end up with raw, hard, potatoes both times. I was so perplexed – thinking my pot was broken and then, we realized that I hadn’t added any water. LOL, I felt sooo dumb.
Solution: Be sure to add a minimum of 1 cup of liquid before starting your Instant Pot. The manual says 1 1/2 cups, but I’ve been successful with using 1 cup.
2. Filling it Too Full
Mistake: Inside your pot liner there is “Max Fill” line. If you’re going over that, it is very dangerous. Also, if you are cooking ingredients that expand while cooking, like rice, beans, and dried vegetables, you should only be filling your pot 1/2 full.
Solution: Make sure that you do not fill over half-full for ingredients that expand and 2/3 full for all other recipes.
Related: 5 Instant Pot Tips to Save You Time
3. Forgetting to Turn the Steam Valve to Seal
Mistake: It can be very easy to get all your ingredients in, add your liquid, put your lid on, press all the right buttons, then walk away. Then you come back after the right amount of time and there’s steam blowing away into the air.
Solution: Make it a habit to adjust your Steam Valve every single time you use your Instant Pot. This is something you can double-check and before long it’s a habit and you’ll never forget again.
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4. You Get Burned by Steam
Mistake: Steam is HOT, like SUPER HOT!! When you switch the Steam Valve to “Vent” the steam comes out immediately and extremely fast. It can be very easy to burn your hand when you use your hand to make the switch.
Solution: Always use something other than your bare hand to turn the valve to vent. Frequently I’ll use a towel, potholder or wooden spoon. Be careful, though, because the steam can come right through a towel. These silicone gloves would work well, too.
5. You’re Using the Same Ring for Savory and Sweet Recipes
Mistake: You decide to make one of those magical cheesecakes that everyone talks about. You’ve even ordered one of those special springform pans that is just the right size. You follow all the steps and pull out your beautiful cheesecake and get it chilled. Then you serve it up, take the first bite, and UCK! What is wrong? Why does your cheesecake taste like chicken? Well, odds are, you’re using the same sealing ring for everything you cook.
Solution: Purchase a second sealing ring to use just for sweet recipes. They’re very inexpensive and easy to store, too. Pick one up here.
6. You’re Over-Cooking Your Recipes
Mistake: One thing the Instant Pot does when it’s finished cooking is switch to “Keep Warm”. While this sounds great, as long as the pressure and steam are maintained inside the pot, your food will continue cooking. Depending on the recipe, this can lead to over-cooked or dry food.
Solution: Follow the recipe’s guidelines for how and when to release pressure. You can also turn “Off” the cooker if you’re not too worried about it overcooking. Leaving the lid on will keep it warm for quite awhile without keeping the heating element on.
7. Cooking All Foods for the Same Amount of Time
Mistake: If you add meat, potatoes, and a vegetable all to the pot at once and cook it for the appropriate length for the longest-cooking ingredient you will end up with vegetables that are mush.
Solution: Be sure you put ingredients in at the same time if they will take approximately the same amount of time to cook. You can cook/add ingredients in stages if you want them to cook in the same pot. For example: Put chicken in for 5 minutes, then release pressure, add small potatoes and cook for 8 minutes, release pressure, add broccoli and cook for 2 more minutes. Release the pressure and everything should be done.
8. You Start Experimenting Too Soon
Mistake: Pressure cooking takes a little bit of time to get the hang of. If you start experimenting with your own recipes when you don’t have a clear understanding of cooking times and adjustments, you will end up with some pretty big failures and a lot of wasted time.
Solution: Start out by using tried and true recipes from pressure cooking websites and bloggers. It’s also a good idea to start with simple recipes, like Chorizo Black Bean Soup, oatmeal, and potatoes. Chicken is also a recipe you will use over and over so it’s a good one to practice.
9. You Didn’t Read the Manual
Mistake: You were probably either very nervous to open your Instant Pot and pull it out of the box, or you were so excited you couldn’t wait to tear the box open. In our busy lives, we are in a big rush to get started on things before we fully understand how they work. How many manuals have you actually read before using the product they came with? I know for me, I’m a huge fan of Quick-Start Guides because those manuals seem so boring.
Solution: With the Instant Pot, the manual is extremely important. It’s not just a “plug-in-and-press-start” type of machine. There’s a bit more to it so be sure to read through the manual. There’s not as much to it as you may think, most of those pages are devoted to pages in a different language.
10. You’re Using Quick Release for the Wrong Recipes
Mistake: Some foods foam up or expand and are sticky and gooey so Quick Release is the absolute wrong way to vent the steam. Why? Well, if that foam or the contents of your Instant Pot gets up on the inside of your lid, they can get inside the steam valve. A couple things can then happen: 1.) That stuff can start spewing through the valve, which is messy, and 2.) Food particles can actually clog up the release valve, which can be dangerous. According to the Instant Pot manual “Quick Release is not suitable for food in large liquid volume or with high starch content (e.g. porridge, congee, sticky liquids, soup, etc.)”
Solution: When you are cooking those foods be sure to turn the “Keep Warm” function off and use the Natural Release, at least for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, try to vent the steam and see if “stuff” starts spewing from the vent. If it does, stop and give it another few minutes before trying again.
11. You Forget to Consider the Time it Takes to Come to Pressure and Release Pressure
Mistake: You come across this awesome recipe for 15-minute chicken breast and you think “Wow! We need to leave in 20 minutes, so I’ll make that right now.” You throw your chicken in the pot, set it for 15 minutes and run off to get dressed, then … Oops, you come back and you realize your chicken has barely started actually cooking. So, what went wrong? Well, one of the most frustrating things is to realize that you need to account for extra time to bring your food up to pressure and then, time to release steam.
Solution: Allow a minimum of 20 extra minutes to the actual cooking time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure and release steam. Make sure that you completely read through all recipes to see if this time is already included. Also, the fuller your pot is or if you use frozen food it will take even longer to come up to pressure.
Related: How to Batch-Cook Chicken Breasts
So, these are the most common mistakes to avoid when using your Instant Pot. If you remember to read your user’s manual and avoid the mistakes above, you should be well on your way to getting comfortable with your Instant Pot. It doesn’t have to be that tricky to use, and you’ll quickly fall in love with it.
Be sure and let us know, Have you made any of these common Instant Pot mistakes?