6 Multi-Cooker Tips
Posted by Jane N. on 10.7.20
Let’s face it: multi-cookers (aka Instant Pots or IPs,) are a thing. One night in 2018 I went to bed thinking, “I love my slow cookers so much!” and the next morning I woke up, logged on, and discovered that slow cookers had suddenly become as archaic as a rotary dial phone. Huh.
I was not an early adopter of this scary, new-fangled machine. I’ve seen those photos of pressure cooker lids imbedded in ceilings. And no, I don’t want to be hit in the face with lids, schrapnel or a scalding hot leg of chicken traveling at 497 mph. No, thank you. I’ll stick with my low-key, low-heat, super-safe (unless you’re Jack Pearson of course) slow cooker. Put in the food, turn the knob and 8 hours later … dinner.
When I finally did purchase a multi-cooker, I stared at it for days (weeks!) before using it. All of those buttons! That persnickety lid that won’t go back on! The rubber seal that won’t go in! The size! Good gracious – this thing needs a special garage. I was feeling the pressure of cooking under pressure. I didn’t like it.
Now that I’ve used my multi-cooker many times, I love it − and you can, too! They really are safe and not scary. Here are 6 tips for newbies based on my experience:
1. Sealing vs Venting
My first mistake (and incredibly, also my second and third mistake) was forgetting to turn the steam-release handle to “sealing” before I started. That means the pot is in venting mode, and it won’t come up to pressure. So step 1 for me is always “set the steam-release handle to seal!”
2. Set a timer
I always set a timer twice. Once for about 10-15 minutes, to ensure that the multi-cooker did, in fact, come to pressure and start cooking. Then I set the timer for the remaining cook time. My Instant Pot does beep at the end of the cook time, but unless you are within four feet of the machine, or you have a bionic ear, you might not hear it because it’s super soft. If you’re like me, you will run to the bedroom while the IP is cooking, suddenly decide the closet needs cleaning and 87 minutes later remember the chicken. Bonus tip: I do not recommend an 87-minute “natural release” for chicken. So the timer is an imperative step for me.
3. Don’t overfill
Most multi-cookers have a fill-line and my friends, abide by it! While modern multi-cookers have many, many built-in safety features, our safety is also dependent on playing by the rules. Overfilling your multi-cooker can result in too much pressure build-up and … kaboom! Okay, that probably won’t happen due to other safety features, but overfilling can cause trouble.
4. Don’t underestimate cook times
We’ve all seen the posts on Facebook: "I made chicken in 8 minutes!” That's sort of true, but that’s just the actual cook time. Your multi-cooker will take 10-15 minutes to come up to pressure, and many recipes also require some sit time before you release the pressure, so that 8-minute chicken was probably in the pot for about 30 minutes total.
5. Use the “saute” button to preheat You can speed up the pressurization time a little by preheating your multi-cooker. Just press the “saute” button while you are assembling your ingredients, then add the liquid first.
Occasionally a “quick release” of the pressure results in what I call “spew” – meaning it’s not just steam coming out of the valve, but also cooking liquid. I’ll never forget the first time I made corned beef in my Instant Pot. I flicked the steam valve over for a quick release and Holy. Hell. I had steam, cooking liquid and corned beef fat SPEWING everywhere. It was bad, friends. I basically had to steam-clean my kitchen after that, which was not as fun as it sounds. So two things: if you’re pressure cooking meat, do a natural release for at least 10 minutes. And if you do get “spew,” carefully flick the valve shut again and wait a few more minutes.
Using my multi-cooker has been a journey, and while I probably won’t give up my slow cookers, I do like the results I get in my IP, especially when cooking meat.
Whether you are new to pressure cooking or a seasoned pro, we have a Multi-Cooker 10-Meal Kit that will give you the chance to try a bunch of new recipes. And if you just aren't ready for pressure, all 10 of these recipes can also be made in your slow cooker.
But this week, I encourage you to break out that multi-cooker and give it a workout!
PS: You can batch-cook chicken PLUS beef and pork in your multi-cooker (or slow cooker) with our Makin' Magic Chicken Seasoning.