The Instant Pot might just be the trendiest new kitchen gadget on the market. (Learn why we’re obsessed with it!) But if you’ve recently nabbed one of these multi-functional pressure cookers for yourself, you’ll probably have a lot of questions: What do all these buttons mean? Should I retire my slow cooker now? When can I start cooking? While we can certainly answer that last Q with our best Instant Pot recipes, it’s important that you know some proper safety tips before you get started.
1. Never Fill to the Max for Pressure Cooking
There is a max fill line on the Instant Pot, but we’d advise not to fill it entirely. Many pressure-cooking recipes involve ingredients which expand, such as rice, beans, pasta, cornmeal, oats, and so on: If these ingredients are involved, only fill the pot halfway. Otherwise it will explode (trust us, this isn’t an exaggeration) when you try to open it. If there are no expanding ingredients at all, you can fill it a bit higher, but always be careful. Don’t think you have enough room in your Instant Pot? Consider trading it in for another model.
2. Don’t Deep Fry
There are pressure cooker fried foods, such as fried rice, pressure-fried chicken, and so on. When some people first get their Instant Pots, they are anxious to try these recipes out. This is a mistake! The Instant Pot can do many amazing things, but it’s a small electric pressure cooker, and these cannot handle pressure-fried foods. You will endanger your Pot and yourself if you try this pressure-cooking method. Pressure-frying requires specific pressure fryer equipment, not pressure cookers. Make sure to check out the other recipes you should never cook in an Instant Pot.
3. Stay Away From the Steam
Do not open an Instant Pot in—or anywhere near—your face. That steam may smell good, but it is very, very hot—often hot enough to burn your skin. Always open the Pot with the opening facing away from you (the lid makes this easy on purpose). If you are doing a quick release, then that hot steam could also endanger your hands, so we suggest pulling on a protective oven mitt or similar glove first.
4. Replace the Sealing Ring When Necessary
The sealing ring is probably one of the most vulnerable parts of your Instant Pot. It should be regularly cleaned and inspected for cracks or other problems. The seal this gasket creates is very important for Instant Pot safety. The ring should be replaced every year and a half or so, but you need to keep an eye on it in the meantime. Pro tip: Purchase an extra set of sealing rings—along with these genius Instant Pot accessories.
5. Maintain One Cup of Liquid
The Instant Pot needs at least one cup of liquid to create and maintain pressure. Without this cup of liquid, bad things will happen. Experiment with flavorful cooking liquids like chicken stock, vegetable stock or cooking wine. Just make sure that the liquid is present. If you don’t really want so much liquid in your meal, wait until the pressure cooker is done cooking and then add flour, cornstarch or cream to the juices to reach the desired consistency.
6. When Using High Pressure, Don’t Leave the Pot Alone
We know that one of the advantages of the Instant Pot is that it’s fairly hands-off. But when pressure cooking foods, it’s never a good idea to leave the Pot unattended. Unexpected accidents or problems can be prevented if you are on hand to watch the warning signs (and possibly clean up the mess).