For most of my life, cooking was something exclusively done on a stovetop or in the oven. My family owned a slow cooker, but we only broke it out a few times a year for American dishes like meatballs. When I started making meals for myself, I looked at appliances like pressure cookers with a good deal of suspicion. Why would I need an expensive contraption with a ton of buttons when I could make the same dishes with my trusty Dutch oven and a stovetop?
After I moved in with my partner, we had to make some compromises when it came to cooking in our small kitchen space. We both work long hours and have never been morning people, so hours-long braises and prepping a slow cooker were out of the question. During the summer, roasting items in our oven made our already hot apartment unbearable. So when he suggested that we get an Instant Pot when they were on sale, I acquiesced despite my unfounded, yet inherent distrust of the machine.
The Instant Pot promises to do a lot of things: pressure cook, steam, slow cook, saute, and more. And while my partner loved toggling with all the functions and was delighted by its many sing-songy sounds, I was straight up overwhelmed. You probably feel the same after buying yours and just like me you’re probably thinking: There are so many buttons! What do I even make besides beef stew? How do I release the pressure without burning myself or exploding the entire device (the answer to that, I found, is embarrassingly simple)?
At first I cooked the basics: dried beans (that cost a fraction of the price of the canned stuff and only took an hour!) and tender chicken mixed with our favorite spicy salsa. Then I finally learned to ignore most of the buttons on the device and use the Instant Pot for what it does best: pressure cooking. While I love spending time tending to a bubbling pot, I can enjoy a tender brisket in a couple hours or make veggie broth with scraps in less that 60 minutes, without having to babysit a hot stove. I can even use the pressure cooker as a water bath to make cheesecake.
An Instant Pot will never replace my beloved Dutch oven or rice cooker, but it does make preparing tough ingredients easier. Pressure cooking meat in an Instant Pot before searing or grilling it makes it perfectly brown on the outside and tender on the inside. That said, skip the one-pot recipes: I’ve learned that sautéing ingredients in a separate pan and then dump everything back into the machine makes for a better finished product (unless you like very mushy soups and stews). Yes, setting up the machine and learning to release the pressure properly takes a few times to get used to, but you’ll quickly find it can do certain tasks much faster than stovetop methods, like boiling a whole batch of eggs for homemade ramen or roasting a large hunk of brisket.
After a few years of using my Instant Pot, I’ve found a few things that help me use my machine more efficiently. From heat-proof silicone racks, that prevent items from sticking to the bottom, to the ingredients we use to make excellent meals, you’ll want to add these to your shopping list. And to help you love your new Instant Pot as much as I do, I’ve also linked to some helpful recipes that we make often. Read on for all of my picks.
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An Instant Pot That’s Also An Airfryer
If you haven’t bought an Instant Pot on sale yet, here’s the one I’d choose. It’s a combo of Instant Pot, slow cooker, and air fryer so it will cover nearly all of your cooking needs. One caveat: it won’t completely replace your air fryer if you’re the type to use it for large batches of nuggets or fries but it works perfectly well for toasting up a bagel or making a handful of glazed wings.
An Instant Pot Without Unnecessary Bells And Whistles
If you don’t need all those functions, you can’t go wrong with the Instant Pot Duo. I mainly use just the sauté and pressure cook settings on mine so I recommend this model as it’s the most common and recipes are typically tested with it. The 6-quart size is large enough for family-sized portions or if you’re meal prepping for the week, but there’s also a 3 quart version if you tend to only cook for one or if you need a smaller unit to save counter space.
A Strainer For Homemade Stocks Or Steaming
Use this steamer rack to make just about anything in your Instant Pot. It’s ideal for steamed greens but you can also transform veggie scraps into a delicious stock, and use this to save yourself the tedious step of draining out the solids.
An Egg Rack For Perfectly Cooked Soft Boiled Eggs
My boyfriend’s parents gifted us this egg rack when we first got our Instant Pot, and while it’s perfect for quickly pressure cooking a whole batch of jammy ramen eggs, we also use it everyday as a heat resistant trivet to protect our countertops.
These Handy Egg Poachers
Poached eggs are one of my favorite things to consume, but they’re notoriously difficult to make. My boyfriend’s parents introduced me to these silicone cups that float in the Instant Pot for an easy, fuss-free eggs benny situation.
A Roasting Rack
Raising your ingredients will help your pot roast, brisket, or ribs cook evenly so this dishwasher safe silicone rack will elevate items for steaming or roasting as well as help prevent ingredients from sticking and scorching on the bottom of the pot.
Long Tongs For Sauteing
One of my only complaints about using the Instant Pot is that it’s somewhat deep and tall, so it’s hard to see your ingredients when using the sauté function. I find it a bit unwieldy to stick your hand into the pot when trying to flip or stir ingredients. Luckily these tongs are long enough to reach into the Instant Pot, and they also come in handy when grilling.
Protect Your Hands With A Kitchen Towel
The most daunting moment I face when cooking with an Instant Pot is whenever I need to adjust the steam release valve. Depending on your recipe, you’ll likely let your pressure cooker naturally release for a period of time after cooking, then adjust the knob to quickly release the remainder. To prevent burns, you’ll want to use a kitchen towel for this task. This set has enough for cleaning up messes, drying dishes, and handling hot items like fresh from the oven sheet pans or your Instant Pot’s release valve.
Marinated Short Ribs For An Easy KBBQ Meal
I had a hard time finding meals that didn’t involve giant hunks of meat when I began cooking with my Instant Pot. Then I realized I could simply search for whatever I was craving with the words “Instant Pot” and instantly find at least a dozen corresponding recipes. For example, this pre-marinated Kalbi short rib can be easily cooked up in just a few minutes of pressure cooking in an Instant Pot to satisfy your KBBQ cravings without smoking up your entire apartment.
My Go-To Instant Pot Ingredient
I think the only thing my boyfriend possibly loves more than me is making dried beans in our Instant Pot. He doesn’t follow a specific recipe, but he’ll soak, cook, and season them for tacos, nachos, quesadillas, or even to snack on with some chips. And since most recipes use dried beans, you’ll actually save money on whatever you whip up.
The Easiest Chicken Tacos You’ll Ever Make
If you’re truly at a loss for what to make with your Instant Pot, you can make solid chicken tacos in about 30 minutes with just a jar of salsa. You can use just about any type of salsa (Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde is also a popular pick) to hydrate and season the chicken breast, but this smoky chipotle salsa lends some complexity to the simple dish.
A Perfect Baking Pan
The Instant Pot is not only handy for cutting down cooking time on weeknight dinners, but it can also take guesswork out of baking desserts. You can even make New York style cheesecake without having to set up a water bath in your oven. This springform pan is made to fit inside 6 quart and 8 quart Instant Pots, and releases easily for a flawless presentation.
A Great Plant-Based Protein For Instant Pot Meals
In my search to find more plant-based meals I can cook at home, I learned about the wonder that is yuba, or tofu skin, when I saw a TikTok creator painstakingly made vegan drumsticks with it. While I don’t have the patience to drape layers of tofu skin for hours, you can make pretty great braised yuba sticks that are packed with flavor in your Instant Pot. The yuba essentially soaks up any marinades you add so you can use it to supplement or replace meat.
Perfectly Tender Ribs
Using an Instant Pot allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to grilling or cooking meat, so this recipe for St. Louis ribs is a go-to in the summer. The pressure cooking allows the meat to become delectably tender, while a quick grill gives the meat a great glaze and char for texture. St. Louis ribs also lay a little flatter than traditional ribs, so they cook more evenly.
A Container Set For All Your Leftovers
Soups, stews and braises are where the Instant Pot truly shines, so chances are that you’ll have plenty of leftovers or you’ll want to meal prep for the week ahead. These OXO containers are great for storing extra portions or taking a meal to work, and they’re dishwasher safe and leakproof. I also like that some of the containers have compartments, so you can separate braised meat and veggies from rice or other carbs.