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How to cook better meals with your Instant Pot

Instant Pot DUO80 turned on with food inside
Instant Pot DUO80 turned on with food inside

So you have an Instant Pot and you're totally hyped up to start using it to prepare delicious meals in less time. Since the Instant Pot uses wet heat to cook (thin liquid is always required to create steam, after all), one issue some people may have is that food comes out less flavorful than they'd like. Here's what you need to do to cook incredibly tasty meals with your Instant Pot.

Products used in this guide

How to cook better meals in your Instant Pot

  • Always use a thin liquid so that the Instant Pot can generate steam. Thin liquids include water or broth. If you want to have more flavor in your meals, it's always recommended to use broth (chicken, beef, vegetable, etc.) over water. For this, I highly recommend something like Better Than Bouillon bases, since you just mix a little bit in water to create the broth.

Instant Pot with three Better Than Bouillon jars in front of it
  • While you can use thicker sauces in your meals, it's important to remember to always have the thin liquid at the bottom, and then pour the sauce on top of the ingredients and do not stir. Sauces aren't thin enough to generate steam, and stuff like tomato sauce or barbecue sauce has the tendency to burn at the bottom.
  • Since the Instant Pot uses wet heat through a thin liquid to cook food, a lot of seasoning you put on meats or other ingredients may end up being "washed off" once the thin liquid goes in. To compensate, you should over season your food to retain the original flavor that you were going for.

Prepping a corned beef and cabbage meal in the Instant Pot, yum
  • Basically, think about how much seasoning you would normally use with a traditional cooking method, then double it at least. With the Instant Pot, you can definitely be generous with those seasonings (except maybe not much salt or spicy seasonings) and not ruin the dish.
  • If you're cooking poultry or meat, you should try using the Sauté feature on the Instant Pot first to brown the meat before pressure cooking. Browning the meat is also known as the "Maillard Reaction," and it helps create more flavor from your meat, resulting in better dishes.
  • Some meals are best prepared with the Pot-In-Pot (PIP) method. This involves using smaller bowls or pans (oven-safe, stainless steel recommended) on top of the metal rack/trivet inside the Instant Pot inner liner to cook multiple dishes at the same time (chicken and rice, meatloaf and potatoes, etc.), as long as they have similar cooking times. It's also used for making cheesecakes, desserts, and other foods that don't contain liquid.

Cooking rice in Instant Pot with PIP method
  • If you have a tablet or device like the Echo Show, you should use it in the kitchen to pull up recipes or videos with step-by-step instructions. This helps out a lot, especially if you find yourself struggling with the Instant Pot.

So there you have it. With these tips in mind, you should be on your way to cooking some great, tasty meals in your Instant Pot without issue. The Instant Pot is a great kitchen appliance, but it does have a bit of a learning curve if you're used to other methods of cooking.

Our top equipment picks

If you're looking to get started with the Instant Pot now that your'e confident the food will come out great, we've got you covered.

With the Instant Pot, you can reduce the clutter in your kitchen by getting rid of other appliances, such as a slow cooker or rice cooker, because the Instant Pot can cook those same recipes, but in less time. The 6-quart size is also good enough for most individuals and families, with room for leftovers. It also comes in a smaller 3-quart size, or a bigger 8-quart size if you need more servings.

Additional Equipment

These are all optional, but highly recommended if you want to get better meals out of your Instant Pot.

Better Than Bouillon Organic Reduced Sodium Chicken Base

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Better Than Bouillon Organic Reduced Sodium Chicken Base (opens in new tab) ($12 for 16 oz. at Amazon)

Just a small spoonful of this base mixed with water creates a chicken broth. Also comes in beef, garlic, vegetable, fish, lobster, and other flavors.

Amazon Echo Show product display

Alexa Show (Image credit: Amazon)
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Amazon Echo Show (opens in new tab) ($230 at Amazon)

With Echo Show, you can use Alexa to pull up recipes or videos of Instant Pot recipes. Following trusted recipes should yield great results.

LNM Stackable Stainless Steel Insert Pans for Instant Pot

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LNM Stackable Stainless Steel Insert Pans (opens in new tab) ($22 at Amazon)

These stainless steel insert pans let you cook via the PIP method. Cook two dishes at once (as long as cook time is similar), and stack them for convenience!

Christine Chan
Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently the iMore lead on all things iPhone, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.