The Instant Pot is basically an all-in-one miracle that condenses most of your kitchen appliances into one device. With settings from slow cooking to steaming, sautéing to stewing, the Instant Pot not only frees up time but conserves shelf space with the other appliances and dishware it replaces. If you've joined in on the craze, you can probably attest to its benefits - but are you sure you're using your Instant Pot to its fullest potential? Make sure you're not making these mistakes when you're leisurely relaxing while your food is cooking all by itself:

pasta cooking in an instant pot
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Overfilling The Pot

It can be tempting to make bigger batches at a time, but you shouldn't be filling the pot past 2/3 full when using the pressure cooking function or more than 1/2 full if you're cooking foods that expand, like rice or pasta. If you run the pot at overcapacity, you're risking the pressure release valve getting clogged.

Not Using The Handy Sauté Feature

Old habits die hard, so here's a reminder that if you usually stand over your stovetop doing the pre-cooking, your Instant Pot is totally equipped to do that for you! Sauté your ingredients in oil at the bottom of the pot, then simply add in the rest of the recipe and switch to the appropriate cooking setting.

full pot of stew
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Cooking Pasta The Wrong Way

Stay away from very thin pasta like angel hair or pastinas, as those will stick together and form a mush. Go for larger noodles, like penne or rigatoni. Also remember to never put your pasta in before first adding whatever sauces or cooking liquids you're planning to include. Throwing in the pasta first can result in the pasta sticking to the bottom of the pot and who needs that hassle?

Slow Cooking On The Low Setting

An Instant Pot and a slow cooker are not quite the same thing, even though you may be tempted to try using them as if they're the same. When you're cooking on "low" in an Instant Pot, it's really more the equivalent to a slow cooker's "keep warm" function, so that meat you're leaving in for hours at a time isn't going to actually cook unless you set your Instant Pot to "normal" ("medium") or "more" ("high").

hand pouring liquid into pot of rice
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Not Using Enough Liquid

If you're operating on the assumption that using less liquid means you're craftily making the Instant Pot into cook faster, you'd be wrong. The device actually requires a specific amount of liquid to build up the pressure, which is apparently 1 cup of liquid (minimum).

Using Too Much Liquid

Just because there's a minimum amount of liquid the machine requires, doesn't mean you should overdo it either. There's no water evaporating out of in the Instant Pot so sauces that are oversaturated with water won't reduce like you'd expect on a stovetop. If you mix in too much water you'll just get bland, watery sauces. Stick to the ratios your recipes call for and you should be fine.

vegetables steaming in instant pot
ebrom/Shutterstock

Neglecting To Stack Foods

One of the coolest advantages the Instant Pot has to offer is that you can actually layer foods on racks to cook multiple food groups at once. Think of the potential! Longer-cooking meats towards the bottom of the pot while potatoes or vegetables hover over them steaming. Just buy a pressure cooker-safe basket or steamer and remember to add the foods that are quicker to cook later on so they don't turn to mush because they were cooking for as long as the meat was.

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