Tip Time

I started writing TIP TIME when I created my Facebook Group, Rootitoot Instant Pot Recipes & Help. We’d love to have you with us, if you’d like to join.  It’s a hilarious group of Instant Pot enthusiasts. We share our original recipes and love helping IP newbies.

TIP TIME began as a way to help new Instant Pot owners quickly glean the information that took me hours and hours AND HOURS to find online when I first bought my Instant Pot. I didn’t understand pressure cooking at all and I was very intimidated. I wanted to know WHY it worked the way it did, not to just blindly do what I was told without understanding what was going on.

That attitude comes from the way my mother raised me in the 60s. She taught all of us the chemistry of cooking: why things work the way they do, why some ingredients react with others in a certain way. It helped me understand how things work much more clearly than if I had just measured and mixed. When you understand how things work, you can better predict the results of things you have never made before. Thanks, Mom.

I’d never owned a pressure cooker and, like most people, I was scared to death of it. So, I set out to learn all I could about how things behave under pressure. I’m certainly no expert but I did learn a lot.

TIP TIME essays are summaries of the things I learned. I shared them with my Facebook group and people seem to like them. So, I’m including them here and I hope you find them helpful.

How Pressure Cooking Works

The Instant Pot is VERY safe. It's not your grandmother's scary pressure cooker. It's loaded with safety features. For instance, it won't even LET you open it if there's any pressure inside. So relax. It’s a whole new world of safe and fun pressure cooking. You're going to love it. And I'm going to help you.

The Instant Pot works by building pressure and it does this by producing steam in a sealed environment. That's why you always need to add at least 1 cup of thin liquid such as water or broth, to produce that steam. Barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, and tomato paste are not thin enough to produce that steam. (See the TIP TIME titled “Thick Sauces Without the Burn Warning” for help with those sauces. )

The need for steam is also why you can only add liquid up to the MAX FILL line, a few inches from the top. It needs that empty space to build up steam. No empty space: no pressure. It's okay if bones or vegetables are higher than the MAX fill line, but not liquid.

If a recipe does not have enough thin liquid in it, you can use the “Pot-in-Pot” (PIP) cooking method. That's where you put water in the bottom of the pot to produce the steam needed, add the trivet and place your delicious concoction in a smaller pot on the trivet. The water produces the necessary steam without diluting the food. (More on PIP in an upcoming “TIP TIME”.)

When you close the lid and set the time, the display will just say “On” and seem like it isn't doing anything. But it is. It's building pressure. Steam will escape from the Float Valve on the top while this is happening. Don't worry. When it reaches pressure, the pin on the lid (the Float Valve) will pop up and complete the seal. The steam will stop and the cook time will begin: the display will start counting down the minutes.

And THAT, O Best Beloveds, is how pressure cooking works.

How The Time Display Works

Oh, that time display! So confusing, right? Here's the low-down.

When you close the lid, press Pressure Cook (or Manual) and set the desired cook time, the Instant pot will look like it's not doing anything. It's easy to think you've missed a step or need to do something else. Nope. It just pauses for 10 seconds or so in case you want to adjust the time. Then it will beep and the display will say “On”. It will stay like that while it builds up pressure, which can take from 3-25 minutes, depending on how much liquid you have in there. One cup of hot water might only take 3 or 4 minutes. A gallon of chili or soup may take 20 minutes or so.

Important: 00:02 means 2 minutes, not 2 seconds. If you set the time for 02:00, it will cook for 2 hours, not 2 minutes.

Once the Instant Pot reaches pressure, “On” will disappear and the display will start counting down the cook time. When it's finished, it will beep ten times and the display time will begin counting UP. That way, you can see how long ago the cook cycle ended. It also indicates how long it has been naturally releasing pressure so if you're busy chasing rabbits out of your garden or decorating cream puffs or something, you can easily see how long your Instant Pot has been naturally releasing pressure on Keep Warm.

Do not press the “TIMER” button for general use. "Timer" is for programming the IP to cook later. Kind of like setting a coffee maker for the next morning or using Time Bake on an oven. Just press Pressure Cook (or Manual) and use the + and – buttons to program the number of minutes.

How the High and Low Pressure Work

New Instant Pot owners can find the display panel confusing. High? Low? Less? Normal? More? What on Earth do they all mean? Well, spend a little time playing with it. Don't worry. You won't hurt anything. Press some buttons and get comfortable with it.

There are only two pressure settings: High and Low.

Less, Normal and More refer to the Saute heat settings and cook times, not the pressure level.

Always assume a recipe uses the high pressure setting unless it specifically says low pressure. Very few recipes use low pressure. Probably less than 5%. The “Less, Normal and More” thing refers primarily to the Saute function, NOT the pressure level. (More on that in a minute.)

To adjust the pressure level, press Pressure Cook and then the Pressure Level button. Press it a few times. Watch the display panel switch from Low to High and back again. Don't be afraid to try this.

How “Less, Normal and More” Work

Less, Normal and More on the display do NOT refer to pressure at all. They refer to two things only: the heat settings for the Saute function, and the time settings on preset buttons like Meat, Soups and so on.

Saute: The Saute function has three heat settings: Less, Normal and More. They are the equivalent of Low, Medium and High on your stove. If you have a Duo model, press Saute several times and watch the display. It will toggle through those three heat settings over and over: Less Normal More Less Normal More.

Preset Buttons Less, Normal, More also relates to the preset times on the buttons like Soups, Meats and Porridge.  For example, if you press Meats a few times, you'll see the display change from Less to Normal to More as the amount of time changes from 20 to 35 to 45 minutes. You can then use the + or - button to fine-tune the time by a few minutes if desired.

It also works on the Pressure Cook button. When you press it the first time, the display lights up. If you push it a few more times, it toggles through Less Normal and More, but the only thing that really changes is the number of minutes, not the pressure level. Mine goes from 6, to 20 to 45. It has nothing at all to do with the heat of the pot or the pressure level. It just relates to the number of minutes.

How Cook Times Work

Cook times posted in many recipes are misleading, right? "Pork ribs in 27 minutes" turns into an hour with the time it takes to come to pressure and the time for a natural pressure release.

That come-to-pressure time varies depending on how much liquid is in the Instant Pot. One cup of hot tap water may only take a couple of minutes. A pot full of chili or soup can take 25 minutes or so. The liquid needs time to come to the boil to produce the steam necessary to create pressure.

Then there's the time added at the end for the natural release. It can take anywhere between 10 and 25 minutes to fully naturally release. All meats, with the exception of ground meats, benefit from a natural release of at least 15 minutes. It promotes tenderness. It also allows time for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat the way it does when you let a steak or roast rest after cooking before you start carving.

So now, I mentally add about 20 - 45 minutes to a recipe's stated cook time, depending on the amount of liquid in the recipe. That gives me a better idea of how long it will REALLY take.

“If I double the recipe, do I double the cook time?”

The answer is no. You do not have to double the cook time when you double a recipe. Think of it like this: if you're boiling potatoes on the stove or baking them in the oven, it doesn't matter if there are 2 potatoes in there or 4. It takes the same amount of time to cook them. Ditto for the Instant Pot.

How Pressure Releases Work

NR (natural release) and NPR (Natural Pressure Release) refer to a natural release of pressure. QR refers to a quick release of pressure.

For an NR/NPR, you don't have to do anything at all. When the IP finishes cooking, it will beep ten times and start quietly releasing pressure all by itself. The time display, which counted DOWN during the cook cycle, will begin counting UP during the NR/NPR.

With the exception of ground meats, meats always benefit from at least ten or fifteen minutes of natural release. It promotes tenderness and juiciness – like resting a steak or roast before taking a carving knife to it.

QR (quick release) is when you manually release the pressure by flipping the Steam Release Valve on the lid from Sealing to Venting. It only takes a minute or two instead of an NR, which can take 15-25 minutes. The steam will shoot out the top with a loud hiss and the first time you do this, it'll likely scare the pants off you. Don't worry, you'll get used to it soon enough. (It also scares the wits out of pets, so be warned.)

So, if a recipe that calls for “10 min NR, then QR”, it means after the cook cycle is complete, you just leave it alone for a natural release until the display says 10, then you flip the valve from Sealing to Venting for a quick release of the remaining pressure.


     Controlled Release. For starchy things like oatmeal, pasta, potatoes and rice, you can release the steam in controlled bursts. Switch the valve back and forth between Sealing and Venting, a few seconds at a time. Releasing the steam like this prevents the starchy steam/liquid from spewing out and making a heck of a mess.

What happens inside the pot while you're releasing pressure is a bit like what happens when you drop a bottle of pop on the floor and then open it. The bubbles build up and shoot to the top. If you unscrew the lid a little and close it several times, the bubbles subside each time and don't spray all over the place.

Venting…..Sealing…..Venting…..Sealing…..Venting…..Sealing….. Like that.

And THAT, O Best Beloveds, is how natural release and quick release work.

How Pot-In-Pot Cooking Works

The Instant Pot, as a pressure cooker, needs at least 1 or 1 ½ cups of water, broth or other thin liquid in the bottom to produce the steam it needs to create pressure.

Things like vegetables, soups and stews can cook directly in the Instant Pot, but what about thicker or drier things? Things that would get soggy if you added all that liquid: bread pudding, lasagna, cheesecake and the like. Cooking these things directly in the Instant Pot would produce the dreaded “Burn” warning. Bummer.

That's where Pot-in-Pot (PIP) cooking comes in. PIP is when you cook the food in a smaller pot or dish suspended over the water on the trivet/rack.

Any oven-safe casserole or ramekin is safe in a pressure cooker. I've even used stainless steel mixing bowls and mason jars. Check for chips or cracks, but if it's sound, I'd say it's safe. As long as there is enough clearance around the edge to allow for steam to circulate, it's fine.

I use my Corningware and PYREX all the time in my IP. Love them. The manufacturers haven't officially endorsed their products as safe in electric pressure cookers, but almost every IP owner I know uses these dishes.

If you have a Mini (3-quart Instant Pot) AND a 6 or 8-quart, the liner from the Mini works well as a PIP container in the larger Instant Pot.

Stacking two pots is perfectly fine. I have two cheesecake pans that I use to make two lasagnas at once because... well, I love lasagna. Cheesecake, too.

When stacking, keep the cook times of the two items in mind. You don't want one lasagna that needs 20 minutes stacked with a pot of rice that only requires 4 minutes. Your rice will be mush.

Pot-in-Pot cooking sometimes takes a little longer than cooking directly in the IP stainless steel liner. If you choose the Pot-in-Pot method for a recipe that was written for cooking directly in the liner, add 1 - 5 minutes, depending on what it is. Rice might need an extra minute or two. A dense casserole, maybe five. Don't be too concerned with failure, though. You can always close the pot and add another minute or two.

So THAT, my friends, is how Pot-in-Pot cooking works.

How “Zero Minutes” Works

When I first saw Instant Pot recipes that said “set for 0 minutes”, I thought they were typos. However, I've come to realize it's a nifty way to cook things that frequently suffer from overcooking: shrimp, broccoli, asparagus and so much more. Potatoes, carrots and the like are quite dense and can withstand several minutes under pressure. But delicate vegetables can turn to mush quickly. Delicate meats and shellfish also do very well using the Zero Minute method.

Here's how it works. With cold water in the pot, hit the Pressure Cook (or Manual) button and use the - button to go right down to 0. The machine will heat up just long enough to come to pressure, which is plenty of time to cook delicate things. Then it beeps ten times and shuts off. Do a quick release of the pressure and - Voila!. Done to perfection.

How Deglazing Works

Deglazing is essential in the Instant Pot. To deglaze means to add some liquid and use a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot into the liquid.

If you brown meat or vegetables before adding other ingredients, you MUST deglaze the pot before you hit that Pressure Cook (or Manual) button. If you don't, you may end up with the dreaded BURN warning and your IP will shut down.

If you don't do a thorough job of deglazing, the IP may interpret the stuck on stuff as burning food. If that happens, the word “Burn” will appear on the display. So, yeah....deglaze the pot.

On some models, you might not even get a Burn warning. The Instant Pot may begin the countdown without reaching pressure. The pin will not pop up to indicate it has reached pressure, but the time will count down. It's another safety feature – it will not attempt to reach pressure if there is burned food on the bottom.

The Burn warning can also happen if there is not enough thin liquid in the pot to create the steam it needs to produce pressure. BUT... if you want to cook a thicker sauce without watering it down (like spaghetti sauce or chili) I've got a trick for that in the next TIP TIME. And it works.

Thick Sauces Without the Burn Warning

Here's how to avoid that dreaded BURN warning when cooking thick, tomato-based sauces like spaghetti sauce and chili.

A little while ago, my son phoned me to say he got the Burn warning while cooking my spaghetti sauce. He loves that sauce; we all do.

“Mom, help! My pot says 'Burn.' What should I do?” I gave him the standard “deglaze the pot” thing, but it got me thinking. And a few minutes later, a light bulb went off in my head.

Of COURSE, it burns. It's a tomato-based sauce just sitting still on a hot element. I wouldn't dream of putting a sauce like that together, setting it on a hot stove and just walking away to let it heat for 15 minutes without stirring. Neither would you, right? That's essentially what's happening inside the Instant Pot. Once a sauce reaches the boil, it virtually stirs itself, but until then, it will likely burn without stirring. But with this method, as long as a sauce has enough liquid to produce the necessary steam, it'll work without having to water it down.

For these thick sauces, the trick is to brown the meat/vegetables on Saute as you would on the stove, add the other ingredients and be sure to scrape any browned bits off the bottom. Then...the KEY: bring it to a full boil using the Saute function, stirring frequently. Only then do you close the lid and cook under pressure.

When you do close that pot, it will come to pressure within a minute or two so it won't have time to burn.

So, I phoned my son back and told him what to do. And it worked. He used Saute to bring the spaghetti sauce to a boil and then closed the pot to pressure cook it. It has worked for me ever since. Problem solved.

He brought me some spaghetti sauce the next day to show off his “SKILZ.”

(Don’t tell him this, but I think it was even better than mine!)

Bean Cook Times

Black beans257
Black-eyed peas155
Cannellini beans358
Great Northern 3010
Kidney beans, red3010
Kidney beans, white3510
Lima beans1410
Navy beans258
Pinto beans3010
Soy beans4318

Vegetable Cook Times

Vegetables & Salads

Vegetables are lovely when done in the Instant Pot. Everything from asparagus to mashed potatoes to spaghetti squash can be cooked in a fraction of the time. Just put 1 1/2 cups water in the pot, add the trivet or a steamer basket, close and cook for a very few minutes. Then a quick release of pressure and KAZANGO! Perfection.

Vegetables with a high water content like asparagus or broccoli crowns cook in zero or one minute. Denser vegetables like turnips or potatoes need a few more minutes, but it's always a quick release of pressure at the end. Then try one. If it needs another minute, just close it up and add the time you think it needs. Check out the vegetable chart on the next page. And maybe add an extra minute for frozen vegetables. You’ll find what works best for you.

Cut yourself some slack when learning how to cook vegetables in the Instant Pot. They are delicious but they cook in no time. You might have some fails at first until you get the hang of it. After all, it's hard to believe you can cook cauliflower in one minute.

The Zero-minute cooking method is excellent for delicate vegetables like asparagus and corn on the cob takes only two or three minutes. Potatoes take from three minutes (new potatoes) to twenty-five minutes for those big, dense russet bakers.

Vegetable Cook Times

Artichoke, whole & trimmed10 - 14
Beans, green, yellow or wax1
Beets, depends on size12 – 25
Broccoli crowns/florets0 - 1
Broccoli, stalks2
Brussel sprouts2
Cabbage, shredded2
Cabbage, wedges3
Carrots, sliced or shredded2
Carrots, whole or chunked4
Cauliflower florets1
Collard Greens5
Corn (kernels)2
Corn on the cob3
Eggplant (slices or chunks)3
Onions 2
Parsnips 3 – 4
Peas or pea pods1
Potatoes, new, cubed3 - 4
Potatoes, chunks, for mashing7
Potatoes, small, whole9
Potatoes, large, whole20 - 25
Pumpkin, in pieces (dep. on size)3 – 6
Rutabaga, in chunks5
Acorn squash slices3
Butternut squash slices or chunks4 - 6
Sweet Potato, cubes or slices4 - 6
Sweet Potato, whole15 - 20

Zero Minute Vegetables

Many vegetables do well with a quick cooking method known as the Zero Minute method. If you like tender-crisp vegetables, this is the perfect method. Vegetables like: asparagus, broccoli, green beans, peppers, zucchini, bok choy, fennel, radishes and other delicate "plantage."

Things like potatoes, carrots, turnip and beets are sturdy and dense and need more time, but these delicate vegetables need a gentle touch.

Here's how it works. Put the vegetables and liquid in the pot and set the cook time to zero. The time it takes the Instant Pot to heat up and come to pressure is enough time and heat to steam delicate vegetables to perfection.

Put 1 1/2 cups cold water in the Instant Pot. Put the trivet or a steamer basket in and add the vegetables. Close the lid and set the valve to Sealing. Push Pressure Cook (or Manual) and adjust time using the + and - buttons to get to 0. When it beeps that it's done, immediately flip the valve to Venting for a quick release and when the pin drops, remove the vegetables.

You might prefer to give some veggies like green beans, broccoli or cauliflower one minute or even two, but it depends on how tender or soft you like them. And because it's a quick release, you can try one piece as a test and if it needs a little more time, close the pot and give it another minute or so.

I like to empty the pot and add 1 – 2 tablespoons of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice. The heat from the pan will melt the butter. Then I toss the vegetables in and stir to coat them. You could also add some minced garlic if you like. Add salt and pepper to taste and some fresh herbs such as parsley,, basil, or whatever you have on hand.

Or, hit Saute to the clean, dry pan and add butter and a couple of tablespoons of sliced almonds. Saute until light, golden brown and pour over the vegetables.

Try a little sesame oil and seeds and a dash of soy sauce for an Asian flavour. Use your imagination – you know what your family likes.