So, you got an electric pressure cooker… now what?

It warms my heart to see that so many people on social media that have added electric pressure cookers to their kitchens. I’m happy to lend my advice whenever asked. Or whenever nobody asks. I love cooking with my IP.

For the sake of typing, I’m going to refer to any kind of electric pressure cooker as an Instant Pot or IP, because there’s little difference in the different brands. They all have mostly the same buttons and the same result.

When my sister got her IP last year, I was so excited to share recipes, videos and favorite websites with her. The first time she tried to use it, she got a “burn” notice and proclaimed she “hated” the IP.

“Did you read any of the instructions I sent you? Did you watch those videos? Did you join the online community I told you to join?”

The answers were all “no.” You can’t expect to drive a car without training, why should you be able to use an electric pressure cooker without training? Not that the IP is remotely as complicated as driving, but you do have to know what you’re doing and have a knowledge of terms like, “natural release,” “quick release,” “high pressure” and “low pressure” for successful pressure cooking.

That’s the all-knowing-big-sister talking, by the way. So, when I had Casey and her family with us for Christmas, I decided we were having a crash course in Instant Pot cooking, so she wouldn’t have any more experiences of IP crash and burn.

“What pot should I boil potatoes in for mashed potatoes?” my sister asked.

“How about the Instant Pot?” I answered.

So began the training session. We used the IP for delicious and easy mashed potatoes, and tender, flavorful Terlingua Chili, made in the IP. I’ve shared my favorite chili recipe here before. In the IP, the toughest cuts of meat are so made very tender.

With a newfound excitement, she went home and decided to make macaroni and cheese as an easy first solo mission after training. Again, she got the “burn” notice.

With her tech-support (me) coaching from about 620 miles away, we figured out that her silicone seal (gasket) wasn’t properly seated in the lid. While the IP was heating up from the bottom to pressurize, the air was escaping out the top and not reaching pressure. Hence, the “burn” on the bottom.

Once we figured that out, her hesitance began to dissipate, and she made a batch of melt-in-your-mouth Carne Asada that the whole family gobbled up.

If you got an electric pressure cooker for Christmas and don’t know what to do with it, here’s my advice.

  1. Read the instructions and familiarize yourself with the terminology of the contraption.
  2. Do “the water test” so give yourself confidence that the pressure cooker isn’t going to catch on fire, and it’s more than likely not going to explode. It will help familiarize you with how the IP works. Pressure cookers need at least one cup of liquid for cooking anything. Do the water test!
  3. Watch videos. Watch videos. Did I mention there are videos online for everything from the water test to using your IP for canning to everything else you can possibly imagine? Facebook has a large and very informative Instant Pot Community. Pinterest has everything under the sun. A simple internet search of “Best Instant Pot ____________” usually reveals recipes that become my favorites.
  4. Invest in extra silicone sealing rings. They’re about $5 each online and worth every penny. I’ve seen them 2/$8. This keeps your sweets from tasting like the savory items you’ve cooked. Nobody wants Beef Stew Flavored Yogurt.
  5. Invest as you can in a new liner (the stainless “pot” that your food cooks in) and accessories, depending on how much you’ll use your IP. I got a second liner so that I can make rice, remove the liner of rice, and pop in another liner with beans or some other item. It’s easier than having to wait for the first item to cook, cool, and clean the pot before starting more food.
  6. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by your electric pressure cooker. It’s just a machine and hopefully you’ll trip a breaker before you blow the lid off the cooker (I’m kidding, they’ve got at least 10 built-in safety mechanisms). Most explosions are due to user error and are completely avoidable, so read the instructions and familiarize yourself! Check out as well.
  7. Don’t be discouraged with a failed dish or two – I’ve burned quinoa twice because I forgot to change the setting from high to low. Undercooked our blackeye peas for New Year’s. This weekend, I threw out a batch of yogurt that never set, after nine hours of patience. Turns out, the milk wasn’t quite fresh enough, even though the date was good. Don’t give up. Figure out what you did wrong, and jump back in.

I’ve got several hundred photos of Instant Pot experiences, but I couldn’t pick any to share at the moment. I think this is my first-ever post without a bunch of photos. Uh-oh. 


Instant Pot Carne Asada for Tacos
2 lbs. beef – you can use stew meat, roast cut into small pieces, or whatever meat is your preference

5 limes: 3 for juicing

1 tablespoon cumin

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

1 bundle cilantro

1 white onion

corn tortillas

oil for frying


  1. Place beef into IP. Dice half of the white onion and put it in the pot with the beef.
  2. Squeeze three limes and pour juice over meat in IP. Add cumin and cayenne pepper and stir. Top with half the cilantro, chopped. Stir well.
  3. Place lid on IP and set to High pressure for 20 minutes. Quick Release pressure once IP stops counting.
  4. Heat oil in small pan to medium heat. Lightly fry corn tortillas.
  5. Chop the rest of the cilantro and onion. Slice remaining limes. Serve with lime slice, cilantro and onions… cheese, avocado, sour cream, salsa, etc.

Feel free to email me and I will answer your questions as quickly as possible with the best answers I can find.

Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche




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