Using a power cooker like an Instant Pot can save you tons of time in the kitchen, but getting the right cook times can take some trial and error. When adapting recipes or cooking foods you’re not as familiar with in the power cooker, you may find you need to adjust the cook time to get the results you want.
Why adjust the cook time?
There are a few key reasons you may need to adjust the cook time when using your power cooker:
- Recipe errors – Many recipes simply list an estimate for cook time or were tested in a different model power cooker.
- Personal preference – You may find you like your food cooked more or less than the recipe calls for.
- Altitude – Recipes rarely account for elevation, but the air pressure differences can affect cook times.
- Food variability – Factors like the size, shape, and freshness of ingredients can all impact how long they take to cook.
- Power cooker model – Cook times can vary between different brands and sizes of multi-cookers.
Getting familiar with how long different foods take for you in your model power cooker is key to learning to adjust cook times confidently.
Tips for adjusting cook time
Here are some tips for adjusting cook time in your power cooker:
- Start by following recipe cook times, then adjust up or down based on your results.
- For dried beans, plan on soaking before cooking and then sample for doneness during cooking.
- With large cuts of meat like roasts or whole chickens, use a meat thermometer to determine doneness.
- When doubling recipes, add 5-10 minutes extra time but check earlier for doneness.
- For altitudes over 3000 feet, try adding 5-15% onto the total cook time.
- Get to know the timing for different foods by keeping notes on what works.
- Err on the side of undercooking at first – you can always cook more but overcooked food is harder to salvage.
Adjusting cook time for common foods
Here are some more specific tips for adjusting cook time in a power cooker for certain foods:
- White rice: Try starting with a 4 minute natural pressure release after 6 minutes pressure cooking.
- Brown rice: Try starting with a 15 minute natural pressure release after 22 minutes pressure cooking.
- Check rice during the pressure release and add 2-5 more minutes pressure cooking if still underdone.
- Kidney, black, pinto beans: Try 35-40 minutes with natural pressure release.
- Chickpeas/garbanzos: Try 40-50 minutes with natural pressure release.
- Lentils (green/brown): Try 7 minutes with quick pressure release.
- Check beans after cooking; if still firm, add 5-10 more minutes pressure.
- Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots: Try quick releasing after 1 minute.
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes: Try quick releasing after 6 minutes.
- Hard vegetables may need an extra minute or two if still crunchy.
- Chicken breasts: Try quick releasing after 5 minutes.
- Boneless chicken thighs: Try quick releasing after 8-10 minutes.
- Beef roast: Try 20 minutes per pound, quick or natural release.
- Pork tenderloin: Try quick releasing after 15 minutes.
- Use a meat thermometer and check for doneness early if unsure.
- Try quick releasing after 8 minutes for more bite to vegetables.
- Try natural releasing after 10 minutes for ultra-tender results.
- Check seasonings after cooking and adjust if needed.
Grains like oats, quinoa, farro
- Try quick releasing after 4 minutes.
- Check for doneness and add 2-3 more minutes if needed.
Tips for timing while cooking
Here are some tips to keep in mind for monitoring cook time while using your power cooker:
- Only start counting cook time once pressure is fully achieved.
- Pay attention to the float valve – make sure it’s popped up before starting time.
- Use a separate timer – don’t rely solely on the power cooker’s timer if it has one.
- For longer cook times, check periodically by quick releasing for just a few seconds to sample food.
- Write down actual cook times each time you make a recipe to learn what works.
- Factor in time for coming to pressure (10-15 min on average) and full pressure release.
Adjusting time for common problems
Here are some common power cooker cooking problems and how to adjust the time:
|Rice/grains still crunchy||Add 2-5 more minutes pressure|
|Beans still too firm||Add 5-10 more minutes pressure|
|Vegetables overcooked and mushy||Subtract 1-2 minutes pressure|
|Meat undercooked||Add 5-10 more minutes pressure|
|Stew/chili lacks flavor||Simmer with lid off after cooking|
|Burn or scorch warning||Frequently stir thicker dishes while cooking|
Learning to adjust pressure cook times is an essential skill for getting the most out of electric power cookers. Pay attention to visual cues, use a thermometer for meats, and take notes on what cooking times work best for your cooker. Be prepared to add or subtract minutes as needed to achieve your desired results. With some trial and error, you’ll be able to perfectly time recipes in your power cooker.