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How do you calculate Instant Pot cooking time?

Figuring out how long to cook food in the Instant Pot can seem tricky for beginners. Unlike regular pots, the Instant Pot cooks food much faster thanks to its pressurized environment. This means you can’t simply use traditional stove-top cooking times for the Instant Pot. However, there are some simple guidelines you can follow to determine approximate cook times for different types of ingredients.

What Factors Affect Instant Pot Cooking Time?

There are a few key factors that determine how long food takes to cook in the Instant Pot:

  • Ingredient type – Denser foods like meat, whole grains, beans etc. take longer than quick-cooking items like seafood, veggies, eggs.
  • Amount of food – Larger quantities naturally require more time.
  • Size of food – Larger cuts of meat or bigger pieces of produce cook slower.
  • Desired texture – Food cooked longer gets softer and more tender.
  • Liquid content – Drier dishes may need a longer cook time.
  • Pressure setting – The Instant Pot has high and low pressure options, high cooks food faster.
  • Presence of fat – Fatty meats like chicken thighs cook quicker than lean meats.

Understanding how these elements impact cooking gives you a basic framework for estimating Instant Pot cook times for your recipes. Next we’ll go over some specific timing guidelines.

Timing Guidelines for Common Foods

Here are some general Instant Pot cooking time ranges for various ingredients:


Food Cook Time
Chicken breasts (boneless) 5-8 minutes
Chicken thighs (bone-in) 15-20 minutes
Pork chops (1-inch thick) 8-10 minutes
Pork tenderloin 10-15 minutes
Stew meat 25-35 minutes
Beef roast 50-70 minutes


Food Cook Time
Shrimp 1-2 minutes
Fish fillets 3-5 minutes
Salmon fillets 3-6 minutes
Lobster tails 4-6 minutes
Mussels 3-5 minutes

Beans and Legumes

Food Cook Time
Black beans (dried) 25-40 minutes
Pinto beans (dried) 25-40 minutes
Kidney beans (dried) 25-40 minutes
Chickpeas (dried) 35-50 minutes
Lentils (dried) 8-12 minutes


Food Cook Time
Broccoli (florets) 1-2 minutes
Brussels sprouts (halved) 2-3 minutes
Butternut squash (1-inch chunks) 5-7 minutes
Carrots (sliced) 2-4 minutes
Potatoes (quartered) 8-12 minutes


Food Cook Time
White rice 3-5 minutes
Brown rice 15-20 minutes
Oats 10 minutes
Farro 6-8 minutes
Barley 18-25 minutes
Quinoa 2-3 minutes

These time ranges are just general guidelines and cook times can vary based on exact cut, size and amount of ingredients. Get to know your Instant Pot and adjust cooking times as needed based on your preferences.

Tips for Getting Tender, Properly Cooked Food

Following a few simple tips will help ensure your Instant Pot dishes turn out perfectly cooked:

  • Cut ingredients into smaller, uniform pieces which cook quicker.
  • For tough cuts of meat, use a longer cook time for tender results.
  • Allow for natural release of pressure if food needs extra gentle cooking at end.
  • Add extra liquid to dishes as needed to generate sufficient steam.
  • Layer firmer ingredients on bottom, delicate items on top.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check doneness for larger cuts of meat.
  • Adjust cook times down for veggies, seafood and tender meats so they don’t overcook.

Do a Test Run

When trying a new Instant Pot recipe, do a test run before cooking a large batch. Cook for the minimum recommended time, quick release pressure, then check doneness. If food needs more time, re-seal and pressure cook for a few extra minutes. This helps you determine the ideal timing for your appliance and preferences.

Use the Instant Pot Time Tables

Many Instant Pot cookbooks and manuals provide expanded time tables with estimates for cooking various ingredients. Refer to these handy guides when determining how long to set cook times. The tables break down estimates by food type, amount, size and desired texture.

Adjust Time for Quantity

Pay attention to cook time adjustments for larger or smaller recipe quantities. A good rule of thumb is to add 5 extra minutes for double batch sizes. You may need to experiment to get the timing just right when significantly increasing or decreasing amounts.

Factor in Coming to Pressure Time

Instant Pot cook times start after coming to pressure, not from the moment you hit start. It takes 10-15 minutes for the pot to pressurize before the actual countdown begins. Make sure to account for this when planning total cook and release times.

Consider Elevation Impacts

Higher elevations require longer pressurized cooking. Increase cook times by 5-10% for approximately 3,000 feet above sea level. For example, at 5,000 feet a 15 minute cook time becomes about 18 minutes.

Get to Know Your Model

There are differences between various Instant Pot models that can impact cook times. For example, the Lux generation takes longer to come to pressure. Learn your specific pot’s quirks and make any needed timing adjustments.

Use the Instant Pot App

The Instant Pot app contains hundreds of recipe guides with manufacturer-tested cook times. Browse for a recipe similar to yours then use their cook times as a starting point before customizing as needed.

Find a Reliable Recipe Source

Not all Instant Pot recipes online provide accurate timing advice. Find a recipe site or cookbook you can trust for properly tested, reliable Instant Pot cook times.

Remember Cook Time is Flexible

Instant Pot cooking times don’t have to be precise down to the minute. The pressurized environment tenderizes food quickly so there’s often wiggle room. Start with recommended guidelines then adjust higher or lower based on checking food and your preferences.

Use a Timer

A countdown timer helps keep track of coming to pressure time plus overall cook and release times. Handy when juggling multiple steps for more complex recipes.


Determining Instant Pot cook times takes a bit of experimentation at first but gets easier with practice. Use the basic time estimates provided for common ingredients as a helpful starting point. Adjust up or down based on quantity, size, doneness preference, and your model specifics. With a little trial and error, you’ll be an Instant Pot timing expert in no time!