ninja pressure cooker on gray and white striped background

Instant Pot: Getting Started!

I gave in to the craze and got an instant pot. Well, I actually purchased a Ninja Pressure Cooker from Facebook Marketplace for $40, but people don’t realize Instant Pot is a brand name and not the name of a type of cooker.

It’s been a long time since I successfully planned a week of meals. I used to plan a menu then buy groceries accordingly, which I highly recommend. But that seems impossible now. Why? Where do I start with the nonsense on my mind?

I used to love using my crockpot to make meals early in the day to be hot and ready in time for dinner. But again, I truly can’t seem to plan that far in advance.

On this particular day, I realized I needed to provide lunch for my husband in a few hours. Just baking chicken breasts seemed boring and trying to make something more elaborate seemed like too much work.

So I thought back to that pressure cooker I had seen on Facebook and messaged the seller to see if he still had it. And he did, and he was home so I set out.

He explained that he had only used it once before purchasing a Ninja pressure cooker air fryer COMBO on sale for $100. He explained how to use it and sent me on my way with the instruction manual and good vibes.

I really liked the guy. But as history has taught me, other people aren’t trying to make friends like that, so I didn’t message him afterward to see if he wanted to come eat what I made. He was likely gay, by the way, so it wasn’t shady for me to like his personality.

How to Use a Pressure Cooker

"Getting Started with Instant Pot" Pin for Pinterest showing pressure cooker with vegetables

My pressure cooker has four options: sear/sauté, pressure, slow cooker, and steam.

After you put your food in the cooker with the requisite amount of water and the lid, you select pressure, slow cooker, or steam (wouldn’t use water to sear or sauté) and set the time, then press start.

BEFORE your food begins to pressure cook, the pressure has to build up! This means that if your recipe takes 20 minutes, it may take up 15 minutes for the pressure to build before that 20 minutes begins.

When the cooking is complete, you open the valve on the lid to release the steam and pressure. It is a strong stream! It lasts a couple minutes. Alternatively, if you don’t manually release the pressure right away, the machine will gradually release the steam on its on.

You must release the pressure prior to removing the lid lest you have an explosion on your hands.

What I Like About The Pressure Cooker


I love that I can sear/sauté in the same vessel I’m slow cooking in. Previously, I would have to sear my chuck roast on the stove before putting it in the slow cooker and have a couple more dishes to wash, but now I can do it in the same container. Same with sautéing onions and garlic, which require a certain heat level.
Different brands have different capabilities. The Instant Pot and the Crockpot versions specifically have a myriad of options, including yogurt making.

Hands-Off Cooking

What I liked about the slow cooker was that I could cook something without having to watch it, but sometimes the cook time is longer than I want it to be. I can cook something faster in a Dutch Oven or large pot than I could in a slow cooker, but those dishes require more attention so that food doesn’t burn on the bottom. The instant pot is faster and hands off! For me, it really is the best of both worlds.

Minimizes Dirty Dishes

Since you can do several things in the same pot, you end up with less to clean! The fact cooking creates an additional chore of cleaning has turned me off. Yeah, I could cook a lot of the same things in a Dutch Oven, but removing the pressure cooker insert and cleaning its non stick interior is so much easier than cleaning the heavy Dutch oven and its lid–not before it has set in the sink filled with water for two day anyway.

Makes Foods Taste Better

Somehow, everything tastes better. The meat in the dishes I make all the time taste better. I think this is because it cooks with steam instead of just straight heat, which reduces moisture, or instead of water, which draws out nutrients and flavor. For me, the texture is smoother even on the meats I have overcooked.

Instant Pot Dislikes


This thing is pretty massive. The amount of space it takes up is the reason I have waited so long to join the craze. At my previous home, I didn’t have the cabinet space to store this; still don’t but no longer care as aesthetics are not as important as they used to be. Now it takes up a good portion of my very limited counter space, but it’s worth it!

Inability to Monitor Doneness

Last night I cooked red potatoes in my instant pot, and they weren’t quite done. Theoretically, I could have let them cook longer through natural release, but in reality, I can’t know if the food is done without releasing the steam and opening the pot. So then I had to set the pot for 3 more minutes, which is actually about five minutes including time to pressurize.

Traditional cooking methods would give me the option to monitor and modify cooking times easily. The solution is practice…as with anything.

Instant Pot Mistakes

Venting on the wrong setting

Pressure cooker with burned chicken

The recipe said to switch the setting to “sear/sauté” after the chicken was done cooking. I went to do this and was prompted to vent. So I vented…and vented and vented. The steam never stopped! 

I called my mom to see how long it usually took her pressure cooker to release steam, and then I googled what “OUHT” meant on the Ninja display. The steam released for over 30 minutes!

It wasn’t until I smelled burning that I realized the pot did not switch its setting to “keep warm” when the device was venting…so the chicken was sautéing and creating more steam continuously. The “OUHT” was actually “OVHT” (overheating) and when I opened the pot, the sauce was thick and the chicken was burned in spots.
Despite this error, the chicken still tasted great. I removed the burnt parts, added water and called it a taco.

Overcooking vegetables

I have overcooked potatoes and green beans. Cut potatoes will cook more quickly than small, whole potatoes. And green beans will cook in a few minutes. I made a green bean dish with potatoes and the beans were overdone. They cook in just a few minutes so maybe I need to cook for a shorter time with smaller pieces of potato or cook the foods separately.

What I’ve Made

Shredded Taco Chicken (from Ninja Booklet)
Chicken and Brown Rice
Chicken Tikka Masala (Aldi’s sauce)
Chicken and Potatoes
Cajun Green beans and Potatoes
Nigerian Chicken Stew
Steamed Green Beans
Collard/Mustard Greens
Boiled Eggs

Onward with the Instant Pot!

The pressure cooker is a game-changing device. It has the potential to revolutionize cooking for those of us who are tired of doing it. I have learned about and purchased plenty of kitchen equipment since I learned to cook, but none ever as on time as the pressure cooker. Just when I begin to think I have lost interest in cooking, I find a device that provides a whole new method of cooking rather than enhancing processes I already perform. Yeah, I could fashion a pressure cooker with a pot on the stove, but I’m a little afraid of that, so the electric cooker provides a function I otherwise can’t perform.

The game is changed for me because the pressure cooker is faster and more hands off. In addition to efficiency, this device opens my kitchen up to a whole new segment of recipes to try, which makes me excited to cook again. And of the old dishes, even things that are simple to make like the Chicken Tikka with the sauce from Aldi tastes better.

I am looking forward to the pressure cooker reviving my interest in cooking. You will find me making brownies in the near future, but I will first have to buy a silicone mold. There are actually several accessories to collect like additional rubber rings or additional pot inserts to maximize the pressure cooking experience.

You can put it on your Christmas list or wait until Black Friday or Prime Day, but I would get one as soon as you can afford it, (and I’m a late adopter). I think it can really help us make better food faster. If you’re a mom like me, nothing really gets better than that. Let me know if you agree!

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