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The Instant Pot is an amazing kitchen tool for anyone, but especially for busy parents trying to make dinner for a family. The benefits of being able to set your food in one pot (hello, fewer dirty dishes!) and then walk away really can’t be overstated. Whether you’re new to the Instant Pot or you’ve been using one for years, make sure you’re not making any of these five Instant Pot mistakes.

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5 Instant Pot Mistakes You're Making
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Instant Pot Mistake 1: You’re indifferent about natural release versus manual release

Sure, this recipe calls for a 15 minute natural release, but I’m pressed for time. I’d like to serve dinner in five minutes, so I’ll let it sit for five minutes and then I’ll just manually release the rest of the pressure so I can get the food out. That’s totally fine, right?

Wrong.

How you release the pressure can have a significant impact on your dish, especially when it comes to meats. Manually releasing in a recipe that recommends natural release is one of the biggest Instant Pot mistakes you can make.

instant pot mistake of ruining ribs by manually releasing
Don’t ruin a delicious rack of ribs by manually releasing the pressure!

Manually releasing the pressure, especially from tougher cuts of meat, can really dry out your meat and make it even chewier.

The natural pressure release is necessary for meat cuts like this to re-distribute the juices. Manual release forces liquid/steam out of the pot, including right out of your food! Don’t rush the process or the whole dish could be ruined (or at least, seriously compromised on taste and texture).

For a more thorough, scientific explanation of why you need to avoid this instant pot mistake, check out this video from Hip Pressure Cooking.

Instant Pot Mistake 2: You’re letting the sealing ring get funky

When you clean the Instant Pot lid, you’re supposed to remove the rubber sealing ring and clean it thoroughly. Many people fail to do this at all, instead opting to scrub the ring while it remains attached to the lid.

Even if you detach and clean the ring properly, you may find that the ring develops a bit of a smell over time. Not a gross smell, but more like a savory, food-ish smell.
instant pot mistake not taking out sealing ring

Much of the time, the smell will remain unnoticed. However, if you’re cooking something that isn’t savory—such as a cheesecake or yogurt, you may find that your typical sealing ring can impart an off-smell or flavor to your dessert.

Many people recommend cleaning the rubber sealing ring with warm water and white vinegar, which is a great idea. This can help prevent some of that build-up. Still, I have found after even just a few uses, my sealing ring has developed a bit of a lingering food scent.

If you’ve never noticed this, next time you take out your Instant Pot, give the lid/ring a sniff and see if you notice a savory smell (you may want to wait until you’re alone, so your family won’t think you’re weird). I noticed this with mine after just two or three uses (all I had cooked were ribs, taco rice, and ribs again).

They sell replacement sealing rings on Amazon and they are very cheap. Rather than stress about soaking and super-scrubbing the sealing ring every time (especially since that’s not always sufficient to prevent the smell), I prefer to just use one for savory dishes and one for desserts/yogurt.

Instant Pot Mistake 3. You’re overfilling it

There’s a maximum line for a reason. This includes a maximum amount for liquids and a maximum total level.

Sure, you might be able to cheat this line and get away with it. However, if you’re making this Instant Pot mistake, you might ruin more than just your dish —you could ruin your Instant Pot altogether.

instant pot mistake overfilling

Some foods will expand under pressure, especially liquids. They could bubble up and clog the venting knob. You could end up with a leaking spattering mess (dangerous), and you could ultimately damage your Instant Pot. Stick to the limits.

If you find you’re constantly bumping up against the upper limit, you need a bigger instant pot. Consider upgrading from a 6 quart to an 8 quart. If you’re already using an 8 quart, you might need more than one Instant Pot (and chances are, if this is consistently happening, you’re feeding quite a few people!).

Instant Pot Mistake 4: You’re trusting the pre-programmed settings over your actual experience

The timing chart that came with your Instant Pot may claim that rice will be finished in 5 minutes (or whatever the pre-programmed rice setting is). But if you’re using your Instant Pot and consistently finding your rice over-done, stop using the preset button! Just use the manual (“Pressure Cook”) setting instead.

Aside from potentially ruining your meal, if you make the mistake of relying too heavily on presets, you may be setting yourself up for the dreaded “BURN” notice.

instant pot mistake burn notice
Burn Notice: Womp Womp!

Different rice cooks differently—long grain versus short grain, brown versus white, etc. The same goes for other foods as well. While the presets can be a helpful guide, especially if you’re just getting started, trust your actual experience and results and make adjustments accordingly.

Instant Pot Mistake 5: You’re cleaning it with abrasive materials

The inner canister of your Instant Pot is made from stainless steel. You should treat it the same way you would treat a nice set of stainless steel cookware — with care.

The user manual specifically warns against using caustic cleaners and abrasive scrubbers (such as Brillo pads). But how many people actually read a product manual from cover to cover?

The fact is, using those types of materials to clean your Instant Pot is a huge mistake. You should even be careful about using the rough side of a common sink sponge. These materials can create microscopic scuffs in your Instant Pot, which food will continue to stick to in the future.

instant pot mistake of cleaning with the wrong materials
This person has *not* been cleaning their Instant Pot properly and needs Barkeepers Friend STAT!

Once this happens, you’ll need to scrub even harder to remove the stuck-on food, which will create more microscopic nicks, and the cycle will continue.

The best thing you can use to clean the Instant Pot, aside from regular dish soap and water, is Barkeepers Friend. This cleaner is made for stainless steel and once you own it, you’ll likely discover multiple opportunities to use it around your house.
It’s tough and will clean some pretty nasty surfaces, but it won’t damage the pot. This can also be used on the outside of your Instant Pot to make sure you clean up drips and splatters so that the outside continues to look as nice as the day you bought it. Of course, it’s also great for glass cooktops, stainless steel appliances, etc.

Make the most of out of your Instant Pot

To ensure that you get the best food out of your Instant Pot, and that it lasts for a long time, make sure you’re avoiding these five mistakes.

For those of you that use an Instant Pot, can you think of any Instant Pot mistakes I missed? Drop them in the comments!

Don’t forget to shop these Instant Pot supplies:

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11 Comments

  1. I’m totally guilty of #1! I have a hard time being patient enough for a natural release, LOL. But I’m definitely going to wait it out the next time I cook meat in my IP. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Hi Emily,

      I totally understand! When I was looking at a lot of Instant Pot recipes, I wasn’t really aware of how long it would take the pot to come to pressure, plus the release time. A lot of the dishes took way longer than I initially anticipated, so I made the mistake of just saying “oh well, let’s just vent the pressure this way” — but it made a big difference in how the dish turned out and now I know better. Even if it isn’t much faster though, I’m still a full-convert to the Instant Pot because I love not having to watch it or do anything while the dish cooks!

      Charissa

    1. Yes! I didn’t realize it at first. I was just following the recipes I found and was too new to experiment/alter the recipes. However, the more I learned about cooking meat in the Instant Pot, the more I realized so many people were making this mistake. I would be pretty livid if I spent all that money on a roast or a rack of ribs only to have them ruined! Curry goat — now that sounds like an interesting recipe! If you decide to venture out, you may want to get an extra sealing ring. Curry is definitely a strong flavor, so I bet it’s left it’s “mark” on the sealing ring.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. This is such a good post for me right now as I still don’t have one BUT I’ve been looking for a good sale! I will save this article and come back to it to make sure I’m using my Instapot correctly. Thanks!

    1. Hi Yolanda,

      Oh my goodness, you will love it! Everyone raves about their slow cooker and I’ve always felt like “Meh… I’m not impressed” with most slow cooker recipes. I’ve only had my Instant Pot for a month and I’ve already turned into an Instant Pot evangelist haha. My kids are all pretty young, so even though it may not always be the “fastest” way I could prep a dish, it’s the most hands-free way, which is everything to me right now! We got ours for $40 on Prime Day, but I bet there’ll be some awesome sales come Black Friday if you can wait that long.

      Thanks for reading!
      Charissa

    1. Oh yes, please do! Right before I bought mine, my cousin is the one who warned me about the sealing ring Instant Pot mistake. Otherwise, I don’t think I would’ve even bothered to check. But sure enough, I used it once or twice, gave it a sniff, and there it was. I get why your mum loves her Instant Pot. I’ve only had mine for a month and I’m in love!

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