Instant Pot Cheat Sheet

I was never quite sure what was the difference between all the Instant Pot buttons – “Beans/Chili,” “Meat,” “Poultry,” and “Steam.” As it turns out, they’re all basically the same but with different cooking times, with the exception of the “Steam” button, which heats at full power continuously while it’s coming to pressure. The cheat sheet below is very convenient.

  • Soup – high pressure 30 minute cook time. Press soup and the Adjust button once (more) to cook for 40 minutes. Press soup and the Adjust button twice (less) to cook for 20
  • Meat/Stew – high pressure 35 minute cook time. Adjusted to more – 45 minute cook time; adjusted to less  – 20 minute cook time.
  • Bean/Chili – high pressure 30 minute cook time. Adjusted to more – 40 minute cook time; adjusted to less – 25 minute cook time.
  • Poultry – high pressure 15 minute cook time. Adjusted to more – 30 minute cook time; adjusted to less – 5 minute cook time.
  • Rice – cooks on low pressure and is the only fully automatic program. It’s for cooking white rices and will adjust the cooking time depending on the amount of water and rice in the cooking pot. (I prefer to cook rice for a shorter time on high pressure.)
  • Multi-grain – high pressure 40 minute cook time. Adjusted to less – 20 minutes cook time. Adjusted to more – 45 minutes warm water soaking time and 60 minutes pressure cooking time.
  • Porridge – high pressure 20 minute cook time. Adjusted to more – 30 minute cook time; adjusted to less 15 – a minute cook time.
  • Steam – high pressure 10 minute cook time. Adjusted to more – 15 minute cook time; adjusted to less – 3 minute cook time. Use this function with a rack or steamer basket because it heats at full power continuously while it’s coming to pressure and you don’t want food in direct contact with the bottom of the pressure cooking pot. Once it reaches pressure, the steam button regulates pressure by cycling on and off similar to the other pressure buttons.


A very nice pipeline is developing, now that Nora is so agreeable about eating greens.

  • We cook meat or fish once or twice a week, refrigerate some leftovers, and stockpile freezer balls.
  • I make oatmeal for the entire week in one giant batch and store it in the refrigerator. We all eat from it for breakfast and lunch.
  • I soak and dehydrate walnuts as soon as we buy them, every few weeks or so.
  • I periodically steam and chop several days’ worth of greens for Nora, making freezer balls if there’s extra.
  • I plan on making a week’s worth of grains for the family at a time, now that we have the Instant Pot. We can rotate varieties as I learn how to prepare them (right now it’s rice and millet).
  • I plan on adding large pots of legume dishes to the mix, once I work out how to soak and prepare them. Legumes, like grains, are easy to cook in bulk.

The following are all refrigerator and freezer staples that Nora eats regularly:

  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • fresh fruit
  • avocado
  • bread

So for any given meal, Nora always has a protein, a grain, green veggies, fruit, and some finger foods. These are always on hand either in the refrigerator or as frozen freezer balls.

She joins us for family dinners and weekend meals when we can cook something relatively quick, and gets fed her own dinner first when we can’t.

Kitchen Efficiency

Right now, cooking, shopping, and meal planning is occupying not just a lot of time, but also a lot of headspace. My hope is that it won’t always be that way – otherwise, we’ll end up going back to eating too much takeout and prepared foods.

So here are some kitchen efficiency goals once the learning curve abates:

  • Use the new Instant Pot to make enough grains for the entire week (or half-week, perhaps) all at once. Soak them in the morning or the night before, cook them in the evening, refrigerate the rest.
  • Make large pots of legumes on a more regular basis.
  • Use the Instant Pot to make bone broth and fish stock periodically. Freeze broth cubes as needed.
  • Wash and chop veggies the night before, when we know we need to cook quickly the next day.
  • Always keep washed (and possibly chopped) fresh fruit on hand.
  • Soak and dehydrate nuts immediately after purchasing.

Refrigerator staples for Nora

  • eggs
  • yogurt
  • fruit
  • avocado (for now)

Freezer staples for Nora

  • frozen leftover meat and fish
  • frozen steamed green veggies

While it’s nice to feed Nora whatever we’re having, it’s practical to maintain a freezer stash of leftovers in order to make sure we always have something on hand that we can feed to her. The nice thing about frozen meat and fish is that we can serve ourselves meat or fish once a week, but serve Nora meat or fish every day. Frozen vegetables are good in a pinch because I suspect that Nora gets constipated without them.

I’m still a bit undecided with regard to how much grain to feed to Nora. For now, I’m not making it a priority to freeze grains for her because a) a Paleo meal or two won’t hurt her in the event that we’re out of grains, b) many of the frozen meat dishes include potatoes, bread crumbs, or starchy vegetables,  c) bread is an easy finger food and she probably gets more than she needs.

It’s not yet the season for starchy vegetables that make good grain substitutes such as squash, potatoes, and root vegetables. Once we get more of those on the table, I’ll build up a freezer stash of those.