Instant Pot ‘Pot in Pot’ (PIP) is a cooking method that allows you take pressure cooking to the next level. The Pot in Pot cooking technique allows you to pressure cook cheesecakes, desserts, and other foods that don’t contain liquid. Pot in Pot also allows you to cook dishes that tend to scorch, and to make multiple dishes at the same time.
Once you get the hang of the Instant Pot and you’re able to successfully make straight-forward recipes, you start to ask what else this wonderful gadget can do. For instance, maybe you’ve heard the term ‘Pot in Pot’ and wondered what it is. Pot in Pot cooking (also referred to as PIP) is a really useful Instant Pot (pressure cooker) technique.
I’ll give you a summary of why you’d want to use this technique and walk you through the steps to combine two recipes that you can cook together. By the way, if you’ve made my Instant Pot Shrimp and Grits recipe, then you’ve already used the Pot in Pot technique!
What is Pot in Pot Pressure Cooking?
The Instant Pot ‘Pot in Pot’ method of cooking allows food to cook in a separate bowl that’s placed on a steam rack in the Instant Pot. Steam generated from liquid below the steam rack is used to build pressure and cook the food.
Pot in Pot has many uses and I’ll outline them in the sections below, but in its simplest form, here’s how you can cook something using the Pot in Pot cooking technique:
- Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the inner pot.
- Place a metal trivet or steamer rack in the water
- Put food in an oven-proof container. This container does not REQUIRE liquid
- Place the container on the steam rack and close the Instant Pot lid
- Pressure cook the food and do a Natural Pressure Release (NPR) or Quick Release (QR)
Note: The quantity of food you can cook in a Pot in Pot container will be less than what you can cook directly in the inner pot. You might need to adjust recipe quantities.
What Accessories are Used for Pot in Pot Cooking?
1. Essential Instant Pot Accessories
- Raised steam rack that is placed in the Instant Pot inner pot. The Instant Pot is shipped with a steam rack, and that works perfectly well. There are many types of racks – as you can see from my collection! Note: the container being used for PIP cooking must be placed on a rack, and not directly in the inner pot.
- Oven-safe container made of stainless steel, oven-safe glass, silicone, or ceramic/porcelain. The container shouldn’t touch the walls of the inner pot and should allow the Instant Pot lid to be closed easily.
2. Optional Instant Pot Accessories
- Multi-tiered stackable containers to cook different foods in the separate containers
- Flat wire rack to separate and stack multiple glass or metal containers if not using the stackable containers described above.
- Silicone gloves to handle the hot dishes
- If you don’t have a steam rack with handles to lift the container out, you can make an aluminum foil sling to remove your container from the Instant Pot. Some models of Instant Pot are shipped with the rack that has handles.
- Aluminum foil to cover the container and prevent condensation from dripping in.
What are the different uses of Pot in Pot Cooking?
1. Recipes that don’t require liquid
Dishes that would normally be baked in the oven can be made in the Instant Pot. This includes casseroles and desserts, and since they don’t have enough liquid to bring the Instant Pot to pressure, the Pot in Pot technique works great. Here are some examples with links to Pot in Pot recipes from different blogs:
2. Prevent scorching from heavy and dense sauces
I’ve used the Pot in Pot method to salvage a meal when I get the dreaded ‘Burn’ error and food is scorched on the bottom of the inner pot. I empty out the contents of the Instant Pot, clean out the inner pot, and use Pot in Pot to finish up the cooking.
If you’re using canned tomato sauces or purchased sauces with ingredients like corn starch or tapioca starch, you can have problems with scorching. This keeps the Instant Pot from reaching pressure. Or you may have a recipe with a thick gravy. Pot in Pot cooking is a great way to cook with these types of foods without having to thin the sauce with water or broth.
Another example is oatmeal. Oatmeal cooked directly in the inner pot can be difficult to cook properly and it can also be pretty messy. Pot in Pot works really well for oatmeal.
3. Recipes that require a bain marie
A bain marie (pronounced ‘bahn ma-ree’) is a water-bath cooking technique used for delicate desserts that are baked in the oven, and serves to slow down cooking by using steam to evenly cook the dish. These recipes are perfect for the Instant Pot!
4. Reheat foods without using the microwave or stovetop
Do you heat up leftovers in the microwave? At our house, by the time five people heat up their food, the first person’s food is already cold!
A great solution is to reheat food in the Instant Pot, using the Pot in Pot method. Just store the leftovers in the fridge in oven-safe containers, and reheat in the Instant Pot using the Pot in Pot technique. Note: going directly from the freezer to the pressure cooker can cause a glass bowl to crack.
You can stack multiple containers separated by a wire rack, or use these stackable containers that work great in the Instant Pot. Then just use the ‘Steam’ or ‘Pressure Cook’ function for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the type and density of your food.
5. Steam vegetables, seafood, and other delicate foods
I like to pressure cook delicate vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, peas, etc) or seafood on low pressure. However, your Instant Pot model may not have the low-pressure option, or you may be using a recipe that calls for high pressure.
Cooking these delicate foods directly in the inner pot, even in a steamer basket, can cause them to overcook. Cooking them in a separate container using PIP helps to slow down the cooking process. I’ve found that using a glass container versus metal, and covering the container with a double layer of foil or a lid, also slows down cooking.
6. Quick cleanup, easy storage for smaller quantities of food
I love the fact that the Instant Pot makes cleanup really easy – only one pot to clean! If you have a smaller quantity of food to cook, you can make cleanup even easier. Use the Pot in Pot method to cook your food, and serve and store it in the same container.
7. Cook multiple dishes together
For me, cooking a whole meal altogether is the most exciting use of Pot in Pot. This method of cooking is very common in Indian kitchens and it’s something I’ve grown up with.
This set of stackable containers is a really handy accessory for cooking Pot in Pot meals. It allows you to put different foods into the compartments and cook them at the same time in the Instant Pot.
Although the stackable containers are a handy accessory, you can cook multiple dishes without them. You can just stack bowls, separated by a wire rack. Or you can have one of the items (as long as it has enough liquid to bring the Instant Pot to pressure) cook directly in the inner pot, and place the second item in a separate container on a steam rack.
Here are some important factors when cooking two different recipes together. Both recipes should have the same:
- Approximate cooking time.
- Pressure level (i.e. low or high pressure).
- Pressure release method i.e. quick release (QR) or natural pressure release (NPR).
You can use the Pot in Pot cooking method to combine many different types of recipes. The Instant Pot recipe book that came with your Instant Pot has cooking times for different foods. I use the timings as a general guideline for which foods I can pressure cook together, using Pot in Pot.
Possible combinations for Pot in Pot Cooking
- Quinoa and rice
- Chicken thighs and collard greens
- Fish fillet and green beans
- Kidney beans (soaked) and brown rice
- Ground beef and basmati rice
- Basmati rice and dal (Indian lentil curry)
- Thai Green Curry and Jasmine Rice
- Chili and Cornbread
What do you do when the pressure cooking times for the two recipes are different?
As I mentioned above, the recipes you cook together using Pot in Pot should have about the same cooking time. So how can you solve the problem of different cooking times?
- Partly cook the longer-cooking item, do a quick release of pressure, and add in the second item and continue cooking both items. e.g. if item A has a cook time of 15 minutes and item B has a cook time of 10 minutes, you’ll pressure cook item A for 5 minutes, quick release (QR), open the lid and add in the container for item B (on a rack or stacked), close the lid and pressure cook both for 10 minutes.
- Tightly cover the container of the faster-cooking item with a double layer of aluminum foil. The foil slows down the cooking of the contents.
- Cut the slower-cooking item (e.g. meat) into small pieces so that it takes less time to cook.
- Cook the faster-cooking item in a glass, ceramic or silicone container versus stainless steel because that will slow down the cooking time a little bit.
Example: How to cook Instant Pot Thai Red Curry and Instant Pot Jasmine Rice together
Let’s walk through the process of figuring out how to cook two different recipes at the same time. First, take a look at the two individual recipes I’m going to show you how to combine and cook together:
If you were cooking both dishes separately, you’d cook the Thai red curry, empty out the contents into a serving dish, clean the inner pot, and then cook the rice. I’m going to show you how you can save time and cleanup by using the Pot in Pot method of cooking multiple items together.
The recipe states that you need to cook Jasmine rice for 4 minutes. That’s perfect because that’s how long the chicken in the Thai red curry needs to cook for.
But there’s a problem. Remember how I mentioned that they both need to have the same method of pressure release? You’ll notice is that the Instant Pot Thai chicken curry recipe calls for quick release of pressure (QR), while the rice calls for 10 minute natural pressure release (NPR). If you cook the two dishes together and do a quick release, the rice won’t be cooked properly. So the only other choice is to do a natural release. Chicken thighs do well with natural release, so problem solved.
Step by Step Instructions
So here’s a summary of how you’ll cook the curry and rice together. Please read the individual recipes for details:
- Prepare the Thai red curry up until the pressure cooking step.
- Prepare the Jasmine rice up until the pressure cooking step.
- Place a tall steam rack in the curry.
- Place the rice container on the steam rack.
- Pressure cook both items for 4 minutes and do a natural pressure release (NPR) for 10 minutes, and then quick release (QR) any remaining pressure.
- Once the pressure has released, open the lid.
- Remove the rice using silicone gloves or a sling. *
- Remove the steam rack.
- Continue with the Thai red curry recipe by adding vegetables and cooking the curry in ‘Saute’ mode.
* You may have to clean the bottom of outside of the Pyrex dish, due to splatter.
I hope this article has made you more comfortable using Pot in Pot cooking. If you found it helpful, please leave a comment and/or share on social media using the social media share buttons at the top and bottom of this post. Thank you!
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