The Instant Pot electric pressure cookers can achieve optimal cooking results every time due to advanced microprocessor technology. The embedded microprocessor facilitates the use of Smart Programs, a set of extensively tested, pre-programmed cooking instructions. Based on the type of food being cooked, Smart Programs adjust and control all four cooking parameters: heating intensity, temperature, pressure and duration.
Heating intensity refers to the amount of heat output generated by the heating element. The heating element controls heat output by switching on and off intermittently to manage the temperature at the bottom of the inner pot. The cooker’s ability to lower the heating intensity prevents food from scorching the bottom. Smart Programs manage heating intensity based on the type of food.
For instance, heating intensity builds slowly and gradually on the “Soup” Smart Program, but on “Steam,” heating intensity is fast and steep, as it is expected that steamed foods will be placed on a steam rack or in a steamer basket and will not make contact with the inner pot.
Temperature is the ambient temperature in the inner pot throughout the cooking process. Smart Programs reach a peak temperature, then either maintain that temperature or lower it based on the program. For instance, before cooking begins on “Multigrain,” food is softened with a 45-minute warm water soak at 60°C (140°F).
Pressure is achieved by boiling liquid until enough steam builds up in the inner pot to cause pressurization. The thermodynamics of gas indicate that in ideal cases, the product of the pressure and volume of a gas is directly proportional to the temperature. Since the volume in the cooking pot is a constant, we can consider the pressure being linearly related to the temperature of the gas, and to a large extent (with delayed effect) to the temperature of the liquid content.
Depending on the model, Instant Pot electric pressure cookers may reach the following pressure levels:
- Low – 5.8 ~ 7.2 psi
- High – 10.2 ~ 11.6 psi
- Max – 15 psi
Cooking duration is the time it takes for food to cook once the cooker has pressurized. Cooking duration may be affected depending on the size of the food item, whether the food is fresh or frozen, and in the case of rice, the volume.
- Size – The thickness of a food will impact how long it will take to cook through. For instance, when preparing a 1” thick steak, the cooking duration may take between 10-15 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness.
- Frozen – When cooking a frozen block of meat, the cooking duration may need to be increased by 50% or more. When thinking of that 1” thick steak, adding 50% would bring the cooking duration up to 15-22 minutes, depending on your preferred doneness.
- Volume – The cooking duration for most food items will not change based on the amount of food in the inner pot. For instance, whether you want to cook 1 carrot or 1 bushel of carrots, the cooking duration will remain the same. However, the time it takes your cooker to heat up and pressurize will increase.
The exception for this is the Rice Smart Program, which automatically adjusts the cooking duration based on the volume of rice in the inner pot. The default cooking duration has been calibrated for medium- and long-grain white rice.