The secret to making the most of a mini or 8 Quart Instant Pot
Follow these simple rules for scaling Instant Pot recipes for 3 Quart and 8 Quart cookers
By far the most popular size of Instant Pot is the 6 Quart, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place in your home for a few different sizes of cooker. Yes, the bigger Instant Pots are perfect for big batch cooking and meal prep, and yes, it’s true, the smaller Instant Pots are especially good for side dishes—“But wait!” you exclaim, “Don’t I need recipes specifically created for the 8 Quart to use it?” Absolutely not! Scaling 6 Quart Instant Pot recipes for 3 Quart or 8 Quart cookers is easy.
If you’re thinking about taking the plunge into a bigger or smaller Instant Pot but aren’t sure what or how to cook in them, you’ll be happy to learn that there are simple rules for scaling recipes to work in any size.
Adjust amounts, keep the time
There are only two things you need to remember to use any recipe you want in any Instant Pot.
- Adjust quantities of each ingredient
- Use half as much ingredients for a 3 Quart
- Use at least 2 cups of water-based liquid for an 8 Quart
- Keep cooking time the same
Most recipes you’ll find for the Instant Pot are designed for a 6 Quart cooker. The amount of liquid suggested in the recipe is the right amount to bring a 6 Quart up to pressure and properly cook the dish. But that doesn’t mean they can’t also be used in a 3 or 8 Quart. And it’s easy to do!
Halve it all for a 3 Quart
Generally speaking, halving the quantity of each ingredient (including liquid, such as water—to a minimum of 1/2 cup total liquid) is all you need to do to turn any normal recipe from the Instant Pot site (or elsewhere) into a 3 Quart mini-friendly version.
Told you it was easy.
At least 2 cups liquid for an 8 Quart
If you’re trying to convert a recipe to use in an 8 Quart model, you can similarly scale things up. You’ll need at least 2 cups of liquid for the cooker to pressurize, so if there’s already at least 2 cups, you don’t need to change a thing. However, if there’s less than that you will need to adjust quantities until you have at least 2 cups of liquid.
Most recipes can be doubled for easy scaling, just make sure your ingredients don’t exceed the MAX PC – 2/3 line.
Don’t change cooking times
No matter what size of Instant Pot you’re using, the cooking time listed in the recipe doesn’t change. If it takes 10 minutes in a 6 Quart, it still takes 10 minutes in a 3 Quart or an 8 Quart. Only the amounts of ingredients would change.
Really? The time stays the same?
Yep! Regardless of the size, once an Instant Pot pressurizes they all require the same amount of time to cook no matter how much food there is. So whether you want to cook one carrot or one bushel of carrots, it will take the same amount of time to cook. That said, with more ingredients, it may take a bit longer for the cooker to come up to pressure, and similarly, to depressurize after cooking.
Just make sure it all fits without going over the MAX PC—2/3 fill line, and that there is enough liquid for the cooker to pressurize, and you’ll be fine.
How much liquid do I need?
Depending where you look, you may find different recommendations for the amount of liquid required to pressure cook in an Instant Pot.
After considerable experimentation, the experts in our Instant Pot test kitchen consider the minimum liquid amounts to be ½ cup for a mini (3 Quart), 1 cup for a 6 Quart, and 2 cups for an 8 Quart cooker. Unless otherwise directed in your recipe, ensure there is at least this much liquid present. Any less, and you’re asking for less-than-optimal results. Not only will your cooker struggle to ever reach pressure, but at best you’ll get a crummy meal; at worst, a ruined cooker.
Less liquid = faster pressurization
The advantage to using less liquid is that it takes less time to reach pressure – you know, that awkward waiting period while things heat up before your Instant Pot beeps and the time starts counting down.
We are busy, hungry people. We like fast.
What are the exceptions?
Like all general rules, there are times when it doesn’t always work. For example, some recipes require specific amounts of liquid because the food is absorbing it, such as pasta, rice, or oatmeal. In these recipes, make sure the ratio of liquid to absorbing ingredient stays the same, whether you’re scaling down to a mini or up to an 8 Quart.
Why would I want a 3 Quart mini?
Apart from being really, really cute, the 3 Quart mini size is actually a great addition to your kitchen! The smaller size uses up less countertop real estate and makes it easier to store. Plus, if you’re cooking for only 1 or 2 people, it might be all you ever need.
A lot of families find that having a 3 Quart as a secondary cooker is really useful for making side dishes. You can cook rice or steam veggies in the mini while its bigger, brawnier sibling is making quick work of your main course.
What’s good about an 8 Quart?
The best thing about the 8 Quart is its capacity for “more”. More food, more family, more leftovers!
The bigger volume of an 8 Quart cooker means you can cook a ton of food at once, making it a breeze to feed a larger family or make big batches for parties, freezing, or weekly meal prep.
The only thing you don’t get “more” of is clean-up—the true beauty of one-pot cooking!
Go forth and cook!
There you have it. If not knowing how to adjust recipes was the only thing stopping you from getting or using a different sized Instant Pot, consider that problem solved.
Just remember—adjust the amounts, keep the time. It’s that easy.
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