This nearly pocket-sized 3-quart cooker is small and cute but cooking in a world of recipes written for larger pressure cookers is definitely a challenge! Here’s how to adjust larger recipes, and get the best results from your Instant Pot MINI – or any 3-quart pressure cooker.
While the most obvious adaptation is to shrink down the quantity of a recipe – and we’ll get to that in a moment- there are a couple of hidden differences that can have huge impacts on recipes cooked in the MINI.
Lower Pressure and Less Time To Reach it
The Instant Pot MINI has a working pressure of 10.1psi (70kPa) compare to all the other models and sizes of Instant Pot that operate at 11.6psi (80kPa). The pressure difference is not a game-changer for most recipes, but when you combine it with the shorter time to pressure – the difference is evident in tougher longer-cooking foods such as whole grains, dense veggies, or the toughest meat.
The cooker being smaller and cooking at lower pressure means that it will actually take less time for it to gain and loose pressure, too. My tests revealed that the Instant Pot MINI takes an average of 9 minutes to build pressure compared to the 13 minutes of larger-sized cookers. This difference is significant because, remember, the food inside is cooking while the Instant Pot is both gaining and losing pressure, too! So, that 4-minute time-to-pressure difference is the equivalent of shaving 2 minutes off the food’s “pressure cooking time”. Combine that difference with the lower pressure (cooking temperature) and you might need to add anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes to the pressure cooking time for specific recipes.
Don’t worry, no need to “guess” how to adjust the cooking times for foods cooked in the Instant Pot MINI- I’ve just added a column to the pressure cooking time chart specifically for the Mini (and the growing number of lower-pressure electric cookers which are increasingly available).
See Also: Hip Pressure Cooking Time Chart
Less Liquid Required
I sent several queries to Instant Pot to find out if the minimum liquid requirement was reduced – and every one of them was answered with, “No, it’s the same as the 6 and 8 quarts” – which I worked out to be 1 1/2 cups (12oz/375ml).
Through testing, and my experience with other pressure cooker manufactures requiring less liquid for their smaller models (i.e. Fissler, WMF), I was able to get consistent results with less liquid.
Though this is not officially sanctioned by Instant Pot, you can use as little as 1 1/4 cups (10oz/315ml)of liquid in mini.
While we’re at it, be wary of no-liquid-added pressure cooker recipes. The no-liquid-added recipes making the rounds bet that the cooker won’t overheat before the food releases enough liquid to build pressure. This technique does not work reliably enough for me to recommend because, beyond frequently resulting in partially burned yet under-cooked dinner, it creates additional wear and tear to the gaskets, seals, and electronics that are not designed to withstand the “dry sauteeing” of food with a closed pressure lid.
See Also: Measuring Veggies as Cooking Liquid
Less food (obviously ; )
The maximum-fill rules for the MINI are exactly the same as for any other pressure cooker size: No more than half-full for foods that expand or generate foam (rice, grains or beans) and no more than two-thirds-full for everything else. Thankfully, all of the MINI inner-pots have these fill lines clearly marked, so let me share some stats about your 3-quart that will come in handy when you’re evaluating whether a potential recipe will fit whole, halved or not at all. BTW, when I say “cups” I mean U.S. 8 oz measuring cups (about 250ml).
- 1/2 full is equivalent to six cups (1.5L)
- 2/3 full is equivalent to eight cups (2L)
- Food-wise, this means
- max 2 cups of beans (that’s about a pound ) with 4 cups (1L) of liquid
- max 2 cups of dry rice with 3 cups (750ml) of liquid
- max 3 1/2 pounds of meat with 1 cup (250ml) of liquid
- max 7 cups of veggies with 1 cup (250ml) of liquid
Adjusting Recipes to the 3 qt.
OK, now that you’ve gotten more details about the differences and how much will actually fit in the cooker, here’s how to shrink down a recipe – or even evaluate if it is possible.
- Pressure Cooking Time Doesn’t Change – except when it does.
In most cases, you would not need to alter the recommended pressure cooking time. The pressure cooking time is decided for most foods based on the size and density of the food. If the food is the same size and density the pressure cooking time remains the same no matter how many of that food is pressure cooked (explanation here).However, if the food is quite dense (such as a bean, seed, grain with an outer coating, a large piece of meat) then the cooking time will need to be increased to compensate for the 3qt’s lower cooking pressure – just look-up the main ingredient in the hip cooking time chart to be sure.
- Check, or split all of the ingredients – except for the cooking liquid, maybe.
- The recipe just might fit “as is” so check the suggested quantities of veggies (calculate approximately 2 cups per pound), beans, grains and liquid, will they still fit below the 2/3 or 1/2 max?
- If a whole recipe won’t fit, slicing it in half might work? If not, would it make sense to cut the recipe down further? To cut a recipe down to 1/3 use a calculator and multiply all of the ingredients by 0.3
- Scale down or adjust the liquid, if needed.
- If the recipe contains rice or grains – the liquid ratio needs to remain the same. What that means is if you halve a recipe, you should halve the liquid. If you only use a third of a recipe you should use a third of the liquid. However, keep in mind that the liquid cannot go below the minimum required for the cooker to reach pressure (1 1/4 cups) or the cooker won’t reach pressure!
- If the recipe is primarily vegetables or meat…
- Is it supposed to be a soup or very liquidy? Then only use enough liquid to almost cover the ingredients (without going over the 2/3 max)
- Is the recipe meant to be a braise or a stew? Then only add the cookers minimum liquid requirement (1 1/4 cups) as the food will contribute the rest.
- If the recipe is meant to be steamed with a steamer basket – just use the minimum liquid requirement under the steamer basket for the cooker to build pressure.
- When in doubt, ask…
If you have any qualms about adjusting a recipe for a 3qt cooker, just leave a comment below the Hip recipe you want to shrink. If the recipe comes from elsewhere online, ask the recipe author directly for guidance. I will help as I can in the comments, below, but please understand that I cannot really know what calculations another recipe author made, what the intended results should be like, or even guarantee good results from a recipe I did not write or test myself.
But… should a 3qt be your first multicooker?
Well, if you already have one and it’s your first cooker, this advice is going to come a little late. My pressure cooker purchasing recommendation has always been to start with a 6qt – as that is the most flexible size in terms of doing more sophisticated cooking methods such as pan-in-pot or stacking things vertically to cook more than one dish at once. The 6qt size has nearly the same minimum liquid requirement as the 3qt – this means that a 6qt can make meals for anywhere from 1 to 6 people. Plus, there’s a whole body of recipes written for this size pressure cooker which don’t require any adjustments while you’re learning to pressure cook!
As you eventually move most of your cooking to pressure, you’ll find that just one cooker is just not enough – my recommendation is to then consider adding a smaller accessory cooker is going to be a great helper for making a side dish, steamed veggies or a single bowl of oatmeal (all things that the 6qt can do, too ; ).
How have you adapted?
Have a “mini”? Please share your tips for shrinking recipes with our readers by leaving a comment, below!