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Pot in Pot (PIP) Instant Pot Cooking Method

Published: Jan 16, 2018 Updated: Oct 14, 2020 by Paint the Kitchen Red | 126 Comments

Instant Pot ‘Pot in Pot’ (PIP) is a pressure cooking technique that allows you to pressure cook cheesecake, lasagna, and other foods that don’t contain liquid. Pot in Pot cooking is useful for making smaller quantities of food. The PIP method also allows you to pressure cook recipes that tend to scorch and to cook multiple dishes at the same time using Instant Pot stackable containers.

  1. What is Pot in Pot Pressure Cooking?
  2. What Accessories are Used for Pot in Pot Cooking?
  3. What are the Different Uses of PIP Cooking?
  4. Example: How to Use Pot in Pot to Cook Two Recipes Together
  5. Recipes that Use the Pot in Pot Method

If you’re familiar with the Instant Pot, 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!

Get Started with the Instant Pot with these guides:
– Instant Pot Duo Quick Start Guide
– Instant Pot Ultra Quick Start Guide
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Beginners Manual

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. If you’ve ever wondered how to use the Instant Pot steam rack or trivet, this is how:

  1. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the inner pot.
  2. Place a metal trivet or steam rack in the water.
  3. Put food in an oven-safe container. This container does not require liquid.
  4. Place the container on the steam rack and close the Instant Pot lid.
  5. 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.
Important Note

I have used Pyrex oven-safe glass dishes in my multiple Instant Pots with no problems. However, I suggest you read the manufacturer directions for the Instant Pot and the glassware and decide for yourself whether to use glass dishes in the Instant Pot.

2. Optional Instant Pot Accessories

  • Multi-tiered stackable containers used to cook different foods in separate containers.
  • Flat wire rack to separate and stack multiple containers if not using the stackable inserts described in the PIP Accessories section 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 PIP 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 of 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 the Pot in Pot technique 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. And scorching prevents 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 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 the stackable inserts, described in the Pot in Pot Accessories section, 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 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.

I do this all the time with Instant Pot Rice. I use a Pyrex dish to pressure cook the rice using the PIP method, and I don’t need to clean out the inner pot. Plus I can store leftovers in the same dish – very convenient!

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.

As mentioned in the Instant Pot Accessories section above, you can either use metal stackable containers or put the food in individual bowls separated by flat wire racks.

Another option is to cook one of the items (as long as it has enough liquid to bring the Instant Pot to pressure) 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:

  1. Approximate cooking time.
  2. Pressure level (i.e. low or high pressure).
  3. 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 Pot in Pot 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 Use Pot in Pot to Cook Two Recipes 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 just fine with natural release, so problem solved!

Instant Pot 'Pot in Pot' (PIP) is a pressure cooking method that allows you to pressure cook cheesecake, lasagna, foods that scorch, and multiple dishes at the same time.

How to Use the Pot in Pot Method in Your Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

Wondering how to use the pot-in-pot method to cook in your pressure cooker? This tutorial will walk you through the whole pot-in-pot process—how to set it up and what equipment you’ll need, as well as tips for adapting recipes to cook pot-in-pot!

Have you tried pot-in-pot cooking yet? The pot-in-pot method (sometimes shortened to “PIP”) of cooking in the electric pressure cooker has several benefits!

  • Cooking pot-in-pot lets you make a dish in the pressure cooker without dirtying the inner cooking pot, which is useful if you plan to use the pressure cooker again (for instance, making white rice to serve with your Beef and Broccoli).
  • Pot-in-pot also lets you make two separate parts of the meal at the same time in the same pressure cooker (making white rice while the lemon chicken cooks below).
  • Pot-in-pot is necessary for “baking” things like cheesecakes in the pressure cooker.
  • It’s also automatic portion control—the pot-in-pot method uses cute, smaller-size dishes like cake pans, half-size Bundt pans, mason jars, and ramekins.

I recently had the chance to walk a friend through the pot-in-pot method, and I thought I’d take some photos to share with you!

You’ll find lots of pot-in-pot recipes in my dessert cookbook, Instantly Sweet. (Have you ordered your copy yet?)

How to Cook Using the Pot-in-Pot Method in Your Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot

For this tutorial, I’ll be adapting my classic white rice recipe to use the pot-in-pot method.

Equipment

First, you’ll need to assemble your equipment—in addition to your pressure cooker, you’ll need a trivet, an oven-safe pan or glass dish, and a sling or retriever tongs.

Many pressure cookers come with a trivet (also called a cooking rack with feet)—some are lower than others, and some have handles to make it easier to remove the pot. If your pressure cooker came with a trivet, you’re good to go. If you need to purchase one, I highly recommend having both a low trivet for cooking taller pans and a high trivet for cooking one-pot meals.

As far as the cooking dish goes, most oven-safe dishes will work as long as it fits in your pressure cooker with enough room for the steam to escape around it. Many people like to cook their rice in a Pyrex or other serving dish; however, some people shy away from glass. Do what you’re comfortable with! I’m partial to using my 7×3-inch round cake pan—it really is my workhorse in the kitchen.

You can make a simple sling by folding a long strip of aluminum foil in thirds lengthwise. Since I cook pot-in-pot so often, I’ve made a reusable sling by cutting a large silicone pastry mat lengthwise into 4-inch strips. I also love to use my retriever tongs to remove the pot-in-pot pan from the hot inner cooking pot. As always—go with what works for you!

Process

The MOST important thing to remember about pot-in-pot cooking is to add water to the cooking pot BEFORE lowering in the pan! Pressure cookers need steam to cook—the water added to the bottom of the pressure cooking pot is the key to creating this steam! I like to add the water to the pressure cooking pot first thing so that I don’t accidentally forget this step once the pot-in-pot is in place.

The amount of water needed will vary depending on the cook time; however, for most things (cheesecake, rice, eggs, veggies), add 1 cup of water to the 6 quart pressure cooking pot, then place the trivet on the bottom.

In your oven-safe dish, add the ingredients and stir. Center the oven-safe dish on the sling, and use the sling to carefully lower the pan onto the trivet. Fold the sling so that it doesn’t interfere with closing the lid.

Lock the lid in place and cook as directed. When the time comes, remove the lid and unfold the sling. Use the sling to remove the oven-safe dish from the pressure cooker. (Be careful, since the cooking process can make the sling hot and slippery.)

I like to use my mini mitts to get a good grip on the sling since they’re all silicone and easy to wash, but any oven mitt will work. Other people prefer to use retriever tongs to grab the sides of the pan and lift it out. Use whatever you have on hand to do what works best for you!

Recipes that Use the Pot-in-Pot Method

If you’re brand new to cooking pot-in-pot, I’d recommend you start with a few recipes that are already written to use the pot-in-pot method.

Red, White, and Blue Cheesecake (or any other cheesecake recipes)
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Barbecue Bacon Meatloaf (OK, technically this one doesn’t use a pot in another pot—the meatloaf itself rests on foil—but the principles are the same)
Lemon Chicken (see it in action in the video and follow the tips listed at the bottom of the recipe)

More Pot-in-Pot recipes from The Electric Pressure Cookbook

Mexican Breakfast Casserole (p. 41)
“Baked” Cheese Ravioli (p. 124)
Penne and Homemade Marinara Sauce (p. 200)
Buttermilk Cornbread (p. 261)
Nearly the entire dessert section (starting p. 277)

Adjusting a Recipe to Use the Pot-in-Pot Method

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the pot-in-pot method, you can start to get a feel for what kinds of recipes it’ll work with. Here are a few guiding principles I use:

Choose Similar Ingredients to Another Pot-in-Pot Recipe

One of the easiest ways to adjust a pot-in-pot recipe is to choose a recipe that uses similar ingredients and base your cook time off of that. For example, if you want to make a Snickers Cheesecake, I recommend starting with my Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake recipe and adapting it to your candy of choice. (Candy, chocolate chips, and other mix-ins to the cheesecake batter require a longer cooking time.)

Choose Foods with Similar Cook Times

Choose recipes with similar cook times—for instance chicken breasts diced into large bite-size pieces cook in 3 or 4 minutes with a 10-minute natural pressure release, which is an excellent match for the cook time of white rice! For example, you can make my Indian Butter Chicken and rice at the same time! Simply cut the chicken thighs into large bite-size pieces so they cook more quickly. Then add a trivet and rice as directed in the white rice recipe below and reduce the High Pressure cook time to 4 minutes with a 10-minute natural release.

Chicken is also an excellent match for pastas. To figure out a cook time for pasta, simply take the time listed on the box, divide in half and then subtract a minute. (For example, the time listed on my box of bowtie pasta is 12 minutes, so in the pressure cooker that bowtie pasta should cook in 5 minutes.)

I love to serve my Chicken Lazone over pasta, so when I want to use the pot-in-pot method, I saute the chicken in the cooking pot, then transfer the sauteed chicken to my cake pan. I’ll wipe out the pot, then cook my spaghetti in the bottom of the cooking pot with just enough water to cover the noodles. I’ll rest the cake pan on a tall trivet in the cooker and cook for 3 minutes with a quick pressure release.

Change the Size of the Meat

Large cuts of meat require much longer in the pressure cooker than that same cut of meat diced into bite-size pieces. So if you want to cook a side with a longer cook time, consider changing up the size of the meat. For instance, the thinly sliced beef strips in Beef and Broccoli only take 12 minutes at high pressure, so they’re too long for white rice and too short for brown rice. However, beef cut into 2- or 3-inch cubes would need about 20 minutes at high pressure, making them a good match for brown rice, which has a 22-minute cook time and a 20-minute natural pressure release.

Don’t Be Afraid to Add Time

Since the trivet lifts foods up and away from the heating element on the bottom of the cooking pan, foods occasionally need an additional minute or two at high pressure. When first adjusting a recipe, I recommend starting with the original time listed in the different recipes and testing for doneness. For example, if I use a tall trivet when just cooking rice pot-in-pot, I will use a 4-minute cook time to make sure the rice cooks through.

OK, that’s it! Do you have any questions about cooking pot-in-pot? Leave me your questions in the comments!

Wondering how to use the pot-in-pot method to cook in your Instant Pot/pressure cooker? This tutorial will walk you through the whole pot-in-pot process!