If you don’t know what an Instant Pot is (the brand name for the best selling electric pressure cooker on the market), then I can only assume you either don’t eat food, or don’t ever cook food. The Instant Pot craze has taken suburban kitchens by storm, and from its booming popularity and subsequent flooding of pressure cooker cookbooks on the market, I’d say it’s comparable to the release of the first line of affordable countertop microwave ovens.
If my grandmother were alive today, I’d bet she’d tell this generation of mothers who have just recently learned that pressure cooking means you can turn a cheap cut of meat into a tender masterpiece, “Uh, what have you ladies been waiting for?”
And speaking of waiting for things, if you’ve been putting off cleaning your Instant Pot (and especially if you didn’t even know that you need to regularly take it apart and clean it), STOP PUTTING IT OFF. Though we love our Instant Pots for their convenience and innovation, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to nasty foodborne bacteria, stinky odors, and rancid smells.
And in one very extreme instance, a little case of the maggots.
Now that I’ve got you all good and grossed out, here are a few Instant Pot cleaning tips and must-do maintenance steps that will keep your magical cooking pot in tip-top shape. (And keep the food you prepare inside it, totally free from a worm infestation. Because EEEWWW. MY. GAWD.)
1. The base
This is the entire unit that houses the cooking pot, and has the internal heating element. You can clean the outside (including area with function buttons) with a damp cloth, then air dry. You can clean the lip area of the pot with a toothbrush if you can’t fit your fingers in there to wipe clean. This thing never, ever goes in the dishwasher, or gets submerged in water.
2. The stainless steel inner pot
This is the inner pot where the food goes and is made from food grade stainless steel. It can be cleaned in the same manner as other food grade stainless steel pots — meaning it’s dishwasher safe, or can be hand-washed with mild soap and water. If you notice food or water stains, try a non-abrasive scouring cleanser made for pots, like Bar Keeper’s Friends. Same cleaning methods can be used for the steaming rack. If you notice discoloration on the bottom of the pot, cover it with white vinegar for five minutes, then wipe clean.
3. The lid
This whole piece can go in the dishwasher, but first remove the sealing ring and anti-block shield so the lid can be fully cleaned. It’s a good idea to store the lid upside on the pot so air can help reduce odor. Make sure there is no food or other debris in the float valve, because the pot will not come to pressure if there is.
4. The anti-block shield
This is located under the lid, and needs to be removed and cleaned after each use. Use warm, soapy water, dry fully, then pop it back into place.
5. The sealing rings
These can go in the dishwasher as well, and are also cheap and easy to replace. They are made from heat-resistant silicone, but can and will absorb odors. It’s a good idea to have an extra anyway — one for savory foods and one for sweet foods. They need to be completely dry before putting back in, and also need to be periodically inspected for cracking or other damage which will inhibit their ability to seal the pot so it can come to pressure.
6. The condensation collector
Also known as the maggot holder, this plastic cup you hook on the side is used to collect moisture that is released as part of the cooking process. That condensation can contain water, food particles, and fats — hence, if left alone and not cleaned out, can literally spawn maggots. It would be as if you left out a dirty steak soup pot in a cupboard for a few weeks. YUMMY. Also, this is where you suddenly remember that lab you did in high school where you grew insect larva. Good for science class, bad for dinner.
People, treat your Instant Pot with the love and respect it deserves! And that means giving that hard working girl a nice, long, hot bath after she turns that chuck roast you got on sale into beef bourguignon for your fam. Then call your grandma and ask her what else this thing can do. Did someone say cheesecake? She sure did.
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