Pot-in-Pot Method for the Instant Pot

On April 19, 2017 by Once a Month Meals

You got your Instant Pot out of the box, you did the water test, made rice,  sautéed something, made some soup and now you’re feeling pretty good about your fancy new appliance – you are ready to take it to the next level!

You’re ready to try “Pot-in-Pot” (PIP) – but what is it exactly, why do you need to do it, how do you do it, and is it ok to stick plastic in your Instant Pot (the answer is no – by the way)?

Have no fear!

We are here to answer all your Instant Pot Pot-in-Pot questions!

So you’ll be well on your way to Instant Pot status level – Expert, in no time!

What is Pot-in-Pot Method?

PIP is essentially using an oven safe dish to cook your meal, side or dessert in, and placing it in your Instant Pot. Simply put, you are putting another “pot” into the “Instant Pot.”

When and Why would I want to use Pot-in-Pot Method?

There are several reasons you might like to use the PIP method, including but not limited to:

  • Reheating meals
  • Cooking meals not on direct heat – such as those with low liquid content or those you don’t want sitting in liquid
  • For a recipe you’ve made before that stuck to the bottom of the pot
  • Desserts such as cakes or cheesecakes
  • Preparing multiple items at once, for example: rice and honey bourbon chicken.

Here’s what you need to successfully pull off the Pot-in-Pot Method:

Things to Note about Pot-in-Pot Method:

At Once a Month Meals we’re all about that cook-from-frozen life (reason 5,430 why we love the Instant Pot) but it’s important that you know:

*You NEVER want to put a frozen glass bowl straight into the Instant Pot to pressure cook.*

You can put frozen contents into a room temperature bowl to cook, just not frozen contents in a frozen glass bowl as you risk the glass cracking due to a sudden change in temperature.

We recommend that you freeze your meal in a freezer bag, molded to your dish rather than the dish itself.

Here’s how you do that successfully:

  1. Place a freezer bag inside the dish you want to cook in. We highly recommend using an oven safe pan or dish, not glass.
  2. Fold the sides of that freezer bag over the edges of that dish.
  3. Put your meal and food contents inside the freezer bag, so the freezer bag sits full inside your dish. Seal the filled freezer bag.
  4. Place the dish with the sealed, full freezer bag into the freezer so that the meal freezes in the shape of your pan/bowl.
  5. Once frozen solid, remove the freezer bag from your dish. Place your meal back into your freezer and your dish back into storage!
  6. When ready to serve, locate the dish you originally froze your meal in, and place the frozen meal back inside of that pan or bowl.

Now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re ready to get started!

STEP 1: Stick your trivet in the bottom of your pot. If you’re cooking something on the bottom (like rice) go ahead and add that first. If not, go ahead add your liquid to the Instant Pot – minimum half a cup.

STEP 2: Earlier we referenced the sling, this is not something you have to do, but sometimes it might be hard to retrieve your container so this will help. To craft a foil sling you can fold the foil into thirds for reinforcement. Place your bowl on top of the sling and pull the sides up.

STEP 3: With your bowl in the sling, put your bowl (and foil sling) on top of the trivet. Hold the bowl steady as you put it in the Instant Pot to set and cook.

STEP 4: Set and forget! Cook according to your recipes directions and you’re good to go!

And that is Pot-in-Pot!

Below is a list of things you might want/need to complete the PIP method, but we encourage you not to buy a bunch of accessories for IP until you’re super familiar with it. That’s like buying a bunch of new gym outfits before ever having stepped foot in the gym!

See this method done in real time!

Finally, if you’d like to see Pot in Pot done live – you might like to watch this video. We might add this video was done with things already laying around the house (no new purchases!).

Pot-in-Pot Method FAQ

How do I determine how long to cook for if I’m cooking two things like rice and chicken?

When cooking more than one thing while using the Pot-in-Pot method, you’ll determine your time based on what you’re cooking on the trivet. For example, if you’re making rice and chicken – you’ll cook for the amount of time the chicken will need since the chicken will be in a separate bowl on the trivet, and the rice in the bottom.

Meat usually needs to cook longer than rice, won’t my rice get soggy?

Actually, nope!

How do I determine if the trivet should be right side up or upside down?

Typically, you want your trivet to be right side up. You might like your trivet upside down if your trivet is too high or if you wanted to stack more things so you needed to watch the height. In place of a trivet, you could try a steam basket as well if you really need the space.

How do I determine which type of dish to use (Pyrex, Springform, etc.)

Determining what type of “pot” to use in your pot really depends on what you’re cooking. If you’re making a cheesecake it might make more sense to use a springform pan, whereas if you’re making meat, it might make more sense to use pyrex. It ultimately won’t make or break your meal either way! Just make sure it’s oven safe!

More Instant Pot resources:

Instant Pot Tips and Tricks 101 - FB Instant Pot Tips & Tricks 201 - FB 

  50 Instant Pot Freezer Meals  Transform Freezer Cooking with an Instant Pot

Pot-in-Pot Method for the Instant Pot - your recipe calls for this method but you need to know how to do it properly.

69 Comments

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this information. I am fairly new to the Instant Pot craze, and am anxious to expand my recipes with it. This form of freezing food is genius, thanks again.

  2. Can I us aluminum foil as the pot going into my pot? I’m thinking of a foil wrap like I use on the grill or perhaps forming a bowl from aluminum foil. Would be easier than attempting to freeze in a specific shape.

    1. Sure, you’ll just want to make sure you use enough so it’s durable. You can put anything in your pot that is oven-safe.

      1. I’m definitely saving this article for reference. Thank you for your suggestions.

        One concern I have, and correct me if I’m wrong, don’t the major aluminum foil brands recommend to NOT use their products in high pressure, high temperature cookers?

        1. Rather than fool around making aluminum handles or makeshift pot pullers, just get some pots and baskets which already have handles on them. You can also get rubber grippers, where you squeeze the handles, to hold the pot or hot dish, until you are able to set them down. They are suggested as useful accessories and can be used for any hot dish or plate or pot in any style of cooking.

  3. Hi, I have a lot of pyrex storage containers. They say microwave safe and no broiler but do not specify that they are oven safe. Do you think they would be okay to put in the instant pot?
    Thanks

      1. Only pyrex (in all lower case letters), which was made prior to 1998, can be used. No glass maker (Anchor Hocking, Pyrex,) has approved glassware for use in IP.

  4. I want to make scalloped potatotes pip! My recipe only calls for 1 minute when I do them right in my isp. I want to cook meat loaf at the same time wrapped in foil. How ling do you think the scalloped potatoes would take to cook pip?

  5. Is there a minimum amount of space that needs to be around the pot you are cooking in and the inner pot of the instant pot? I have a 7 inch spring form pan that “just” fits in my 6 quart pot. Is this safe? Thanks!

        1. Hi! All of the recipes on our site are tested using the 6 qt Instant Pot. For Pot in Pot cooking, you can use the 7 in Springform pan. Thanks!

        2. No, it didn’t! I don’t know why they just can’t answer or tell you they dint know. They’ve done this twice, at least now and it’s very aggravating!

        3. Hi RC, you can use a 7inch spring form pan in your 6 quart Instant Pot. Shannon had answered this question above, I’m sorry if this wasn’t helpful or answered your question on the minimum size. We recommend you refer to your Instant Pot manual for specific use questions, as all Instant Pot models and sizes may require different rules. The official accessories sold on Instant Pot’s website are 6.5 inches in diameter, so if in doubt, you could stick to their specifications as the manufacturer.

    1. none of the answers given say whether this is a minimum space requirements. If I have barely a cm between my metal bowl and the IP, is that enough?

      1. Yes, that should be fine. As long as it fits in the inner pot of the IP and you have a way to get the bowl out afterward (such as a foil sling), you should be good to go.

  6. Thanks for expanding my Horizons! I’ve been using my Electric Pressure Cooker for almost 3 yrs now; often multiple days.
    But can’t wait to give this technique a try

  7. I am hearing impaired and can’t understand the speaking. I would gratefully appreciate the ability to read what is being said.

  8. Do you have any recipes or tips for using a tiffin in the instant pot? I have a two container tiffin that fits but have not tried it yet.

  9. I have a few questions about techniques using a closed pot.

    If one has a pudding mold with a air lid – does one use the lid inside the instant pot with the instant pot’s lid on? Would it create a vacuum?

    Can we use the instant pot as a bain marie? (Steaming, Pressuring cooking, or sauteing with water higher than the trivet? Would the lid be on or off?)

    1. Hi Eliza! You wouldn’t use the lid inside of the instant pot. And yes! The Instant Pot can be used as a bain marie. Recipes will vary for how much water to use, but you would be using 1-2 cups and covering the contents with foil to keep the condensation from creeping in. I hope that helps!

  10. I understand the danger of the glass cracking when going straight from the freezer to the IP. Is there a safe way to heat a chilled Pyrex full of chilled food straight from the fridge in the IP? Start on warm for a few minutes? Or is it best just to transfer refrigerated food to a room temperature dish?

  11. I don’t want to use plastic bags to mold my food to the pyrex for freezer storage. Any other suggestions for freezer storage options that would not dirty another dish or allow me to put said dish directly from the freezer to the IP? Thanks!

    1. I’m sorry…We have not found any that would not require another dish 🙁 While the pyrex would fit, the change in temperature from freezer to cooking in the IP would cause it to break. If you find something, though, be sure to let us know!

    1. Hi Ellen, All the containers in the Instant Pot must be oven safe (stainless steel, pyrex, silicone bakeware). I’m not sure I would recommend using the plastic containers for microwave meals. ~OAMM

    2. Typically those containers are “one use only”. If they’ve been microwaved and come out warped, they’re probably not good to use again. There are so many other containers that you can use safely, you shouldn’t need to.

  12. Hi! I’m really new to all of this and starting to learn how to use my instant pot. I can’t wait to try some of these meals! I am going to order the glass pyrex bowel for the pot-in-pot method. In the article, it mentioned that you could freeze the meal in a container that is the same size – ish as the pyrex. I saw in one of the pictures a plastic container that was being used to freeze the meals in their zip lock bags. The picture that I am referring to is right under the sentence “We recommend that you freeze your meal in a freezer bag, molded to your dish rather than the dish itself.” What type of container is that? I want to know so I can freeze multiple meals at once. Thanks!

  13. My friend just purchased some Pyrex for use with her instant pot. There was a warning on them stating they were not pressure cooker safe. We called Pyrex and they confirmed they are not safe to use and can shatter while cooking or even later after cooled. They stated they are not meant to use on a direct heat source like the pressure cooker and even with use of a trivet it is still too close to the heat source.

        1. While we have never had an issue or any difficulty using Pyrex dishes in the Instant Pot, Pyrex has said that their items are not suggested for use under pressure. We encourage you to use your best judgement and if you prefer to error on the side of safety, try using the oven safe stainless steel bowls/inserts.

  14. I made scalloped potatoes and chicken, Chicken in the bottom of my steamer and the potatoes in the top. Set it for 35 minutes and the chicken was fantabulous but the potatoes were still hard. Notr sure what I did wrong but any suggestions are helpful

    1. Jackie, Not sure if this is helpful, but here’s what I personally do when I cook potatoes in the Instant Pot. I put them on the bottom and add chicken broth or liquid to help them cook. I then place the trivet on top of the potatoes and then set my meat either directly on top or in a steamer basket as you used.

  15. How tall can you stack the pot(s)? Does the top of the inside pot still have to be lower than the 2/3 fill line? or below the max fill line? or is it just ensuring the lid can close?

    1. It may depend a bit on the specific recipe, but in general the pots can be above the fill line as long as the lid can close as it’s supposed to.

  16. where can you get an inner pot for the 3quart duo mini? Or what happens if a recipe calls for pip and you don’t do that and just cook without it? If recipe has enough liquid of course.

  17. i have pyrex glass storage containers…is that ok to use? i see you say pyrex is ok but to avoid glass so am a bit confused

    1. Hi There! That’s a great question. You can use oven safe bake ware in your Instant Pot. Pyrex is generally oven safe. We would suggest you consult with your brand/type to see if it’s oven safe and use your judgement. Some glass is not oven safe. I hope this helps!

  18. There are a lot of silicone vegetable steamer baskets on the market. Can these be used in the instant pot?

    1. Yes, silicone can typically be used in the Instant Pot. If you are ever unsure of the safety of a specific item, we recommend reach out directly to the company that made the item to ask about use for pressure cooking.

  19. I noticed in the picture of freezing meals step where molding your food to your dish before freezing there was a pampered chef stainless steel mixing bowl. Was this particular bowl used in the instant pot? Pampered chef’s user guide says dishwasher and freezer safe.

    1. No, the stainless steel bowl was used to freeze the food into the correct shape, and the food was then taken out of the bowl and put in the freezer. The bowl is not used in the Instant Pot.

  20. I had never cooked for 56 years of my life but I got an instant pot and now love to cook. A few of my favorite recipes would always stop cooking getting the dreaded “burned” notice. I got a pot for the pot and pot method from amazon and tried the recipes in them. I didn’t get the burned message but the noodles were hard (elbow macaroni). How much longer do you typically have to cook when using the pip method than just the pot method? Thanks.

    1. Hi Joe, Do you have a specific recipe you were trying to cook with pasta that we could take a look at to help you troubleshoot? Also, were you cooking from fresh or frozen in your Instant Pot?

  21. What is the largest baking dish which is ROUND and deep, and will fit in an 8quart IP liner? It needs to come with a lid for storage in the fridge. I have Pyrex round dish, but it only holds 7 cups or 1.75 qts. I’d like something thst would hold at least 2.5 quarts or 10 cups or more.

      1. Corning Ware used to be made from Pyroceram which is very resistant to temperature changes. Recently Corning Ware started making their products in China out of stoneware which is not especially resistant to temperature changes. The above link takes you to a Corning Ware dish made of stoneware.

        All of the the round white Corning Ware dishes look the same on the top. To tell the difference, you need to inspect the bottom of the dish. Pyroceram is smooth on the bottom and says made in the USA. Stoneware has a rough ring around the bottom and says made in China .

        The Corning Ware made of Pyroceram is not manufactured any more so you need to purchase it at thrift stores or from E-Bay. Be sure to see a photo of the bottom of a dish before buying it from E-Bay to ensure that the dish is actually made from Pyroceram and not stoneware.

  22. I’m thinking I will try using my small round cake pans. I do have some Pyrex and Corning Ware too. Thanks for this info.

  23. I have tried cooking diced potatoes and diced butternut squash. If I put them in a pyrex bowl and use the recommended mount of water and set the bowl on the trivet. They are never cooked enough. I just put the lid back on and set for the safe time. So now they have been in the Instapot for a total of 8 minutes but are still hard, SO I dump them out of the bowl and put the lid on and go for another 4 minutes. Then they are done. SO if U use a bowl and are cooking from raw. How much more time do U need,?? I just do not like setting the potatoes on the trivet and they fall into the water.

    1. Liz, thanks for the question! I typically use a steamer basket for those, which works better than the trivet, and allows more steam to get to them than the bowl. For especially hard vegetables like that, it seems to work much better. I hope that helps!

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