Set It & Forget It

Why I Ditched My Rice Cooker for the Instant Pot

Plus, how to make perfect Instant Pot rice (with charts).

November 21, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a series about all the ways we rely on our slow cookers, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.

For many Koreans and Korean-Americans, rice (a word which also happens to mean “meal” and “food” in Korean) is not just a means by which to sustain life—it's life itself. Which is why being tasked with the job of cooking it is a huge badge of honor in a Korean household. In my house, growing up, before I could even start making the rice, my mother had to first educate me on how it was grown (in water-logged rice patties), how to wash it (until the water runs clear), and why we soak it overnight and whisper sweet nothings into its ear (to reduce starch and to bring out any unwanted impurities).

Making perfect rice is an art, in short—but there's some science to it as well.

Fast forward to a couple decades later, I stopped cooking rice on an open fire like I did when I was 8 years old. Instead, I made fluffy white rice for my own family from a fancy $300 rice cooker that my mom gave me as a birthday gift one year. (Owning this $300 rice cooker is a Korean rite of passage.) Unfortunately, when my two children were diagnosed with a slew of allergies and sensitivities, it meant that all grains, legumes, soy, dairy, and processed foods were off the table. Except rice.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Given that I make usually somewhere around a cup of rice, the Instant Pot seems to only make more dishes and take about the same time as my current rice cooker. So I guess I will continue to wonder what makes the Instant Pot so compelling for people.”
— latenac

Ironically, that’s when my trusty, 20-year-old, $300 rice cooker broke. I took it as a sign from the gods. I also took the rice cooker breaking as a sign that I should change to a Teflon-free rice cooker. Which is when I came across the Instant Pot: an electric pressure cooker with six other functions, including a pre-programmed "Rice" button. I was relieved to find a cooker that not only cooked rice perfectly, but also had a stainless-steel pot (note: zero Teflon).

Even after all these years (much to my mother’s dismay), I've ditched rice cookers completely and have never replaced them. I’ve since cooked many varieties of rice and a bazillion recipes in my Instant Pot. Now I have three on my kitchen counter and have gifted countless others to every friend and family member I know. In fact, I use my Instant Pot so often that I’ve published two Instant Pot cookbooks since that fateful day when my rice cooker broke.

The bottom line is: The Instant Pot cooks white rice beautifully. And if you won’t take my word for it, then see for yourself:

How to Cook Perfect Instant Pot Rice

Soaking & Washing

My mom taught me always to soak rice overnight and then wash it until the water runs clear. Her mother did it, and so did many others before her. They probably didn't realize the scientific reasons for doing it, but my mom, at least, thought soaked rice cooked faster and resulted in a better and softer grain. Even now, the FDA recommends washing rice thoroughly, soaking it, and discarding the water before adding fresh water to cook. That's why I suggest soaking the rice for at least 30 minutes, if not longer, and washing it thoroughly before cooking.

You'll find the water level for my method to be different than others since this method is for soaked rice, which absorbs water, so you don't need as much compared to un-soaked rice.

Cooking 2 to 10 cups of rice

You can place the rice and water directly in the inner pot to cook two to ten cups. Press the “RICE” button for cooking white medium-grain rice. Timing for ten cups of rice is the same as two cups of rice since the “RICE” button automatically adjusts the time according to how much you’re cooking. The “RICE” button is set at LOW pressure to minimize the foam from cooking starchy rice. Always use Natural Pressure Release (NPR) or depressurize manually 10 minutes after timing ends. Turn the lid to open and quickly move the lid away from the pot so the condensed water on the inside the lid does not drip into the pot. Fluff the rice with a fork or the rice paddle, and serve immediately.

Refrigerate any leftover rice and reheat on “STEAM” when needed. Cold rice has resistant starch and reheating it reduces the carbs.

Pot-in-Pot Method (PIP)

For this method, you'll need at least one cup of water for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. So, in theory, you should be able to make one cup of white rice with one cup of water since 1:1 rice to water ratio is what the Instant Pot company themselves recommend. But water gets absorbed by the rice, and there's a chance that there will be less than one cup of water left in the pot for it to come to pressure. This is why I always use the Pot-in-Pot (PIP) method if I have to cook just one cup of rice.

To do so, place the rice in an oven-safe container with the proper amount of water (see below). Place the container on top of the trivet with one cup of water in the inner pot and cook according to the times recommended in my charts. This PIP method never fails to cook a small quantity of rice. Lastly, the thicker the container, the longer it'll take, so use a stainless-steel vessel if you can for a faster cook time.

How do you cook your Instant Pot rice? Let us know in the comments below.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Claudia T
    Claudia T
  • cookndance
  • ddiprete2000
  • MichaelEcho3
  • msmely
I helped my two children heal their food related health challenges with Paleo diet. I am a food writer, recipe developer and published cookbook author. I live in the Greater NY area with my family and a rescued dog who's happy about my career choice.


Claudia T. May 14, 2020
I also bought an instant pot when my rice cooker broke! I wanted to replace my slow cooker and my rice cooker in one go. It took me a while to get used to it, and I still like the ease of the rice cooker, but this is what works for me:
-cook two cups of rice in one go. Save the extra for leftovers or fried rice or whatever.
- use the tiniest bit of oil- i know, it feels wrong to put something greasy into my clean white rice- but like a quarter to half-teaspoon of canola or coconut oil plopped on top of my rice and water, or a shot of cooking spray, really keeps my rice from sticking to the bottom. The slight flavor of coconut works well with Thai curries.
cookndance February 21, 2020
The recipe for brown rice in my InstaPot (included in box) booklet says to put 2 cups of soaked brown rice + 2 1/2 cups of water and pressure cook for 4 min. Nothing is mentioned about using the Rice button. Any thoughts on that? And, can I halve this recipe? I have a 3 qt InstaPot.
Karen L. February 23, 2020
Cookndance; My instruction manual from Instant Pot box says to cook it for 20-22 minute with rice to water ratio of 1:1. But I soak my brown rice for at least an hour to over night so I use 7/8 cup of water per 1 cup of rice. If you have a 3Qt, you can definitely use 1 cup of rice with 7/8 cup to 1 cup of water but cook for at least 15 minutes and NPR. You'll have to see if you like that texture and adjust the water level and time but the table is the most common setting. Hope that helps.
cookndance February 24, 2020
I see now that I'm looking at a recipe booklet written by Barbara Schieving, "Instant Pot Recipe Booklet - 4th Edition". In it, it says to soak brown rice and then pressure cook for 4 minutes followed by 10 minute NPR. I'll try your method. Thank you.
Karen L. February 24, 2020
That's strange. Barbara is an Instant Pot expert. That looks like a mistake or a misprint. The cooking times table in the back of that booklet says 20-22 minutes and so does her website. Thanks for letting me know!
cookndance February 24, 2020
The table in the back doesn't include soaking the brown rice first, so that might be the difference in pressure cooking times.
(FYI, the "4 minute" instructions are on page 17 of the booklet.
ddiprete2000 November 30, 2019
Recipe for long grain brown rice
MichaelEcho3 November 26, 2019
Best use of InstantPot; Following your recipe made the best rice ever, my wife loved it. Thank you for sharing it
Karen L. November 26, 2019
Oh, that's great to hear!! Thx for letting us know!
msmely November 24, 2019
I have both a rice cooker AND an instant pot, purely because of the amount of times I'm making something in the IP (Sichuan red-braised oxtail, lamb masala, Jamaican beef stew) that I want to serve on top of rice!!
Karen L. November 25, 2019
It's definitely more convenient to have both if you eat rice all the time. But I've learned to use the PIP method for dishes like this so I can cook the rice and the main dish at the same time, especially if the main dish takes a short amount of time. For dishes that takes longer, I make the rice first and leave at room temperature. Then, reheat if necessary before serving.
Judy November 24, 2019
Thank you very much for this information. I recently started rinsing my rice before cooking, but have never soaked it. I will start doing so now. Do you have cooking methods for brown basmati or long grain brown rice? Sometimes I prefer brown rice over white.
Karen L. November 25, 2019
Use the chart above for short grain brown rice.
Dougy February 23, 2020
So Karen, are you saying that Instant Pot works the same for long grain and short grain? Would that be the same for white rice as well?
Karen L. February 23, 2020
Yes. White rice should be same for all, regardless of length. The table above is for 1 cup for PIP cooking method. and 2 cups- 8 cups for cooking in the inner pot.
Tara J. November 22, 2019
I read on another site that if you have the 8 quart InstaPot, that you should never use less than 2 cups of liquid to avoid the dreaded "burn" warning. It said almost all recipes are for 6 quart InstaPots unless otherwise stated. Is that true in your opinion, and if so, should I just use 2 cups of water no matter the amount of rice?
Karen L. November 22, 2019
Great question Tara!
Yes. You need at least 2 cups of liquid for 8 Qt. That means, you have to cook more than 2 cups of rice in the 8Qt since you only need 7/8 cup of water per 1 cup of rice. So the best way to cook small quantity of rice in the 8Qt is to use the Pot in Pot (PIP) method. Place 2 cups of water in the inner pot, place the trivet inside. Put 2 cups of washed and soaked rice in an oven proof container with 1 3/4 cups of water. Put the container on top of the trivet and press "RICE." You can cook more than 2 cups of rice directly in the inner pot. But smaller amount than 2 cups needs to be cooked in the PIP method as described. Hope that helps. Thanks for the question!

P.S. As far as timing is concerned for 8QT, you don't have to change anything. Timing is the same for 3 or 6 or 8QT for ANY recipes. Just use at least 2 cups of liquid for 8Qt.
saluki November 21, 2019
The directions for PIP Jasmine worked perfectly in the Mini Instant more mushy Jasmine for me.....Thank you...
Karen L. November 21, 2019
That's awesome! Glad to hear!
Eric K. November 21, 2019
weshook November 21, 2019
I purchased my instant pot specifically for making rice because it can do more than just make rice. It makes excellent rice, especially when you need that 10 cups of rice. I still make most of my rice in a pot on the stove though. I too learned to make rice at a very young age.

The speaking probably also saves fuel since the soaked grains will cook faster.
weshook November 21, 2019
That is supposed to say soaking not speaking, auto correct. :/
Karen L. November 21, 2019
My thoughts exactly! I use the stove top sometimes, especially if I can't use the PIP method with a main dish at the same time. You can't beat that scorched rice flavor. But if I'm cooking a large quantity, I love using my IP.
kelly November 21, 2019
Could you elaborate a little more on the reasons why you should soak/wash rice? I, too, was taught that "this is how you make rice," but never got a scientific explanation. Thanks!
Karen L. November 21, 2019
Back in the day, there were no agencies like, USDA, to monitor food safety but women knew to wash the rice thoroughly to rid of debris, dirt, and even small pebbles (YES! I had to take out many of these little extras from rice when I learned to make rice in Korea.) And they used to soak the rice to speed up the cooking times and to make softer rice but also because soaked rice water was used in so many other recipes. In the recent years though, USDA recommends washing and soaking rice to get rid of inorganic arsenic so we still wash and soak before cooking it. Hope that helps.
Eric K. November 21, 2019
Thanks, Karen! Didn't know all that.

I feel like soaked rice cooks more evenly. Though a poetry professor once told me that soaking the rice makes it more nutritious / your body absorbs the nutrients easier (or some such). Not sure how true that is.
Karen L. November 21, 2019
All soaked grains and legumes become easily digestible and it releases "anti-nutrients" like, lectins and phytic acid. So your poetry professor is not wrong about soaking the rice (or any grains and legumes for that matter) makes it more nutritious. Our ancestors
probably knew that somehow without any scientific evidence to back them up. That's why the older women before me always soaked their grains and legumes before cooking. And that's how I cook now too.
Eric K. November 21, 2019
Whoa, that's neat. Thanks for explaining, Karen.
kelly December 12, 2019
Yes - thanks for that - much appreciated!
Daniel L. November 21, 2019
Do you have experience with sticking to the bottom? I have tried it a few times but always find the bottom of the steel insert gets stuck rice bits and I can't lift them off.
Karen L. November 21, 2019
I never had issues of rice sticking to the bottom. But if you leave the rice on "Warm", it will stick to the bottom. So as soon as the rice is done, I take them out of the pot. Another option could be to cook it using the PIP method.
latenac November 21, 2019
I keep looking for a good reason to own an Instant Pot. My rice cooker has been my companion for at least a decade and I like being able to come home get it started and then focus on what goes with the rice. Given that I make usually somewhere around a cup of rice, the Instant Pot seems to only make more dishes and take about the same time as my current rice cooker. So I guess I will continue to wonder what makes the Instant Pot so compelling for people.
gideon B. November 21, 2019
hyped stories like this one that get people all riled up and instant pot shopping :) After a few whirls everyone sort of comes to the same conclusion LOTS to do about nothing and another kitchen device finds itself at the back of the closet unused and unloved
Karen L. November 21, 2019
You're right. If you only make one cup of rice a time, then, buying another appliance like the Instant Pot just to make rice doesn't make sense. I usually make enough rice for a family of 4 so I use the PIP method and cook fresh rice while cooking other dishes in the Instant Pot.
Karen L. November 21, 2019
My story is not "hyped" to "rile' up people. I'm just sharing my own experience why I didn't buy another rice cooker when my old one died and bought the stainless steel Instant Pot. And I use it daily so it's on the counter and not in the back of the closet. But, everyone's experience is different. ;)
Matt November 21, 2019
I too make multiple servings of rice at once. I have a pot and a stove, however…
Karen L. November 21, 2019
To be honest, stove top cooked rice is great. The smell of steaming rice wafting through the air always makes me hungry. (you can't smell food cooking in the Instant Pot.) And the slightly scorched rice on the bottom (Instant Pot does not make rice stick to the bottom, let alone scorch it) is a true sign of a well executed Korean meal. But it requires you watching over the stove to make sure it doesn't overflow or burn, which I have done too many times in my life for me to admit. For a busy cook, Instant Pot is a good option.
weshook November 21, 2019
I love that crust of rice on the bottom! That's the main reason I make most of my rice on the stove and don't own a rice cooker.
wildwildwest November 22, 2019
That's funny, I always get a bigger and better "crust" when I use the rice cooker, very little if I cook on the stovetop.
msmely November 24, 2019
You might like something like the Lekué microwave rice cooker. I find it cooks things WAY faster than any other rice cooker, though it does require a bit of trial and error to figure it out with your microwave. You can store rice in it in the fridge (it doubles as a storage container) and can make anywhere from 1 cup (cooked) to 4 cups at a time. I have a fuzzy logic rice cooker as well and while the rice cooker makes rice with a *slightly* better texture, the microwave rice cooker is so fast and practical it's great for people who don't want to buy a dedicated appliance.
Zomorodian, R. November 25, 2019
I too have given away quite a few instapot, and have inspired countless others to purchase them. I have used a manual pressure cooking for many years, so the Instapot was very familiar. It also did away with many other things like the rice, yogurt, and manual pressure cooker. The fact it can sauté inpot, is fabulous. I am a strong convert and in fact, just showed someone how to use it today.
Karen L. November 26, 2019
I love making yogurt in the IP too! So much better than store bought and you can control what goes in it!
Karen L. November 26, 2019
What kind of pot do you use for the stovetop? If you use a non-stick, Teflon coated pot, you won't get the crust. You need a stainless steel or better yet, a cast iron pot. The latter makes amazing crust! I'd make it in a cast iron pot if I want the scorched rice and then, add water to it for a nice warm tea.