What is Pot-in-Pot (PIP) cooking?
Pot-in-pot (PIP) cooking basically means cooking something inside a pot (or bowl) that is then placed inside your Instant Pot's inner pot. Pot in pot. In this case "a pot inside the inner pot".
The bowl is placed on a trivet, with water underneath to generate the necessary steam. It can also be used for layered cooking: imagine your cottage pie mix cooking in the inner pot underneath the trivet and the potatoes for the mash cooking at the same time in a bowl placed on the trivet.
This method maximises the space in your Instant Pot and your energy use! When you're ready to try it, make sure you give my Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Lemony Mince in Oyster Sauce with Pot-in-Pot (PIP) Rice.
This is how it's going to look inside your Instant Pot. The trivet in place, water or food cooking underneath, your PIP dish inside the bowl. It doesn't have to have a lid like this one does. Choose an ovenproof bowl such as stainless steel or Pyrex
If you're using water in the inner pot with a bowl on the trivet, you can use the trivet (steamer rack) that came with your Instant Pot. If you want to cook something on the base of the inner pot at the same time (like that cottage pie mentioned above), then it might be worth investing in a taller trivet like this one that a lot of people are using. A taller trivet will lift the pot or bowl higher above the food you're cooking at the bottom of your Instant Pot's inner pot, really handy. My flower-shaped trivet is an Instant Pot special that you can't get just yet (but I'm working on getting it on sale!). The height is 5 cm, so about 2 inches.
What pot to choose for Pot-in-Pot cooking?
All you really need to bear in mind is:
- for the 6 litre Instant Pots, you need a bowl or (as seen in some of these photos) a pudding basin with a maximum diameter of 18 cm, you need that 2 cm gap with the inner pot for the steam to circulate. For 8 litre Instant Pots the maximum diameter you’re looking at is 20 cm.
- you are looking for an ovenproof bowl so that you know it's going to be safe for pressure cooking.
Stainless steel bowls work well as do Pyrex bowls.
For Pyrex, the 1 litre Classic Pyrex fits perfectly (you'll find it in most supermarkets and places like Wilkos at a good price). I have a 1.5 l one that does too. The key is to go shopping with your inner pot to try these things. I'm serious! Ok, so you can take a tape measure too and remember the maximum diameters above.
ou need to bear in mind that Pyrex is thicker than stainless steel and so the heat takes longer to get through it so you may have to increase the time.
The stainless steel lidded bowl you can see in the photo just above is a lidded pudding (flan) basin, this Arga one to be exact. It's a bit flimsy for the price but it does the job and the heat can get through it quickly.
The Arga pudding basin has a lid and it works well with it. But you don't actually need a lid. If you have a bowl without a lid that fits well (remember that 2 cm gap), then you're in business.
Some instantpotters choose basic stainless steel bowls (even dog bowls!) but in my opinion, even if stainless steel, it needs to be designed to withstand heat and you should check this.
On the subject of pudding basins, of course the perfect example of Instant Pot pot-in-pot cooking is puddings! Chocolate is my favourite to make. This Masterclass 1 litre pudding steamer with lid is great for that. The pudding slides right out of this one.
Be careful with pudding bowls with plastic lids. Many have been known to melt or lose their shape. You can use them without the lid. For puddings a lot of people prefer creating a cover with parchment paper, creating a pleat in it just in case the ingredients expand as they cook. That parchment paper is then secured with a rubber band.
The Masterclass 1 litre pudding Basin sitting on the Instant Pot's trivet. Chocolate pudding anyone?
The Dos and Don'ts
Make sure you always have enough liquid to generate the necessary steam to pressure cook. Make sure you read the Golden Rules of Pressure Cooking.
Something I come across very often: if cooking pasta or rice using the PIP method, you need liquid both in the inner pot of your Instant Pot to generate the necessary steam to pressure cook AND water in the bowl with the pasta or rice. Otherwise it won't cook.
Do you need a Steamer Basket or Insert for your Instant Pot instead? I have a list of the most popular ones available in the UK right here.
Ready to try Pot in Pot (PIP) cooking in your Instant Pot?