How to Use Pot-in-Pot Method with the Instant Pot

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The pot-in-pot method can be used in the Instant Pot to cook something in an elevated dish. It’s useful for everything from desserts to preparing two dishes at once! Read on for all of the tips and tricks you need to master this unique technique.

overhead image of pasta sauce and pasta cooking in the Instant pot
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Instant Pot Rack in an instant pot with ground beef and peppers

I’ve recently become a little emphatic about the usefulness of the pot-in-pot method for the Instant Pot. The truth is, once I got over my initial fear of using the Instant Pot (so many buttons, so much steam!), I found it only moderately more useful than my slow cooker. But the pot-in-pot method has totally changed that. Once I discovered that I could cook a complete meal – main dish and side – at the same time, I was hooked. I use this once or twice a week now and love that all messes are contained right inside the machine. See below for my favorite things to cook this way!

overhead image of chicken cooking in an Instant Pot with a rack and a clear glass bowl. There is a glass measuring cup pouring water over the rice in the bowl.

Uses for Pot-in Pot

  • To pressure cook smaller servings. (Example: want to make soup for 2? Cook it in the elevated pot in a smaller bowl to prevent it from burning on the bottom.)
  • To make dishes that should be steamed – like vegetables, desserts, casseroles, meatloaf, etc.
  • To cook two dishes at once (like a main dish on the bottom and a starch on top). It’s important to use two dishes that have similar cook times, although the dish cooked on the upper rack will take a minute or two longer than if it cooked in the main insert.

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Recipes that Use Pot-in-Pot Method

As I mention above, my absolute favorite use for the pot-in-pot method is to cook two things at once. Here are a few of my favorites (with corresponding pressure cook times):

overhead image of Instant Pot Korean Beef and Brown Rice in a white bowl

Adjust Timing

Items being cooked in a raised pot using the pot-in-pot method take slightly longer to cook than they would in the main insert because they are not exposed to the direct heat of the bottom of the pan. I always use the same 2-inch metal rack and 7-cup round dish, and everything I cook in this set-up takes 2 minutes longer than if cooking in the main insert. Example: Basmati rice cooks in 4 minutes in the main pot, but needs 6 minutes when cooked elevated using the pot-in-pot method.

Rice in the Pot-in-Pot Method

Rice is my go-to when using the pot-in-pot method. It’s a natural accompaniment to saucy dishes that cook so well in the main insert of the Instant Pot. I actually find that I get much more consistent results when I cook rice in the elevated pot-in-pot method than when I cook it in the main insert of the Instant Pot.

  • Medium grain white rice takes 4-5 minutes
  • Long grain white rice takes 6 minutes
  • Brown rice takes 22 minutes

After cooking, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes and then release any remaining pressure. Carefully remove the pot with the rice and fluff it with a fork. If the rice is not completely tender, cover it and set it aside for a few minutes – it will continue to soften.

Instant Pot Rice in a clear bowl

Pasta in the Pot-in-Pot Method

Pasta works well in the pot-in-pot method. Just be sure that it is covered by a couple inches of water so it has room to expand as it cooks. Drain it well at the end of the cooking time. Use this Guide to Pasta in the Instant Pot to determine the time required for cooking the pasta, but add 2 minutes to account for the fact that it is elevated above the heat source.

adding water to a bowl of uncooked pasta in an Instant Pot

Potatoes in the Pot-in-Pot Method

This has been one of my favorite pot-in-pot uses. Cook baby, new, or fingerling potatoes above many other dishes with 6 to 8 minute cook times. Or cook larger potatoes right ton the rack with dishes that have longer cook times. While many things like pasta and rice come out of the pot ready to serve, I find that smaller potatoes cooked this way benefit immensely from one more step. Take the potatoes out, slice them in half and saute them in some oil with salt and pepper.

fingerling potatoes in a clear bowl in the instant pot

This produces the most delicious crispy / tender potatoes. These are a favorite side dish at our house.

overhead image of Pan-Fried Fingerling Potatoes in a cast iron skillet

The Most Important Step – Add Liquid

No matter what you’re using the pot-in-pot method for, don’t forget to add liquid to the bottom of the pot. If you’re cooking a saucy dish in the bottom at the same time, this should already be covered. If you are only cooking something in the elevated pot, be sure that you add water to the pot first. Otherwise, you will get the burn message as the pot heats up.

Tools for Pot-in-Pot Method

  • 6-Quart Instant Pot Duo  – This is the Instant Pot / pressure cooker I use to test all meals on this site. It easily makes enough to serve the 5 members of our family (usually without leftovers).
  • Instant Pot Rack – This 2.3-inch rack is just the right height to hold a bowl above the other ingredients to cook using pot-in-pot method described in this recipe. It is slightly higher than the rack that comes with many Instant Pot models (shown below).
Instant Pot Racks on a grey tabletop
  • Instant Pot Bowl (for pot-in-pot method) – I test all of my recipes using a glass bowl for the pot-in-pot method. For a long time I used the medium sized bowl that came in this Anchor 3-Piece Set of Glass Mixing Bowl which worked well. I now prefer the 7-Cup Round Pyrex Dish. It easily fits inside a 6-Quart Instant Pot and (my favorite part) it comes with a lid. So easy for leftovers – just pop the lid on and put it in the fridge! You can also use a stainless steel bowl or any other dish / bowl that is approved for cooking under high pressure.
7 Inch Pyrex Bowl on a grey countertop
  • OXO Pressure Cooker Sling – This was a tool I thought seemed unnecessary until I bought it. Place this sturdy sling under the bowl in the pot-in-pot method and you can easily lift hot items out at the end of cooking. It also works great for steaming eggs, vegetables, or cooking large vegetables or meat in the pressure cooker. You can also make your own sling by folding a long piece of aluminum foil into thirds and placing it under the bowl. Just grab the ends to lift the bowl out. 
overhead image of Instant Pot Tools for Pot-in-Pot

More Easy Instant Pot Recipes

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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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  1. I’ll be bookmarking this page … !! Thank you so much.
    I’ve been experimenting with pot-in-pot, not realizing it would take longer to cook. I can normally cook Steel Cut oats in the Instant Pot Inner Liner in 4 minutes and they came out perfect – with Pot-in-Pot, they’ve been raw in that amount of time. I though my IP was broken. Have you tried cooking steel cut oats with the pot-in-pot recipe?

    1. Hi Lani – I haven’t tried steel cut oats pot-in-pot, but if you find the right time, I’d love to know what you decide. It should definitely work with a couple of extra minutes! So glad you find this helpful.

  2. The part I really needed to hear: “The Most Important Step – Add Liquid.” Thank you–so many “pot in a pot” posts omit this important detail, and you made it clear AND easy-to-find. 🙂
    PS: steel-cut oats PIP was easy clean-up!

    1. Absolutely! The stainless steel works really well. I’ve found the times to be very similar to what I listed here, but you may find you need to play around with it a bit and increase or decrease the time a bit to work with your inserts.

  3. Do both items being cooked (say, a meat in the bottom and potatoes in an upper pot) have to have the exact same cooking times? Does it affect the cooking of the meat on the bottom if you do a QR, add the upper pot, and begin pressure cooking again?

    1. Hi Paige – it’s best if they have cook times that are 2 minutes apart. See the section above labeled “Adjust Timing” – I found that things need an extra 2 minutes of cooking if they are in the raised part of the pot and don’t have direct contact with the bottom of the pan. It will affect the cooking of the meat on the bottom a bit if you QR and then restart the timer because the amount of time it takes for the pot to come back to pressure won’t be included. However, with most meats that have longer cook times, I don’t think it should be too detrimental to QR and then begin again with the pot-in-pot added.

  4. I’m scared to use a glass bowl inside the instant for fear of it breaking under the pressure. What is the icon I should be looking for when buying a glass bowl? I have plenty of glass containers that I store leftovers in but not confident enough to use them.

    1. Absolutely – you’re right to be extra cautious about this. I would actually go straight to the manufacturer’s website to see if they have approved it for use under pressure. Even if they haven’t indicated it on the packaging, they may have an FAQ section on their site that indicates if the bowls can be used under pressure.

  5. Hello, would like to know if I should use the Instant Pot cover when steaming or leave it open. I was trying to steam rice to make rice cake.


  6. Before reading this article I decided to experiment with this idea. I cooked the rice as usual then placed bowl of green beans on the trivet inside the IP and it worked nicely.

  7. I’m trying to make smoked sausage and orzo pot in pot. Do I use same amt of water and same time of 1 min??
    Afraid I’d get burn notice if I did it in bottom of the pot itself

    1. Good morning! Perhaps you already tried this, and I’d love to know how it worked out. I suspect you need to increase the cook time if you are making the orzo and smoked sausage in the elevated pot. My rule of thumb is to add 2 minutes to the cook time since it takes a bit longer for the elevated pot to heat up. Even if you cook all of the food in the elevated pot, be sure to add water to the bottom of the Instant Pot insert. One cup of water in the bottom should be plenty.

  8. Never heard of this method before, such a time saver by cooking two dishes in the Instant Pot. I’ll have to give this a try!