Guide: Stackable Pans & Equipment for Instant Pot Double Decker Dinners

instant pots with steamer basket of zucchini noodles, insert pan of brown rice, and rack with stuffed peppers; happy cartoon instant pot reacts with surprise.

I love cooking with my Instant Pot – so much that it makes me want to cook more than one thing at a time in there! Double Decker Dinner is a real thing, and it’s actually really simple to pull off. When I got interested in stackable Instant Pot recipes, I picked out just three simple items and plunked them into my Amazon cart. The total investment was about $50, and the impact on my cooking habits was significant!

When I’m already firing up my Instant Pot to make a pot of stew, chili, meat, whatever – it seriously streamlines my dinner operations when I can plop in a basket of potatoes or rice or veggies, or whatever is a good match for the cooking time I’m working with. It’s easy and it’s fun!

I keep my recipe combinations in this site’s Double Decker Dinner category, and I have long been meaning to write up this quick summary of the simple kitchen tools that make it work.

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Stackable Stainless Steel Insert Pans

stainless steel insert pan placed on rack next to Instant Pot.

Insert pans are designed to fit inside of the main pot of the pressure cooker as a secondary vessel for “pot in pot” (“PIP”) cooking. PIP cooking is especially handy when you can pair two recipes together in the same pressure cooker for a Double Decker Dinner!

The ideal size for insert pans in a standard 6-quart Instant Pot is a 7.5-inch diameter. This leaves just enough space around the outer edges of the pot to allow sufficient airflow for even cooking, while maximizing the volume of food in this second vessel.

These insert pans are often sold in a set of two, with a wire sling for fastening the two pieces together. For my Double Decker Dinners, I don’t actually use the two insert pans doubled together. Instead, I make use of the main pot of the pressure cooker to cook the bottom-layer recipe – it is roomier and it also cooks faster, being in direct contact with the bottom surface. This gives us the freedom to combine longer-cooking foods (like soaked beans) with quicker-cooking items (like rice).

My set of insert pans came with two lids – one solid, and one with holes for steaming. Generally, I cook my PIP items without any lid. I do enjoy using them for storage; the pans are nicely compact for stacking leftovers in the fridge. The next day, they can go right back into the Instant Pot for reheating, too!

Stainless Steel vs. Pyrex Containers

Pyrex glass bowls are commonly used as PIP containers for Instant Pot, but there is some controversy around this practice.

It’s important to know that not all Pyrex glass is the same material. The original Pyrex products were made from borosilicate glass; in the 1980’s, production started to shift to soda lime glass. Soda lime glass is more resistant to physical breakage, but more vulnerable to shattering due to changes in temperature.

Manufacturer guidance suggests that any container labeled as oven-safe (including newer soda lime Pyrex) is also safe for pressure cooking. I have experimented with Pyrex bowls several times in my Instant Pot, and they have never cracked.

Apart from safety, be aware that glass containers require different cooking times compared to stainless steel pans. Thick glass does not conduct heat as readily as thin steel. When I’ve cooked in Pyrex, it seems to take about 5 minutes longer for food to cook compared to my stainless steel pans.

For these reasons, I’ve opted to use stainless steel insert pans for all of my PIP cooking. It makes it easier for me to develop recipes and keep things simple in my kitchen!

Elevated Trivet / Stackable Boiled Egg Rack

two-tier boiled egg rack next to Instant Pot.

Every Instant Pot is shipped with a short rack (about 3/4 inch tall), useful for steaming single foods over a cup of water. But for Double Decker cooking, you’ll want something a little taller to elevate your second layer and keep it from swimming in whatever’s cooking down below.

Racks come in various shapes and sizes – about 2.5 inches height is usually enough to separate two layers without running out of headspace in a 6-quart pressure cooker. Racks can prop up another cooking vessel, or they can be used alone for large foods that don’t need a secondary container to keep them in place (like sweet potatoes, or a halved squash).

When I shopped for my cooking rack, I picked out a 2-piece egg-steaming device – this gave me two slightly different heights to choose, and I’m also neatly equipped to make a heap of hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs. Double Decker Double-Duty!

Steamer Basket

metal foldable steamer basket inside Instant Pot.

Compared to a solid insert pan, a perforated steamer basket allows more airflow for the high-pressure steam in the cooker. This means faster and more even cooking.

My favorite steamer baskets are stainless steel and foldable. They can expand to fit any size of cooker, and they seem to clean up better than silicone baskets (am I the only one who has trouble keeping silicone tools from being persistently grimy?)

One feature that I enjoy is a sturdy hook for lifting the hot basket out of the pot. Some models come with rings that can be fished with the tines of a fork, but I think it’s a little nicer to have a dedicated “grabber” for secure transfers. It’s a uni-tasker, but it is tiny and handy!

That’s really all it takes to start cooking Double Decker Dinners with your Instant Pot… Three little kitchen tools, and you are off to the races! Enjoy maximizing the time and effort you spend cooking for your family. If you have any other favorite tools that make your life easier too, please tell me!

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