How to hot pot (step-by-step guide)

Whether you’re doing it at home or ordering at a restaurant, there’s an unspoken way of cooking hot pot ingredients to get the most flavor. Want to get the best experience? Check out our “how to hot pot” tips below!

1) Hot pot is about savoring the experience

hot to hot pot

It’s not a fast food option, so don’t rush. If you go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant, you probably have an hour and a half to order everything you want. Just invite out some friends or do a one-on-one date, and have fun chatting while making the food!

It’s best to order what you really want in the first round as it might take a while to prep. This includes any hot pot ingredients, appetizers, and add-ons like bread, buns, or skewers. You can always order more down the line, including what you liked in the first round.

2) Try an all-you-can-eat place the first time

how to hot pot

My husband stressed this as a huge “how to hot pot” tip, as he’s introduced plenty of other people to it before. If you’ve never had hot pot, you’ll want to see what you like by trying a range of foods. One of our favorite chains is Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot as they have a bit of everything. We’ve eaten at one everywhere from Seattle to Austin.

All-you-can-eat hot pot places usually run between $15 – $30 per person, but they are completely worth it, so go hungry!

3) Keep the experience sanitary

how to hot pot

You’re working with raw foods, so keep meats and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like appetizers, breads, and cooked skewers.

Also, use separate utensils or chopsticks for raw foods. Anytime you use the chopsticks that you eat with to put raw meat in the pot, you still could get food poisoning as the hot water may not sanitize it completely. The hot water can still help clean any chopsticks or utensils, just don’t eat with them after!

4) Create your own dipping sauce

how to hot pot

Most hot pot places offer the following options: sesame, hoisin, soy, satay, garlic in oil, chili paste, chili oil, cilantro, and green onion. You’ve probably experienced all of these before, but it’s fun to create a combined sauce — or use separate ones for different foods. My husband likes to mix them altogether, while I just prefer a combo of chili and garlic in oil with cilantro and green onion.

5) Wait for the soup to boil

how to hot pot

More than likely, the soup base will be at the table before the other ingredients. But if they come all at once, wait until the soup is boiling before you add in any food. It keeps the food tender and cooks it evenly. Luckily though, it doesn’t take long to heat up!

6) Start with meat and seafood

how to hot pot

These give the broth even more flavor and they cook relatively quickly. You can add in a few types at a time as most only need a few minutes to cook. They’re ready once:

  • Red meat (like beef and lamb) turns brown.
  • Poultry, pork, and fish turn white.
  • Shrimp turns pink or red.
  • The pot starts boiling again for other seafood.

7) Throw in some veggies

While tofu and vegetables tend to soak up a lot of the flavor, they take longer to cook. By this point, you’re likely not as hungry as when you started, so you can wait a little bit for tofu (fried, fresh, or frozen), mushrooms, bok choy, corn, and other veggies to simmer.

8) Enjoy some side dishes while they refill the broth

This may not be as much a “how to hot pot” tip as much as it is an intermission. If you’re running low on broth, the server can add some more and you can snack while you wait for it to boil again. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy some Chinese croutons or a sesame bun, and maybe some Mongolian beef or lamb skewers that you ordered at the start.

9) Throw in more meat and then veggies

how to hot pot

Before you add in noodles — which will absorb most of the flavor from the broth — go ahead and cook some more meat and veggies you might like. It will make the broth richer, especially if you just had it refilled.

10) Add in noodles

how to hot pot

As you’re winding down, here’s a great chance to cook any noodles you ordered. They’ll likely expand in your stomach too, so at least you ate some of the more rich foods first!

11) Order dessert

These were actually from 85C Bakery, but you get the point!

If we still have room in our stomachs, here’s the time where we order red bean buns, sesame balls, or even bubble tea. They’re not overly sweet and are a great way to finish out dinner!


Who would have thought cooking in soup would be one of the most fun social dinners out there? Nonetheless, it’s a perfect opportunity to chat while you wait for food. So, grab some friends and check it out the next time you head to dinner! And you can save these “how to hot pot” instructions on Pinterest or print them out in case you need them.

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