Learn How to Use an Instant Pot with this complete beginner’s guide, step-by-step photos, and instructional video. You will learn all of the basics you need to know to start making healthy and easy recipes!
Did you recently buy an Instant Pot or receive one as a gift?
Are you overwhelmed by all of the buttons and functions?
Or maybe you’re terrified of blowing up your kitchen?
This was TOTALLY me two years ago when I received my very first electric pressure cooker for Christmas.
I was so scared to mess up dinner that my sweet husband figured out how to use this seemingly complicated appliance first.
After learning a few simple concepts and cooking principles – it was love at first quickly made and super delicious recipe!
And I am BEYOND excited to share these with you so you can start making your favorite healthy recipes in a fraction of the time.
What is an Instant Pot?
An Instant Pot is a particular brand of pressure cookers.
An electric pressure cooker cooks food by increasing the amount of pressure, or steam, within the pot to cook food more quickly. It also makes the food as tender as slow cookers but cooks it much faster.
Using an Instant Pot will decrease the cook time by up to 70% in some recipes.
For most dishes, however, it will save you on average about a third of the time versus traditional cooking methods.
You can cook dry beans in under 30 minutes, or brown rice in under 15 minutes!
Best Instant Pot to Buy
The best Instant Pot to buy is one of the Duo or Nova models. The Duo Plus 6-quart 9-in-1 is what you will see pictured below.
A 6-quart model is an adequate size for a family of 4-6.
An 8-quart model is great if you plan on making double batches of soups, or have more than more than 5 or 6 people in your family.
Since the sauté function, slow cook, and the manual cooking are the primary settings you will need, there’s no need to splurge on extra functions.
The Duo Plus series comes with a few small items and accessories you want to make sure you grab before tossing the box:
- User Manual – A wonderful resource for any additional questions you may have.
- Trivet – This can be used to steam vegetables or hold delicate ingredients like eggs.
- Soup spoon – A plastic spoon to serve soup.
- Rice paddle – A plastic spoon for serving rice.
- Power cord – This is detachable and plugs into the backside of the appliance.
- Plastic cup
- Condensation collector – A plastic container that catches excess liquid so it does not land on your countertop.
- Rinse the stainless steel pot and lid with soap and water before using for the first time.
- Place the stainless steel pot inside your Instant Pot. (Make sure to remove the orange warning label.)
- Check to see that the anti-block shield is present and secure.
- The anti-block shield is a very important safety feature. This metal shield prevents any food or particles from clogging the steam release valve. Make sure this is always in place and free of food before using so there is not an unsafe amount of pressure created within the pot
- Line the inside of the lid with the silicone sealing ring. This normally comes already assembled.
- Put the condensation collector on the backside of the Instant Pot until it snaps into place.
- Plug in the power cord towards the back and bottom.
How to Use
Your Instant Pot is assembled, now it’s time to start cooking your first recipe in it!
For almost all recipes you will follow these step-by-step instructions to use your electric pressure cooker:
- Plugin the power cord to a wall outlet.
- Using the Instant Pot near a window or door is an easy way to release the pressure outside instead of inside.
- The max fill line is located on the interior of the stainless steel pot and is an indicator of the maximum capacity that can safely pressurize.
- Make sure to never go above this line when pressure cooking.
- Place lid on the top of the pot and follow the arrows on the lid to close it in a clockwise direction.
- To open the lid simply turn it in a counter-clockwise direction.
- Turn the pressure release valve handle to the sealing position.
- This knob will feel a little loose and wobbly. That is totally normally and is to be expected from a properly working valve.
- Plugin the power cord to a wall outlet.
Now that your Instant Pot is totally sealed, we’ll take a look at the control panel and what buttons you really need to pay attention to.
The first set of buttons are for the different cooking methods:
- Sauté: I use this function all of the time when sautéeing onions or garlic before pressure cooking.
- When using this function you will want to make sure the lid is OFF so you can stir around your ingredients.
- Adjust the heat level while sautéeing by pressing the button.
- You will see the words “Less” . Normal” . and “More” become highlighted as you toggle through the options.
- Slow Cook: This is a non-pressure cooking setting.
- If using the metal lid, make sure to turn the pressure release valve into the venting position.
- A glass lid may also be used when slow cooking so you can see the contents inside.
- Pressure Cook:
- Plus (+) and Minus (-) Buttons:
- These control the timer in the middle of the LCD display.
- The timer is the amount of time you are setting for your Instant Pot to cook and will be specified in the recipe you are following.
- Mode Indicators:
- Right below the timer you will see the labels Less, Normal, and More, again.
- For the slow cook and saute functions these modes represent various heat levels.
- When using the pressure cook function, these modes will simply change the cook time.
- Pressure Indicators:
- This is the manual method of setting your pressure cooker’s time and level. You can set it to Low or High pressure.
- All of the other buttons you see on the Instant Pot are preset times that it should take for soups, meats, beans, etc.
- You can just ignore all of them and pay attention to this one little button in the bottom right corner.
The float valve will remain in the down position as the Instant Pot comes to pressure.
After 5-10 minutes the float valve should pop up and be flush with the lid.
The more ingredients that are inside, the longer it will take to come to full pressure.
Turn the pressure release valve to the venting position once the contents are done cooking.
There are 3 ways to release the pressure:
- Natural Pressure Release – This means you let the food sit in the Instant Pot and slowly release until the float valve goes down on it’s own. This method takes the longest time but will give you the most tender food.
- 10-minute Natural Pressure Release – For this method you’ll wait until the food has been in the cooker 10 minutes past the initial timer and then release by turning the valve.
- Quick Release – You release the valve immediately when the timer goes off.
For all of these methods it is best to place a towel over the pressure release valve to catch any excess steam.
Also, use a wooden spoon to avoid burning yourself when the steam is released.
Extra Accessories and a Secret Tip
A secret tip you may not initially know about your Instant Pot is the lid holder.
On the side handles you will see a hole that perfectly fits your lid. Place the lid here when you are sautéeing ingredients or serving up recipes.
A few accessories to purchase:
- Extra silicone rings – Over time the silicone rings will stretch out or adopt the flavor of various recipes. It’s great to have color-coded replacement rings on hand that are designated for certain types of recipes. (I.e. – red for beef, blue for chicken, white for vegetables only.)
- Steamer basket – This can be used when cooking delicate items like eggs or when making stocks.
- Glass Lid – Using a glass lid when slow cooking and steaming allows you to see inside your pot while cooking.
- Storage Lid – Have some leftovers? Pop a silicone lid on top and store the stainless steel pot in the refrigerator.
When you’re first learning how to use your pressure cooker, it’s best to start off with some quick and easy recipes.
A few of my favorite healthy Instant Pot recipes include:
Easy Instant Pot Mexican Rice Recipe – instead of using a rice cooker!