Instant Pot Guide: How to Start Using Your New Instant Pot

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Get started using your new Instant Pot today! With this guide, I’ll help you get set up quickly so you can start cooking delicious meals in no time.

So, you finally bit the bullet and bought that Instant Pot you’ve had your eye on for so long. But, now that you’ve opened the box and taken everything out, you’re feeling a little intimidated.

I know it can be a little overwhelming – there are so many buttons! But there’s no need to worry, I’m here to help with this handy-dandy Instant Pot guide!

What is an Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is a “multi-cooker”. What that means is that the Instant Pot combines the functions of both a pressure cooker and slow cooker into one easy-to-use appliance.

When using it as a pressure cooker, after sealing the lid, the Instant Pot begins to heat the contents of the pot until enough steam is produced to raise the internal pressure so that the food inside cooks much faster than it normally would. This allows you to achieve the same results as a long braise or simmer in much less time.

Electric pressure cookers, like the Instant Pot, use computer processors to automatically regulate the internal cooking temperature and pressure to make it much safer to use compared to a conventional stove-top pressure cooker. It’s like cruise control for your pressure cooker!

Instant Pot

The Instant Pot also comes with pre-programmed cooking settings for all of the different things you can use it for. As a “multi-cooker”, it can also saute, steam, cook rice, make yogurt, and slow cook. Just choose the setting you need for your recipe and let the Instant Pot do the rest.

Getting Started with Your New Instant Pot

After unboxing your new Instant Pot, you’ll first need to wash the inner pot insert, the lid, and all of the accessories with dish detergent and warm water.

Instant Pot and Accessories

Install the condensation collector by aligning it with the grooves on the back of the Instant Pot and pressing it in.

Be sure the outside of the inner pot is clean and dry before inserting it into your Instant Pot. Insert the sealing ring into the lid and make sure it is fully seated.

The Instant Pot Water Test

Before you can use your Instant Pot to cook food, you’ll need to perform an initial water test to make sure it functions correctly:

  1. Add 3 cups of water to the inner pot insert.
  2. Close the lid by lining up the arrows on the Instant Pot and the lid and then turning the lid clockwise to the locked position. If you have closed the lid correctly, you’ll hear a chime. Turn the steam release valve to the “sealing” position.
  3. Press the steam button and adjust the time to 5 minutes. After 10 seconds, the cycle will begin and the display will say “On”. When full pressure is reached, the float valve will pop up and the display will begin to count down from 2 minutes.
  4. Once the steam cycle has successfully completed, the Instant Pot will beep and switch over to the warm cycle until you push the cancel button.
  5. Using your left hand to prevent a steam burn, open the steam release valve. Once the float valve falls, all of the steam has released and you can safely open the lid and prepare your Instant Pot for your first recipe.
Instant Pot

If your Instant Pot did not reach full pressure during this test, make sure that the sealing ring was properly seated and that the steam release valve was set to the “sealing” position. If neither of these was an issue, contact customer service to determine your next steps.

General Rules for Cooking in Your Instant Pot

Minimum Water Level

You must always use a minimum of 1 cup of liquid in your Instant Pot. It will not be able to fully pressurize with less than that amount of liquid.

Maximum Fill Lines

If you look at your pot insert, you will notice lines marked “1/2” and “2/3”. Do not fill your Instant Pot beyond the 2/3 line. If you are cooking foods that expand, such as beans or rice, do not fill the pot higher than the 1/2 line.

Adjusting Time Settings

When using the various cooking programs, you will sometimes want to cook things for a shorter or longer time than the program is set for. You can adjust the cooking times by pressing the + or – buttons until you reach the desired time.

Cancel Button

If you use the saute function, you’ll need to press the cancel button before you can switch to pressure cooking or one of the other cooking programs. You will also need to press the cancel button after you are done cooking to turn off the “keep warm” function.

Adjust Button

You can adjust the temperature of the saute function by pressing the “adjust” button. I generally keep mine set to “More”.

Adjust the Pressure Level

You can adjust the pressure level by pressing the “Pressure” button. I have yet to see a recipe that doesn’t call for high pressure, though.

When to Use the Metal Trivet

If you need to keep the food you are cooking out of the cooking liquid, you’ll need to use the metal rack that comes with your Instant Pot. Simply place it in the pot insert and arrange the food you are cooking on the rack.

Closing the Lid

You will know you have correctly closed the lid before cooking when you hear the Instant Pot chime. It will make a slightly different chime when you open it.

Natural vs. Quick Release

You will see recipes call for either a natural or quick release. For a natural release, simply leave the steam release valve set to “sealing” for the amount of time specified in the recipe or until the float valve drops and then open the steam release valve. For a quick release, you will open the steam release valve as soon as cooking is finished.

Instant Pot

Pressure Release Safety

There are several ways to protect your hand when opening the steam release valve. I find it is enough to just use my left hand to open it. If you feel like you need more protection than that, wear an oven mitt or use the handle of a wooden spoon. Do not put your face over the lid when opening the steam release valve or you will get burned.

Opening the Lid

You will not be able to open the lid until all of the steam has been released and the float valve has dropped down into the lid. Do not try to force the lid open.

I hope you found this Instant Pot guide helpful. Now you’re ready for your first recipe! Here are a few to get you started:

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