How to Use an Instant Pot: 101 Guide for New Owners

If you’ve just received a new Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, congratulations! You’re about to enter a world of cooking that’s both fast and easy. This 101 guide will teach you how to use an Instant Pot in a few easy steps.

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The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker has become one of the most popular kitchen appliances in recent years, thanks to its ability to cook a wide range of dishes quickly and easily. With its many functions and settings, the Instant Pot is a versatile and convenient tool that can help you prepare healthy, delicious meals a fraction of the time compared to traditional cooking methods.

If you’ve just received your first Instant Pot, you may be wondering how to get started. With its many features and options, this electric pressure cooker can seem a bit daunting at first. However, with a little bit of guidance, you can quickly learn how to use this amazing device to cook a variety of meals.

In this Instant Pot 101, I’ll walk you through what to do when you first get an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. I’ll cover everything from reading the user manual and doing a water test, to experimenting with different recipes and cooking modes.

Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, this guide will give you the information you need to get started with using your Instant Pot and start enjoying fast, healthy meals in no time.



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Step 1: Read the User Manual

The first thing to do when getting an Instant Pot is to read the instruction manual that comes with it. This will give you a good understanding of the device, its features, and how to operate it safely. The manual also provides detailed instructions on how to set up the Instant Pot, how to use it and how to clean it.

While the Instant Pot is relatively easy to use, it is important to read the manual thoroughly to avoid making any mistakes. Pay special attention to the safety warnings and guidelines. These warnings will help you avoid any potential safety hazards and ensure that you are using it correctly.

Additionally, read through the recipes and cooking times in the manual to get an idea of what you can make in the Instant Pot. This will give you a good starting point and help you build confidence in using the device.

Step 2: Do a Water Test

Once you have read the user manual, the next step is to do a water test. This will help you become familiar with how to use an Instant Pot and ensure that it works properly. To do the water test the first time you use your pot, follow these steps:

  1. Fill the inner pot with 2-3 cups of water.
  2. Close the lid and make sure it is properly secured so the lid locks.
  3. Set the pressure release valve to “Sealing”.
  4. Press the “Manual” pressure cook button and set the cook time for 5 minutes.
  5. Once the Instant Pot has finished cooking, allow for a natural pressure release for 10 minutes.
  6. Turn the valve to the Venting position to use a quick pressure release to release any remaining pressure.
  7. Open the lid and check the water level. If it’s lower than when you started, it means your Instant Pot is working properly.
  8. If you notice that the water level is the same, it may be a sign that your unit is not working correctly. In this case, you should refer to the user manual for troubleshooting tips or contact the manufacturer for assistance.

Step 3: Familiarize Yourself with the Different Cooking Modes

Close up of panel on a 6-quart Instant Pot sitting on a white wood table.

The Instant Pot is a versatile and multifunctional kitchen appliance that comes with several cooking modes, each designed to make cooking different types of dishes quick and easy. Keep in mind that different models have different functions and features available, so yours may or may not have all of these different functions.

Here is a brief explanation of each of the most common Instant Pot buttons:

  • Pressure Cook: In this primary cooking mode, the Instant Pot uses pressure to cook food quickly and efficiently. You can adjust the pressure level (to high pressure or low pressure) and cooking time to customize the cooking process for different types of dishes. This mode is great for cooking everything from soups and stews to beans, meats, and grains.
  • Slow Cook: This mode allows you to use the Instant Pot as a slow cooker. You can cook food on low, medium, or high heat, and you can adjust the cooking time to suit your needs. This mode is perfect for cooking soups, stews, and other dishes that require longer cooking times.
  • Sauté: The Saute function allows you to sauté ingredients in the inner pot before pressure cooking. You can adjust the heat level to customize the cooking process, and you can use this mode to brown meat, cook onions and garlic, or sauté vegetables before adding other ingredients.
  • Steam: This mode allows you to steam vegetables, seafood, and other foods quickly and easily. You can use the trivet and a small amount of water to create steam, and the Instant Pot will cook the food in just a few minutes.
  • Rice: When I got my Instant Pot, I ditched my rice cooker. While I don’t use the Rice button to cook rice anymore, pressure cooking is the only way I make rice now! (read my post on Instant Pot Rice for tips.)
  • Yogurt: The yogurt function lets you make homemade yogurt in the Instant Pot. Using it as a yogurt maker allows you to heat and ferment milk, and you can adjust the fermentation time to create the perfect consistency and flavor.
  • Keep Warm: This mode allows you to keep your food warm after it has been cooked. You can use this mode to keep food at a safe temperature until you are ready to serve it.

Check out my post on Instant Pot terminology to learn more about the functions and jargon that is used in the Instant Pot community! It covers everything from what quick release and natural release are to what the float valve is, why you need to deglaze the pot and so much more!

Step 4: Get the Right Accessories

The Instant Pot comes with a few basic accessories, such as the trivet and measuring cup. However, there are many other accessories that can make pressure cooking even easier and more convenient.

For example, a glass lid can be useful for slow cooking or for keeping food warm after pressure cooking. Silicone egg molds, steamer baskets, and extra sealing rings are also great accessories to have.

Read my post on Instant Pot Accessories to see everything I own, and everything that is on my wish list!

Step 5: Start Cooking

Now that you have done the water test and are familiar with the device, it’s time to start cooking! The Instant Pot is incredibly versatile, and you can make anything from soups and stews to desserts and yogurt. To get started, the first recipe you make should be something simple, such as hard-boiled eggs or rice.

Follow the instructions in the user manual or search for a recipe online. Be sure to use the correct settings and cooking times. Remember that cooking times may vary depending on the size and type of food you’re cooking.

When cooking in the Instant Pot, it’s important to remember to use enough liquid to create steam and build pressure. This is what makes pressure cooking so fast and efficient. In general, we recommend using at least 1 cup of liquid for every 1 cup of solid ingredients.

Also, keep in mind that the Instant Pot takes time to build pressure and release it. The cooking time you set on the device is the time it takes to cook the food under pressure. It does not include the time it takes to build pressure or release it.

Step 6: Experiment

Once you’ve mastered a few simple recipes, it’s time to start experimenting. The Instant Pot is a versatile kitchen appliance, and you can use it to cook a variety of dishes, from savory meals to sweet desserts.

Don’t be afraid to try new things and see what works best for you. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my Instant Pot Recipes section or join a community of Instant Pot enthusiasts to share tips and ideas.

Here are some easy and delicious recipe ideas to try in your Instant Pot:

  • Beef Stew. This classic comfort dish can be made in just over an hour in the Instant Pot. Simply brown the meat and sauté the vegetables, add the broth and seasonings, and pressure cook for 35 minutes.
  • Chicken Curry. This flavorful and creamy dish is made with chicken, vegetables, and a homemade curry sauce. Pressure cook for 10 minutes and serve over rice for a complete meal. If you like this meal, be sure to try my Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe too.
  • Cheesecake. Yes, you can even make dessert in the Instant Pot! This creamy and indulgent cheesecake is made with a graham cracker crust and pressure cooked for just 25 minutes. Check out how I make Gluten Free Cheesecake in my Instant Pot.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs. If you’re looking for a quick and easy snack or breakfast, the Instant Pot can help you make perfect hard-boiled eggs every time. Just place the eggs on the trivet, add water, pressure cook for 5 minutes, allow for a 5 minute natural pressure release, open the lid and place the eggs in ice water. For an alternative to plain hard-boiled eggs, try my tasty Instant Pot Egg Bites recipe!
  • Chili. This hearty and filling dish is perfect for a cold night. Brown the meat and sauté the onions and garlic, then add the beans, tomatoes, and seasonings. Pressure cook for 20 minutes and top with cheese and sour cream. Or try my Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili recipe.

Be sure to try all of my favorite tested Instant Pot recipes too! And when you’re feeling comfortable, you can even learn how to convert your favorite recipes for the Slow Cooker to the Instant Pot!



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Step 7: Join an Instant Pot Community

There is a large and enthusiastic community of Instant Pot users online. You can find a wealth of recipes, tips, and advice from other users. Joining a community or following a group online can be a great way to get inspiration and learn new techniques to take you beyond the basics.

Step 8: Clean and Store Properly

After each use, be sure to clean your Instant Pot thoroughly. The inner pot and accessories can be washed in the dishwasher, while the housing and control panel should be wiped down with a damp cloth. Be sure to remove any food or debris from the silicone sealing ring as this can cause odor or bacteria to build up over time.

When storing the Instant Pot, make sure it is completely dry and free from any food debris. Store it in a dry and safe place when not in use. If you plan to store your pressure cooker for an extended period of time, I recommend removing the silicone sealing ring and storing it separately to prevent odor or bacteria buildup.

In conclusion, getting an electric pressure cooker can be an exciting and rewarding experience for home cooks. By following these steps, you’ll know how to use an Instant Pot and be well on your way to creating delicious and nutritious meals in no time.

Don’t be afraid to experiment, and remember to always read the user manual and follow safety guidelines. And now that you know all of the first things you should do when you get your Instant Pot, be sure to read about Troubleshooting Common Instant Pot Mistakes.

Easy Instant Pot Recipes

Instant Pot Quick Start Guide

Email series to help you start using your Instant Pot today!

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