Wondering how to use your new Instant Pot? In this Instant Pot Guide, I’ll walk you through what you need to know to start cooking with your Instant Pot today. Safety features, how to do an Instant Pot water test, what’s the difference between a natural pressure release and a quick release, and what will happen step by step through the cooking process.
I’ll be honest – the first time I used my Instant Pot, I was overwhelmed and a bit scared. An Instant Pot can be intimidating for a new user. There are so many buttons and safety warnings.
However, I guarantee that once you get started, you’ll wonder what you ever did without your Instant Pot. I love mine so much that I now own two Instant Pots!
I’m going to help you get started with all of the tips and tricks that I have learned through trial, error and research. This Instant Pot manual will tell you everything you need to know to use your Instant Pot for the first time.
WHAT IS AN INSTANT POT?( Instant Pot Guide)
An Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. It is a multi-use appliance that can cook foods quickly at high pressure. Steam pressure builds up inside the pot, which creates a higher temperature environment that cooks foods faster. Unlike old fashioned pressure cookers, the Instant Pot has many safety features that make it safe and easy to use.
An Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, sauté pot, slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker and warmer all in one. I’ve been amazed at the versatility of my Instant Pot and the flavor and texture of the foods that I am able to cook in it. The high pressure inside the Instant Pot can tenderize even tough cuts of meat. It creates rich, complex flavors – seriously, I’ve never had better chili than Instant Pot chili!
If you are not sure which Instant Pot to buy, check out my guide to the Best Instant Pots. I’ve also tested out many Instant Pot accessories so that I can share my favorites with you.
UNPACKING YOUR INSTANT POT BOX
If you haven’t taken your Instant Pot out of the box, now would be a good time to do so. To open your Instant Pot, turn the lid counter clockwise and lift. To close turn clockwise. Remove any plastic wrap from the inner pot and the accessories.
INSTANT POT PARTS AND ACCESSORIES
- Base Unit – this contains the heating element.
- Stainless Steel Inner Pot – fits into the base unit.
- Lid – the look of the lid varies between Instant Pot models.
- Steam Release Valve (also called Steam Release Handle) – this fits on the top of the lid and may already be attached.
- Condensation Collector – attach this to the back of your Instant Pot. (LUX models do not have a condensation collector.)
- Trivet – be sure to keep this, as you will use it often.
- Power Cord – removable in some Instant Pot models.
- Measuring Cup & Utensils – These come with the Instant Pot. I use my own measuring cups and utensils instead of these.
The first thing you’ll want to do is wash the parts of your Instant Pot. The Instant Pot lid, steam release valve and stainless steel inner pot are dishwasher safe; however, I wash mine by hand. The base unit is not dishwasher safe – never immerse the base unit in water.
THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR INSTANT POT
The Instant Pot manual is filled with safety instructions, but these two are the critical ones to remember:
First, never put your face near the steam release valve or float valve while the Instant Pot is on. When I toggle the steam release valve, I use a long handled wooden spoon so my hand and arm are not near the valve opening. Any kitchen utensil with a long handle will do. Alternatively, you can use an oven mitt to carefully turn the steam release valve to the “venting” position when you are ready to release the pressure in your Instant Pot.
Second, never open the Instant Pot lid until the pressure has been released through the steam release valve. You will know that all the pressure has been released when the float valve (pin) drops down.
Depending on which Instant Pot model you have, the float valve may be red or silver. It may pop up above the level of the lid when the pot is pressurized, or it may pop up to be flush with the level of the lid. In my 6 quart LUX, the silver float valve is below lid level normally and pops up to be flush with the level of the lid when pressurized. You will get to know how your Instant Pot model works.
These photos show my 8 quart DUO and you see that the float valve is above the lid level in the left photo, which shows a pressurized pot.
If a recipe calls for a natural release, wait for the natural release time specified in the recipe and then move the steam release valve to the “venting” position to make sure all of the steam and pressure have released. Make sure the float valve has dropped down and then it is safe to open the Instant Pot lid. Open the lid slowly, tilting it so any hot steam will not blow towards your face.
Never attempt to open the lid of your Instant Pot while it is pressurized.
INSPECTING YOUR INSTANT POT BEFORE EACH USE
1. Remove the stainless steel inner pot and look inside the instant pot base. You will see the heating element. The heating element should always be free of debris and dry before you use you the Instant Pot. After washing, I always dry my stainless steel inner pot thoroughly before returning it to the base unit.
2. Check that the silicone sealing ring is fitted properly onto the lid and is clean and free of tears.
3. Remove the steam release valve from the Instant Pot lid by gently pulling it straight up. Make sure it is clean and free of debris. Some foods, such as applesauce, pasta and oatmeal may froth and foam when you cook them and can clog the steam release valve. Check the steam release valve each time you use your Instant Pot. If it is dirty clean it under running water and then put it back on the Instant Pot lid.
4. Check the float valve to ensure it is clean and free of debris. Clean it with warm water as needed. You may place the lid under running water as needed to wash it.
Making sure that all parts of your Instant Pot are clean and in good working condition can help you to have the best success with pressure cooking. My post about the Instant Pot burn message tells you both how to prevent getting this warning and what to do if you do get a burn message.
INSTANT POT WATER TEST
Before you use your Instant Pot for the first time, you should perform a water test. The Instant Pot water test is like an initial test run for your Instant Pot.
The water test will both ensure that your Instant Pot is working properly and will familiarize you with using your Instant Pot.
One of the Instant Pots that I purchased was defective. A water test helped me to determine that the Instant Pot wasn’t working properly. I was able to contact Instant Pot support and get a replacement.
Note: If you have the Instant Pot Ultra, you will use the dial to select cooking programs and change the cook time and then press “start.” Instead of a steam release valve that you turn, the Instant Pot Ultra has a steam release button that you will press if you want to manually release the pressure. The steam release valve will seal automatically on the Ultra, whereas on other models you turn the valve between a venting and a sealing position.
HOW TO DO AN INSTANT POT WATER TEST
- Make sure that the power cord is firmly connected to your Instant Pot. Plug it into a power outlet in your wall.
- Place the stainless steel inner pot in the base unit. Add 3 cups of cool water to the inner pot.
- Check that the silicone sealing ring is fitted properly into the Instant Pot lid. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and turn it clockwise until it is in the closed position. Your Instant Pot will chime each time you close and open the lid (if the Instant Pot is plugged in).
- Turn the steam release valve to the “sealing” position. (If you have an Instant Pot Ultra it will automatically set the steam release to “sealing” when you close the lid.)
- Press the “Manual” or “Pressure Cook” button. (Some Instant Pot models have a button that says “Manual” and others have a “Pressure Cook” button. They do exactly the same thing.)
- Use the +/- buttons to set the time to 5 minutes. Wait for 10 seconds and the Instant Pot display will say “On” and the cycle will begin.