If you are brand new to the Instant Pot game (or if you have been living under some sort of culinary rock and haven’t even heard of one), then this is the article for you. Heck, even if you have had your Instant Pot for a while, all of those settings and buttons can seem a little intimidating. But not to fret. I’ll take you through exactly how to use your Instant Pot and show you what each and every button does. It really is easy to use and pretty self-explanatory!
What Is An Instant Pot?
First things first, what even is this thing? In short, it’s an electric, programmable pressure cooker. So, if it’s just a pressure cooker, why does it have all these buttons? Well, my friends, that is because it’s not just a pressure cooker. It also functions as a slow cooker and a yogurt maker and has pre-programmed settings for different types of ingredients to take the guess-work out of pressure cooking. And to make your life easy. Which it does. Time and time again. That’s why everyone loves them so much!
Some Things You Need To Know
1) Cooking Time Does Not Mean Finished Time.
When you see a cooking time listed on an Instant Pot recipe, keep in mind that it will actually take a bit more time than listed. The pot takes a few minutes to come up to pressure, and it also has to release pressure when it’s done cooking, so that 10-minute soup is really more like a 20-minute soup. (You can always manually release pressure to save time. More on that later.)
2) Always Cook with Liquid.
For pressure cooking settings, you should ALWAYS have at least 1 cup of liquid in the pot. That’s how the whole pressure cooking thing works! Keep in mind that if you have a recipe that calls for more liquid, it will take longer to come up to pressure. A soup with 6 cups of water can take 15 minutes or so to come up to pressure, for instance.
3) It’s Not Going to Explode.
Really it’s not. You don’t need to be scared of the Instant Pot. Just follow the instructions, don’t get TOO creative (as in please do not try to use it as a facial steamer or a fryer…) and you’ll be all good. It’s designed to safely release pressure, after all.
How to Use Each Instant Pot Button
The Instant Pot buttons are simply pre-sets for cooking times and pressure. All of the settings default to high pressure except for the rice setting, which defaults to low pressure. You can adjust the time on any of these settings by pressing the “Adjust” button and then using the “+/-” buttons.
When you press a button, it will give you 10 seconds and then automatically beep and turn on. But don’t panic, you can always press “Cancel” and choose a new setting.
Oh, and I have the DUO 6-quart 7-in-1 model. The LUX model is slightly different, but the buttons work the same, so most information here should still apply.
After the cooking time has completed, the pot will automatically switch to “Keep Warm” mode, and will stay that way up to 10 hours. The digital display will count up so you can keep track of how long the food has been warming. You can manually set the Instant Pot to “Keep Warm” mode for up to 99 hours and 50 minutes. (Why you would need to keep something warm for 99 hours is beyond me… but if you have the need, it’s possible!)
You press this button to cancel out of a program or to turn the Instant Pot off. If you accidentally select a mode or need to reset and start over, you just hit the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button.
Pressing this button allows you to switch from High Pressure to Low Pressure or vice versa. It doesn’t work in the slow cook, sauté, rice, or yogurt functions.
This button allows you to adjust cooking times on the preset pressure cooker functions to “Less” or “More.” (“Less” and “More” are still preset cooking times, you can change by the minute in Manual mode.) You also use this button to change the temperature for Slow Cook and Sauté.
The timer allows you to delay your cooking start time. Very handy. It works with pressure cooking modes OR the slow cook mode, but you must select one of those options first. Within 10 seconds, press “Timer” and use the “+” or “-” buttons to set the delayed hours. Press “Timer” again to change the minutes.
So, this is not a button, but it IS an important feature of your Instant Pot. This is where the pressure releases after cooking. There are only two things you can do here: toggle the valve to “Venting” or toggle the valve to “Sealing.” Before you start cooking anything, you want to make sure the valve is in the “Sealing” position, as shown in the picture. That allows the pressure to build up. When cooking is finished, the pressure needs to be released from the pot before you can open it. There are two ways for this to happen: natural release and quick release.
For natural release, you just leave the pot as is and don’t touch anything. The pressure will release on its own over time, usually about 10-20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the Floating Valve completely drops. (That’s the little silver circle to the right of the valve. You’ll hear a little click when it drops down.) Food continues cooking slowly during natural release, so keep that in mind when you’re adapting recipes.
For quick release, you just flip the valve to “Venting.” It’s a little alarming the first time you do it; the valve will immediately start hissing and releasing a cloud of steam, but that’s totally normal. You can use your bare hand to flip the valve (I always do), but if it makes you nervous, you can use an oven mitt or a wooden spoon or whatever you have lying around. It really only gets uncomfortably hot if you hold your hand directly over the steam though. This release only takes 1 to 2 minutes, and just as with the natural release, you’ll know it’s done when the Floating Valve drops down and the pot stops hissing. You want to use quick release for things like steamed vegetables or seafood that you want to be careful not to overcook.
I usually use a combo method, and let natural release work its magic for a few minutes before I flip it to quick release. If you’re making a recipe and know you want to use quick release to save time, you can always add a minute or two to the actual cooking time to be sure everything gets cooked completely.
On the next page, I’ll take you through the functions that make the Instant Pot so awesome, even though most of them don’t involve pressure cooking. (This includes my very, very favorite feature.) We’ll call them “Other” Cooking Buttons…