All you need to know about how to use your Instant Pot

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Can’t wait to start using your new Instant Pot? Follow this quick-start guide to learn how to use your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker to make delicious meals.

Can't wait to start using your new Instant Pot? Follow this quick start guide to learn how to use your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker to make delicious meals.

*This post contains affiliate links.

Confession time – I bought my first Instant Pot in June during an Amazon prime day sale, and couldn’t wait for it to arrive. I tore open the package and unwrapped the contents. And there it was.. my shiny new Instant Pot that could do a multitude of things from pressure cooking to slow cooking, making yogurt to baking a nifty cheesecake.

You are probably expecting me to say – ” I started using it right away and made my favorite curry…”.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that. Instead, the Instant pot gathered dust on my kitchen counter for months. With 14 different functions to figure out, I didn’t know where to start.  Especially if you are new to electric pressure cookers and like to figure out things on your own without reading a manual, the Instant Pot can be overwhelming. 

One day, my husband said, “You bought yet another appliance that you didn’t need or use?”.  Those who know me, know that I don’t take criticism well (ahem..). So I dusted off the manual and declared that our next meal would come out of the Instant Pot. Initially, I considered making Chana Masala but decided to try the “yogurt function” unique to the 7-in-1 Instant Pot and ended up making yogurt in the Instant Pot.

I don’t want you to wait for a couple of months or to get overwhelmed as I did, so allow me to walk you through the steps on how to get started with your Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

What comes in the box

Let’s take a peek into the box, shall we? When you open the carton you will find.

  1. The equipment – Instant Pot with steel insert and lid, condensation collector, stainless steel steam rack, a measuring cup, and two spatulas.
  2.  Documentation
    • User Manual – Don’t throw this out yet! I would highly recommend reading it even though I am going to provide you with a quick 101 below.
    • Recipe Book – The recipe book contains a small collection of recipes.  Check out pages 31- 37 for recommended cooking times.
    • Quick Reference Guide – Keep this handy until you get familiar with all the steps.
    • Updated information sheet – Some features such as the temperatures for slow cooking were updated after the manual was printed and this sheet highlights the changes.  Read it to know what has changed.

Getting started with Instant Pot

Read this first: Understand the different parts in an Instant Pot and terminology that is commonly used by other users. 

Time to get acquainted with the equipment. This video below will help you understand the

  • Different parts within the Instant Pot
  • How to install the sealing ring
  • Install the condensation collector
  • How to open and close the Instant Pot

4 things you must do before your first use

  1. Remove and install the sealing ring – The sealing ring may come already installed but it is a good idea to remove it and wash it in warm soapy water before use. To remove pull upwards from the sealing ring rack in sections and to install press it down into the rack, section by section. (Fast forward the video to 3:14 to see it in action)
  2. Remove and install the Anti-Block Shield – In some cases, the Anti-Block Shield will come installed and if that is the case, remove it and install it again. To remove it, push it on the side to lift up and to install it, position it in place and press it down. (Fast forward the video to 4:03 to see it in action)
  3. Install the condensation collector – Slide it into the slot as shown in the video above. Follow the reverse order to remove it for cleaning. (Fast forward the video to 10:17 to see it in action)
  4. Hook in the Power cord    

Now, it’s time for a Test Run

Before you do a test run, quickly wash the steel insert (NOT the unit or the cooker base) and the lid with warm and soapy water.  ALWAYS dry the steel insert completely before inserting it into the unit.

  1. Make sure the Anti-Block Shield and sealing ring are properly installed, and both the steam release handle and the float valve are clean and unobstructed. The Vent should be in the Sealing position.
  2. Insert the inner pot in the cooker base and add water in the inner pot up to the “3” mark.
  3. Press the “Steam” button and press on the “-” button to adjust the time to 2 minutes. In about 10 seconds, the display will change to “On” indicating that the preheating cycle has begun. A few minutes later, steam will start coming out and in a minute or two, the float valve will pop up and seal the cooker. Once the working pressure is reached, the countdown timer will begin. Once the countdown is finished, your Instant Pot will beep and go into the “Keep Warm” mode.

This completes the test. Press the “Keep Warm / Cancel” button or unplug the unit.  In about 20 minutes or so, you can try opening the lid.

Learn more: Watch a video on how to do the water test and understand why it needs to be done. 

What can the Instant Pot do? 

What can it not do? Seriously! There are 14 smart functions on the Instant Pot – Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté, Steam, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Slow Cook, Keep-Warm, Yogurt, Pasteurize and Fermented Rice.

Read this: Instant Pot manual – Which smart function buttons to choose.

Continue reading to find out how to use the Instant Pot as a Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Saute function, and as a Steamer.

Instant Pot as a Pressure Cooker

The video below covers the Soup, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Sauté, Steam, Rice, Porridge or Congee, Multigrain functions.  If you are wondering why the control panel looks different, it is because it talks about the 6-in-1. Don’t worry, though, the functions are the same.

The only difference is 6-in-1 does not have a yogurt function. Also, one other notable difference is the 6-in-1 model cooks only in high-pressure mode whereas the 7-in-1 provides you with both high and low options.

Note – Make sure the vent is always at Sealing before you begin Pressure Cooking.

Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker

Note – Make sure the vent is always at Venting before you begin Slow Cooking.  An optional glass lid can also be used to cover for slow cooking.

Instant Pot Sauté Function

Note: DO NOT use the Instant Pot lid for the Saute function. Instead, use a glass lid to cover the Instant Pot. I use the saute feature to fry onions, tomatoes, etc.

A quick set of directions to get you going with your favorite curry

  1. Add oil in the Steel insert.
  2. Adjust the temperature to less and when the display reads hot, add onions and fry them till they caramelize.
  3. Before adding tomatoes, adjust the heat to more and then fry the tomatoes till the oil starts to leave the sides.
  4. Add your favorite vegetables or meat at this time and choose the appropriate function such as slow cook or pressure cook to complete cooking.

The video below demonstrates the saute function in an Instant Pot

Instant Pot Steamer Function

The “Steam” key is designed for steaming purposes. Use the steam rack to steam vegetables, seafood, or reheat. To avoid overcooking the vegetables, release the steam using the Quick Release method as explained after this video.

Check out this list of must-have Instant Pot accessories that you should own if you want to make the most of your Instant Pot. These accessories will help you bake, steam, make yogurt and do so much more with your Instant Pot. 

Before you leave – Learn 3 ways to open the cooker

  1. Quick Release – This releases pressure instantly. The function is similar to pulling the weight/vent or the whistle of a traditional pressure cooker to release pressure immediately. To release pressure instantly, press cancel and your display should read OFF. Twist the steam release handle on the lid to “Venting” position. [ DO NOT use this feature for sticky foods or for Porridge / Congee as this may cause food to leak out from the steam release handle.] ( TIP –  As a friend shared with me, the best way to do Quick Release is to put a kitchen towel over the vent before you do it. It lessens the chance of burning yourself on the hot steam. )
  2. Natural Release – This means letting the pressure come down on its own which takes about 20 minutes (sometimes more depending on how full the cooker is).
  3. 10-minute Natural Release – Once the cooking is done, the cooker will go into the “Keep Warm” mode. Wait for 10  minutes and then press cancel. Your display will read OFF. Twist the steam release handle on the lid to the “Venting” position.

Next step: Read important things to know before using your Instant Pot

What’s the first thing you are planning to make with your Instant Pot? Tell us about your first experience using the Instant Pot.

Like I mentioned above the first thing I made was yogurt! Click on how to make homemade yogurt using an Instant Pot to find out all the different ways you can make yogurt at home.

And before I sign off, I wanted to let you know that my Instant Pot is no longer gathering dust AND my husband is so impressed with it that he didn’t protest (like he usually would) when I bought my second Instant Pot last thanksgiving 🙂

Want more recipes? 

Check out these 10 beginner Instant Pot recipes that you can make in the Instant Pot today. I would recommend you start with these easy ones.

  1. Instant Pot Boiled eggs – Once you make hard-boiled eggs in an Instant Pot, you’ll never go back to your old ways. The eggs not only cook in 5 minutes, but they are also super easy to peel and you get perfect eggs every time!
  2. Easy Indian potato recipe – Learn how to make this classic Indian potato recipe in under 30 minutes using a pressure cooker like Instant Pot. This versatile dish is easy to make and it is perfect for those who are new to Indian cooking. 
  3. Instant Pot – One-pot dal– One pot recipes are the best! That’s why you’ll love this Tadka dal (tempered dal) recipe – make it in an Instant Pot or a pressure cooker – and you’ll have your meal ready in no time.
  4. Instant Pot Vegetable Biryani  – You have to try this flavorful one-pot vegetarian meal that comes together in under 30 minutes.
  5. Instant Pot Ghee – Follow this detailed fail-proof recipe with step by step pictures to make ghee in Instant Pot and say goodbye to storebought ghee.

and you’ll find many more in this Instant Pot Recipes section. 

Cookbooks and Accessories – Which ones to buy?

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Get dinner on the table faster!

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  1. Hi Anu,
    We are Indian Vegetarian working couple ( no meat, no fish, no eggs diet). I loved your step-by-step user manual for Instant pot. Can you please recommend some good vegetarian cook books for Instant Pot recipes too?

    1. Hi, Paulomi – Thanks for stopping by. Are you looking for Indian recipes or will non-Indian vegetarian recipes work for you? The recipe book I have is written by Kathy Hester and it is a vegan cookbook for Instant Pot. I loved the Sweet corn Indo-Chinese recipe I made from that book. Here’s my affiliate link – Also, here are all the Indian recipes I have tried using the Instant Pot so far –


      1. Hi Anu,
        Thanks so much for your reply. We like both types- but Indian is more intuitive to me. Your suggestion for a Vegan Instant Pot cookbook will work very well for us. Do you know of any vegan/vegetarian cook book for Instant Pot that has only Indian recipes? Someone also suggested me “Vegan Under Pressure” by Jill Nussinow for American/International cuisine.. Thanks for the link to the recipes you have made on the Instant pot. I will definitely give it a try and keep you posted.
        Have a wonderful evening!

      2. Hi Anu,
        I hope you are doing well. I wanted to ask you the name of that book for cooking Indian Recipes in Instant Pot. You had sent me the amazon link but apparently, its not longer working anymore. Appreciate if you can give me that name or send me that link again.
        Thanks once again and have a great day!

      3. Hi Paulomi, Not sure what happened to the link. Looks like Amazon pulled it off its shelf. Right now this is the only other book on Indian food – (aff link). Hope this helps.
        Take care,