Things you should know before using your Instant Pot

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Congratulations on your new Instant Pot! I know you can’t wait to start using your newest kitchen gadget but before you do that here are a few things you should know before using Instant Pot.

An image of Instant Pot Duo Plus with caption that reads 6 things to know before using Instant Pot with 10 Do's and Don'ts

If you have been using a stovetop pressure cooker like Hawkins or Prestige than this article is a must-read. It will help you understand how an Instant Pot is different from a stovetop pressure cooker and will help make the switch easier.

Here’s what you should know before using your Instant Pot so that you understand what is expected behavior and what’s not.

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Instant Pot uses less water than stovetop pressure cookers

There is very little evaporation that happens when you are using Instant Pot so do not add more water than the recipe calls for. Having said that, follow the liquid guidelines for Instant Pot – A 6-quart Instant Pot needs at least 1 cup of liquid, and an 8-quart needs about 1.5 cups.

There is no vent or whistle that goes off 

Don’t expect the vent to go off like a traditional stovetop pressure cooker. There will be a soft hissing sound but nothing like the whistle from the stovetop pressure cooker.

Steam will escape through the valve

While there is no whistle going off, it is normal for some steam to escape around the valve during the pressure building phase. 

The steam handle/valve will be loose 

The steam valve is designed so that it can be moved from sealing to venting and vice versa. That’s why it will be loose – nothing to worry about here. 

The display will show ‘On’ for a long time

IP Display Showing ON

The Instant Pot’s display will show “On” while the cooker is coming to pressure. The amount of time that Instant Pot takes to build pressure depends on the amount of liquid in the inner pot and the food that is being cooked. In most cases, that will be 10-15 minutes but there are exceptions. For instance, Instant Pot may take over 30 minutes to come to pressure while cooking frozen food or when cooking with lots of liquid. 

Once it comes to pressure, the cooking cycle will begin, the floating valve will pop out and the display will show the countdown instead of “On”. 

Important:  When looking at recipes from the internet or Instant Pot cookbooks, make sure to account for the pressure-building time since the recipes usually don’t. 

The display shows LO: followed by a number when it is in Keep Warm mode

Instant Pot display showing LO:01

When your Instant Pot displays LO followed by a number, it means that the pressure cooker is in the ‘Keep Warm’ mode. The number followed by LO indicates how long it has been in that mode. LO:01 means that it has been in that mode for 1 minute. It is a nifty feature that allows you to keep your food warm for up to 10 hours. 

If your intention is to open the Instant Pot immediately after the pressure has naturally released, keeping it in the Warm mode will delay the process. Select Warm/ Cancel to turn off the Instant Pot.

Tip – Press the Manual (or Pressure cook in newer models) button or any smart function button (beans, rice, etc) that you are using for cooking two times in a row and it will turn off the warm function.

Do’s and Don’ts while using Instant Pot 

  1. Dry the steel insert completely before inserting it into the unit or else you’ll hear a cracking sound as the heating element gets in contact with the water. 
  2. Make sure the vent position is always at Sealing before you begin Pressure Cooking or else the steam will escape and you’ll end up with burnt food. Make sure the vent position is at Venting before you begin Slow Cooking.
  3. Clean the steel insert and the lid after each use. DO NOT immerse the base unit in water. Read this: How to clean and care for your Instant Pot.
  4. Once you have cleaned your Instant Pot, make sure you have installed your sealing ring properly before using it. Without a sealing ring, the pressure will not build and most likely you’ll end up with burnt food. 
  5. DO NOT use the Quick release feature for sticky foods or for Porridge / Congee. This is because will food will start coming out of the steam valve and will mess up your Instant Pot lid and possibly your countertop. This will also cause the steam valve/vent to block. 
  6. Keep it far away from your stove. There are enough and more people who burnt their Instant Pot because they accidentally kept it on a hot stove.
  7. Did you know you can make idli in Instant Pot? Not only you can steam idlis but you can ferment idli batter in Instant Pot as well. When you ferment your idli, remember to pay attention to the “Less Normal More” setting and make sure it is at Less. I accidentally set it to More once and ended up with a batter that got cooked and was not salvageable.
  8. Insert the detachable power cord properly – The most common issue that new users report with the Instant Pot is that it doesn’t turn on. The detachable power cord is often the reason. Remove the cord and reinsert it and that should fix it unless your Instant Pot is defective.
  9. Add thickeners like flour and corn starch last –  Since there is no active stirring involved while pressure cooking these thickeners tend to sink to the bottom and end up getting burnt. That’s why you should add them once pressure cooking is done as I did in this Instant Pot Potato Chowder recipe. Mix the flour or cornstarch slurry in and saute for a couple of minutes to thicken the sauce. 
  10. Last but not least, don’t overfill the Instant Pot – it will cause the steam valve to clog. Here’s the rule of thumb I follow,
    • For food that expands (grains like rice, pulses) don’t fill the inner pot more than 1/2 way.
    • For everything else, do not allow the precooked food + liquid to go over the 2/3 mark. 

Hope this helps! Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who just purchased the Instant Pot? Please share in the comments. 

Here are some Instant Pot articles that you might find helpful

Maintaining and Troubleshooting Instant Pot

Cookbooks and Accessories – Which ones to buy?

Need Recipes?

Check out these 10 easy recipes to make in the Instant Pot that are perfect for beginners. Here are my top 5 recommendations. 

Looking for more? check out this list of 100+ Instant Pot Recipes

This post was first posted on Nov 25, 2017, and completely updated on Dec 5, 2019. 

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