So you finally bit the bullet and joined the cult of Instant Pot owners. Congratulations! The problem is, that box has been sitting on your kitchen counter unopened for a week now because you’re too intimidated to figure out how to use your new Instant Pot. You’re far from alone. That is why we created this Instant Pot quick start guide just for you!
In the month after Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday, there are dozens of posts on Facebook groups from nervous newbies seeking Instant Pot tips for beginners. Rest assured, it’s not nearly as scary as it seems. In fact, once you learn how to use your new Instant Pot, you may never want to turn on your oven again!
Let’s fire this baby up! First, unbox your new toy. The following should be included in your package: the base unit of your electric pressure cooker, a locking lid with a removable silicone seal, a plastic spoon, a condensation catcher, a stainless steel pot liner, a steel trivet, a plastic measuring cup and an instruction manual, aka your in-depth beginner’s guide to the Instant Pot.
Slide the condensation catcher into its slot on the back of the unit. Make sure the plug is firmly attached. Place the large steel liner inside the unit, then place the trivet inside the liner.
All the food you’re cooking should go into the metal liner, not the actual unit itself. Read that again! If you put food or liquid into the unit without the liner, your cooker will be ruined. This is the most important rule of how to use the Instant Pot.
Getting the lid on correctly so it creates the perfect seal can be a little tricky until you’ve done it a few times. First, place the silicone ring under the circular holder on the underside of the lid. Make sure it is tucked in all the way around.
Now, take a close look at the black lip of the lid. On the front side, opposite the pressure valve, you will see an arrow pointing down. Now, look at the top lip on the front of the main unit. You should see an arrow pointing up. Place the lid on the unit aligning those arrows, then twist. This will properly seal your Instant Pot. This part can be a little tricky, so you may want to practice a few times. If your unit is plugged in, you will know it is closed correctly when you hear a series of beeps as you twist the lid shut.
On top of the lid, you will find the black steam release valve. When the valve is pushed all the way back, the unit will seal. Leaving it pushed forward will prevent pressure from building because all the steam will escape. You will release the pressure from the Instant Pot with this valve after your cook time is up.
Before you start cooking anything, though, make sure you do the water test recommended in the manual. This may be the most important tip in any beginner’s guide to the Instant Pot. Not only will it teach you how to use the pressure cooker, but it also serves as a way to ensure your pressure cooker is working — you don’t want to find out you got a dud right in the middle of cooking dinner.
The details of the water test are in the manual, along with all the details on how to use the Instant Pot, but here are the basics: Plug in your unit. Place the steel liner inside. Using the plastic measuring cup included, pour 3 cups of water into the liner.
Make sure the silicone ring is in place under the wires on the underside of the lid. Place the lid on the unit by lining up the arrows and twist it closed. You should hear three beeps. This means it is closed correctly.
Push the steam handle on the top of the lid backward to the sealing position. (If you have an Ultra, you can skip this step — the unit automatically does it for you.)
Press the steam button, then press the +/- key to set the timer for 2 minutes. The unit should turn itself on after 10 seconds, signaled by a beep. (If you have an Ultra, turn the dial to steam and set for 2 minutes using the dial and selections, then press start.)
The display should say “on” as the unit builds pressure. You may see wisps of steam until the red float valve pops up. This is normal; however, if steam is coming out of the sides of the lid itself, turn the unit off, remove the lid, and resecure your silicone ring. It can take a little while for the unit to build pressure, so be patient.
A minute or so after the red float valve pops up, the steam cycle will begin. You will hear beeping and the display will change from “on” to a timer counting down minutes. When the countdown is complete, the unit will beep again and switch to the keep warm setting.
You can release the pressure either using natural release (NR) or quick release (QR). Natural release means you leave it alone until the float valve drops on its own. To perform a quick release, carefully push the steam valve backward. Make sure your hand and arm are not over the steam handle. The steam releases very quickly, so it might be startling at first. Once all the steam has been released, the float valve will drop and you will be able to open the lid again. As a safety measure, you are not able to open the lid until the float valve has dropped. Do not try to force the lid open.
Congratulations! You have successfully completed the Instant Pot quick start! Time to cook dinner!