And who wouldn’t want to enjoy fall-off-the-bone ribs, roast, and chicken in less than an hour, or to prepare soups and sauces that taste like they simmered all day without even heating up the kitchen?
But if you’re new to using an Instant Pot, getting started has a bit of a learning curve. After all, pressure cooking isn’t exactly an intuitive process.
Luckily, the Instant Pot’s easy-to-use design and multiple preset cooking programs make it simple even for multicooker novices.
Keep reading to learn the basics on how to use an Instant Pot, so you can take advantage of the versatility that they offer.
Pressure cooking is the Instant Pot’s main attraction, since it provides the fastest results.
Depending on your recipe and which version of the Instant Pot you have, some settings might differ slightly.
- Gather your ingredients and check the recipe for the proper cooking time. You’ll either use a preset cooking program or manual Pressure Cook setting.
- Place the ingredients into the inner pot, and close the lid. Turn it to the locked position so that the two triangles line up.
- Set the steam valve to the Sealed position. Failure to do this will prevent the pressure from building inside the pot.
- Select your preset cooking program, or if you’re entering the time manually, press the Pressure Cook or Manual setting.
- Adjust the cooking time using the + or – button. Some models let you choose the pressure level, too.
And that’s it. The device will display the word “On” while it builds pressure, which usually takes about 10 minutes. Once it’s fully pressurized, the timer will start counting down.
You can add or subtract time at any point during the cooking process with the Adjust button, or shut the device off with the Cancel/Keep Warm button.
Once the cooking process is finished, you can allow the device to naturally release pressure (which takes up to 30 minutes) or do a quick release by turning the steam valve to the Venting position. Most recipes will let you know which type to use.
If you do use a quick release, keep your hands and face away from the top of the vent to avoid burns from the steam eruption.
- Make sure the silicone gasket is securely in place on the inner part of the lid before use.
- Ensure that the anti-block seal, steam release handle, and floating valve aren’t obstructed before cooking.
- Don’t try to open the lid until the floating pressure valve drops down and pressure is released.
- Don’t fill the pot more than two-thirds of the way full.
The Instant Pot’s other main functions include Sauté and Slow Cook.
The Sauté setting basically works like a pot on the stove – the heat comes from beneath the inner pot, allowing you to sear foods and reduce sauces without the lid. You can adjust the heat level using the Adjust button to choose Less, Normal, or More.
The Slow Cook setting works like a traditional slow cooker, and you can choose the amount of time with the + and – buttons. You can then choose a heat level using the Adjust button.
One important thing to note is that the steam release handle should be placed in the Venting position during the slow cooking process, or you can use the glass lid if you have one.
The Instant Pot’s other settings are basically just preset timers with certain pressure settings for a that specific type of food, but how successful you’ll be using them is highly dependent on the amount and size of food you’re cooking, how much liquid you’re using, and other factors specific to the recipe.
If you want to prepare your food ahead of time, the Instant Pot’s delayed start setting automatically starts the cooking process whenever you want it to, up to 24 hours.
This feature is ideal for busy dinner parties or if you want to prepare overnight oatmeal and have it ready to eat in the morning.
To do this, just press the Delay Start or Timer button within 10 seconds of choosing a cooking method, then adjust the start time using the + or – buttons.
Many people find that they get the best results using manual pressure and timer settings, but with enough experimentation you’ll learn the methods that work best for you and your cooking style.
Generally, the Instant Pot is easy to use once you become acquainted with all of the functions, and it can save you a lot of time when you’re trying to get dinner on the table during a busy workday.
Writer and Product Researcher
Spending the last 10 years researching and writing about various home, garden and electronics topics, Shelley is more than qualified to write for Meccano Home. Her work has been featured on eBay, Pottery Barn, SFGate, TheKnot, Williams-Sonoma and various other blogs and websites.