How to Use the Instant Pot

The front of the Instant Pot looks like the dashboard of a rocket ship. So many buttons and settings! When I first got mine, I was a bit intimidated. After much experimentation and tons of use I now know how to use the Instant Pot. Finally I’m an Instant Pot pro.

I’ve had loads of practice using my Instant Pot. I’ve made Bone Broth in it every week since I bought it. Sometimes I pressure cook the Bone Broth, other times I slow cook it, and I often simply keep it warm and sip on it all day. The Instant Pot has features for all of this, and so much more. Now I want to share everything I’ve learned with you!

What is Pressure Cooking?

My favorite thing about the Instant Pot is the pressure cooking feature. First though, let’s back up a bit for those of you that may be wondering, what is pressure cooking?

Pressure cooking is a method of preparing food in a sealed vessel using liquid. A pressure cooker is simply a pot with a seal and lockable lid. It also has a valve that traps or releases steam to control the pressure inside. As the pot heats, the steam is captured in it and the pressure increases. Normally, the cooking temperature of wet foods is limited to 212 °F, which is the temperature at which water boils.

When the pressure in a pressure cooker is raised the boiling point of the water is increased, and the food can cook faster at this higher temperature. Since the food cooks more quickly energy is saved. Pressure cooking is not only time saving and energy efficient, it seals in flavors and nutrients.

The Instant Pot is a Multi-Purpose Kitchen Tool

I bought my first pressure cooker in 1993. It was old fashioned compared to the Instant Pot. Still, I loved it for all of the reasons outlined above. I cooked grains in it until I went grain-free in 2001. After that I used my pressure cooker for bone broth. Since my husband doesn’t like the smell of our house when I slow cook a batch of bone broth for 48 hours, the pressure cooker is the perfect tool.

Still, I traded in my beloved decades old pressure cooker for the Instant Pot for a number of reasons. Why? Well, you simply can’t beat the Instant Pot when it comes to functionalities. It is everything from a pressure cooker, to a slow cooker, to a yogurt maker, which I think is totally crazy in the best way!

So when I bought the Instant Pot I gave up my traditional pressure cooker, yogurt maker, and slow cooker. I was so happy to gain back some kitchen real estate for a change! When the boys set up their own homes, this will be one of the first things I buy them.

The Instant Pot has Less EMFs Than Other Appliances

While my initial thoughts were around how to use the Instant Pot, once I got going and began cooking up a storm in it, I had another concern. Since the Instant Pot looks so complex, I was worried that it would have elevated levels of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Thankfully, I measured the Instant Pot (2.7 milligauss) and it emits far less EMFs than the crockpot (9 milligauss) that I had for the last couple decades.

How to Use the Instant Pot Settings

There are 16 settings on the Instant Pot, which is why I said that its front looks like the dashboard of a rocket ship. Here’s my guide for how to use the Instant Pot buttons. It will show you what the words on the front of each button mean and how to use the settings on the Instant Pot.

Each button designates a type of cooking. Basically the buttons have preset cook times to make things easier for you. The setting on the buttons also indicate if the pot will be locked to capture steam when you pressure cook, or if you will be using the Instant Pot like a regular pot and cooking without pressure.

The below is a quick summary I created of the Instant Pot’s buttons, along with the pressure setting and cook time for each one.

In the table above under the column that says “pressure setting,”  you’ll see the words “high” and “low.” This indicates that the Instant Pot is cooking at high pressure with the lid sealed into place. Yes, even when the setting says “low” the Instant Pot is using its pressure cook feature. When the Instant Pot is on “normal” it is not sealed or cooking using pressure.

How to Release Instant Pot When Pressure Cooking

You can release pressure in the Instant Pot in two ways. There is the natural release method, and the quick release method.

The natural release method allows the pressure to naturally dissipate on its own. The quick release method is engaged when you turn the valve on top of the pot from the “sealing” setting to the “venting” setting.

According to the company, the Instant Pot naturally depressurizes by dissipating heat from the cover, specifically the metal parts. Depending on the volume of liquid in the cooking pot, it takes approximately 10-30 minutes to depressurize naturally. The more liquid content, the longer it takes. According to Instant Pot you can also place a towel soaked with cold water on the metal part of the lid to cool the cooker down. This method is referred to as “natural release” in pressure cooking recipes.

The quick release method is used by manually turning the steam release handle to the “venting” position to let the steam out of the cooker for fast cooling. With quick release the Instant Pot takes 1-2 minutes to depressurize. According to the company, the Instant Pot’s steam release handle is a safety device that lets the steam escape quickly from the pot. The company does not recommend using the quick release method if you’re cooking food with a high starch content, e.g. porridge, as this may cause food to spill out from the steam release handle.

Please note, it is very important to wait until the Instant Pot has released all of the steam that has built up inside before you open it and take of the lid. DO NOT EVER force the lid open as this is very dangerous!

Different Instant Pot Models

According to the Instant Pot website, the main difference between the two main Instant Pot models is their size.

IP-LUX50 = 5 quart capacity and 900W heating element
IP-DUO50 = 5 quart capacity and 900W heating element
IP-LUX60 = 6 quart capacity and 1000W heating element
IP-DUO60 = 6 quart capacity and 1000W heating element
IP-DUO80 = 8 quart capacity and 1200W heating element

As you can see above, the IP-LUX50 and IP-DUO50 have a 5 quart capacity. The IP-LUX60 and the IP-DUO60 are larger with a 6 quart capacity. The exterior size of the larger 6 quart capacity models is about 2 cm (3/4 inch) taller than the smaller 5 quart capacity models.

Next you probably want to know what is the difference between the Instant Pot LUX and DUO models. The DUO is simply the updated version of the LUX model. You really only need to know this if you are buying a used Instant Pot. The main difference in functionality between the new and older models of the Instant Pot is that the DUO model has the yogurt making button and the LUX does not.

Which Instant Pot Do You Have?

I have the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, it has a 6 quart capacity and operates at 1000W. I love it and highly recommend it!

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You are one of my few trusted bloggers. I’ve been on the fence about the Instant Pot, but now I think I’ll give it a try!


175 responses to “How to Use the Instant Pot”

  1. I have an instant pot duo that has an air fryer lid too! Do you have any information on it? It is an 8 quart instant pot.

  2. I purchased a 3 quart Instapot because I live by my self. The first soup I made, I found out half way through prep, that the recipe was for a six quart pot. I only filled the broth to the line and my soup came out hideously salty. Can you give us an idea how to eyeball whether a recipe is for a three quart vs six quart. Should we base that on the amount of liquids called for? Organic ingredients which are left over are such a was of resources.

    • Christine, thanks for your comment! The best way to troubleshoot this issue is to read through an entire recipe prior to making it :-)

  3. I have bought the Instant Pot … took the splurge. What a difference it is to my crockpot…during winter I am an avid crockpot cooker…because of convenience but I was never a fan of the texture. Well after a month on using my instant Pot I have give my crockpot away. I now save soooooo much time and my food always tastes fresh and never mushie. My husband loves the food so much that I always make a double batch just so he can that leftovers for lunch everyday and make a collection in the freezer! Now that’s a big savings. We have halved our grocery budget in savings…cheaper meats, all fresh ingredients and I know what is in everything which really help my allergies. Great for time poor individuals like me…

    • Mdower, what a fantastic Instant Pot success story! Thanks for being on this healing foods journey with me :-)

  4. I have borrowed my daughters to try. I find I have to stand on tiptoes to saute etc as the pot is so tall when place on top of the ceramic hob so the steam can be vented away! Don’t think its comfortable to use.

  5. elana, i am a total nubie. I dont understand math at all. My IP has the visible gauge graph. I dont understand how, when I program it for say 30 minutes, that after the cooking time is up, and then the numbers climb back up because of depressurization, the numbers go down then up again. can you send me an email and explain?

  6. Hi Elana,
    You are one of my few trusted bloggers. I’ve been on the fence about the Instant Pot, but now I think I’ll give it a try! Thanks so much for your honesty and integrity. I appreciate the advice. :)

  7. I just got my Instant Pot cooker for Christmas yesterday. I’m so excited to use it. Yes it looks foreign because I use my crockpot’s all the time. I have a picky family so on top of looking for super easy recipe’s I am learning how to use this. Thank you for posting this How to use the instant pot.

  8. Hi, do you still use your Instant Pot frequently? I’ve been thinking of getting one for a while but I’m not sure it’s worth the investment and pantry space it takes up. I also don’t like the texture of foods produced from crock pot cooking – is the IP different?

    Any plans to release an IP cookbook? :)

    • Renee, thanks for your comment! I use my IP a couple of times every week and love it. The great thing about it is that you can sauté things before cooking just like on the stove.

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