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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175 responses to “How to Use the Instant Pot”

  1. So “slow cooking” would be like using a crock pot, and you put the lid on but leave the adapter for venting/sealing off? And what setting? I don’t have “Normal” on my Instant Pot. Thank you in advance.

    • Mary, all you need to do is press the “slow cook” button, then press the “+” or “-” button to set the amount of cook time you desire. Normal is not a button, it simply refers to the state of the temperature :-)

  2. Hi Elena,
    I am researching getting one. it is just me and my hubby so I’m thinking the 6 quart one, but I’m wondering if i can put a whole chicken in their to make chicken stock ( I can’t do bone broth at the moment because of the hi histamines)

  3. I just got an instant pot 6 qt to use instead of my loved 4 qt. crock pot I’ve used for years. The crock pot is about a third the size of the new IP. I’m a single person. I’m wondering if you think the IP for one person is overkill. I have not used a pressure cooker for years and it seems like maybe this will be too much for me. Any suggestions or thoughts?

    • Connie, I will be using the Instant Pot even when we are empty nesters and there are only 2 of us. I think it’s useful even for 1 person. I love cooking things like artichokes, spaghetti squash and Bone Broth in it. I find it incredibly useful and love that I can push a few buttons and walk away!

      I think you’ll love it, especially as I continue to post more recipes that use it :-)


      • We are empty nesters and I purchased the 8 WR. I love it so much we did get all 5 of our kids 6 qt Instant Pots for Christmas last year! They are having a great time learning how to use them. Looking forward to your recipes you use with your IP Elana. Blessings, Lori

  4. Just bought an instant pot. I really like it a lot. Could you tell me how to cook greens with it? Are they sautéed or steamed.? Thanks. Let be your recipes.

  5. Elana, I was coming back to purchase an instapot through your affiliate link, however they are sold out for an estimated 1-2 months. Do you have an updated affiliate link? I would love for you to reap some small benefit for the effort you’ve made here.
    Please let us know!

  6. Hi Elana,
    I tried to order the instant pot from your site, but since I live in Canada wouldn’t let the order go through. Is there anyway I can order from and still get a good and give credit to your site?

    • Darlene, you are so sweet! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. Don’t worry about it, and if you’d really like to do something grab a copy of one of my books :-)

    • Also Instant Pots are available in Canada at Canadian Tire and Best Buy although less expensive to order from I bought mine at Best Buy because I did not want to wait for it to arrive. I am really liking it. I am forgetful so not having to tend a pot boiling on a stove is useful for me. Have made a lot of hardboiled eggs and they peel easily. No worries if you forget to quick pressure release either, they turn out fine, instead of boiled dry, burned shells, ruined pan, fire hazard when you forget boiling eggs on the stove. Potatoes come out perfect, best tasting mashed potatoes. Turnip was not so good, too mushy, but I think I just need to play with the timing. Excellent rice and rice dishes. Pea soup in 30 minutes!! And steamed cakes, different texture from baked but they taste so good. Made a pineapple upside down cake that made enough batter for two cakes. Since I had never had pineapple upside down cake in my life, I made one pan in the Instant Pot and one in the oven. The Instant Pot version was so moist and tasted the best. That one was all eaten up and the baked one ended up being partially thrown out. For busy people it is a truly useful product because you don’t need to “mind: it the way you do with stovetop cooking. It is great for forgetful , distracted people, like me. And no steaming up your house with boiling sock pots and cooking smells. For all these reasons I instantly fell in love with the Instant Pot.

  7. I just got one for Christmas and have been intimidated by it and have not used it .. thank you for your notes.. recipes?

  8. Got my IP-DUO 6qt. couple of weeks ago and already love it. Have cooked pressure meals, rice and slow cooker soup. Want to make yogurt. Seems a bit tricky based on what I’ve read. Any tricks or words of wisdom for making IP yogurt? Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful appliance!

  9. Hi Elana, Thank you for taking the time to create this chart! I am excited to start using my new Instapot. I always enjoy your articles and recipes! Cheers to a Happy & Healthy 2017!

  10. I have an Instant Pot. It is making bone broth right now. It is great for beans. I had forgotten that it can make yogurt. I will try that!

    I enjoy your recipes. Thank you!

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