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!

Buy My Books!

paleo cooking from elana's pantryGluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

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. Love your recipes Elana! I purchased the Instant Pot Ultra primarily to replace my Yogourmet yogurt maker. I’ve been making SCD yogurt since 2006. I was hoping to use my 64 oz glass container inside the pot but it doesn’t fit with rhe rack inside. Do you think I could put the glass jar directly onto the metal inner pot? What size of glass jars do you use (size and brand would be useful info)? Also, how much water do you put into the inner liner wirh your glass jars inside? It says 1/2 cup in the book which seems like a small amount compared to Yogourmet but I am a Instant Pot newbie! Thank you for any help you can give me.

    • My book says you can put a glass or other pot directly into the inner pot for phase 2 of yogurt preparation, and you shouldn’t use water.
      I have tried to make yogurt several times in the instant pot and it doesn’t work well. I’m not convinced it’s raising the milk to the requisite temperature of 180F. I got a better result one time when after heating the milk to the supposed 180F and cooling to 110 F, I then moved the milk and starter to my old one liter capacity plug in yogurt maker for phase 2.
      For all other uses, I’m delighted with the instant pot. I never did make rice very well before or any other grain for that matter. The instant pot is touch-button easy. And I’m not terrified the pressure cooker will blow up in my face as an older one did 40 years ago.

  2. Elana,
    I enjoy your blog and cookbooks. I recently purchased an instant pot and would like to become familiar with using it particularly making soups. Will you be publishing adaptations to your recipes? I soak my beans and notice most recipes recommended not soaking. How would I adapt this? Thank you, Catherine

  3. Hi Elana,
    I am glad to find this positive IP review. I am wondering though, as the IP says “bluetooth” and is “smart”, does that mean that it emits microwave radiation (wi-fi)? I am electrosensitive and can’t have wi-fi in my house and can’t use a cell phone. Don’t use a microwave oven either. But I’d love to be able to use this new pot. Thanks.

  4. My Ip is due for delivery any minute and I want those bones cooking! How long will bone broth take on each of the 2 settings you use? Do I use high or low pressure on the pressure setting? And are there instructions for making yogurt? Thank you so much for getting me started on this!

  5. Hi Elana
    A few months ago I sent you a message about buying an instant pot that was too big for me. Well, the company has now put out a 3 qt pot and as soon as I saw it I ordered one and it’s the perfect size for me as a single person. I have used it several times now. The other night I used the slow cooker, the pressure cooker and then the sauteing buttons to make a wonderful turkey, noodle and veggie soup. Now I can let go of my old crock pot– this one is only slightly larger than the old crock pot. And did I say that I love it? Just need to make the rework some of the recipes so I can use it more. Thanks for encouraging me and saying that I’d like it when I got used to it–didn’t get used to the 6 qt, but the 3 qt is perfect me.

  6. Hi have been following you for quite a while now, I’m very interested in making coconut milk yogurt in the instant pot. Can this be done? I bought a small yogurt machine and it is turned out fairly bad. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  7. I am making bone broth today in my new IP. I was just thinking that you could do a new cookbook with IP recipes only! I think that would be wonderful! I love your website but I also really love all of your cookbooks! there is still nothing like holding a cookbook in your hand! I am still waiting for you to come out with a LARGE cookbook that has all of your recipes in it! that would be awesome! although a lot of work on your part I am sure! but LOL I can dream cant I ?
    do you have a suggestion for a book on the keto diet that my husband and I could use to get started??
    thank you for all you do for all of us!!!

    • Marian, thanks for another wonderful comment! My publisher reached out in 2016 and asked me to do an IP cookbook, but I’m still laying low and healing in dealing with the aftermath of this:

      When you mentioned that you would like me to do a large cookbook with all of my recipes, are you referring to a compilation of everything on my blog and my previous 3 books? I’m so happy to hear that you have all of my books and that you love them! Here’s a link to a great book on the Keto Diet that I contributed to:


  8. Hi ELana! I’ve been following you since the beginning (when I was diagnosed with celiac in2008) and I so appreciate your recipes even still! I, too, am in the IP bandwagon and love the versatility, though I admit the food doesn’t taste quite as good as when it’s slow cooked in my cast iron pot. But I do appreciate getting food to the table quickly. I do have a question that no one online has been able to answer and have never seemed to consider…the pot of my 8qt IP seems a bit thin. I noticed a magnet will not adhere to the stainless steel. Would the metals leach into our food? I have compound C677t mthfr, so I know my ability to clear metals is impaired. I know you care about these things and I wondered your opinion. I would love to make my scd yogurt in the IP but wanted to get more info first. Don’t know if this is one area worth compromising?

    • Betty, thanks for your super thoughtful comment! InstantPot claims the pot is made of food grade stainless steel. When I make yogurt in it I place mason jars inside the pot, I will be sharing my IP yogurt recipe soon so stay tuned :-)

          • I have just discovered you! I am looking for a recipe to make yagurt in an IP lux60, in jars. It seems there should be some way to do this, and I hate to reinvent the wheel if someone has already figured out a good process. I am wondering if this is what you are talking about in your conversation with Betty?

  9. HI Elana,
    I am torn between 6 qt. Duo and 6.qt. Lux. You can make yogurt in the Duo, but not eggs. I am thinking you can cook eggs in the Duo, you just have to use the Manuel setting. (Which you would use anyhow depending on wether they are hard, medium or soft boiled.) Is this correct?
    Thanks, Dians

    • Hi Diana, I think that either one would be great, but I do love the yogurt feature in my Duo. I think it would be easy to make hard, medium, or soft boiled eggs on manual :-)

Have Something to Add?

Your comment will need to be approved before it will appear on the site.

Home » How to Use the Instant Pot