A Beginner’s Guide: How to Use an Instant Pot for the First Time





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Venturing into the realm of home cooking can often feel like setting sail on a culinary expedition. Amidst the bustling sea of kitchen gadgets, an Instant Pot stands as a lighthouse for those who crave both convenience and speed without leaving behind the rich flavors of lovingly prepared meals.

I’ve dedicated years to playfully tinkering with each dial and button, mastering the artistry needed to whirl raw ingredients into mouthwatering feasts within this dynamic vessel.

Invite your inner chef out to play as we embark on the simple yet transformative adventure of crafting your very first Instant Pot masterpiece. Picture this: tossing together a medley of ingredients, pressing a few buttons with anticipation, and voilà—a heartwarming dish is ready to greet you! This guide has been carefully crafted to peel back the veil on pressure cooking magic and equip novices with empowering insights.

Together, let’s unveil scrumptious treasures that await your touch!

Key Takeaways

  • An Instant Pot is a multi – functional cooker that acts as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more. It cooks food quickly by sealing in steam.
  • Before using an Instant Pot for the first time, conduct a water test by adding 3 cups of water and cooking it under high pressure for 5 minutes.
  • There are different buttons on the Instant Pot for specific functions like sautéing or making soup, which help cook various dishes with precision.
  • Safety features include a locking lid and automatic temperature control; always make sure the sealing ring is correctly placed to prevent accidents.
  • Some easy beginner recipes to try in an Instant Pot include stuffed cabbage rolls, beef stew, mushroom risotto, chicken enchiladas, and mashed potatoes.

Understanding Instant Pots

An Instant Pot is a versatile kitchen appliance that combines several cooking functions into one, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and more. It works by trapping steam inside the pot to cook food quickly and efficiently while retaining moisture and flavor.

Safety features include a locking lid, pressure release valve, and automatic temperature control for added peace of mind.

What is an Instant Pot?

An Instant Pot is a handy kitchen appliance, like a magic pot. It’s not just one thing; it’s many. You can call it an electric pressure cooker, but that’s not all. This machine is also a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and even has a sauté function.

I put food in it, close the lid tight and press buttons to tell it what to do. There’s no need for watching pots on the stove or heating up my oven.

I use one button for cooking stew and another for soup. It seals tightly so steam builds up inside which cooks food fast under pressure. When the meal is ready, it beeps at me and keeps everything warm until I’m set to eat.

Now let’s talk about how this amazing device works.

How does it work?

After understanding what an Instant Pot is, it’s essential to grasp how it operates. When using the Instant Pot for the first time, I select the “Pressure Cook” function on the display and then choose either “Manual” or “Pressure Cook.” After adjusting the cook time to five minutes, the pot will start its magic.

Once finished, it’ll beep and switch to “Keep Warm,” signaling that my meal is ready. The steam valve should always be set to sealing before starting any cooking process and users must ensure that food goes inside before starting.

When using an Instant Pot, sautéing, natural release, and quick release are vital options for various cooking needs. I discovered specific buttons dedicated to different cooking methods such as stew or soup – a great way of ensuring precision in every dish prepared.

Instant Pot safety

Now that you understand how an Instant Pot works, let’s talk about safety. Remember to always ensure the sealing ring is properly in place before cooking. Avoid overfilling the pot and never force open the lid when pressure cooking.

When using the quick release method, keep hands and face away from the steam to prevent burns.

As a beginner, understanding these safety measures will help you enjoy using your Instant Pot without any mishaps or accidents. Always prioritize safety when operating your electric pressure cooker to have a worry-free cooking experience.

Unpacking and Setting Up Your Instant Pot

Upon opening the box, you’ll find the Instant Pot, inner pot, sealing ring, steam rack, and other accessories. Assembling the Instant Pot is easy – just place the inner pot inside and familiarize yourself with the control panel and buttons.

What’s included in the box?

The Instant Pot package consists of the main unit, a stainless steel inner cooking pot, a steam rack with handles for safe removal, a rice paddle for serving and stirring, a soup spoon that also aids in measuring liquid ingredients accurately – all made from food-grade material.

Additionally, it includes a measuring cup designed to standardize cooking preparation and an instruction manual and recipe book providing helpful information on first-time use as well as several beginner-friendly recipes.

Remember to carefully unpack and inspect each item before getting started to ensure everything is included and undamaged.

Once you open the box, you’ll find the essential components: stainless steel inner cooking pot, steam rack with handles, rice paddle for serving/stirring, soup spoon/measuring cup (for liquids), along with an instruction manual/recipe book for guidance.

Assembling the Instant Pot

To assemble the Instant Pot, first, ensure all parts are clean and dry. Then, place the inner pot into the housing and make sure it’s properly aligned. Next, attach the steam rack or trivet to the bottom of the inner pot, ensuring it’s secure.

Familiarizing yourself with the control panel and buttons

When you unpack your Instant Pot, the control panel and buttons may look overwhelming, but with a little understanding, it’s easy to use. Here’s how to familiarize yourself with the control panel and buttons:

  1. Locate the different cooking program buttons such as Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, and Rice.
  2. Identify the “Pressure Cook” or “Manual” button used to select the desired pressure level and cooking time.
  3. Find the “Sauté” button for browning or thickening sauces before pressure cooking.
  4. Understand the “Steam” button for steaming vegetables or seafood quickly and efficiently.
  5. Locate the “Keep Warm/Cancel” button which keeps food warm after cooking and cancels any operation in progress.
  6. Identify the “+/ – ” buttons used for adjusting cooking time and pressure levels based on recipes.

How to Use Your Instant Pot for the First Time

Preparing for the water test is essential before using your Instant Pot for the first time, and I’ll walk you through step-by-step to make it easy – read on to learn more!

Preparing for the water test

To prepare for the water test, ensure that the inner pot is placed inside the Instant Pot and add three cups of water.

  1. Close the lid properly by aligning the arrows on the lid and the base of the cooker. Ensure that the steam release handle is in the sealing position.
  2. Select “Pressure Cook” on the display, then press the “Pressure Level” button to choose high pressure.
  3. Set the cooking time to 5 minutes by using the “+” or “ – ” buttons on the control panel.
  4. Once set, wait for a few seconds for the Instant Pot to start building pressure. The display will show “On” while it’s heating up.
  5. After reaching high pressure, the float valve will rise, indicating that it’s at pressure and cooking has started.
  6. The Instant Pot will beep when it finishes cooking and switch to “Keep Warm” mode automatically.
  7. To release pressure after cooking, use either natural release or quick release based on recipe instructions or personal preference.
  8. Carefully open the steam release handle using a long – handled utensil to avoid getting burned by hot steam.
  9. When all pressure is released, carefully twist and lift off the lid away from your face and body to avoid being exposed to hot steam.

Performing the water test

To perform the water test, follow these steps:

  1. Fill the inner pot with 3 cups of water.
  2. Insert the steam rack and ensure it’s in the raised position.
  3. Close the lid, making sure the steam release handle is set to the sealing position.
  4. Select “Pressure Cook” and set the timer for 5 minutes using the “+” or “ – ” buttons.
  5. Once you hear a beep, the Instant Pot will begin to build pressure. This may take some time.
  6. After reaching pressure, the display will show “On.” The float valve will rise, indicating pressure has been reached and cooking has started.
  7. When the cooking time is up, carefully turn the steam release handle to venting for a quick pressure release.
  8. Once depressurized, open the lid and check for any signs of leaks or issues with sealing.

Understanding the float valve

When using an Instant Pot, it’s important to understand the float valve. The float valve is a small metal pin that rises when pressure builds up inside the pot. It indicates that the pot has reached high pressure and cooking has started.

When you see the float valve pop up, it means your Instant Pot is pressurized and cooking your meal.

As a beginner, seeing the float valve rise can be reassuring because it confirms that your food is being cooked under pressure as intended. This visual indicator helps you ensure that everything is working correctly and gives you peace of mind while using your Instant Pot for the first time.

Pressure release methods

After understanding the float valve, it’s crucial to know how to release pressure from the Instant Pot. Here are the various pressure release methods you can use:

  1. Natural Release: This method involves letting the pressure decrease naturally after cooking. It’s suitable for foods that benefit from longer cooking times and allows flavors to develop further.
  2. Quick Release: Quick release involves manually venting the steam using the quick release valve. It’s best for foods that require precise timing to avoid overcooking.
  3. Partial Release: This method involves a combination of natural and quick release, useful for preventing starchy foods from spewing out when using quick release.

Tips and Tricks for Instant Pot Beginners

Recommended accessories like a steamer basket and extra sealing rings can enhance your cooking experience. If you encounter issues, try troubleshooting tips like checking the sealing ring and ensuring the steam release valve is in the correct position.

Understanding cook times for different ingredients will help you plan your meals more effectively.

Recommended accessories

When using your Instant Pot, having the right accessories can make cooking even easier. Here are some essential accessories to consider:

  1. Steaming rack: Use this to cook vegetables or steam seafood and eggs.
  2. Silicone lid: Great for storing leftovers directly in the Instant Pot inner pot.
  3. Extra sealing rings: Having a spare ring ensures you always have a clean one on hand.
  4. Springform pan: Perfect for making cheesecakes and other desserts in your Instant Pot.
  5. Silicone mitts: Protect your hands when handling the hot inner pot or accessories.
  6. Glass lid: Ideal for slow cooking and keeping food warm.

Common troubleshooting tips

Once you have your recommended accessories and are ready to start using your Instant Pot, it’s essential to be prepared with some common troubleshooting tips. Here are some tips to help if you encounter any issues:

  1. Ensure the sealing ring is properly installed in the lid to avoid pressure leaks during cooking.
  2. Check the steam release handle for clogging or blockages that may affect pressure buildup and release.
  3. Verify that the anti – block shield is clear of any food particles or debris, which can impact the pressure release process.
  4. If experiencing a “burn” message, check for food stuck at the bottom of the pot and add more liquid if necessary.
  5. Use caution when performing a quick release to prevent hot liquid from spraying out, and never force open the lid if there’s still pressure inside.
  6. If the display shows an error code, consult the user manual for explanations and troubleshooting steps specific to that code.
  7. Test the accuracy of cooking times with simple recipes before attempting more complex dishes to familiarize yourself with your Instant Pot’s performance.
  8. In case of excessive steam or leaking during cooking, double – check that all components are properly assembled and sealed before starting again.
  9. If encountering uneven cooking results, ensure ingredients are evenly distributed within the pot and adjust cook times or settings as needed based on previous experiences.
  10. Familiarize yourself with your model’s specific features by referring to its user manual for guidance on resolving common issues or concerns.

Understanding cook times

When using the Instant Pot, knowing cook times is crucial. It affects how long your food will take to cook and ensures it’s safe to eat. Be mindful of cook times provided in recipes or adjust them based on your ingredients and desired texture.

The Instant Pot user manual can also guide you on recommended cook times for different types of dishes. Mastering cook times will help you make delicious meals consistently with your Instant Pot.

Understanding the significance of accurate cook times is essential when using an Instant Pot. This knowledge ensures that your dishes are cooked thoroughly and safely, providing you with perfectly prepared meals every time.

Easy Instant Pot Recipes for Beginners

Try making delicious stuffed cabbage rolls, hearty beef stew, creamy mushroom risotto, flavorful chicken enchiladas, and perfectly fluffy mashed potatoes in your Instant Pot. Discover more easy and tasty recipes to try with your new multicooker!

Stuffed cabbage rolls

Let’s make some delicious stuffed cabbage rolls in the Instant Pot. Start by mixing ground beef, rice, and seasonings. After softening the cabbage leaves in hot water, fill each leaf with the meat mixture and roll it up.

Place the rolls on the trivet inside the Instant Pot and pour tomato sauce over them. Cook under high pressure for 15 minutes followed by a quick release to enjoy tender and flavorful stuffed cabbage rolls.

Next, let’s explore another easy Instant Pot recipe for beginners – Beef stew.

Beef stew

To make a beef stew in the Instant Pot, press the “Sauté” button and add oil. Then, brown the beef for a few minutes before adding onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes. After that, pour in broth, tomato paste, and seasonings.

Close the lid, set to “Pressure Cook,” adjust cook time as needed based on your recipe or the meat’s tenderness (e.g., 20-25 minutes), then allow natural pressure release for at least 10 minutes before quick-releasing any remaining pressure.

Finally stir well and enjoy your hearty and flavorful beef stew straight from your Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot provides a convenient way to prepare savory beef stew with minimal effort compared to traditional stovetop cooking. Using this multicooker allows for tenderizing tough cuts of meat much faster while keeping all flavors locked in.

Mushroom risotto

Transitioning from making a hearty Beef Stew to a delightful Mushroom Risotto, it’s important to switch our focus from meaty textures to creamy and flavorful rice dishes. For preparing Mushroom Risotto in the Instant Pot, gather ingredients such as Arborio rice, mushrooms, vegetable broth, onion, garlic, white wine (optional), and Parmesan cheese.

Firstly, sauté the onions and garlic using the Sauté function of your Instant Pot. Next, add the Arborio rice and stir until coated with oil. Then pour in the vegetable broth along with sliced mushrooms.

Pressure cook for 5 minutes before allowing natural pressure release for 10 minutes followed by quick release if needed. Incorporating these steps will result in an effortlessly delicious mushroom risotto perfect for any beginner home cook looking for an elevated culinary experience.

Chicken enchiladas

Let’s make some delicious chicken enchiladas in the Instant Pot. Start by mixing shredded cooked chicken, cheese, and enchilada sauce in a bowl. Then spoon the mixture onto tortillas and roll them up.

Place the rolled tortillas into the Instant Pot on a trivet, add water to the pot, seal the lid, and set it to cook for 20 minutes using manual pressure.

Once done, use quick release to let out steam before opening the lid carefully. Top your enchiladas with more cheese and allow it to melt under your oven broiler for a minute or so.

Mashed potatoes

To make mashed potatoes in the Instant Pot, peel and chop the potatoes, then add them to the pot with water. Set the pressure cook function for 10 minutes and perform a quick release after cooking.

Mash the potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and pepper until smooth. Use accessories like a steamer basket or trivet to elevate the potatoes above the water for steaming.

For creamy mashed potatoes, use Yukon Gold or Russet potatoes for best results. Keep in mind that larger chunks of potato may require additional cooking time.

Other popular recipes to try

Experiment with these popular Instant Pot recipes: Stuffed cabbage rolls, beef stew, mushroom risotto, chicken enchiladas, and mashed potatoes. They are easy to make and perfect for beginners.

These recipes cater to different tastes and provide an excellent starting point for your Instant Pot journey. The detailed instructions in the guide will help you prepare these dishes confidently while discovering the versatility of your multicooker.

Remember that specific buttons on the control panel correspond to different cooking methods. As you familiarize yourself with these recipes, take note of which button is used for each dish.


In conclusion, using an Instant Pot for the first time can seem daunting, but by following our beginner’s guide, you’ve learned how to unpack and set up your unit, perform the water test, and explore easy recipes.

These practical strategies are straightforward and efficient in getting you started with pressure cooking. How do you plan to apply these tips? What recipe will be your first experiment? As a home cook, mastering the use of an Instant Pot can significantly enhance your cooking experience and save time in the kitchen.

Give it a try – you might just discover a newfound love for pressure cooking!


1. What is an Instant Pot?

An Instant Pot is a multifunction cooker that works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and more. It cooks food quickly and easily.

2. Can beginner cooks use an Instant Pot?

Yes! Beginners can use an Instant Pot by following simple instructions for pressure cooking to make tasty meals.

3. What do I need to know before using my electric pressure cooker for the first time?

Before you start, read the starter guide that comes with your multicooker. Learn how to safely close the lid, set cooking times, and release steam.

4. Are there any tips for mastering my new multicooker?

Sure! Start with easy recipes designed for beginners and follow step-by-step guides on using your electric pressure cooker’s different functions.

5. How can I ensure safety when cooking with my Instant Pot?

Always check the sealing ring, follow proper filling levels in your multicooker’s pot, and never open the lid until all pressure has been released.

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