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How To Use An Instant Pot For Instant Pot Newbies!

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Are you the proud owner of an new Instant Pot? Take a deep breath – It is common to feel overwhelmed at first but in this post, I’ll show you how to use an instant pot! In just a week it will easily be your favorite new appliance!

picture of a front view of an instant pot

Instant Pots were a big hit this winter, and now it seems like everyone has one! They are amazing, but they do have one downfall…they do not come with clear instructions on how to use them. So you are on your own to figure it out.

From selecting the right pressure cooker function to using the slow cooking function, there are so many features on an Instant Pot that it can be overwhelming at first. But don’t let that stop you, because once you get to know it, I promise that you are going to love it! The instant post is going to replace your stovetop pressure cooker, electric pressure cooker, your slow cooker and even your yogurt maker!

This post is going to be a super basic and easy guide to get you and you started with your new Instant pot. 

Once you are ready to give it a try, check out these 14 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes For Busy Nights – Kid Friendly Too!

What Do The Instant Pot Buttons Stand For?

When you first get your Instant Pot, you will notice that there are a lot of buttons on the front. These buttons were designed to make your life easier by programming cooking times and temperatures for different types of food. But often times they can just be confusing. 

These buttons are preset heating and cook time options. Ideally, you could use it as a rice cooker by putting some rice in the pot, pressing the rice button and walking away.

Sounds amazing, right?? 

top view of an instant pot with fried rice in it
top view of a pot full of carrots, celery and onions

But the Instant pot can not tell how much rice you put in the pot. It also can’t tell if you are using brown rice, which will take twice as long as the timer (I learned that from experience).

If you press the Chicken button, it will automatically set to High pressure for 15 minutes. This is perfect for chicken breasts, but not so perfect for a frozen whole chicken. 

Because of that, I choose to not use the preset buttons and instead just choose saute, manual or Pressure. We will talk more about those below.

What Instant Pot Buttons a Beginner needs to know

With all those buttons, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed…I don’t blame you!

Luckily, I have been using my I.P. for about 5 years and I am going to share the ONLY buttons you need to know! There are several different Instant pot models, but these buttons should be available on all.

Saute – The saute button is just one thing that sets the Instant pot apart from a regular slow cooker. When making dishes that require you to saute the meat first (like a beef stew), you can do it directly in the Instant pot, then turn on the slow cooker. Not only does it mean just one pot to wash, but the stew also retains the delicious flavor from the sauteed drippings!

Manual – I’m not sure why they called this manual, but this is the slow cooker button. Just press the button, choose the level of heat and set the timer (I generally choose high heat for everything!). That’s it! When slow cooking, you can either use the lid that came with the pot, or a glass lid so you can see what’s happening inside (be sure to get the right size for your pot)! You can also use a glass lid from one of your other pots and save $15!

Pressure Cook – This is one of the best features of the Instant pot, and possibly the reason you got one. It cuts the cooking time in half and is so easy to use! Also, unlike old pressure cookers, this has a self releasing pressure valve making the chance of exploding very slim. Once you press the Pressure Cook button, use the +/- buttons to adjust the level of pressure. When using the pressure cooking function, the float valve will need to be in the sealing position. Once the cook time is over, you have the option of using the quick release or natural release, which takes longer.

Timer – The timer button is amazing for working parents. You can place the food in the Instant Pot, then set the timer to have it start in a few hours. If you time it right, dinner can be hot and ready when you get home! 

Keep Warm/Cancel – This button turns off the Instant Pot. You can turn it off at any time, even in the middle of a cooking cycle. 

a picture of the instant pot buttons and a description of them all. It is the same description as above
a picture of the instant pot buttons and a description of them all. It is the same description as above

And that’s it! The only 5 Instant Pot buttons that you need to know!

What Does An Instant Pot Do? 

Instant pots do a lot! I don’t typically buy kitchen gadgets because they just take up space, but this is one that you will actually use and it has earned a space in our kitchen!

It can do everything from sauteeing to pressure cooking. You will lieklky be reaching for it at least twice a month!

Here are a few of the settings again but this time I’ll give you some ideas on how you can use them:

  • Saute – You can saute as you would on a stove. You can also use this function for yogurt, if your I.P. doesn’t have a yogurt button. ​Think pasta, chicken, stir fry and searing meat before slow cooking​​​
  • Slow Cooker/Manual – ​It can slow cook just like your old fashioned crock pot! Aside from being able to saute your meats first, it is also better than a traditional slow cooker because you can set a time to have it start a few hours after you leave the house! Say good bye to overcooked meats and veggies! Think roasts, stews and soups​​​
  • Pressure Cooker – The pressure cooker feature also works like a traditional pressure cooker. Think beans, poultry, frozen meats, anything really!

Instant Pot Tips For Beginners (Make Sure Your Kids Know these!)

There are a few things that every Instant Pot owner should keep in mind and these are great tips to teach your eager kids too! 

  • Add at least 1/2 cup of liquid when pressure cooking. If you don’t do this, your food will burn…and no one wants that!
  • When using the pressure cooker feature, be sure to allow 10-20 minutes for the pressure to build at the beginning of cooking before your timer starts counting down. The food cooks so quickly because pressure from the heat has built up, but it takes time for the pot to heat up and for pressure to build. 
  • Be careful not to overcook your food. If you are not used to pressure cooking, you will want to follow a recipe in the beginning. For example, vegetables can cook in 5 minutes or less, and keeping them in longer will make them wilt and you won’t want to eat them! 
  • Never try to open the lid when the pressure is built up (the pressure button will be in the popped up position). There is a safety in place to prevent you from opening it, but you might not realize why it is stuck and try to open it. The steam and pressure in the pot is very dangerous, so don’t try to open it until the button goes down.
  • This one is just a tip – the steam can make your entire kitchen smell and feel humid (especially in the winter when the windows are closed). We like to place it on the stove and turn on the vent hood while the food is cooking.
a whole raw chicken in an instant pot
a whole raw chicken in an instant pot

Even a whole chicken fits in an Instant Pot!

Now Go On And Try It! 

You are now equipped to start using your pressure cooker! The best way to learn is by doing. 

Start with something simple like a roast. You can’t overcook a roast, so there is no chance of messing up 🙂 

If you want something fast, try a vegetable. Broccoli can be cooked in less than 5 minutes. Just put it in a steamer basket so it doesn’t touch the water. 

Check out these recipes too: 14 Healthy Instant Pot Recipes For Busy Nights – Kid Friendly Too!

Then come back and let me know how it goes! Send a picture too and we will post it on Instagram! 

By on January 24th, 2020

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