If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you’re probably already familiar with my obsession with the Instant Pot! I wrote quite a few posts centered around the Instant Pot last year (and I’ve linked to a lot of them in this post, so look out for those!) It recently occurred to me that there are likely a number of people out there who received an Instant Pot as a holiday gift. And while they’re easy to use once you know what you’re doing, I know that the Instant Pot can be a little intimidating at first!
So I thought I’d put my Instant Pot fanaticism to good use by putting together a “beginner’s guide” of sorts. I wrote down all of the questions that I think a brand new Instant Pot user might have, and did my best to answer all of them! I hope that this post helps you unleash the potential of your new kitchen “toy,” and that you end up loving your Instant Pot as much as I love mine! :-)
11 Questions Every New Instant Pot Owner Asks
#1 – “What Is It / How Does It Work?”
The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. The pot creates steam during cooking, and the steam increases the pressure inside the pot. The pressurization cooks foods faster than traditional methods, while still retaining plenty of moisture!
Many people wonder how the Instant Pot differs from a crockpot. There are plenty of fundamental differences, and I’ve explained them all in a separate post (check that out at the link below!) But most Instant Pots also have a “Slow Cook” function, so you can use it to replace your current crockpot!
#2 – “Is It Safe?”
Absolutely! Rest assured that in terms of safety, Instant Pots are lightyears ahead of those old rickety stovetop pressure cookers. The Instant Pot has 10 different safety mechanisms, which you can read about in more detail on their website.
#3 – “What Should I Make First?”
It’s best to keep things simple for your Instant Pot’s maiden voyage. Cooking something basic will give you a feel for how it works, without the threat of potentially messing up a whole meal. Check out the link below for 5 different recipes that would be perfect for your first Instant Pot experience!
#4 – “What Do I Need To Do Before Cooking?”
You are encouraged to perform an Initial Test Run before launching doing any cooking in your Instant Pot. This helps you get familiar with how the pot works, and also ensures that the machine is functioning correctly. Here’s how to do it:
Pour 1 cup of water into the pot, and lock the lid into place. Select the “Steam” button, then set the timer for 2 minutes. The screen will display “ON” until the pot reaches pressure, when it will switch to “2” to count down the cooking time. When it’s done, the screen will read “L0:00,” which means that the cooking process is done and the warming function has started. Then release the pressure from the pot by either allowing it to depressurize naturally, or by twisting the Quick Release handle. (You might notice steam, strange sounds, or a weird smell during the initial test run—it’s all perfectly normal!)
#5 – “What Setting Should I Use?”
I personally use the “Manual” setting most often, and the same is probably true for most Instant Pot users. It’s the most basic function, allowing you to choose your pressure setting and set a timer. The “Sauté” function also very useful. It’s great for browning meat or starting sauces before pressure cooking them. The rest of the buttons are pretty self-explanatory, and your user manual will give you a great rundown of each function should you want it! :-)
#6 – “Should I Use Quick Release Or Natural Release?”
It depends on what you’re cooking! The “Natural Release” method just means letting the pressure escape from the pot naturally, which takes anywhere from 5-40 minutes depending on how full the pot is. This is a good choice for red meats that need to rest after cooking, and for frothier foods like beans or oats (which can make a real mess if you use the “Quick Release” method.)
To perform the “Quick Release” method, you simply turn the handle on top of the steam valve and allow all the steam to escape at once (or at least quite quickly). This method is best for veggies and other items you don’t want to accidentally overcook.
If you’re not sure which method to use, here’s an option that works well for almost anything: let the pot release pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then use the Quick Release handle to release the rest of the pressure.
#7 – “What Accessories Should I Buy?”
There are plenty of great Instant Pot accessories available that can make your machine even more useful! I wrote a post sharing my Top 10 favorite Instant Pot accessories, which you can read at the link below. :-)
#8 – “How Do I Clean It?”
Cleaning it regularly is a crucial part of caring for your Instant Pot. There are a couple of things you should do to clean it after each use, and then you should aim to do a deeper cleaning about once a month or so. All the instructions and details you need can be found at the link below!
#9 – “How Much Liquid Do I Add?”
For your Instant Pot to function correctly, you need to put at least 1 cup of liquid into it. (It’s a pressure cooker, so no liquid means no steam, and no steam means no pressure!) If you’re cooking something that you don’t want to keep “dry,” use the metal trivet to elevate it above the water in the bottom of the pot.
I’ve come to love the “saucier” results that I get from cooking things in my Instant Pot! If there is liquid left in the pot after cooking, I’ll add plenty of spices for flavor, along with a little bit of cornstarch to thicken it. Then I have a quick and easy sauce to serve with my meal!
#10 – “How Do I Cook ____?”
I put together a handy printable reference guide that will tell you exactly how to cook just about anything in your Instant Pot. Download your copy for free at the link below!
#11 – “Where Can I Find Instant Pot Recipes?”
A better question might be, “Where can’t I find Instant Pot recipes?” ;-) Search for Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest if you’re ready to be overwhelmed with mouthwatering options. If you’d like a more manageable list of tasty Instant Pot recipes, you can find 25 of my favorite recipes at the link below.
Related: 25 Of The Best Instant Pot Recipes