Are you an instant pot newbie and excited envisioning yourself as the next Giada/Bobby Flay while simultaneously being just as scared by thoughts of doing your face in with a pressure cooker because you’re not quite sure how one works?
Maybe that’s just me being too paranoid, but regardless, I’m here to share with you a quick instant pot beginner guide to learn how to use an instant pot. These instant pot for beginner tips include some not-so-obvious tidbits (like #6 would have never occured to me) that's worth a read for any insta-pot owner.
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Recommended resources in this post:
- A tempered glass lid so you can witness your kitchen skills coming to fruition
- Fancy yet functional, heavy duty gloves so you don't burn your hands admiring your kitchen prowess
- Another inner pot since I have a feeling you'll do a lot more cooking with this thing after these tips to get your cooking rollin'
Or check out this list of top recommended instant pot accessories by the best Insta-pot cooks on the web.
Benefits of an instant pot
If you have not yet joined the insta-pot craze, here are 4 reasons why everyone needs one.
1. The insta-pot helps you regain your counter space.
Declutter your kitchen with the instant pot since it does the job of 7+ other clunky appliances, including a slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, sauting/browner, and warmer.
2. Meals are so much more convenient with an insta-pot.
Whereas a slow cooker can take hours to marinate and seep up the flavors of your recipe, an electric pressure cooker like the instant pot can cut down the cooking time by as much as 70%!
3. The instant pot saves you money.
Appliances are notorious for using massive amounts of heat. Cooking in an instant pot versus a traditional oven saves energy in 2 ways: you’re cutting down the cubic volume of space that needs to be heated and the amount of time that the heat is used.
4. The insta-pot makes food safer.
Foods cooked in an instant pot are done so at a temperature higher than the boiling point of water, which means 99.9% of nasty bacteria and viruses that could get you sick are obliterated.
5. The insta-pot is affordable.
If you bought each of the 7 appliances that the instant pot functions as separately, you’d easily spend hundreds. You’d think something like this would cost an arm and a leg. But good news, if you check on Amazon.com today, you’ll see that it’s not $250 or even $150, no, it’s only…well, you actually have to go check the price of the instant pot because it changes. But at under $100 for something that’ll totally transform your cooking, it’s definitely a steal.
The tip you CANNOT skip.
Reading the manual.
As excited as you may be when you get your instant pot, there are a lot of buttons and functions of your insta-pot that you might not be familiar with. The best thing you can do is read the manual.
That aside, let’s go over some other tips you should be aware of to make the most of your insta-pot.
Instant pot beginner tip 1. Do the instant pot water test.
Don’t worry, you’re not getting graded. It’s just a way to help you get acquainted with your new appliance and to make sure that the pressure part is working properly.
Here’s a quick 1-minute video to walk you through it (text instructions so you don’t need to turn up the audio). (via Pressure Cook Recipes)
Instant pot newbie tip 2. Know your instant pot buttons.
In case you didn’t notice, the thing has buttons galore. Here’s a post that goes over what all those buttons mean.
If you’re pressed for time (hehe), here are the 3 main buttons to know:
- Manual or Pressure Cook: older models have the manual button whereas newer ones have the pressure cook button. They both turn the insta-pot pressure cooker on.
- Saute: Adjust this to simmer (less), saute (normal) or browing (more). Check out my instant pot hacks on how to use this button to cut down your cooking time.
- Keep Warm/Cancel: Stop a function or turn off your instant pot.
(via Pressure Cooking Today)
Insta-pot beginner tip 3. Understand the difference between natural release vs quick release.
Natural release is usually for recipes that contain more liquid and that you want more tender. It can take anywhere from 5-30 minutes longer for the pressure to release than in the quick mode since your insta-pot does it gradually.
Pro tip: For some recipes, you should be able to leave the natural release for 10 minutes before you do a manual quick release if you don’t want to wait the full time for the natural release.
Quick release is when you manually switch the valve to depressurize and are more for foods that cook quickly, like veggies or pastas.
Pro tip: Since you’re relieving the pressure quickly, make sure to aim the vent away from you and others for safety reasons and your kitchen cabinets to preserve them and prevent unnecessary damage. (via Pressure Cooking Today)
Insta-pot newbie tip 4. Be careful with the amount of liquid you add to your recipes.
A general rule of thumb is to have half a cup of water when you use the pressure cooker. Remember, you don’t need as much water as if you were cooking on a stovetop (or else your food will be bland/soggy), but you also need to make sure to have at least a little bit of liquid in there for the pressure cooker to do its magic cooking thing.
Also important to note, liquid doesn’t only refer to water. Sauces, marinades and other liquids will also count for this. (via Once a Month Meals)
Instant pot beginner tip 5. Account for instant pot prep time.
Instant pot recipes count the cook time as the actual time your food is being cooked in the pot. But, it does take a few minutes for the instant pot to reach the temperature and pressure to start its cooking, so keep that in mind. If your recipe says 15 minutes in the instant pot, add another 10-20 minutes for the warm up and cool down. (via Once a Month Meals)
Pro tip: Use the time it takes for the insta-pot to warm up to take care of some of your meal prep.
Instant pot newbie tip 6. Where you live affects your cook times.
Never would have crossed my mind if I didn't do a little research before using the instant pot. Good to know that when cooking under pressure, the altitude (at 3,000+ feet above sea level) can actually make a difference on cooking times.
You should add 5% to your cooking time for every 1,000 feet, starting at 5% for 3,000 feet. It can get a little confusing, so here’s a nice reference chart and instructions for how to calculate the time. (via Pressure Cook Recipes)
Insta-pot beginner tip 7. Try easy recipes.
All Food Network stars start from scratch. Try your hand at these simple, delicious, and healthy recipes that are perfect for instant pot beginners to ease yourself in with your instant pot. Narrating as you're doing it is optional. (via Mommy Over Work)
Insta-pot newbie tip 8. Don’t fill your instant pot to the brim.
This is mainly for foods that expand, like pasta or rice. Avoid that clean up on aisle 9, not that I know this from firsthand experience...
Instant pot beginner tip 9. Know how to clean your insta-pot properly.
Keep the machine clean so it’s ready to go whenever you need it, which is going to be often once you get the hang of it.
One handy tip is to have an extra set of sealing rings. Because the flavors of your food will absorb into the rings, it's best to have at least one for sweet recipes and a separate for savory fare.
This post goes into full detail on how to clean your instant pot (with pictures!). It’ll be good to know what is and isn’t dishwasher safe and make clean up a cinch. (via Pressure Cook Recipes)
Instant pot newbie tip 10. Experiment!
The best way to learn with the instant pot is to try it yourself! As detailed as any recipe may be, your results will always be different. In fact, it'll actually be helpful for you to keep a log of what works and doesn’t work so you can make tweaks and get better at it every time.
Hopefully these beginner tips for the instant pot help you breathe easier as you take on this kitchen contraption. Good luck and happy cooking!