Instant Pot 101

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Did you buy an Instant Pot on Black Friday? Did you buy one on Amazon Prime Day, and it’s still sitting in the box? Well have no fear my friends, Instant Pot 101 is the perfect post for you!! We are going to learn how to get it out of the box and use it! Everything you need to know about my go-to buttons, accessories, and which recipes to start with.

For even more delicious pressure cooker recipes, check out the Instant Pot Recipes page.

image of an Instant Pot against a black background

There it is, sitting on the counter unplugged and feeling unloved. You can do this!! Forget everything that you have heard about pressure cookers…it is not going to explode!!! My goal with Instant Pot 101 is to help you through the initial fear and uncertainty about your new toy and get you cooking…because cooking is life and life should be fun not scary. 🙂

This post contains affiliate links that will take you directly to the products that I use most. If you choose to purchase any of them I will receive a few dollars, but it will not cost you anything extra. 🙂

What is in the Box?

The actual Instant Pot DUO 6 Qt that you see above that consists of the outer shell with all of the buttons, the lid, a removable electric cord, and an Inner Cooking Pot…..

Instant Pot 101 Liner COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

that has measurements on the inside, including a MAX Line. Do Not fill your pot above this line….

Instant Pot 101 Liner Markings COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

You will also find an owner’s manual that should probably be read from cover to cover, a rice spoon, serving spoon, measuring cup, recipe booklet, and…..

Instant Pot 101 What comes in the box COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

A Condensation Collector that slips onto the backside of your Instant Pot.

You will receive a Stainless Steel Steam Rack that looks like one of these above. “B” came with my first Instant Pot, “A” came with the newest one.

A Silicone Ring that keeps the pressure inside of the pot, this is very important. You should always check your silicone ring BEFORE you start cooking to make sure it is tight and snuggly in place. When your pressure cooker first arrives it will be inside of the lid…..

Instant Pot 101 Silicone Ring COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

The indentation in the center wraps around the wire ring that runs around the inside of the pressure cooker. It may be hard to remove the first time. I think I used my Instant Pot 3 or 4 times before it was pliable enough to remove, they can be pretty stiff. Obviously no food was splattered on the lid, I used it to steam vegetables and eggs. 😉

To remove the silicone ring, grab the edge and pull outward. To install the silicone ring press it onto the wire ring and smooth it down with your fingers as you move around the lid…..

Instant Pot 101 how to install the silicone ring COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

While we are looking at the lid, you will see the Anti-block Shield that covers the Pressure Float Valve…..

Instant Pot 101 Anti-Block Shield collage COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

They have different covers but the Pressure Float Valve looks the same.

Have I lost you yet? The Pressure Float Valve is the little pin that allows the lid to open once the pressure has been released. You will hear it “click” when the pressure is released.

On the flip side of the lid you will find the Steam Release Handle/Knob {I usually call it a knob}…..

Instant Pot 101 Steam Release Handle COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

Hey look at that, it’s the other side of the Pressure Float Valve!! Are we getting delirious yet? Do you need to grab some coffee?

In order for your pressure cooker to cook the food, it needs to build pressure. To build pressure, the handle/knob needs to be in the Sealing position. Always, always check to make sure it is in the correct position before you start or you will waste a lot of time waiting for food that will never cook. 😉

The Venting position comes into use when your food is cooked and you need to Quick Release, or Manually Release the remaining pressure in order to open the lid. YES, the steam is HOT! YES, it can burn you if you put your hand directly over the vent {those three lines that form a circle in the center of the knob. 😉 }

To avoid burning yourself:

  • keep your hand low and to the side of the pressure cooker, then pull the knob towards you.
  • place a towel over the vent to block the steam.
  • use a wooden spoon to pull the knob.

While we are on the topic of steam…do not place your pressure cooker directly below your upper cabinets. Wood and water are not friends, and the hot steam will destroy your cabinets! Use your pressure cooker on an island or where there are no upper cabinets. I have seen people place a PVC elbow over the vent so the steam is directed towards the room.

Warning: at least once per week someone posts a photo on Facebook of their melted Instant Pot. “But I never use my stove”. “My husband turned the wrong knob and now it’s ruined.” Place your Instant Pot on top of your stove at your own risk!!!

This post was obviously written based on the version of Instant Pot that I own. Some models vary from year to year, and different models will have different function buttons.

What is a Water Test?

The water test is done to make sure that your pressure cooker works properly. It is much better to waste a few minutes trying to boil water, than it is to waste a 5 pound pork butt if your pot doesn’t’ work. Yes, it is still annoying and you have every right to yell at the people on the other end of the 800#, although it might slow down your return…just sayin’.

Why are there so many buttons? Which ones do I use?

To be honest, I only use the Sauté, Manual, Adjust, and Keep Warm/Cancel buttons. I’m sure that comes from the first recipes that I tried using only those buttons and it became habit. The item specific buttons have default times that you can adjust for more or less time depending on your recipe. By not using the preset buttons in my recipes, they should work with any brand of pressure cooker.

Instant Pot Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf 20 minutes cookingwithcurls.com
  • Manual/Pressure Cook in newer models: Use this to set the cooking time. Nice and simple.
  • + and – : These buttons are used to adjust your cooking time up or down depending on your recipe.
  • Adjust: Use to change from the default setting to the More Setting or Less Setting.
  • Sauté: Use this button when you need to sauté your onions, garlic, or vegetables, sear meat before cooking, or to simmer/thicken sauces and soups. Sauteing is done without using the lid!
  • Default Sauté: 160 – 176 degrees to simmer or brown meat.
  • More Setting Sauté: Press once – 175 – 210 degrees for stir-fry or to brown meat.
  • Less Setting Sauté:  Press twice – 135 – 150 degrees to simmer or thicken sauces.
  • Keep Warm/Cancel: Use to cancel a function or to keep your food warm.

The specifics on each of the other buttons are fully explained in the owner’s manual if you would like to try them out. Some models have a Yogurt, Sanitize, Cake, and/or Egg buttons. Trust me, they can explain them much better than I can! You can also find the official online manual here!

What on earth is NPR and QR?

NPR or NR are the abbreviations for Natural Pressure Release. When your food is done cooking you don’t do anything, you let the pressure release naturally. This is especially important when cooking meat, recipes with a lot of liquid, or starchy foods {pasta}.

QR or QPR are the abbreviations used to express Quick Pressure Release. This is used when you need to stop the cooking process.

What is Pot in Pot?

That is when you cook the food in a pot inside the Inner Pot. This is usually done using a riser to keep the food off the bottom of the pot, or to allow you to cook two different items at once such as Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes…..

Instant Pot Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf ring pan cookingwithcurls.com

What Size Pans can I use in an Instant Pot?

You need pans that fit comfortably inside the Inner Cooking Pot and leave about an inch of space around the sides ^^^. I have the DUO 6 Qt so I purchase pans that are a maximum of 7″. Mine are aluminum, but silicone pans will also work…..

Instant Pot 101 What size pans can I use COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

Cheesecake PanMini Bread/Loaf PanRing Mold PanCake Pans – Leakproof Springform Pan5 cup Bundt Pan {I just bought this one!!}

To raise the pan up, I use this Tall Steamer Rack/riser…..

Instant Pot 101 Tall Riser COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

this gives you more height to cook vegetables or potatoes below your pan. 😉

What do I use to Steam Vegetables?

I have a growing collection of steamer baskets for my IP…..

Instant Pot 101 steamers COPYRIGHT © 2017 COOKING WITH CURLS

Stainless Steel Steamer with Extendable Handle8″ Blue Silicon Steamer – I think the green one is discontinued, I can’t find it…but this one is very similar.

What other Must-have Accessories should I Buy?

How do I get rid of the Rainbow/Cloudy Stains?

White vinegar or Bar Keeper’s Friend

How do I Clean my Instant Pot?

  • Hot soapy water!
  • Never immerse the exterior housing in water/liquid. Simply wipe it off with soapy water and a dry cloth.
  • The lid can be washed with soapy water, there are no electrical components.
  • Clean the Sealing Ring with hot soapy water. To remove strong odors use white vinegar.
  • Remember to remove and clean the Anti-block Shield, the Steam Release Valve, and the Condensation Collector periodically.

How do I get rid of the gunk that gets caught around the Rim?

A foam painter’s brush or chenille pipe cleaners.

Tips & Interesting Facts about Instant Pot:

  • Do not store your Instant Pot with the lid attached. Turn it upside down and lay it on top or store them separately to allow the odors to dissipate.
  • Store the electric cord inside the Inner Cooking Pot, then place them both inside the exterior housing so you don’t lose it.
  • If the lid will not open, do not force it. Release the remaining pressure and try again.
  • Once you adjust the cooking time, the pot will beep then automatically start building pressure.
  • Most recipes do not include the time needed for your pot to come to pressure, so you will need to add that to your total time if you are in a hurry.
  • It generally takes 10 to 15 minutes for your pressure cooker to come to pressure and start cooking. If you use the sauté feature first, it will take less time since the pot is already hot. If you start with frozen items, it will take longer to come up to pressure.
  • Natural Pressure Release takes 15 to 20 minutes.
  • If your pot is not coming to pressure fast enough, check to make sure the Pressure Release Knob is in the Sealing position. Remove the lid and double check the silicone ring to make sure it is tight.
  • If you have any problems with your Instant Pot, contact them and explain the situation. I hear they have amazing customer service and handle problems quickly.

Q & A

Why did you buy a second 6Qt that is exactly the same as the one you already had?

It was on sale, LOL. I love my IP, obviously, and I did not need a larger 8Qt and I had no desire to get the smaller 3Qt…I like leftovers.

Why did you choose the DUO 6Qt 7 in 1 in the first place?

That model is the number 1 selling pressure cooker…and it was on sale!! I bought the first one on Black Friday two years ago, then I also bought one for my daughter last year for Christmas.

What should I Cook in my new Instant Pot?

Do you have any questions? I will do my best to answer them!


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  1. Do you recommend the 6 qt over an 8 qt? Can I make the same things in both? I’m thinking I’d rather have the 8 qt. just in case I need it.

    1. If you have a large family you might want the 8 qt, otherwise the 6 qt seems to be large enough for everything that I have made so far. I think it comes down to personal preference and what your needs are Connie. 🙂

  2. Does the steam release valve come off to clean? If so, how do I remove it? It seems to take at least 20-30 mins when I release the steam.

  3. My children bought my instant pot for me as a Christmas gift.I love it and used it about twice a month or more.Well,it stopped working in the middle of a meal.I feel it should have lasted much longer or is there a simple thing to check?

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