Instant Pot For Beginners

Last Updated on February 10, 2021

The Instant Pot has been a huge success across kitchens everywhere. They are multi-faceted, compact appliances that reduce cooking time, wasted time, and preparation time. Yet, there is a small learning curve and sometimes the question ‘how to use an Instant Pot?’ looms in the back of a beginner’s mind.  Well, I’m here to help! These are my best tips just for you, sort of like the Instant Pot for Beginners Guide!

How to use an Instant Pot

Your Instant Pot has arrived and you are excited to open the box and make those mouth-watering meals you’ve seen all over the internet! You want to dive right in, but feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the dozen buttons you see. 

Which button do you push? Where is the button for those enchiladas you seen posted online? Shove that frustration and confusion out of your mind. I got you covered! Together, we will examine all those little buttons so you know which setting you need to use for your recipe.


Instant Pot For Beginners

What is an Instant Pot

Ok, so why so many buttons on the instant pot? Well, just like your oven, different foods need to cook at different temperatures. I’ve heard many people refer to the Instant Pot as a pressure cooker, but it’s not all about the pressure. Thus, your Instant Pot comes equipped with different functions.

Think of the Instant Pot as a combination of a pressure cooker and crock pot on steroids. The Instant Pot is programmed to cook your food to the proper temperature while using the correct amount of pressure. These button functions remove the guess-work.


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All you have to do is follow the manual to determine the proper cooking time. Before we continue, keep in mind that just because the cooking time for something is 7 minutes doesn’t mean it will be ready to eat in 7 minutes.

It takes time for the Instant Pot to reach the correct pressure and time for the pressure to be released. So your 7 minutes cooking time means your meal will be ready in about 20 minutes. You might be thinking, “What’s so instant about 20 minutes?” Pull up a chair and you’ll see.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Got a new Instant Pot? Grab a cookbook to go with it!


Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot: 80 Incredible Gluten- and Grain-Free Recipes Made Twice as Delicious in Half the Time
The Ketogenic Instant Pot Cookbook: Top 35 Mouthwatering Low Carb Instant Pot Recipes That Will Make Your Life Way Easier (Ketogenic Diet Recipes Book 2)
Low Carb Instant Pot Recipes: 35 Mouthwatering, Quick and Easy Low Carb Instant Pot Recipes to Lose Weight Extremely Fast
The Complete Ketogenic Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Over 60 Health & Delicious Low Carb Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Recipes To Lose Weight ... Pressure, Instant Pot Pressure, High Protein)


Instant Pot Soup Button

The Soup button allows you to cook broths and soups at a steady temperature for a longer period of time. When you cook soup on the stove, you start out on high heat and adjust the temperature when your soup has a good simmer. Well, your Instant Pot is going to do that for you when you use the soup function.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Poultry Setting

When I began cooking chicken in the Instant Pot, the recipes I found recommended I use the Manual function to cook my chicken. However, if you have trouble mastering cooking chicken using the manual button- you may want to try the poultry setting.

Since I am not a fan of dry chicken, I sometimes use the Poultry function. When cooking frozen poultry or meat, make sure the meat is covered with water or broth. This will ensure the meat is boiled all the way through. You cannot pressure cook frozen meat with a small amount of fluid.

This will result in one of those nightmare chicken dinners. You know, the chicken that looks really good on the outside but is raw in the middle? No one wants a nightmare chicken dinner. 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Meat/Stew Button

This function has the same purpose as chicken, but with beef. I use this function when cooking both beef and pork. Again, you can use the manual function, but the temperature is higher than it needs to be so it may result in drying out. You can also use this function for lamb stew.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Bean/Chili Button

This is the function you will select if the meal you are cooking has any uncooked beans in it. You can cook a whole pot of black beans in your Instant Pot and freeze them in portions for lunches. This function makes cooking beans and chili a snap.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Rice Setting

My husband still has his rice cooker prior to our marriage. I love rice cookers in general. Needless to say, I was a little skeptical about the Instant Pot measuring up to my husband’s rice cooker.

All that skepticism and nervous energy were wasted because the Instant Pot makes a mean pot of rice! This is the only function where you cannot adjust the time. The time is automatically determined based on the weight of the rice. Instant pot Jasmine rice is an absolute family favorite here. I think we have it weekly! 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Before I continue, I have a small disclaimer to make. I just want to take a minute to talk about a very serious problem you will encounter. You are going to lose that rice measuring cup that came with your brand new Instant Pot.

If you lose it (or in my case, lost it), don’t worry. You don’t actually need it. The rule of thumb for white rice is 1 cup rice to 1 cup water. I like my rice a little sticky so I add 1 ¼ cups water for every 1 cup of white rice.

Instant Pot Multigrain Feature

The Multigrain function is what you would use to cook wild rice, brown rice, or grains. These rice types have a different cook time, so while you could use the regular rice function, your multigrain might be a little crunchy. 

Some types of multigrain require soaking before cooking. When you need to soak your grain, press the Multigrain button and then press the Adjust button until the “MORE” indicator light is on. This setting includes the soaking and cooking time.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Porridge Function

Let’s take a moment and think about Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Just imagine if Momma Bear had the Instant Pot, they could have stayed home and Goldilocks wouldn’t have eaten Baby Bear’s porridge.

The Porridge function is perfect for cooking steel-cut oats and grits. Overnight soaking of steel-cut oats is not required. You just add the oats and water and the results are perfectly cooked steel-cut oats that are ready to serve in a fraction of the time it used to take! Take that, Goldilocks! 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Steam Button

The Steam function is perfect for vegetables, fish, or shell-fish. For this function, you will need to use the metal rack that came with your Instant Pot or a stainless steel steaming basket. This will allow you to keep the veggies or fish out of the liquid while cooking.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Slow Cooker Setting

The Slow Cooker function is a great addition. Do you have a slow cooker recipe that you really want to cook, but do not know how to convert it into a pressure cooker recipe?

If so, this function is for you. When slow cooking your roasts, make sure to leave your pressure valve to venting. Meatloaf is one of those meals that can be cooked in a crock pot and a pressure cooker as well! 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Sauté Setting

This is definitely my favorite feature. A Pet peeve about slow cooker meals is that you have to pull out a pan to sear the meat before adding it to the slow cooker. That is not the case with the Instant Pot. You can sear meat or caramelize onions in the same pot by using the sauté function.


Instant Pot For Beginners

+/-+III+/- Buttons Feature

These buttons allow you to adjust the cooking time. The only time you can’t use them is when using the rice function.

Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Adjust Function

This button enables you to switch through different modes of a function. For example, if you’re making yogurt, you will use the adjust button after pushing yogurt to switch to boil mode. 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Manual Setting

This function gives you the power to perform magic in your Instant Pot. This is how those Instant Pot cheesecakes are made.

The Manual function enables you to cook your meal on high or low pressure as well as adjust the cook time to your desire. Was your rice stickier than you like?

You can fix it by using the manual function. The thing with the manual is you get a lot of trial and error using this function. If you love creating your own recipes, the manual function just might be your favorite option. 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Timer Feature

Last but not least is the Timer function. This nifty button lets you delay cooking until you are ready. You can prep dinner in the afternoon, delaying the cooking with the timer, run some errands or after school activities and come home to dinner. 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Instant Pot Steam Valve Button

There are only two functions with the steam – venting and sealing. Pressure will be released when the valve is pointing to venting. Pressure will build when it is pointing to sealing. 

There are two ways to release the pressure in the Instant Pot – quick release and natural release. Natural release means after the cooking time completes you allow the food to remain in the pot until all the pressure released on its own. Hence, naturally.

This typically takes approximately 10-20 minutes. Your meal will continue cooking during this time. Because of this function, many recipes adjust the cooking time in consideration of the natural release function. Think of it as keeping food warm in the oven. Although the temperature is low, the food continues to cook slowly.

Instant Pot For Beginners

The quick-release is just that – quick. The pressure and steam will billow out the valve, so make sure your hands are clear from this area. Instead, use a utensil to flip the valve from sealing to venting. 


Instant Pot For Beginners

Don’t have an Instant Pot Yet? Pick one up today!


Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000WInstant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W


I hope this helps you in your future Instant Pot endeavors. I recommend you begin with some easy recipes like rice or hard-boiled eggs to get a feel for your new Instant Pot. Once you’ve tested those, try something a little more difficult, but also easy like our teriyaki chicken recipe.


Instant Pot For Beginners

Social Media Channels

Before I go can we talk about social media just a bit? I would LOVE LOVE LOVE it if you would follow me on my social channels and subscribe to my blog! I won’t spam you to death- I promise!

I would love to have you follow me on my page here. Don’t forget my group too that I mentioned above! I have a few groups also. If you’re interested in the list, you can find that right here. I am on Pinterest…love love love Pinterest!

You also might find me lurking around Twitter sometimes and instagram! One other forgotten social media place that I am LOVING recently…google+ and lastly….you tube!

Also because this is an air fryer recipe.I have an air fryer group too! So don’t miss that!

For even more recipes: Instant Pot Recipes

In Awe,

Laura Awe Filled Homemaker

31 thoughts on “Instant Pot For Beginners”

  1. This was very helpful! I haven’t got an instant pot yet, but am really interested. I know I would use it a lot once I got use to using it! Do you think it is harder to wash than a regular stainless steel pan?

  2. Hi Kristie, we love our instant pot a lot! It gets used multiple times a week. I haven’t noticed the pan being harder to wash. Everything cleans right out for us. <3

  3. I have had my instant pot for over a year. I love it, but was still unclear about some of the functions. This article was perfect!!!! Answered all my questions and cleared several things up ???

  4. I am confused with the digital time read out. On my instant pot that I just bought, 02:00 means 20 minutes. Why is that? This number does not make it easy to remember. How would I enter 2 hours? I wish I had a “dummy” table to see instantly what 20 minutes, 2 minutes or 2 hours would look like in that label?? Please, help.

  5. If you are shopping for an Instant Pot – be aware, not all Instant Pots are created equal! I got one for Christmas – and am pretty bummed it doesn’t have the pressure feature… does this mean I can not do the “quick” meals, beans, frozen foods, etc.??

  6. Thank you! I just got my instant pot and I’m loving it. You have answered many of my questions, especially when to manual and when not to manual. I love the flavor of the food cooked in the instant pot. And I love the cleanup. Thank you again for these very helpful explanations!

  7. Thanks for all the great info! I’m shopping for one, but am having difficulty selecting the right size. 6 or 8 quart? I have a family of 4 with one away at college. What do you think?

  8. Hi Stephanie, I started with a 6qt and it worked well for my family of 5. That is still my “go to” pot. I have 3 others now, another 6 qt, 8 qt, and a 3 qt mini. I love my 8 qt for broth and larger meals like for a potluck etc. For regular dinner though I normally use my 6. πŸ™‚ I hope that helps!

  9. I love my Insta pot, but I am wondering is there a button to turn it off, one time I messed up on the time and just needed to stop it and fix the problem I had.

  10. My question may sound silly but I’m very confused. When I use the manual button and put in the minutes the calls for like say 10 minutes and the front says On for the whole 10 minutes. Will it count down when it’s done or after the steaming part is done
    Will it kick off. I’m always afraid of rushing it or taking it off to soon. Pretty new to this but I really just want to know about the front saying On and does it change or even count down

  11. It will say “on” until the instant pot reaches pressure. Once it reaches pressure, the amount of time that you have entered will be what it counts down from. So lets say you set it for 10 mins, it will count down from 10. Then once it is done it will beep to let you know it is finished.

  12. I am looking at the pictures of your instant pot with the time and (this is the dumbest question ever) does that mean 10 minutes or 1 minute. I am having the worst time figuring out the time I need a tutorial of how to set the actual time and what they look like. I have ruined 2 meals because (clearly) I can’t seem to get it right. Thank you!!

  13. This is going to be a stupid question but I have an excuse. I grew up watching my mother use the old pressure cooker. The one that put fear in your soul. So I still have that fear. The struggle is real. I would just like to know is there a book that gives you tiny step by tiny step instructions on how to cook different things. Like what button/buttons to push for certain recipes or meats. I’m pretty sure my fear is clouding my learning. I’m sure once I get used to it I’ll feel stupid for being so apprehensive but for right now I need tiny steps. Please help.

  14. Hi Gigi, there’s no stupid questions at all. πŸ™‚ I too grew up with an old fashioned pressure cooker. So it was a bit of an adjustment but the electric pressure cookers are so safe and easy to use once you learn about the buttons. This beginner guide is a good place to start. The book that comes with the pot also has more info on the buttons. You tube has some great videos too! Honestly in my recipes I tell everyone which buttons to use, so that takes the guess work out also. There are many great cookbooks too that go over how to use the instant pot. Here are some of my favorites- Don’t worry about asking questions, that’s what I am here for. So if you have more, let me know and I will help you out the best I can. πŸ™‚

  15. Instant Pot should be paying you for this site. Your very clear, no nonsense instructions are far better than the IP manual that comes with it.

    Thanks a million for this.


  16. The problem I have is I own two Insta Pots. BUT they have different fronts on them. So learning one doesn’t necessarily lead to learning them both. And your pot is different from both of mine on the front. One was more expensive than the other. I have a hard time putting in a time on mine and have used both quite a bit. We are gluten free and we hated boiling gluten free pasta but in the Insta Pot it comes out great! Yes some sticks together but it takes like real pasta. We also make chicken and rice (a white and brown recipes). But I have yet to try anything else. I find that just trying to decided on the time to cook is hard. The recipe books seems to deal with the ingredients more than the “push this button and then this time”. Your instructions are great. Hopefully I will get better at pushing the buttons! I wish they would make it easier to tell if I pushed the right button. Sometimes I don’t think I have and then it comes on and starts cooking.

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