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How to Use an Instant Pot for the First Time

If you’re wondering how to use an Instant Pot for the first time I have some easy Instructions for you! If you’ve never used a pressure cooker and you’re wondering what all those buttons mean I’m here to help plus 101+ easy Instant Pot recipes to try.

how to use an instant pot

I am a food blogger and I will admit that when I got my Instant Pot I left it in the box for a few months not knowing how to use an Instant Pot or pressure cooker. My husband wondered why and I kept saying ok I got my Instant Pot, now what do I do with it?? Now 2 years later I have tons of Instant Pot recipes you can try. (affiliate links present)

How do you use the Instant Pot Step by Step

I am pretty experimental for the most part but this “fancy” appliance was a little like a space ship to me. Pressurizing, naturally releasing the steam, and how long to cook everything were totally foreign to me. If you are a bit confused I will show you what each button means.

I have even added how to use a Ninja foodi that includes an air fryer function since then for your convenience. They both give you the ability to saute and cook under high pressure but this one had an air fryer in it too.

If you are new to pressure cooking we have a lot of easy one pot meal recipes for you here. To begin with let’s start with a few basic tips:

For reference, this is the pressure cooker I have (a 6 quart) and use for all recipe creations.

star wars instant pot

How to Use an Instant Pot Manual

If you have lost your manual you can print one here free. Between that and my explanation and instructional video below you should be able to wrap your head around this whole thing.

My mom didn’t have anything even remotely like this when I was a kid so I was at a loss but still determined to give this thing a whirl. It had to be amazing because people who used them raved about how incredible they were.  I’M NOW A TOTAL BELIEVER!!

What are the first Instant Pot recipes you should make?

Well, I started with the most simplest of ideas and recipes and went from there. These are the two I made at the beginning!

  1. Instant Pot spaghetti
  2. Easy Instant Pot whole chicken
  3. Then I created a roundup of the Easy Recipes for New Instant Pot Owners
the typical mom

Instant Pot Instructions

I explain briefly where the buttons are and how to adjust the time and heat levels here.I figured these had to be somewhat simple. If they didn’t work I could just add a bit more time and tinker with it until it finally worked.

I had made one pot spaghetti recipe I made back in the day so I gauged the timing on that. Surprisingly it worked the first time around! It is now the only way I cook spaghetti because it turns out great, in just 10 minutes! Plus there’s only one pot to wash.

This is my Instant Pot. I bought the 6 qt. version because I figured it was plenty big for the 5 of us and I was right, if you have an 8 qt. these instructions remain the same. I later bought an Instant Pot mini and use that when there’s just 2 of us or I want to make rice separately and the meal in my main pot.

How to use an Instant Pot video

When learning how to use an Instant Pot I would stick with these 3 buttons (saute, manual, pressure)…..I use them 90% of the time. (manual button now only exists on the oldest versions)

instant pot cooking times

How to use Instant Pot pressure cooker for meat

Saute is great if you want to precook something like the ground beef in my spaghetti recipe above. Manual pressure buttons allow you to adjust from low to high pressure yourself and adjust the time you need to make thicker pieces like frozen roast in an Instant Pot.

How to Use My Instant Pot

Basic (first generation) model instructions are:

  • Put your food into your pot
  • Close your steam valve
  • Press manual (if yours has that button)
  • Press pressure
  • Then if you want high pressure click the pressure button again and it will move the light from low pressure to high pressure as you see here

When you want to set the amount of time you press your finger on the + or – buttons as you see and move the minutes up and down until you get it to the correct amount of minutes you need for that recipe. Then this is how long does Instant Pot take to preheat answered so you can time appropriately.

How to open Instant Pot after cooking

You want to be careful, and the steam needs to be completely released or it won’t open. Once the air is released the noise will stop and the metal piece near the valve will be down. Twist to the left and lift up facing away from your face! There will be quite a bit of steam released once this is done and condensation dripping down too.

how to use an instant pot 2

How to use an Instant Pot IP-LUX model

  1. Works for Instant Pot Duo as well
  2. Put food inside the pot
  3. Close the lid and steam valve
  4. Press manual (if yours has that button)
  5. Press the – or + to adjust the time

How to use an Instant Pot Ultra model

  1. Put food inside
  2. Close lid and steam valve
  3. Press pressure cook (if the recipe doesn’t specify another button to use like stew or soup etc…)
  4. Should automatically set to high (will tell you at the top of the screen, if not use dial at bottom to adjust)
  5. Set cook time

Press start to begin pressurizing and cooking food.

how to use an instant pot for beginners
  • Wash and dry the pot
  • Try a recipe that is VERY easy and doesn’t cost a lot of money (try my spaghetti or Instant Pot macaroni and cheese)
  • Follow the directions step by step
  • Close the steam valve (see picture below)

How to change the cook time on an Instant Pot

Follow the recipe instructions regarding whether it’s high or low pressure. When you push pressure (or manual then pressure on my older version it will go to low, press pressure button again to make it flip to high)

  • Push the + or – buttons to set the time for cooking (see photo above)
  • Walk away and wait for the beep that it is done
  • When done do a NPR (natural pressure release which means you don’t move pressure valve at all), or a QR (quick release which means you move the pressure valve down so the steam comes out very quickly)

Carefully open your lid when pressure is gone and face lid away from you so steam doesn’t hit you in the face.

Why is my Instant pot float valve not going down?

If the metal piece is still at the top after the steam is all gone, just move the lid side to side and it will fall down, it’s jut kinda’ stuck. If you aren’t sure if it is all gone you can gently tap the metal piece with a fork tine. If it is firm then it isn’t done, give it more time.

how to use an instant pot 3

Do you need special pans to cook in a pressure cooker?

Here are the Instant Pot accessories that make my life easier:

  1. This Instant Pot steamer basket for Vegetable  is handy for a lot of things – I used it to make my Instant Pot stuffed peppers
  2. 6 cup bundt pan – I make all kinds of desserts with this like my Instant Pot pumpkin apple cake
  3. Glass lid – used to make Instant Pot popcorn
  4. Trivet with handles – makes it a lot easier to pull your item out

6″ springform pan – Allows you to bake cakes and other desserts when you do the pot in pot (PIP method)

springform pan

Troubleshooting Instant Pot

Here are a few things that you might have issues with and how to fix them;

  • It doesn’t reach pressure – Either the rubber sealing ring inside your lid isn’t in place, you need to replace your rubber seal if it’s older, or you don’t have enough liquid in the pot to build pressure. Typically a cup of liquid is required, except with meats since those will release some juices in the cooking process.
    • You will know it has reached pressure when this little metal piece to the right of the steam valve you see above is at the very top and no steam (or sound) is coming out anymore.
    • You see in the photo above that the metal piece is at the bottom still because it hasn’t reached pressure.

As it’s building pressure the float valve will rise up and eventually reach the top which means the sealing position has been reached the time on the clock on the front will now start to count down. (it takes approximately 5 – 15 minutes to reach pressure)

burn on instant pot 2


The burn notification comes on – sometimes this means nothing, sometimes something may be burning, and other times you need to deglaze your pot (link below).

  • Release the pressure, lift the lid on and look. If there isn’t enough water then add some more liquid. If you used the saute function first and then are on to the next step of pressure cooking then you probably didn’t deglaze the pot.
    • Deglazing your Instant Pot is a necessary step to take especially after using the saute setting to get all the stuck on food off the bottom of the inside of your pot before it pressurizes and cooks your meal.

      People have had this occur when making my Instant Pot stuffed cabbage casserole. Reason is, they didn’t follow the steps to turn the pot off after sautéing the ground beef and deglaze it.

Do NOT, did I say Do NOT try to open the pot before releasing the steam. Also, do NOT put your fingers or any body parts over the steam valve when you release it

Last but not lease check your power cord if it doesn’t seem to be turning on. Yes it may be plugged in but the end situated into the back of your machine may not be pushed in hard enough to get it going. Check both ends until your control panel lights up and she’s ready to cook again.

How to use Instant Pot as slow cooker?

Let me tell you now, never use this as a slow cooker because it doesn’t work well at all for that. Instead just stick to your good old fashioned Crock for those recipes.

how to deglaze your instant pot
Instant Pot steam valve

What does Quick Release Mean?

You would use this for cooking meats and following directions for dry beans using our Instant Pot cooking times for beans. The reason you let it slowly release typically is to keep the ingredients extra tender.

  • Quick release means to move the steam valve to the side or flick it open quickly
  • If you want a slow release move the steam valve just slightly so the steam comes out slowly
  • Natural release means to not touch that valve at all and the steam will eventually leave (takes about 20 min.)
  • Unlock by twisting the lid, and carefully open it away from you
  • When the lid is lifted off of the pot pull it up and turn it away from your body.
    • as if you had a shield in your hand

Here’s how to clean your Instant Pot which will be helpful if you use it daily like I do.

This is what I used to make the most amazing no soak Instant Pot baked beans!

no soak instant pot baked beans

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Nancy young

Monday 19th of June 2023

Can u wrap meat in foil to cook in nuwave


Monday 4th of January 2021

Hi. I have the Instant pot duo and a recipe class for simmering but I don’t have a simmer button. What should I use? I appreciate your help.

The Typical Mom

Monday 4th of January 2021

I have never heard of simmering anything in an IP. I would have to see it to see what they mean because that isn't a function. I would assume they mean saute but don't know.


Sunday 3rd of January 2021

What is the cooking time for gluten free pasta? You only said to adjust the time was it up or down? I’m worried it’ll be mush? Thanks for your help.

The Typical Mom

Sunday 3rd of January 2021

From what I've heard gluten free needs less time, depending on how al dente you want it. I would probably adjust to half the time for pasta recipes


Sunday 13th of September 2020

I just bought my Insta pot too. So far I’ve used it twice and the food turned out very good. I’m looking for more recipes that are simple to make. I have the 6 quart stainless steel pot. I also have an electric pressure cooker but I can’t use it for sautéing. Thank you


Tuesday 26th of May 2020

THANK YOU!!!!!! I have needed this for about a year and a half!!! I gave up trying to find out how to use my instant pot. Thanks to your site, I'm going to bring it out of " time out" and try again!

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