If you’re looking for Instant Pot directions, this easy-to-use beginner’s guide tells you everything you need to know to get started. This Instant Pot manual has step-by-step instructions and photos detailing how to use an Instant Pot. Find out about parts, assembly, safety features, pressure release, and the water test. [Video included.]
Table of Contents
- What is an Instant Pot?
- How does Pressure Cooking Work?
- Is the Instant Pot Safe to Use?
- Safety Precautions
- First Thing You Need to Do: Open the Box!
- Sealing Ring
- Float Valve
- Anti-Block Shield
- Condensation Collector
- Open and Close the Lid
- Release Pressure
- Commonly Used Functions
- Initial Test Run/Water Test
- Recipes to Try
If you just bought an Instant Pot and want to learn how to use it or if you already own one but are too intimidated by it, you’ve come to the right place.
This is the Instant Pot owner’s manual that you wish had been shipped with your Instant Pot! This manual covers the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, also known as the Duo. The 7 functions are Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer & Warmer.
Although written for the Duo model, this manual can be followed for models including the Duo SV, Lux, Nova, and Smart Wifi because they have similar controls.
When I got my first Instant Pot (the Duo model) years ago, I have to admit that it was a bit scary! So many buttons and so many features. The owner’s manual that came with the Instant Pot was confusing and unclear. That’s what prompted me to write this Instant Pot guide.
In this easy-to-understand Instant Pot owner’s manual, I give you a quick introduction to the parts and directions on how to use the Instant Pot for the first time.
Here are some Instant Pot articles that may be helpful to you:
– 16 Reasons the Instant Pot is not Sealing
– 17 Instant Pot Tips and FAQs
– 17 Common Instant Pot Problems
– Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Manual and Quick Start Guide
– Instant Pot DUO EVO PLUS Beginner’s Manual and Quick Start Guide
– Instant Pot DUO EVO PLUS Advanced User Guide
What is an Instant Pot?
Sometimes incorrectly referred to as Instapot, the Instant Pot has become so popular in recent years that Instant Pot is being used by some as a generic name for pressure cookers of any brand.
In reality, Instant Pot is the brand name of a multicooker that serves as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, sauté/searing pan, steamer, and warming pot all in one convenient appliance.
The Instant Pot Company (Instant Brands) started out with one product – the Instant Pot multicooker – and now makes a wide range of kitchen appliances including air fryers, blenders, and toaster ovens.
Although the Instant Pot pressure multicooker has many different functions, the most commonly used is the Pressure Cook function. Pressure cooking allows you to cook foods at a fraction of the time it would take in a pan or in an oven.
Although I’ve used a stovetop pressure cooker for decades, I much prefer the Instant Pot for three main reasons:
- There’s no need to babysit it
- It’s not loud like my old pressure cooker
- It is versatile
How Does Pressure Cooking Work?
Pressure cookers create a closed environment where steam builds up in a tightly sealed pot. This, in turn, causes the internal temperature to rise and pressure to increase.
Under high pressure, the fiber in the food is tenderized and flavors develop in a very short time. Nutrient-rich steam condenses in the pot instead of evaporating and nutritional value is retained because of the speed of cooking.
Is the Instant Pot Safe to Use?
According to the Instant Pot company, most pressure cooker disasters in the past could be attributed to user error. Instant Pot pressure multicookers are carefully designed to eliminate and avoid most of these potential problems.
There are lots of safety features that help reduce common errors. Safety features include pressure sensor technology, lid close detection, lid lock technology, overheat protection, and automatic temperature and pressure controls.
Bottom line: the Instant Pot is very safe to use!
Although there are many built-in safety features as explained above, as a user you need to follow common-sense precautions:
- Don’t touch the hot surfaces, particularly the stainless steel parts. Use the handles to move the Instant Pot and use gloves to remove the inner pot.
- Don’t place the Instant Pot on or close to an electric or gas burner.
- Don’t move the Instant Pot when it’s under pressure.
- Don’t fill over 2/3 full.
- When cooking foods that expand e.g. rice, beans, and pasta don’t fill over 1/2 full.
- Ensure sealing ring, anti-block shield, float valve, and steam release pipe are clean and not clogged.
- Don’t open the lid until the float valve is down i.e. the Instant Pot is depressurized.
- Keep hands and face away from the steam release mechanism.
- Don’t obstruct the steam release handle when pressure is being released.
- When quick-releasing frothy foods such as applesauce, oatmeal, pasta, etc. take extra care. It’s best to release pressure is short bursts for these types of foods.
- Don’t use a different Instant Pot model’s lid on your model.
- Don’t use the lid when using the Saute program. It’s okay to use a tempered glass lid with a venting hole, sold separately.
If you want more technical and detailed information about the Instant Pot, you can also visit the Instant Pot website. In this post, I’ll just be going over the basics of how to use the Instant Pot: assembling the Instant Pot and doing the water test. I’ll get you going and make you comfortable enough to explore its features!
PURCHASE THE INSTANT POT DUO ON AMAZON!
First Thing You Need to Do: Open the Box!
I regularly hear from people who purchased or got the Instant Pot as a gift, and leave it unopened because they’re too scared. And that’s understandable, but there’s nothing to worry about. The Instant Pot has many layers of safety features!
Besides, if you don’t get it out of the box and try it out, in the event you have a defective unit you might miss the warranty period and be stuck with a bulky paperweight!
I’m going you get going to the point where you’ll be pressure cooking in no time. And the first thing you’ll pressure cook is water, when you do the water test!
Take everything out of the box and discard the packaging. Open the lid by turning it counter-clockwise.
Instant Pot Parts and Accessories
The Instant Pot comes with the following main parts and accessories:
- Base unit/Outer Pot – stainless steel exterior that houses the heating element, control panel, and detachable power cord.
- Lid – closes the Instant Pot and seals it under pressure. The lid can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher or by hand with soap and water.
- Inner pot – removable stainless steel pot that is also stove-friendly, so you can use it on your stovetop as you would a regular pot. It can be washed in the dishwasher or by hand.
- Condensation Collector – catches drips from condensation on the lid; attaches onto the back of the base unit. Can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher or by hand.
- Power cord – the 3-prong detachable power cord is plugged into the back of the Instant Pot Duo. (Note: some models have attached power cords.)
- Accessories – spoons, measuring cup, and trivet. The trivet is useful for elevating food above the liquid and for Pot in Pot cooking. (Note: some models don’t come with the spoons and measuring cup.) The trivet can be washed in the dishwasher or by hand.
Instant Pot Lid
Instant Pot Lid Exterior Parts
- Lid Handle – used to put on and take off the lid
- Lid Fin – placed in the lid fin slot of the base unit to prop the lid open (Note: Instant Pot Lux model does not have a lid fin slot)
- Steam Release Handle – handle that fits over the steam release pipe (valve) and allows pressure to be released. The handle needs to be in the Sealing position when using the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker function.
- Float Valve – seals in the steam, allowing the Instant Pot to be pressurized.
Steam Release Parts
The steam release consists of:
- Steam release handle – regulates the internal temperature. It is supposed to be wobbly but must be pushed in all the way. Turn it from Sealing to Venting to release pressure.
- Steam release pipe – steam travels from the inner pot through the pipe during steam release.
Instant Pot Lid Interior Parts
The inside of the Instant Pot lid consists of the following parts:
- Silicone Cap for Float Valve – covers the float valve and keeps it in place
- Lid Locking Pin – safety mechanism that prevents the lid from opening under pressure
- Anti-Block Shield – prevents food from coming out of the inner pot through the steam release pipe
- Sealing Ring Rack – holds the sealing ring in place
- Sealing Ring – silicone sealing ring allows the Instant Pot to seal
The silicone sealing ring should be washed after each use. I wash it in the top rack of the dishwasher. You can also wash it with soap and water.
How to Remove the Sealing Ring
- Pull gently on the silicone ring until it detaches from the sealing ring rack.
- Continue to pull the silicone sealing ring out until it is completely separated.
How to Replace the Sealing Ring
- Place the silicone sealing ring on the sealing ring rack.
- Working your way all around, push the sealing ring until it’s firmly seated in the sealing ring rack.
- Make sure no part of the sealing ring is sticking out. If you don’t put it back in properly, the Instant Pot won’t seal, your food won’t cook and you’ll probably get the Food Burn / Burn Message.
- The first few times, you may find it difficult to remove the sealing ring but after a few uses, it should stretch out a bit.
The float valve needs to be cleaned periodically, especially after cooking frothy or starchy foods. I use a bottle brush to clean the float valve.
How to Remove the Float Valve
- While holding the float valve in place on the outside of the lid, remove the float valve’s silicone cap.
- The float valve will be freed.
- Be careful not to misplace the silicone cap.
How to Replace the Float Valve
- Thread the float valve through the float valve hole.
- While holding it in place on the exterior of the lid, replace the silicone cover by pushing it onto the float valve on the interior of the lid.
Float Valve Position
- My Instant Pot Duo float valve is below the lid level when not under pressure and at the lid level when under pressure.
- There are some models such as the Ultra, where the float valve is at the lid level when not under pressure and above lid level when under pressure. Some Instant Pot Duos also have this kind of float valve.
- When the float valve is in the Up position (under pressure), the lid cannot be opened. Don’t try to force the lid open when the float valve is up. Once the float valve drops, the pressure will have released and it’s safe to open the Instant Pot lid.
The anti-block shield should be cleaned periodically, especially after cooking frothy or starchy foods. Pay particular attention to the holes.
How to Remove and Replace the Anti-block Shield
- The anti-block shield can be hard to remove with your bare hands.
- Use a silicone trivet or a dish towel to push the anti-block shield in an upwards motion.
- Try it from the front or from behind (as shown above in the first image)
- To replace the anti-block shield, push it in until it clicks into place.
Instant Pot Assembly
- Make sure the base unit is empty and clean
- Place the inner pot in the Instant Pot base unit
The condensation collector catches any moisture that builds up on the rim. This usually comes from moisture dripping from inside the lid into the rim of the Instant Pot base, when the lid is propped open.
In my experience, the condensation collector rarely fills up but I have found that when I cook pasta, in particular, liquid tends to collect and it can get messy! Get into the habit of checking for liquid in the condensation collector after every use.
To attach the condensation collector:
- Line up the condensation collector with the notches on the back of the Instant Pot base unit.
- Slide in the condensation collector until it’s pushed in all the way.
Open and Close the Lid
How to Close the Lid
- Place the lid onto the Instant Pot base unit with the arrow mark on the lid lined up with the open lock icon that is above the right corner of the control panel.
- You will hear a chime (if the volume is turned on).
- Turn the lid clockwise until you hear another chime.
- The lid will be closed.
How to Open the Lid
- The lid will not open until all pressure has been released.
- Once the float valve is down, turn the lid counter-clockwise until you hear a chime.
- The arrow on the lid will be lined up with the open lock icon on the base unit.
- Lift the lid to remove it.
- If you feel a slight resistance, wiggle the lid back and forth and the suction should release.
How to Prop Open the Lid
Propping open the lid keeps it out of the way and allows you to use the Instant Pot hands-free.
- Locate the two lid fins on the lid.
- Locate the lid fin slots on the base unit.
- Insert either lid fin into either slot to prop the lid open.
There are a few different ways to release pressure from the Instant Pot:
- Natural Pressure Release/Natural Release
- Quick Release
- 10-minute or 15-minute Natural Pressure Release
- Quick Release in Short Bursts
[Find out more details about these pressure release methods.]
Commonly Used Functions of the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot has many buttons that may appear confusing and complicated. But they really aren’t. Just think of them as presets or shortcuts, such as those on a microwave oven.
How to Turn on the Instant Pot / How to Start the Instant Pot
If your Instant Pot display is blank, make sure it’s plugged in and press any button to turn on the Instant Pot display. If you’re wondering how to start the Instant Pot, this model does not have a Start button.
You’ll program your Instant Pot and wait a few seconds in order for the pressure cooking process to begin. On some other models, in order to begin a smart function (e.g. Pressure Cook, Soup, Saute, Rice), you have to program the function and press Start.
For the purposes of just getting you going, in this guide I’ll show you the most commonly used Instant Pot buttons and functions:
- Pressure Cook | Manual
- Pressure Level | Pressure
- Keep Warm
Note: You may encounter Instant Pot recipes that tell you to press ‘Start’. The Duo, Lux, Nova, Viva, Smart Wifi do not have a ‘Start’ button. Instead, once you program the Instant Pot, it automatically starts after a few seconds. Some other models such as the Ultra, Duo Evo Plus and Max require you to press ‘Start’ after programming the Instant Pot.
The Saute function allows you to saute food in the Instant Pot before pressure cooking, and to reduce the liquid after pressure cooking. I love this function because I don’t need to get out another pan and that helps keep cleanup to a minimum.
- Press the Saute button.
- The display says On.
- Once the desired saute temperature has been reached, the display says Hot.
- Add your food to the inner pot and saute.
To change the Saute temperature:
- NEWER MODELS: Press the Saute button repeatedly to toggle between Less (lowest temperature), Normal (medium temperature), and More (high temperature).
- OLDER MODELS: Toggle the saute temperature between Less, Normal, and More modes by pressing the Adjust button.
Don’t use the Instant Pot lid while sauteing. A glass lid with a venting hole (purchased separately) may be used. As a safety precaution, the cooker automatically enters standby mode (display says Off) after 30 minutes if you have not pressed Cancel.
Pressure Cook | Manual
Pressure Cook is the most useful feature of the Instant Pot.
* Manual and Pressure Cook are the same thing. Manual was replaced with Pressure Cook in newer versions of the Instant Pot Duo and Lux.
- Press the Pressure Cook or Manual button.
- Press the + or – buttons to set the pressure cooking time.
- Once the pressure cooking time has been set (e.g. 5 or 00:05 for 5 minutes), wait a couple of seconds and the display will change to On.
- The float valve will go from the Down position to the Up position.
- This can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the amount of food you’re cooking and the temperature of the ingredients.
The Instant Pot Pressure Cook program can use high or low pressure. A majority of the recipes that you encounter will use High pressure. If a recipe doesn’t state whether to use high or low pressure, you can probably assume it’s high pressure.
- Press the Pressure Level or Pressure button to toggle between low and high pressure when using pressure cooking functions.
Keep Warm and Cancel
The Keep Warm function is useful when you want your food to stay warm after being pressure cooked. Having the Keep Warm function on allows you keep track of the amount of time since pressure cooking completed. This is useful when you’re doing a natural release.
- NEWER MODELS:
– Press the Keep Warm button to turn the Keep Warm function on and off.
– Press the Cancel button to end any selected function. The Instant Pot display will say OFF.
- OLDER MODELS:
– Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button when the Instant Pot is in standby mode (i.e. display says OFF) to turn on the Keep Warm function.
– Press the Keep Warm/Cancel button to end any selected function while in progress. The Instant Pot display will say OFF.
- After selecting the Keep Warm function, press the + and – buttons to change the time you want the Instant Pot to be in Keep Warm mode.
- After pressure cooking is complete, the Keep Warm function starts and the time counts UP by minutes. The display panel shows the elapsed time (such as L0:02 for 2 minutes or L0:15 for 15 minutes.) If Cancel is not pressed, the Instant Pot will turn OFF after 10 hours.
- The Keep Warm function can be used with or without the lid closed. You can also use an optional glass lid for this function. When the Keep Warm function finishes, the cooker beeps and goes into standby mode.
Instant Pot Initial Test Run / Water Test
What is the Water Test?
A water test is done by pressure cooking water for a few minutes. According to the Instant Pot manual you need to use 3 cups of water, but I’ve found that using 2 cups of water is adequate. The advantage of using 2 cups is that it takes less time for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.
Why You Should do the Water Test
The initial test run or water test serves two purposes: it familiarizes you with using your new Instant Pot and it allows you to establish that your Instant Pot is working properly. If you have a defective unit, the water test will identify that and you can get a replacement unit.
You should do a water test before the first use but you can also do it when you’re having problems with the Instant Pot pressurizing. Doing the water test will pinpoint whether there’s something about the recipe that’s causing your sealing issues.
How to do the Initial Test Run / Water Test
- Make sure the sealing ring is properly seated.
- Place the inner pot into the base unit.
- Attach the power cord to the base unit and plug it into an outlet.
- Pour 2 cups of water into the inner pot.
- Close the lid.
- Make sure the steam release handle is in the Sealing position.
- Press the Pressure Cook or Manual button.
- Press the + or – buttons until the time goes to 5 or 00:05 (5 minutes).
- After a couple of seconds, the display will change to On.
- Soon, you’ll hear and see small amounts of steam coming from the top of the lid. This is normal and safe! Just keep your hands and face away from the steam. You might also notice a funny, plastic smell. Don’t worry – it should go away and it shouldn’t happen again after the first use.
- Once pressure has built up, the float valve will come up.
- After the float valve comes up, the display will change from On to 5. This can take a few minutes.
- The display will count down from 5 to 0.
- When pressure cooking is complete, you’ll hear a series of beeps and the display shows L0:00, which means it’s in Keep Warm mode (if the Auto Keep Warm function is turned on.)
- You can either do a quick release or a natural release. To do a natural release, wait for the float valve to fall on its own. This can take 10 to 30 minutes.
- In this case, you’ll do a quick release.
- Press the Cancel button. The display will say Off.
- Move the steam release handle from Sealing to Venting. Steam will gush out of the steam release cover. Keep your hands and face away from the steam.
- Once all the steam has been released, the float valve goes down and the Instant Pot is de-pressurized.
- This can take a few minutes.
- Open the lid and prop the lid open.
What to do if the water test fails
If the water test fails and you’re not able to get the Instant Pot to come to pressure, use the following articles to troubleshoot the issue:
If you can’t solve your problem, open a support ticket with Instant Pot.
First Recipes to Try
Here’s a tip for you: don’t try to improvise or wing it with your first recipe. Select a recipe from a trusted Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker cookbook or blog, and follow the recipe as written.
If you want to make changes or adjustments, you might want to contact the blogger or ask for advice from an experienced Instant Pot user.
All of my recipes are thoroughly tested many times and I have step-by-step photographs and Instant Pot instructions so even a beginner can follow along and make more complex recipes.
I do my very best to respond to comments or emails, so you can contact me if you have any questions about a recipe or your Instant Pot.
Here are some of my favorite easy recipes:
- Instant Pot Chicken Korma
- Instant Pot Thai Red Curry
- Instant Pot Pork Carnitas
- Instant Pot African Peanut Stew
- Instant Pot Vegetarian Moroccan Stew
- Instant Pot Chicken Curry Soup
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