Get Started With Your Instant Pot

I have seen SOOOOOO many people who have either bought an Instant Pot or who want to buy one, but who are intimidated by or afraid of it. If you’re one of those folks, I have some sage advice: fear not the Instant Pot!

The words “pressure cooker” may bring to your mind images of pressure cooker disasters where either food is blasting out of a pressure relief valve like water from a fire hose, spraying pureed beans or whatever onto the ceiling, or the pot has blown up and taken out half the kitchen.

But that’s a thing of the past: the Instant Pot was designed with no fewer than 10 safety features, so set any fears of exploding pressure cookers to rest and let’s get started!

Check Out The Manual

After you’ve unpackaged your Instant Pot, take a few minutes to look through the manual (if you don’t happen to have a copy, you can find it here), or read through it if you’re one of the rare folks who has the willpower to do so. Don’t be intimidated by how thick it is, because it includes the instructions in four different languages. We’ll start with English, then move on to Chinese, okay?

Seriously, flip to the Before First Use section and make sure you follow the instructions to get your pot ready to rumble; the exact instructions may be slightly different depending which which Instant Pot model you have.

That Sealing Ring, Yo

The sealing ring is basically a big gasket that keeps the steam from escaping when your Instant Pot is under pressure. Always check it before you use it to make sure it’s not cracked or torn, and that there aren’t any bits or pieces of anything on it that might interfere with the sealing process.

For now, don’t put off something you’ll eventually need to do: go ahead and remove the ring from the lid, take a gander at it, then replace it. The material it’s made from is pretty tough, but use a bit of care because you can pull it out of shape or damage it if you manhandle it, so don’t go channeling King Kong when you do this, okay?

  • Sealing Ring Tip #1: The sealing ring can be washed by hand or in the dishwasher.
  • Sealing Ring Tip #2: If it’s ever damaged, replacement rings are cheap!
  • Sealing Ring Tip #3: You might want to have more than one ring on hand, anyway. Sometimes the ring temporarily absorbs the smell of what you’re cooking, and it’s handy to swap in a fresh ring while the odorous one is airing out. You can even get them in different colors! Click here to check ’em out.

The Inner Pot

The Instant Pot inner pot, which you’ll also hear referred to as the liner, is the stainless steel pot where you dump the food that you want to cook. The manual recommends you take the liner out, put in your goodies, then put the liner into your Instant Pot. I don’t do that, but it’s not a bad habit to get into. Why’s that, you might ask?

Because one of the two biggest threats to your Instant Pot’s survival is you accidentally dumping your food into the housing and turning the sucker on while the inner pot is sitting there on the counter, watching in horror and silently screaming at you.

The second biggest cause of premature Instant Pot death is leaving it (or the lid) on your cooktop and turning on one of the burners. Oh, the humanity!

So, as Arnold Schwarzenegger might say, “Don’t do dat!”

Anyway, back to the inner pot: put your food in it, then put it in the cooker. And don’t put it on the cooktop!

Now, I’m going to yell at you one more time about something that’s actually very, very important:

NEVER add food past the “Max” line on the inner pot! That can clog the pot’s pressure plumbing which could make Bad Things happen. You typically shouldn’t fill the pot more than about 2/3 full, and if you’re cooking things that tend to expand, like beans, you shouldn’t fill the pot more than halfway.

The Lid

The lid only goes on a certain way, and getting it on and off is probably the hardest thing (such as it is) to using the Instant Pot, which is to say, not hard at all. So take a minute to play around with it so you can see how it works. Line up the little arrows on the lid and housing, then turn it clockwise until it stops. If your pot is plugged in (feel free to do that now), it’ll play a happy little jingle to let you know you got it right.

Just keep in mind that while the lid needs to be on and locked in most of the cooking modes, it should be off for the Sauté setting so you don’t burn your ingredients to a crisp, and the Instant Pot will yell at you if you try to put the lid on. It’s a smart little thing!

The Steam Release Handle

The other important bit of the lid is the Steam Release Handle, which is a valve that when closed holds in the steam that builds up in the pot, and when open releases it. This should be in the Sealing position (wavy lines) for any setting other than Keep Warm or Slow Cook, in which case it should be set to the Venting position (the Poof Of Steam icon).

More on that when we get to the really fun part: The Great Instant Pot Water Test!

Where Would You Like To Go?

What is an Instant Pot?
Why Should You Buy an Instant Pot?
Which Instant Pot Should You Get?
Getting Started
The Great Instant Pot Water Test
Some Foolproof Recipes
Instant Pot Accessories
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