How to Use an Instant Pot? Complete Guide

The Instant Pot Is an amazing piece of kitchen equipment. It’s a great multitasker that is very easy to use. You just need to get to know about it a little, and you will be on the road to culinary Heaven. I love to use an instant pot for some quick food

Here are some of the questions that often pop up in conversation with future users. I hope they will answer your inquiries and you will join us in the Instant Pot club.

How do you use the Instant Pot as a beginner?

Read what it says, then press the button. I am not kidding, it’s that easy.

Ok, let’s backtrack a bit.

If you are new to cooking and can’t even boil water, you will have to learn your basics first. But, if you are just new to this gadget, it will be super easy to learn how to use it.

Start by getting to know your machine. All of the buttons are clearly marked and tell you what they do. Soup button is for cooking soup, Rice button is for cooking rice, Yogurt button is for… Yogurt – you get the picture.

Now, most of these programs operate under pressure. The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker – once the lid is sealed, the cooker heats the liquid inside, the steam creates pressure, and under that pressure, the boiling point of water is lowered.

This allows for food to be cooked quicker, and for more nutrients to remain in the food. There needs to be at least one cup of liquid inside to cooker or the pressure will not be formed.

When the lid is not sealed, the machine can be used like any other electric cooker, ie Crockpot or a steamer.

For other details, consult your user manual. It will have some useful information like cooking times and how to get the most out of each program.

What to cook in an instant pot?

When it comes to recipes, check out their recipe library or, if you want something even easier, 47+ Easy Instant Pot Recipes by Amy and Jacky from PressureCookerRecipes.com. I highly recommend them because I am yet to be disappointed by anything they have published.

If you have a favorite soup or stew recipe that you want to make in the Instant Pot, watch out for salt. If you are using the Slow Cook option, you can go as before.

Watch Out For Salt In Your Meals

However, if you want to use the Soup, Stew or the Pressure Cook option, cut your original salt content by half. All of these options work under pressure, and in those conditions, taste, and aroma intensify.

Something that used to come out perfectly seasoned when cooked on the stove, can end up being too salty when cooked in an Instant Pot. So, it’s better to not put a lot of salt at the beginning and just the seasoning at the end.

I get a little geeky with my salt – I like to use about 0.5% of the final product by weight. I know it’s a bit labor-intensive, but perfection requires extra effort.

What is the best thing to cook in the Instant Pot?

Everything. An Instant Pot is a true multitasking private sous chef. Pot roast, beans, stews, soups, casseroles, cassoulets, raises, etc. Everything that you have been cooking in a regular pot on the stove can move into the Instant Pot.

But, do you want to know the fun part? Instant pot makes the easiest, fool-proof, no-cracking, no-sinking cheesecake. Any other type of custard and flans as well. And if you have a soft spot for spotted dick or other English pods, they come out perfect as well.

Oh, and you can use it to make simple things as well, like perfect rice or perfect boiled eggs.

What are the benefits of an Instant Pot?

The most important benefit is that it makes cooking at home quick and easy. You don’t have to be a Michelin star chef to put a good meal in the table every day of the week.

Types of recipes that usually like to be cooked in an Instant Pot tend to be quite simple to prep, and after that, it’s just the matter of pressing the correct button.

Also, all these years, this gadget has earned devotion from people all around the world who are using it in their homes all the time and sharing their success stories online. On any given day, you can google a meal or an ingredient that lives in your fridge or your cupboard, and you will find so many recipes available.

Real people have done all the work for you and have shared their experiences, so you can learn from them. And they are cooking in the exact machine you have on your counter, so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

And most importantly, it’s a true multitasker – several kitchen machines in one. It’s a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, and with the new Air Fryer Lid, an air fryer, and a mini oven. And you get it all at a starting cost of two of those machines combined.

If you have a small kitchen, or simply don’t like accumulating too many gadgets you’ll not use all the time, an Instant Pot is a perfect solution.

Is the Instant Pot worth it?

If you are going to use it, of course. If not, it’s just going to turn into a pricey piece of kitchen decor.

Upfront, you will be spending some extra money, but when you become good friends with this machine, you will be saving quite a lot in the long run.

Let’s say you opt for one of the “plain” models and use it three times a week for three years, the cost per use becomes a tenth of a cent. If you take your relationship to the next level, that cost plummets in a blink of an eye.

Another way you will be saving money is through cooking. Just by cooking at home instead of eating out, your monthly food budget can be halved. Add to it that the things that like to be cooked in an Instant Pot are very affordable, and you can slash your budget some more.

Finally, it will pay you out by slashing some of your medical bills. Look, most of the self-induced chronic illnesses come from a bad diet and lifestyle. Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to go raw vegan, or paleo, or whatever. Just eat homemade meals made from scratch whenever and as often as possible.

What can you not cook in an instant pot?

Anything dry. For pressure cooking in a regular or the Instant Pot, you will need at least one cup of liquid – stock, sauce or plain water. The liquid is needed to build pressure, and for the method to work.

You can use the Slow Cook option for almost everything you would make in a slow cooker, but those things also tend to be on the wet side.

All Instant Pots have a Sauté button, and you could use it for sauteing and stir-frying in a pinch. However, that option is there more to keep your recipes in a single pot. You fry up your aromatics and spices, brown your meat and sweat your veg, then add liquid and choose other cooking options.

Though you can ignore most of this if you pick up Duo Crisp + Air Fryer. If you can fit your pan, you can even bake a cake in it.

Oh, and a quick note about sauces – some creamy sauces are a no-go because they will curdle on you. You can always stir the cream in the end or choose another cooking method for your Chicken Alfredo.

Can you air fry in an instant pot?

Yes, but only in one model, the Duo Crisp + Air Frye, it is a fairly recent release that comes with an extra lid that allows for a couple of extra dry cooking methods.

Once you replace the classic lid with the new swirly one, you can air fry, roast, bake, broil and dehydrate your food.

Can you put frozen meat in an instant pot?

Some yes, some not, and 8 out of 10 times, I’m not a fan. Hear me out.

If you overdo it when there is a sale at the butcher’s counter, it’s fine if you freeze some for later use, It will be perfectly usable after defrosting.

However, some of the aroma and umami will go away as well. Depending on the cut and the animal, the texture is altered as well.

Solution? A slow cook stew filled with spices and herbs – kinda like chili or curry. But if you think that you will be able to go from freezer to pot directly, think not. You will have to thaw your meat slowly, then brown it well to get as much Maillard reaction goodness and rescue as much meatiness.

If the meat was partially cooked before freezing (ie frozen meatballs), you can chuck it in without too much worry.

Fish, on the other hand, can go in frozen. And it will come out perfectly cooked, too! Fish takes so little time to pressure cook in the first place. You will need an extra minute or two than the recommended time, though.

Of course, this works with commercially frozen products. Home frozen fish can turn into mush. If you caught some and want to preserve it for later use, take time to flash freeze it, instead of just throwing it into the icebox. (Here is my article on how to flash freeze food)

As I said, I’m not a fan in most cases because you can lose a lot of umami after freezing the meat. If you want to cook frozen meat, keep just a few things in mind.

First, pressure cooking intensifies aromas or the lack thereof. Either switch to slow cooking or find a way to bring umami back home. Magnus Niilson’s “Tasty Paste”, anyone?

And second, size matters. If you have a huge chunk of meat, you will have to defrost it completely. Smaller pieces can go in instantly without too much adjustment to the cooking time. This is for both the pressure cooking and slow cooking option.

Can you put frozen chicken in the Instant Pot?

As mentioned above, yes, BUT! Make sure that it is cut into bite-size pieces first. And it will have to be a soup or a stew recipe.

By the way, white meat loves to be pressure cooked, dark meat prefers slow cooking.

Also, note that you will lose out on some of the flavors that way because of the lack of browning.

Steal a page from my book – I buy a lot of chicken thighs when they are on sale. Quickly brown them under the broiler and chuck them in a bag with everything needed for a Coq au Vin.

Good wine for pressure cooking, the cheap stuff from the box for slow cooking. Mark them and freeze for days when I want labor-free dinners.

The formation of crystals during the freezing process helps tenderize the meat and force marinade. So, win-win-win.

Can an Instant Pot explode?

If you stuff it with enough TNT, yes. But I don’t like my food THAT spicy, so I’ve never tested it. (Don’t try this…)

All joking aside, old pressure cookers were known to do that from time to time. Modern ones are a lot safer, and Instant Pot alone has ten different built-in safety measures.

For example, you can’t remove the lid while the machine is working, or you can’t start certain programs without securing the lid.

That being said, you still must read the Warning portion of your manual – it’s there for a good reason, not to just look pretty.

Why is there no Poultry button on the Instant Pot? / What is the Poultry button on the instant pot?

Some models are designed with a separate poultry button, others are not. With some, you will be able to find poultry in the submenu of the Meat/Stew button, with others you will have to consult your user manual for cooking times.

In essence, it’s a button that is supposed to make it easy for you to cook chicken, goose, and turkey. However, if you want to cook other things with feathers, like duck or ostrich, you should use the Meat/Stew button.

What’s the difference between an Instant Pot and a Crockpot?

These machines are cousins in terms that they are both “stew makers”. In essence, the recipe that is supposed the work in a 6-quart Instant Pot should work in a 6-quart Crockpot as well.

But here is where the fun starts. If you were to try that recipe, they would taste completely different. One would be a little brighter, and the other would be a little deeper in flavor.

It has to do with the way they operate. A Crockpot is a slow cooker. It uses a combination of time and low temperatures to do its thing. The Instant Pot, being a pressure cooker, does the same job but a lot quicker.

When cooking under pressure, the boiling point of water lowers, therefore foods are cooked quicker and in a way so they preserve more flavor and nutrients. Slow cooking, on the other hand, allows for the time to meld the flavors together and developed them further.

Both techniques are great for tough cuts of meat and legumes, with a minuscule difference in results. Beyond that, it’s a matter of taste.

I prefer pressure cooking for seafood, chicken breast, clear soups, and vegetables, and would slow cook tough pork, lamb or beef, beans, and sauces.

It would be a waste to chuck fish into the Crockpot because it would turn to mush, and I would not bother with frozen meat in a pressure cooker because it needs that slow flavor development.

Another important difference is that you can slow cook in an Instant Pot, but you can’t pressure cook in a Crockpot.

The anatomy of a Crockpot will make it slow cook better than the Instant Pot, and it will be somewhat safer to leave unattended. That being said, Instant Pot gives you more bang for your buck.

Should I buy an instant pot or air fryer?

If you are eying the Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, go for the Instant Pot. That way you have the benefit of two machines in one, and opening your wallet only once.

On the other not, if you just started to put a kitchen together and the question is more what to buy first, be honest with what your cooking needs and goals are. I would still say go with an Instant Pot first since it’s a lot more versatile.

Some features that you get with an air fryer are maybe already available on your toaster oven or regular full-sized oven. If you get one of the Samsung convection microwaves, you have the Slim Fry option, which is the same thing.

What Instant Pot does is a little bit more unique in comparison and can’t be easily bundled with another gadget.

What is the difference between a pressure cooker and an instant pot?

A pressure cooker is Alex Murphy and the Instant Pot is Robocop.

Didn’t get my reference? Okay, an Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, only it has a computer and a plug. A classic pressure cooker has to be heated on the stove, but you don’t want to do the same to the Instant Pot – unless you want to destroy it.

There is also a microwave pressure cooker, which is a whole other animal. I have all three and I find they all have their strengths and weaknesses when compared to each other.

The microwave pressure cook is super convenient because it comes to pressure once you press start. It can replace most of the microwave cooking gadgets and make perfect rice and oatmeal. It will also give you a decent risotto.

Downside? Well, it doesn’t quite give you the same amount of pressure as the other two, so you can’t get the same quality results with meat.

The classic stovetop version is great because, as long as you buy a good quality one and take care of it, it can last you years or even decades. No electric parts equal fewer things that can break, at things that do break or wear out can be replaced at minimum cost.

Downside? You have to babysit it. Unless you buy one of the fancy self-regulating or beeping ones. But remember more things that can break. And if they do, you have to hope the model is not discontinued and you can still get parts for it. If you could get them to begin with.

The Instant Pot does it all at a press of a button. Not much attention or brain needed. From when you prepare the recipe until you are ready to eat, it does everything, so you can go and do something else. Downside here? It’s still a machine. There are a few extra things that can break. And if the power’s out, no dinner for you.

What’s the best Instant Pot to buy?

This solely depends on your wants and needs. They all have the same core function, but the fancier ones can have some useful upgrades.

It would be best to compare them all and see which one is best suited for the job you

If you want to keep it simple, you have the Duo and Viva models. If you want to step it up a notch, you can check out the Ultra or the Max. You think that your Instant Pot needs WiFi so it doesn’t get lonely? Then the Smart WiFi model is for you. need it to do.

Best selling Instant Pot

Here below is a list of the bestselling instant pots on Amazon.

SaleBestseller No. 1
Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Sterilizer, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 14 One-Touch Programs
  • Best selling model: America’s most loved multi cooker, built with the latest 3rd generation technology, the microprocessor monitors pressure, temperature, keeps time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration to achieve desired results every time
  • Cooks fast and saves time: The Instant Pot Duo multi-cooker combines 7 appliances in one: Pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute pan, yogurt maker and warmer – and cooks up to 70% faster
  • Consistently delicious: 14 one-touch smart programs put cooking ribs, soups, beans, rice, poultry, yogurt, desserts and more on autopilot – with tasty results
  • Easy to clean: Fingerprint-resistant stainless steel lid and components and accessories are dishwasher safe
  • Plenty of recipes: Free Instant Pot app on iOS and Android devices is, loaded with hundreds of recipes for any cuisine to get you started on your culinary adventure. Millions of users provide support and guidance in the many Instant Pot online communities
Bestseller No. 2
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus Pressure Cooker 9 in 1,  6 Qt, 48 One Touch Programs
  • The best gets even better: Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus is the latest evolution of the all time bestseller Instant Pot Duo series; With 20+ enhancements, it is the fastest in the class, the easiest to use for new users and the most customizable for experienced Instant Pot owners
  • Cooks fast & saves time: Cooks up to 70 % faster; New 1200w heating element reduces preheating time allowing you to make meals faster; Pressure release time is shortened with our new quickcool technology; The new easy seal lid automatically seals the pressure cooker while the new and improved steam diffusing cover takes the fear out of the pressure release process
  • Consistently delicious as you like it: 48 customizable preset options for soups, beans, rice, ribs and more; Takes the guesswork out and makes cooking dishes everyone will love easy; Settings like sous vide and bake make preparing chef quality entrees and desserts easy
  • Cookware grade inner pot: New 304(18/8) stainless steel inner pot with easy grip nonslip handles and flat inner surface can be used on gas, electric and induction stovetop/cooktop; Redesigned for optimal Saute results; Healthy, easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Cooks for up to 6 people
  • Biggest display yet: The bright bold display is angled to make it easy to read from a distance; The new cooking progress indicator shows clearly where you are in the cooking cycle
Bestseller No. 3
Instant Pot Duo Crisp Pressure Cooker 11 in 1 with Air Fryer, 8 Qt, Cook and Crisp
  • The Instant Pot That Air Fries: The hottest new multi-cooker from the makers of the all-time bestselling Duo series, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp is a pressure cooker and air fryer with 2 convenient, removable lids
  • 11-In-1 One-Touch Cooking Programs: Put cooking on autopilot with delicious results; Pressure cooks, Sautes, steams, slow cooks, sous vides, warms, air fries, roasts, bakes, broil and dehydrates
  • Tender Juicy Meals with a Crisp Golden Finish: Innovative EvenCrisp technology ensures a perfect crunch every time; Imagine biting into fall-off-the-bone ribs with a perfect air fried crust
  • Air Fryer Accessories: The multi-level air fryer basket with dehydrating and broiling tray is designed for optimal air flow; The protective pad is great for storage and countertop use
  • Dishwasher Safe Stainless-Steel Cookware: Cook for up to 8 people with the premium quality (18/8) stainless-steel inner pot. ; Healthy and BPA/PFOA/PTFE-free
Bestseller No. 4
Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, Yogurt Maker, and Warmer, 6 Quart, Teal, 14 One-Touch Programs
  • Most popular size: serves up to 6 people and perfect for everyday meals.
  • Replaces up to 7 Appliances: combines 7 kitchen Appliances in 1 to save you space, including: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute, yogurt maker, and warmer.
  • Consistently great results: monitors pressure, temperature, keeps time, and adjusts heating intensity and duration to achieve your desired results every time.When opening the lid, the inner pot may adhere to the lid. This is caused by vacuum due to cooling. To release the vacuum, move the stream release handle to the Venting position
  • Accessories include – 1000+ recipe app, 250+ recipe and how-to online videos, 18/18 stainless steel inner pot, sealing ring, steam rack, Soup Spoon, rice paddle and lid holder. Accessories are dish washer safe.
  • Easy to clean: fingerprint-resistant stainless steel body and components and accessories that are dishwasher safe: inner pot with 3-ply bottom for even cooking, steam rack with handles, serving Spoon, Soup Spoon, and measuring cup.
Bestseller No. 5
Instant Pot Lux 6-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, Sterilizer Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Steamer, Saute, and Warmer, 6 Quart, 12 One-Touch Programs
  • Cooks fast & saves time: The Instant Pot Duo Multi-Cooker combines 6 Appliances in one: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer – and cooks up to 70% faster
  • Consistently delicious: 12 one-touch smart programs put cooking ribs, soups, beans, rice, poultry, desserts and more on autopilot – with tasty results
  • Easy to clean: Fingerprint-resistant stainless steel lid and components and accessories are dishwasher safe
  • Advanced safety protection: The 10+ built-in safety features, including overheat protection, safety lock and more to ensure safe pressure cooking.
  • Accessories included: Stainless steel steam rack with handles, rice paddle, soup spoon, measuring cup and condensation collector

Last update on 2020-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Which Instant Pot is the easiest to use?

All of them are equally easy to use. As mentioned, it’s all about pressing a button and letting them do their thing.

However, if you want to make things even easier on yourself, you should check out the Smart WiFi model.