Instant Pot Guide Instant Pot Guide
October 19, 2020
by Olena

Instant Pot Guide

by Olena

This real life Instant Pot Guide is for all of you who still have their pressure cookers in the box.

Did you know we have entire Youtube channel dedicated to healthy Instant Pot recipes and tips? My goal is to help you become confident with your Instant Pot by demonstrating each delicious foolproof recipe in step-by-step videos. By doing so, you can learn how to eat healthy using an Instant Pot!

Don’t have one yet? Check out my article on which Instant Pot to buy.8 Quart Instant Pot on a counter

This Instant Pot guide for beginners is not about how to open the box and do a water test. That’s what manual is for and the company does great job at doing that.

My Instant Pot quick reference guide goes over every possible question and scenario you might come across. After reading this post you will have almost complete understanding of the best small appliance of 21st century.

I am obsessed with my Instant Pot! My healthy Instant Pot recipes are one of the most popular among readers. I obviously want you to become a crazy Instant Pot lady like me. Because it’s life changing!

What Is Instant Pot?

Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker. It is a small kitchen appliance that cooks food fast under pressure. The end result is tasty and tender food in fraction of time and with minimal effort. Foods like beans do not have to be soaked. Tough cuts of meat come ou tender. Food is more flavorful than cooked on a stovetop. It’s a magic pot!

If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet but are thinking about buying one, I explain which Instant Pot to buy in my humble opinion.

How Instant Pot Works

  1. You add water and ingredients. Close the lid and push a few buttons. 1 – 10 minutes.
  2. Water gets heated and pressure builds up. 10 – 45 minutes.
  3. Food is cooked under pressure faster. 2 – 45 minutes.
  4. Now you have to release the pressure and you have 2 ways for doing so. 1) Natural Release when float pin drops down on its own. 10 – 50 minutes or 2) Quick Release by turning valve to Venting immediately after cooking. 1 – 3 minutes.
  5. Dinner is ready!

Always Add Water

In order for pressure to build up inside the pot, it has to be created. From what? From steam. From water or broth. There is a minimum amount of liquid that has to be added even when “roasting” a whole chicken. Rule of thumb is 1 cup.

Tip: Tomato sauce or juice don’t count because their sugars will start caramelize and “burn” warning will go off. On that later.

Don’t Fill Up More than 2/3 Full

In order for pressure cooking method to work, the pot of your electric pressure cooker should never be more than 2/3 full when making soup, stew, chili etc., or 1/2 full for expanding foods like rice. Pressure needs room to build up.

If your inner pot doesn’t have 2/3 full marking (characteristic of older Instant Pot models and other brands), do your math and calculate your own 2/3 mark. Ignore the cups, L and near the edge Max ticks – they actually are quite inaccurate. Read more.

Instant Pot filled with water, chicken and veggies

“Manual” Is the Most Used Mode

There are many pre-programmed modes on Instant Pot like porridge, stew, bean, rice etc. but you will find yourself using “pressure cook” with customizable time for the most part. Because ingredients in various recipes differ.

Having said that, there is barely any need to buy 9-in-1 electric pressure cooker.

You Don’t Need to Sauté or Pre-Brown Most Foods

Before you rush to convert all your tried and true favourite recipes to electric pressure cooker versions, know many won’t turn out the same. The best part with Instant Pot is that you won’t need to brown or sauté for most recipes you would have to using a stovetop method. That is because food releases more flavours under pressure.

How to Avoid Dreaded “Burn”

Always add tomatoes on top and do not stir. Because Instant Pot’s heating element is located at the bottom and may cause sugars in tomato products caramelize and “burn”. Therefore, we add diced tomatoes and tomato paste on top and do not stir.

Read my 10 tips how to avoid Burn forever.

Best Order of Ingredients to Add to Instant Pot

It does matter the order of ingredients you add to Instant Pot to a certain degree. First of all, helps to avoid burn. Secondly, cooks foods like rice properly.

  1. Liquids (except tomato products)
  2. Veggies
  3. Grains (if any)
  4. Meat
  5. Canned tomato products

Instant Pot chili ingredients added in order

You Don’t Have to Stir

With Instant Pot recipes, you don’t have to stir. Again, to avoid “burn” but more than that – it’s not necessary. The pot is often full already and you will just create extra work for yourself. You stir at the end cooked food. Stirred ingredients will not come out more flavorful than unstirred.

It Takes Time to Build Up & Bring Down the Pressure

If you think you will have brown rice or quinoa cooked in 15 minutes and voila, hold the horses. I thought so too but am glad I didn’t know because otherwise I wouldn’t have bought this “magic” appliance.

Once you add all ingredients and close the lid, Instant Pot will begin to boil the water, then build up pressure and only after countdown of actual cooking time will start. Usually pressure build up time is 10-45 minutes, depending how much liquid is inside. That is why soup takes the longest.

Afterwards, food is done cooking, Instant Pot needs to bring pressure down. Time again. On that afterwards.

So, why bother then?

Instant Pot Is Convenient for “Walking Away”

Despite its smart name, Instant Pot is not nearly as instant but rather convenient for throwing everything together and walking away. I would say not hovering over food waiting for it to boil, stir or turn off is the best feature of an electric pressure cooker. Completely hands off method is life changing.

It is not recommended by the manufacturer but that’s what everyone does. However, when I test recipes without knowing what’s gonna happen, I stay near the appliance.

Add Hot Water to Speed Things Up

Turn on kettle at same time you start getting recipe’s ingredients ready. Use boiled water when recipe calls for water. This step will cut back time it takes Instant Pot to build up pressure, especially in soup recipes.

Instant Pot releasing pressure outside

Release Pressure Outside

If you are doing Quick Release (letting pressure out) I recommend to unplug Instant Pot and take it outside. This step prevents your house smelling like food for days, dirty countertops and cupboards.

Best Cleaner for Instant Pot

You can start by cleaning inner stainless steel pot with baking soda. Eventually with prolonged use it stopped working for me. The best cleaner to make Instant Pot shiny again is bar keeper’s friend. You are welcome.

Keep It Away from Kitchen Cabinets

Steam coming out from release valve during pressure build-up and quick release can (will) damage your kitchen cabinet doors.

Even when cooking and not releasing pressure, keep electric pressure cooker distance away from cabinets because there is enough steam coming out during pressure build-up to do the damage.

Or get Henry or Ruby – steam divirters.

You Can Use Inner Pot on the Stove

To reheat food. Cover inner pot with any 9″ glass lid, refrigerate (cold garage in winter works), then reheat. Saves time transferring food, washing extra containers and pots. Especially, if you don’t own a microwave like me.

It Will Not Explode on You 99%

The days of exploding pressure cookers are gone. We all heard horror stories. The difference is that pressure cookers back then were designed for the stovetop. Modern pressure cookers, have many safety features to control the pressure. 99% it will not explode on you.

Instant Pot Replaces Slow Cooker

If you own a slow cooker, 99% you will stop using it once you get the Instant Pot. And if you are thinking about buying a slow cooker, you should buy the Instant Pot because it can slow cook too.

From my own experience, I truly believe slow cookers will become “extinct” in a few years.

Instant Pot Will Grow on You

I have to say I was very sceptical about this appliance back in Fall. I was super against it but it is slowly growing on me. The fact that I can wake up to Instant Pot steel cut oats, cook Instant Pot frozen chicken for dinner in 35 minutes and simply “throw and forget” concept made me fall in love over the heels with an electric pressure cooker.

Would I recommend Instant Pot? ABSOLUTELY.

P.S. Did You Know Instant Pot Is “Canadian”?:)Instant Pot chicken breasts

More Instant Pot Resources

Did you know we have entire Youtube channel dedicated to healthy Instant Pot recipes and tips? My goal is to help you become confident with your Instant Pot by demonstrating each delicious foolproof recipe in step-by-step videos.

Make sure to subscribe and hit the Bell icon not to miss new videos.

59 comments on “Instant Pot Guide

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  1. I’m a pretty ignorant (non-cooking) male living alone.

    I have an 8 quart pressure cooker. I like it. I mainly use it for soups and stews, I like the size because I freeze portions and then just microwave (do you diasapprove of microwaving?) or stovetop for quick meals.

    Will it do for most of your Instant Pot recipes? My kitchen space is pretty limited so I would prefer not to have to buy another appliance. But I confess I’m not sure how to do a quick release with my pressure cooker.

    Should I still buy a large Instant Pot in your opinion? What will it do for me that my pressure cooker will not?

    1. Is your pressure cooker electric? If not, then all my recipes use electric one and you will need it. Stovetop pressure cookers cook quite differently for times etc. You won’t be able to follow Instant Pot recipes I think.

  2. I’m glad that you pointed out the “warm up” time. And pressure release time (sometimes.)

    Biggest lesson for me, instant pot is not really instant.

    Thank you. Bookmarked.


  3. I was given the mini duo for Christmas and find that it would have been better and easier if I had the 6qt. I am completely alone as my family live far away and I am in my 80’s.
    I had a pressure cooker when the children were growing up and am not afraid of this one but the names and pressure settings on the front are different than those I see on recipes. I just find I use my old way of cooking as I have plenty of time! It would be helpful to use it in order to always have something good to eat and not end up eating another peanut butter and banana sandwich!! I printed off some of your regular recipes as they look perfect for me. Thank you for your help

    1. Hi Mary. Yes, I do agree with you. Most recipes are for 6 quart and it would be easier just to follow the recipe w/o adjustments. I do indicate on most recipes adjustments for 3 quart and most of them should be fine. ENjoy and please let me know if you have any more questions.

  4. 5 stars
    Where have you been ? I’m so glad that I finally found a blog dedicated to this amazing kitchen tool !! Well , let me tell you …. I am obsess with the Instant Pot 🙂 . Thanks for the recipes . I really like your page!!

  5. 5 stars
    Thanks for the advice, I am a little nervous about the pressure, but reading your columns I feel better. Thank You

  6. If I use the Instant Pot for slow cooking, can I pile chicken breast on top of each other like i ca my crockpot?

  7. Thanks for tips only just got my pot only seem to make soup at moment can’t wait to try some of your recipes

  8. i want to keep the mini instant pot
    inside its 3 quart carrying bag, while it’s cooking, (with the cloth top of bag securely away from the hot lid. Can i do this?

    1. You mean when you are transporting it or plugged in? Main concern would be if the release valve moves even a bit it starts shooting steam. It’s very flimsy. It is best not to move IP while it’s under pressure.

  9. I’ve used pressure cooker’s for many years and have found an easier way to release the steam. On the fast release I simply throw a kitchen towel over the vent and let it capture the steam. it’s worked for me for years. It has also worked with my instant pot. You might try this

  10. I never seem to know what to do when recipes for the IP are way more than I want to make for the two of us, like the chicken and potato stew that I see this morning. I want to use a boneless skinless breast, perhaps about 12 oz. I assume I cup of water is required?????? What about the time? Will that change? I have both a 3 and 6 qt What changes does that require in a recipe like the chicken stew? Thank you so much for your good, healthy recipes!


    1. Hi Donna. You can cut recipe in half including water. 1/2 cup water should be fine in many cases. Or 1/3 recipe which is too much work for me, so I would rather eat leftovers haha. Same cooking time. That’s the rule of thumb for all IP recipes pretty much. You are every welcome.:)

  11. Hi Olena! I love your blog♥️? and found it this morning at 5.30 am, after looking for an Instant Pot recipe to cook a whole frozen chicken. (I also love my freezer!)
    It’s almost done cooking and cooling off now, so I’m excited to see how it turns out – my daughter loves chicken, and I only had this frozen one left. A nice, big, pasture-reared, old-fashioned cheese chicken. Like you, I grew up on simple, real, whole foods, albeit in rural South Africa. Our orchards, vegetable & herb gardens, local farms and co-ops were our only sources of food. Good old days ?. My mom loved her pressure cooker back in the 70’s and 80’s, even though it regularly ‘blew its top’ ?? so I am thrilled to bits with my own recently acquired Instant Pot. Still experimenting with it, though, therefore your blog and recipes are a treasure trove. Thank you and your husband Alex for the great work and your easy-to-follow recipes and videos! You now have one more devoted fan, in Cape Town, South Africa.
    PS: cooking oxtail in Instant Pot is the bomb: only 40 minutes for meltingly tender, fall-off-the-bone oxtail, instead of 6-8 hours in a slow oven. I’d be happy to share the recipe. Happy cooking! Sonia Cabano

    1. Hi Sonia. I thought cheese chicken might have been S. African specialty.:) Awe, you are so welcome! So happy to hear you are enjoying my recipes! Please don’t be shy to leave me a comment with a star review once you make any recipe.
      I have never tried to cook an oxtail… Might be an adventure lol.
      Have a great week!

  12. Hello Olena,
    My husband just got me Instant Pot DUO Plus 60, 6 Qt 9-in-1 & I came across your guide while looking for recipes. I have to say it scared me. You say to take it outside to release pressure or it will damage the cabinets & will dirty countertops and cupboards. What exactly comes out that will damage/dirty the kitchen? Taking it outside is not an option as we live in an apartment building. The kitchen is small & there’s nowhere else to put it other than a table in a small dining area with light fixture above, kitchen curtains/windows on one side, wall with a painting on it on another side. Does the steam/food/liquid shoot up or to the sides? I don’t want anything damaged.

    Then you say that it doesn’t explode 99% of the time, which means that it does explode 1% of the time. That’s the reason I resisted getting pressure cooker all these years after hearing horror stories of them exploding. What has to be done or not done in order for it not to explode?

    Then you mentioned the lingering smell on the ring. I’m extremely sensitive to smells & this part doesn’t sound good to me, either. But I’m more terrified of it exploding or damaging my kitchen. Looks like we got a really good deal on it – half the price of what it is now & I was excited to try it, but I’m just ready to return it & be done with it.
    Am I making too big a deal of it?

    1. The only reason I say 99% is because nothing in life is 100% guaranteed. Pressure cookers have come a long way. The ones that used to explode were stovetop. Electric ones nowadays have pressure controlled electronically. It shouldn’t go above set pressure level.
      Steam from pressure release valve shoots up like from a boiling kettle. The only way it will damage cabinets is if IP is placed under the cabinet and steam has no way to escape. Ring does smell. You can change it as often as you like (it’s cheap) or soak in vinegar. I love my IP and can’t live without it now. No damages have been done yet.

      1. Thank you for a prompt reply. You also said that it will dirty countertops and cupboards. Does anything else come out in addition to the steam that will dirty surfaces?
        Also, does it get hot on the bottom

        1. No and no. Only steam valve releases steam. Sometimes if it’s soup and pot is full of liquid and you release pressure right away it splatters. Or with Mac and cheese. On those cases it’s good to wait or release outside. You will know after using a few times.

          1. Thank you.
            Unrelated question regarding comments. It’s asking me for e-mail before posting. I thought that meant I would get e-mail notification when you respond, but I did not get it. Did it not work for some reason or are we not supposed to get notified? If not, why is it asking for e-mail address?

  13. Sceptical is spelt with a c in UK so not quite as wrong the inner Brit in me sorry . I have enjoyed your recipes and only brought my instant pot or Electric Pressure cooker in Uk because of your recipes

    1. I appreciate it. Always willing to learn and yes of course it is with C. Typing too fast and a lot sometimes. And as an ESL myself I HATE spelling mistakes when I see them too. They don’t sell IPs in the UK? So happy you are enjoying my recipes. Please let me know what you try.

  14. How do you clean the lid? It smells of the previously cooked dish so I wonder it should be cleaned, too, not only the pot.

    1. Lid should be cleaned each time like the pot BUT because that ring is made from silicone unfortunately it absorbs smells like crazy. Smell doesn’t go away in regular wash. Just if you soak in water with vinegar but you would have to do it every time. I just keep pot closed and then who cares since next time I open it is to cook next smelly dish.

      1. How do you clean the lid like a pot? Could it be cleaned under running water, the whole lid, with plastic and everything?
        Yes, I believe it’s the ring that smells. I even read somewhere on the Internet that to air it better the lid should be stored upside down on the pot. You can imagine the smell is pretty hard this way when I’m around 🙂
        And some people buy a second ring, to cook a yogurt with, for example.

        1. Yes, you can submerge lid in soapy water and even put in a dishwasher. It has no electronic components. You can remove silicone ring too and clean better. If you use regular dishwasher detergent, silicone absorbs its perfumes pretty bad though. I use 7th generation powder and it’s much better.
          Yes, you can have 2 rings. I did. I found smell really didn’t transfer to oats and yogurt. And actually for yogurt making you do not need silicone ring because it’s not pressure cooking method. You can just take it out. So 1 ring is enough imho. Eventually it wore out on me and stopped sealing properly, so I got a new ring.
          I tried to air it out. Kind of helps maybe a bit.:)

  15. Hi dear! Lovely post. Very useful information. One point to make is that “skeptical” is spelled with a “k” and not a “c”. Sorry the inner teacher in me cringed everytime I saw that word misspelled. I have a slow cooker and can’t bite the bullet to purchase one of these puppies! It does look lovely though and very convinent I bet.

    1. Hi Oksana. Oh, yeah?! Thank you! I appreciate that!
      I am going to try and review Cosori pressure cookerI just got. It is cheaper than Instant Pot and always in stock. I will also be giving one away for our monthly series next month – Meal Prep February. So, make sure to follow along and you could enter to win one for yourself by making one of the recipes and tagging it #ifoodrealmonthly. Hope this helps and good luck! 🙂

    2. Hi Oksana. It might just be a typo- but you had a misspelled word. Convenient. Not convinent. Just sayin’. And sceptical IS the variant way you spell the word in Canada. We use either. (Be it the Brit or the Yankee taking over) And seeing as how Olena resides in B. C. – in Canada – it fits! So definitely not a misspelled word. People in glass houses and all that. I for one trumpet her journey and applaud her for being brave enough to start this venture. And I love the way she writes – you can almost hear her Russian accent. You go girl. Keep posting Olena. English as a Second Language – indeed! I continue to receive and enjoy your emails ♥️

    3. Why does every post on the internet end up in a bickering war over spelling/grammar/punctuation!?!?! It is petty, often taken poorly and is completely unnecessary!

      Thank you for all of your help and useful information/tips Olena!!!!

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