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Instant Pot Basics: How to Use Your Instant Pot + 10 Techniques

Wanna lean how to use an Instant Pot? Can you boil water in the Instant Pot? This Instant Pot basics will guide you through IP uses, address safety concerns, and put your IP to use making delicious real foods with 10 basic Instant Pot techniques. Plus I’ll toss in a few more tips and tricks to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit out of this countertop kitchen appliance. 

bowl of spaghetti squash, bowl of white rice, hard boiled eggs, and roasted chicken

Back when the Instant Pot was first released many years ago, I was a total skeptic. I thought, “If there’s one thing my kitchen (and life) can’t handle any more of, it’s a one-hit wonder!”

Those huge items that can only be used to make one thing, like tortilla presses (have one, don’t use it), rice cookers that can only make rice, or those quesadilla cookers that were really popular Christmas gift items a million years ago take up TOO MUCH SPACE and drive me crazy!


Those appliances that can be used over and over for a bajillion things, like my food processor and my blender, now we’re talking.

So what about the Instant Pot? Was it just another one-hit wonder? Or the next perennial kitchen staple?

Well, we use the Instant Poy constantly (it hardly gets put away) and now we have a second larger Instant Pot (the 8-quart found here) that we took on vacation with us one summer! I couldn’t imagine cooking in Airbnbs without it (and we even used it to cook homemade meals in hotel rooms!).

As an owner of 2 Instant Pots and “heavy user,” I’m on the side of the Instant Pot replacing a bunch of your one-hit wonders and making your real food cooking life thousands of times easier!!

What Is an Instant Pot?

Instant Pot on counter top - man's hand removing lid

Simply put, the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers are appliances used to speed cooking by employing steam pressure. Instant Pot is a brand of electric pressure cookers, and certainly the most popular one, but there are a few others on the market.

Instant Pot vs. Other Electric Pressure Cookers

Full disclosure, I only have the Instant Pot brand myself, but I do have some thoughts about the other ones.

A major disadvantage of most other electric pressure cookers is their use of questionable interior surfaces.

I have always appreciated that the Instant Pot insert is stainless steel. That means I reach for it over my slow cooker (the ceramic insert raises questions about lead), and especially over any appliance with a non-stick teflon surface.

I have also heard of many people having trouble with other brands.

One that comes to mind immediately is a friend’s fail with the brand sold at ALDI, a store you all know that I love dearly. A reader got an electric pressure cooker at Costco and returned it for an Instant Pot, and another said that the one she bought at Sam’s Club doesn’t have a high/low setting option, is a non-stick insert and feels flimsy.

In my opinion, when it comes to pressure cooking, go with the Instant Pot, but what you put in it you should get at ALDI (or maybe Costco). ?

Instant Pot vs. Traditional Pressure Cookers

A traditional pressure cooker lid next to the lid of an Instant Pot

The Instant Pot did not invent the concept of cooking with steam pressure. Stovetop pressure cookers have been helping home cooks long before the advent of this convenient countertop appliance.

So what’s the big difference? Why did the Instant Pot explode the popularity of pressure cooking?

The Instant Pot has quite few perks over the traditional stovetop pressure cooker.

  1. It’s more ‘hands-off’ than the stovetop model. You don’t have to watch for the Instant Pot to come to pressure or adjust the heat at all.
  2. There is a lot of automation. The Instant Pot has buttons for soups/stews, beef, poultry, a convenient saute button, and a lot more.
  3. The Instant Pot can be used as a ‘fifth-burner’ for those times when the stove is full due to a big meal or a large gathering. Plan ahead and use it to make a component of the meal, like no-drain mashed potatoes, or use that handy saute function to warm foods, heat liquids, or even boil water.

One important note – the Instant Pot cannot be used to seal canning jars. You’ll have to hang on to the stovetop pressure cooker for that.

RELATED: How to use a pressure cooker (both kinds)

Where to Buy an Instant Pot

This is the 6-quart Instant Pot I started out with. After a few years, we added an 8-quart partly because I knew I would use two at the same time often enough, partly because it was the Prime Day sale, and also because I wanted more space for certain recipes. Both are a pretty basic model and you don’t need more bells and whistles than that!

If you’re deciding on size, most people say it’s better to get a deal on the 6-quart and just have 2 rather than go big, BUT if your family has 5 or more people or you really like to batch cook or do more than a pound of beans, the 8-quart may be the best choice. My full Instant Pot review and buying guide for features, size, and model.

If you’d like to shop directly at Instant Pot’s website instead of Amazon (or just compare prices), check them out here.

You can even get a carrying case to travel with it! See my review of the Instant Pot carrying case we have.

If you’re still on the fence about adding an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliance arsenal here are my Instant Pot pros and cons.

You’re Just *7 Days* Away From Easier Meals with Your Instant Pot

Whether you have a few fav meals in your Instant Pot or still aren’t using it regularly yet, I can show you the secrets to SAVE time (and money) with my favorite appliance!

May I send you my best hacks to maximize my fav appliance so you can spend more time with your family AND nourish them well?

Get IP hacks in short emails and transform the way you serve dinner:

How to Use an Instant Pot

In general, many folks learn to use an Instant Pot by finding a great, detailed recipe and following it closely. But, like most new appliances, the intimidation is included for no extra cost – and you may want a little extra guidance getting started.

Plus, it’s always good to know a bit about the ins and outs of your appliance. There are plenty of recipes that aren’t very well-written, and people often tell me that even the instruction book from the company itself leaves a lot to be desired.

Note: You can always find the latest recipes I’m posting by clicking to the “Real Food in the Instant Pot” series.

Instant Pot Basics

Here’s what I wish I knew before I bought my Instant Pot. 

The Instant Pot Requires Water

Water filling a measuring cup

Because an Instant Pot uses steam to cook with pressure, it’s imperative to have at least one cup of liquid in the pot, or nothing will cook.

It’s not exactly “dangerous” if you don’t get this right, but you’ll likely either burn the bottom of your food or end up with uncooked meat or rice, or both. No fun!

Water, broth, and juices from canned tomatoes all “count” as liquid, but please note that tomato sauce does NOT. It’s too thick to create enough steam. If you have tomato sauce in a recipe, I’d recommend pouring it in last on top of everything else and not mixing it in with the water.

If you’re an experienced cook, you know that meats generally release a lot of juice during cooking, so can that “count?” Sometimes. I’ve often gotten away with just a half cup of liquid when cooking a meat-based meal, so it’s something to experiment with, but you’re taking a risk of your meat not getting cooked.

Don’t Overfill the Instant Pot

This can really be a big issue, as overfilling may lead to safety issues or food not getting cooked.

Only fill 2/3 full with normal recipes and 1/2 full when cooking dry beans or anything foamy. Ignore the “max fill” line if you’re cooking with pressure – that mark is for slow cooking in the Instant Pot only.

Always Check the Lid

Katie Kimball teaching kids about Instant Pot lid

In our Kids Cook Real Food eCourse Instant Pot series, we use video to teach kids about all the parts of the Instant Pot. On the lid alone, there are quite a few parts, and it’s good to understand them all.

The handle is the only part of the lid that’s really safe to touch while cooking, and you will use the handle to twist the lid clockwise to lock it into place before you start cooking.

On top, you will also see a steam valve, which needs to be turned to “sealing” during cooking and only turn to “venting” if the recipe calls for a quick release. Keep reading for more info on natural vs. quick release, but first an important safety note – Never allow anyone’s face to go above the Instant Pot while it is up to pressure or while doing a quick release. 

On the underside of the lid, there will be a metal apparatus near the pin. These look slightly different on each model, but if a piece can be removed, be sure to remove and clean it regularly, especially if you make a foamy meal.

The most important part of the lid is the sealing ring. If the ring is not present or malfunctioning, the appliance cannot get up to pressure. It’s a good habit to check this ring every time you seal the lid to make sure it is in good shape, no cracks, and not gunked up with food or debris.

Understanding The Pin Mechanism

The pin, or float valve, is a small piece that can move up and down and is either metal or colored. When your Instant Pot gets up to pressure, this pin will rise, and you cannot open the lid until it falls back down. On some Instant Pot models the pin rises to be flush with the lid, on others, it will rise above the lid’s surface.

It is incredibly important to understand for safety that you should never try to force an Instant Pot lid open. That’s how they explode. Even when I’m impatient, I usually give my IP at least 30 seconds after the pin has dropped before I try to open it.

Understanding the pin mechanism is also good for troubleshooting, because if the pin never goes up, your Instant Pot has not come up to pressure and you may not have enough liquid.

An Instant Pot lid showing the pin going up when pressure is built up.
A funny side note about the pin – I was chatting with a team member the other day about all things Instant Pot and she mentioned she wished there was an easy way to tell when the IP had depressurized. She felt like she was always taking a risk that the pot would still be under pressure when she tried to open it.

I asked her about the pin function and she gave me a blank stare. A quick second later, with the Instant Pot lid in hand, she realized she had been oblivious to this feature for more than 3 years! She learned to use the IP from following recipes, like so many others do and had never even noticed this super important safety feature.

We shared a quick laugh because it really was funny in the moment, but I know she was also so relieved there had never been a terrible accident caused by that lack of knowledge.

The Instant Pot Condensation Collector

On the side of your Instant Pot just under where the lid locks in is one of the most confusing pieces for most people – the condensation collector. It’s a small plastic piece that is difficult to attach correctly until you’ve done it once, and then it’s easy. Its job is also very simple: it catches extra condensation in the form of liquid while you are cooking.

Your only concern with this piece is to make sure it’s on there, dump it out if there’s liquid in it, and wash it every so often.

This TV anchor was even distracted by it while we were trying to show off all the cool things our Instant Pot can do!

Dealing with Foam

Certain recipes, notably those with dairy or dry beans, have a tendency to create a lot of foam inside the cooker. If you open the vent right away, the foam will create a huge mess all over your kitchen.
Always remember to add oil when cooking dry beans, which will reduce the foam but not prevent it. Dry beans still need a natural pressure release.
I recommend only following tried-and-true recipes that include dairy because of this.

Cooking in an Instant Pot

Adding Time to Cook from Frozen

One of the Instant Pot’s superpowers is that it can cook frozen meat relatively quickly. If you are following a recipe but using frozen meat, I recommend doubling the cook time.

When to Add a Steamer Basket or Trivet

We’ve already discussed the importance of including one cup of liquid when cooking in the Instant Pot, but there are times when you don’t want your food all down in that liquid.
If you’re making a roast or other meat that you want to shred but not be too soupy, or if you are steaming vegetables or anything else, use the trivet that came with your appliance to keep the food from boiling.

The Truth About Instant Pot Recipe Cook Times

Kitchen Timer on counter top

The most important note I think any new Instant Pot owner needs is this:

It doesn’t really cook things in 30 minutes on those 30-minute recipes!

It really irks me that so many recipes are saying “whole chicken in 30 minutes!” and “perfect rice in 10 minutes!” because if you hung your hat (or planned your dinner) on those times, dinner would be late.

It takes 10-20 minutes to get up to pressure, depending on how much is in the cooker, and some recipes call for a natural pressure release for another 15 minutes at the end – which means your “30 minute” recipe is nearly doubled.

Be sure to do that math on the whole process as you plan when you need to get started cooking something!

RELATED: 30 Min Dinner Ideas

Instant Pot Uses: Natural Release vs. Quick Release

Steam releasing from the valve of an Instant Pot lid

When you start reading through Instant Pot recipes you’ll see reference made to ‘natural release’ or ‘quick release’. These terms refer to the way the pressure is released from the Instant Pot.

With a natural release, you let the Instant Pot sit for around 15 minutes after the recipe is finished cooking to allow the pressure to gradually lower. At the end of the 15 minutes, or after the pin has dropped, you can safely open the lid. 

With a quick release, you move the nozzle from ‘sealing’ to ‘venting’ as soon as the recipe is finished cooking. Use caution. The steam can cause burns. I like to use a wooden spoon or similar utensil to move the nozzle from a safe distance. Once the steam has released from the Instant Pot (2-3 minutes), it is safe to remove the lid.

A natural release is better for recipes with high liquid content, like soups or broths, or for thick recipes like chili or porridge. A quick release is best for steaming vegetables or cooking other delicate foods at risk for becoming overcooked.

Also read: 10 Recipes my Husband Successfully made in the Instant Pot

Troubleshooting Instant Pot Meals: What if Something Doesn’t Cook?

We’ve sadly had the experience of food not cooking wayyyyy too many times in the Instant Pot, and it’s so frustrating! Everyone is hungry!

Here’s what to do if your food isn’t done when it should be:

  1. Double check: Did it need a natural release and you did a quick release? If so, turn the IP back on for 2 minutes and allow for a natural release.
  2. If the food is “close” but not quite done, as long as there’s still plenty of liquid inside, you can just turn it back on for 5-10 minutes and see what happens.
  3. When pressure cooking very large or tough cuts of meat, like a pork shoulder or chuck roast, I find a lot of recipes don’t call for nearly enough pressure time. If you want falling-apart meat, you may need to literally double the cook time! Search for other recipes using the same cut and see how high they go.

Sometimes it simply takes more time. It’s not always quite as “instant” as we expect.

Other times the food seems like no one even tried to cook it, and that’s no good! In any of these circumstances you may need to repeat the entire Instant Pot cycle, but make sure you’ve solved the original problem first.

  1. Examine the ring and under any removable metal parts on the underside of the lid for debris. Make sure they’re all clean.
  2. Do you have a full cup of liquid, not including tomato sauce or something thick? If you run the cycle again, watch for the pin to come up and make sure a LOT of steam comes out when you release the pressure. If not, your appliance definitely isn’t getting up to pressure correctly. (In other words, the pin can go up and yet not be completely at pressure, just weakly. This is most likely the culprit with a tomato or dairy based recipe.)
  3. Is your Instant Pot too full? This can interfere with proper pressure.
  4. Is the valve all the way to “sealing”?

Ultimately even with a few total food fails, we puffy-heart-love our Instant Pot for so many reasons!

Is the Instant Pot Safe?

In a word – Yes! Of course there are risks in using the Instant Pot, just as there are for cooking on the grill or using sharp knives, but with the proper techniques, those risks can be mostly mitigated. Follow these 3 safety tips to set your mind at ease.

Safety Lesson 1: Don’t Open the Lid Until it’s Time

The Instant Pot is much safer than the old pressure cookers because the temp is much more regulated and there is less human error (not zero). When the pot is up to pressure, there are mechanisms in place to prevent a home cook from opening the lid.

Safety Lesson 2: Don’t Overfill the Pot

My Instant Pot has a “max fill” line, which I understood to be the fullest I can make it — but I was wrong. That line is for slow cooking, not pressure!!! To pressure cook, these are the max fill rules:

  • Don’t fill over 2/3 with food.
  • Don’t fill over 1/2 if cooking legumes, grains, or anything like that that could expand or foam. (also always add some oil to prevent foaming when cooking dry beans)

Breaking that rule can lead to problems, including safety issues but also your food might not cook because the pot can’t get up to pressure without air/steam space.

Safety Lesson 3: No Quick Release for Thick Recipes

Thick meals like chili, rice and bean dishes, and porridge could possibly trap steam pockets inside the food, which could *pop* if the lid is opened after a quick release. Yikes!

Natural pressure release is best for these recipes, but many aren’t written that way. If you do need to quick release steam on a “thick food” recipe, at least give the whole machine a little jiggle to release any possible steam pockets before opening the lid.

Does the Instant Pot Live up to the Hype?

The Instant Pot hasn’t gotten a good name and a lot of buzz for nothing. It can do a LOT of things in the kitchen, and not just making recipes for soup, meat or one-pot meals faster and with less babysitting than the stovetop.

As I dug into the IP’s capabilities, I was impressed to find out how many basic kitchen tasks it could help me accomplish! If you have an Instant Pot, you’ll love this list too, and if you don’t, it may just convince you to buy one!

Also Read: Instant Pot Pros and Cons

10 Basic Instant Pot Techniques

Boiling eggs, yummy applesauce, the perfect rice, steaming veggies, timesaving oatmeal and beans, a whole chicken (plus the bone broth), spaghetti squash, and cauli rice – mastering these 10 techniques will make your real food lifestyle so much easier to manage.

1. Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Instant Pot

Brown eggs in a white bowl on a kitchen table

Tired of spending money on fresh farm eggs that you then have to let ‘get old’ in your fridge so they’ll be easier to peel? Using the Instant Pot to hard boil eggs is the perfect solution!

All you need is your eggs, the trivet, 1 cup of water, and 4 minutes on high pressure!

At first glance, this method may appear to not save much time, but the real benefit comes at the end. Perfectly cooked eggs that are truly easy-peel! Steaming them under pressure helps the white easily release the shell, even for super fresh farm eggs.

2. Instant Pot Applesauce

3 apples sitting on a butcher block

Using the Instant Pot to make applesauce will make you wonder why you ever bothered with any of the store-bought varieties. Make use of even the soft and wrinkly apples in this technique. The joint efforts of the pressure cooker and the food processor make peeling optional.

Apples (use a variety to boost natural sweetness), a cup of water, cinnamon if desired, and 10 minutes on high pressure – voila! Delicious applesauce that’s naturally sweet and ready in less than 30 minutes.

3. Perfect Rice in the Instant Pot

white rice in bowl on mat

Brown or white, you can get perfect rice every time in the pressure cooker. You can use the ‘rice’ button that is included as a feature on almost all Instant Pot models, but there are a couple of nuances – like rice variety, differing water requirements, etc, that make it a little more difficult than it appears at first glance. 

Click over to Perfect Rice in the Instant Pot to get more detailed instructions and tips on troubleshooting any cooking problems.

Bonus: Rice Pudding

I’ve been making extra rice all the time because my kids looooove rice pudding for breakfast. After I cook a batch of rice, I just stick the whole IP in the garage (in the winter in Michigan) and then in the morning, I cover the rice completely with milk or dairy-free milk (no measuring necessary) and set the Instant Pot to the rice function (which is 12 minutes on low pressure).

In less than half an hour total, with no stirring, babysitting or worrying about the pot boiling over, we have perfect pudding consistency. UPDATE: I’ve since done it in a mere 5 minutes on manual!

Add a few big chunks of butter, a splash of vanilla or almond extract, and maple syrup to taste, and stir it all up. Serve warm with cinnamon (also great cold). My kids like to add extra milk to cool it down and to add moisture to cold pudding. (I first tried the porridge function, but that was too high and scalded on the bottom.)

I’d recommend allowing a natural pressure release because dairy products foam up a lot, OR get this reusable mesh cover to keep the foam down. It just sits on the top of the liquid.

Alternative: You can also use the sauté function to bring the milk to a boil, then press the Cancel/Keep Warm button twice to leave the IP on low for 20-30 minutes while the liquid absorbs. Be sure to babysit closely while on sauté and stir often to avoid scalding your milk! 

4. Instant Pot Steamed Veggies

Head of cauliflower for the Instant Pot

You can steam vegetables in the Instant Pot quite quickly – although I’ll be the first to say that it’s probably not all that much quicker than the stovetop (if at all) and another negative to this technique is you lose some control over just how much they’re steamed since you can’t be cracking the lid open to check every few minutes.

Pro Tip: Try using the “manual” button and set the pot for ZERO minutes for the lightest steam possible at pressure, and be sure to use a quick release! 

The upside? It’s a no-touch process and frees up your stove for other things, so it’s awesome to know how to do it when you’re hosting company, need to have freshly steamed veggies somewhere without a stove, or if you just tend to cook a ton of things at once like I do!

If your Instant Pot didn’t come with a steamer insert like mine did, you can buy one from Amazon.

5. Pressure Cooker Oatmeal

Spoonful of Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats have a great texture to them, but take a fair bit of time on the stove. However, to making steel-cut oats in the Instant Pot is a cinch. Have a hearty breakfast for your whole family!

Use the Instant Pot’s timer function to set up the oats the night before and wake up to a warm, filling breakfast with minimal effort.

You could also try my Apple Cranberry Steel Cut Oats or yummy Pumpkin Spice Steel Cut Oatmeal.

6. Dry BeansWooden bowl of various dried beans

The Instant Pot manual has an excellent chart for cooking any type of dried bean, both dry and soaked. This tool makes it so easy to have beans in a jiffy without opening a can.

Because of health benefits, I still soak the beans overnight, but if I forget and would just use a can of beans anyway, I’m so happy to just use the IP and add some kelp for digestibility and realize that it’s way cheaper than the cans, less waste, and at least as healthy if not more so.

It’s amazing to know I don’t absolutely have to be prepared overnight if I’m going to compromise on a can anyway!

Check out these detailed instructions for cooking dry beans in a pressure cooker even without soaking!

7. Cooking Whole Chicken (or Chicken Breasts) in the IP

whole chicken in the Instant Pot

Cooking a whole bird or going from frozen chicken breasts to shredded chicken in 60 minutes total? Priceless.

Even for people who are squeamish about raw chicken, cooking chicken in the Instant Pot is so simple, is nearly a no-touch process, and really must become part of your routine. I’ve even been known to put a chicken in each of my Instant Pots – one for dinner tonight + one for lunches, salads, or soups.

Plus, just think of all that yummy broth! 

=Traditional Cooking School Instant Pot Sourdough Cornbread Pressure Cooker Recipe

My dear friend Wardee at Traditional Cooking School can do just about anything with her Instant Pot – cakes, bread, main dishes, veggies, even “stacking” multiple kinds of food at once!

She’s offering a free sourdough cornbread Instant Pot recipe!

This cornbread is delicious, nutritious, super easy to make, and it only needs 12 minutes of cook time.

8. Making Bone Broth Under Pressure

Bone Broth with Serious Gel

It’s so simple and hands-off to make bone broth in the Instant Pot! Put the bones right back in after you pick off the chicken, add some onion ends, carrots, celery, and garlic, fill the pot to about 2 inches from the top with water, and you’re good to go!

The last time I was sick I had only frozen broth in the house, but I had some bones in the freezer too – it was quicker (since I don’t use a microwave) to make broth in my IP than to thaw a jar, and I cannot tell you how glad I was to have warming, nourishing broth in a mug and going into my parched body!!!

Watch this video to learn more about bone broth from me and my kids!

9. Pressure Cooker Spaghetti Squash 

Spaghetti Squash

It can feel like you have the oven on for ages when cooking winter squash. However, it’s really easy to cook squash in the Instant Pot!

You can even use the Instant Pot to cook whole squash! Easily prepare butternut squash for these awesome pancakes and store some in the freezer for later!

10. Cauli “Rice” 2 Flavors of Cauli Rice in the Instant Pot Basic and Cilantro Lime Paleo rice substitute

I tried some other recipe online for cauliflower rice, but I just wasn’t happy with how other people did it – so I had to perfect it and post my own version!

Cauli-rice is a staple in a Whole30 diet – and with the Instant Pot you won’t even need to dirty your food processor! It’s Keto-friendly, too!

Just follow the directions here for easy grain-free Cauli Rice with only one pot, plus two variations of flavor. It’s faster and easier in the IP for sure, and just as tasty.

Bonus – Boil Water in the Instant Pot with the Sauté Button

Ever just needed an extra burner to bring some water to boil? Instant Pot to the rescue.

Simply add water and turn on the sauté button!

You can also use the sauté function to warm leftovers, brown meat or veggies that are part of your IP recipe anyway, or as a way to ‘pre-heat’ the Instant Pot to help it come up to pressure more quickly.

To save time on coming up to pressure, turn on the sauté function with liquid in the pot as you prep your food and adding ingredients to the Instant Pot. The hot liquid will come up to pressure faster. 

Note: Official Instant Pot instructions recommend against this practice. I’ve never had a problem with it, but make sure you have a few extra minutes on the other side just in case, especially if you’re cooking a tough roast or something that really needs all its time at pressure. 

Instant Pot Accessories

Accessories can add extra cost to what is already a significant purchase, and it’s often something you don’t think of beforehand. But do you really need them?

I have a whole post on the Instant Pot accessories you actually need, but for these 10 basic Instant Pot techniques, the only accessory you truly need is a steamer basket or trivet. The steamer basket can be used to hard-boil eggs and to steam vegetables and may even be included with your Instant Pot.

Once you move beyond the basics, you may find that having specialty accessories just makes life easier – and there’s nothing wrong with that! Here are a few that look pretty handy.

  • Egg Steamer Racks – Using an egg steamer rack ensures the eggs don’t bump into one another and crack in the Instant Pot. A basic steamer basket will do the job, but these egg racks may cause less headache.
  • Silicone Roasting Rack – The Instant Pot includes a stainless steel roasting rack, and you may prefer that one, but the advantage of silicone is that it is non-stick. Most can be used as a heat-safe trivet when not being used in the Instant Pot.
  • Tempered Glass Lid – Use this lid instead of the pressure lid when using your Instant Pot’s slow cooker, sauté, or keep warm function.
  • Air Fryer Lid – Use this lid to turn your Instant Pot into an Air Fryer. I haven’t been able to give this a try, but it looks very promising – and it eliminates another single-function appliance! Be sure to check your Instant Pot for compatibility before you buy this one.

RELATED: The Instant Pot Review You Need Before You Buy

Moving Beyond the Basics

These 10 Instant Pot techniques will give you a great start on getting the full benefit of your Instant Pot, but when you’re ready to move on we’ve got you covered! Check out the Instant Pot library for more recipes, ideas, instructions, and how-tos.

What’s your favorite Instant Pot kitchen hack?
Bone broth, rice, spaghetti squash, hard boiled eggs, beans, and whole chicken prepared in the Instant Pot. How to use an Instant Pot plus getting started with 10 basic techniques.


Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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59 thoughts on “Instant Pot Basics: How to Use Your Instant Pot + 10 Techniques”

  1. I’m curious about the nutrients difference between making broth in the cockpot/stove and the instapot. It seems that using the instapot wouldn’t allow enough time for them to release from the bones. Do you know how the instapot compares when releasing nutrients?

    1. Shaie,
      The gelatin content of Instant Pot broth is still really good, so that says a lot about the nutrient density. I tend to use it just as often as a slow cooker for broth as I do a pressure cooker. Just depends on when I’ll have time to strain it. 🙂 Katie

  2. I might be doing something wrong, but I am uncomfortable with the saute with oil then throw in water method for browning then cooking things like chicken breasts or pork tenderloin. When I did the tenderloin for instance I browned with the oil then when I shutoff the IP I had to wait quite awhile before the remaining oil was cool enough to pour water over. I must be using too much oil? (few tablespoons).

    1. Laura Snell @ Kitchen Stewardship

      I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong! If you’re uncomfortable with how much oil is in the pot and how hot it is, it’s very wise of you to wait a few minutes for things to cool off before adding water.

  3. The chicken breast are a hit in our house. Since I am all about quick easy and sustainable habits. For frozen breasts I do 1 cup of water or stock for 20 min high pressure. It comes out perfect. My current goal is to master the steaming option for veggies.

  4. My Japanese wife was skeptical of the new device for rice, but the brown rice easily passed muster with her (2 cups rice, 2.5 cups, 22 minutes). We want to cook more than 2 cups at a crack. Does anyone know how this scales up? e.g. Would 4 cups be 5 cups water and 22 minutes, or what?

  5. Have you ever cooked sprouted rice in an instant pot? If so, do you have a time recommendation? Also, was it rice you sprouted that had not been re-dried, or was it dry (either store-bought or dehydrated if you sprouted it)?

    Thanks so much for all of your wonderful information! Yours is my go-to website for real food tips!

    1. Hi Angie – I haven’t done sprouted rice, but I’d just slice 5 mins off the cook time and see what happens. If I remember right, sprouted isn’t a TON different from regular rice as far as timing. It’s hard to overcook in the IP IMO…

      🙂 Katie

  6. Jane on Whidbey

    I started reading all the comments, but I just couldn’t make it.
    I’d like to tell you a couple of great tips I’ve learned.
    First, while you’re prepping the food to be cooked, you can plug it in, use hot water from the faucet or from the hot-shot, and set the pot to sauté, and pre-heat the pot while you prep. Takes just about 3 minutes to come to pressure with a small load, longer for larger.
    Second, add boiling water to your rice or oatmeal, and cook it in the bowl that you’ll be eating it from.
    I have no idea why you put your pot in the garage overnight because your milk won’t spoil overnight. The other thing you could do is just prep the night before, place in the fridge, and cook in the morning with the boiling water for speed.
    I love my pot, and use it every day. I even bought a second one, so I can prepare two things at the same time. Love them both, and I wash fewer pots, pans, and even dishes. Amazing.

  7. Next time I will start with more time to spare, but the first time I made bone broth I believed – make bone broth in 30 minutes spiel! So, I was wondering, would it work ok, if you had to, to leave the pot on the hold/warm button for the 10 hours?

        1. Just to comment on cooking time. When I first got my Instant Pot I was brand new to pressure cooking. I read the directions and read through the recipes. I chose one that said soup in 7 minutes. I understood there would be prep time, but I thought once I hit start, it would take a total of 7 minutes to come to pressure, cook, and release. Yeah, yeah, it is probably somewhere in the directions that I missed. Needless to say, dinner took about an hour total with prep, pressure, and release. Twice what I had anticipated.

          I was also watching an infomercial for a pressure cooker that advertised the short cooking times, nothing was mentioned about the time to build up pressure or release which can be very misleading.

          As a newbie I love recipes that estimate pressure time, cook time, and release time.

  8. Regarding the added time to come to pressure and let the steam out… When a cake says “bake for 25 minutes” it does not have to explain that it takes time for the oven to preheat! When explaining the instant pot to a friend, just explain that it is 20 minutes cook time AFTER it comes to pressure, then they are not disappointed when it is not only 20 minutes until dinner. My hint: I’ve noticed that it always comes to pressure faster when I have just seared my meat before turning it on to cook. So, many times I will add the water that I am going to use in my recipe and turn it on sear while I am adding my meat and vegetables or other ingredients, then hit cancel and set it to pressure cook. As another person posted, it comes to pressure faster when it is preheated. Cooking so many recipes in one bowl is a huge savings. I made frozen chicken wings, adding all the ingredients for my teryaki sauce at the time that I was pressure cooking. When they were done, I put the wings on a cookie sheet to crisp them up under the broiler, at the same time, leaving the sauce in the IP on sear to thicken the sauce. Still a lot faster and a lot less messy than baking them in the oven for an hour, then cooking the sauce on top of the stove. The day after Thanksgiving I had a house-full of people again. I cut up the dried out turkey and put in the IP, dumped the left over gravy over it and cooked for 10 minutes and served with left over buns and left over mashed potatoes. It was a hit!

    1. Awesome, Marie! I just think many recipes are misleading to say “dinner IN 30 minutes” when of course it’s cook time. People get confused by it! But YES, turning the Instant Pot to Saute while you’re adding ingredients definitely shortens the come-to-pressure time. I will add that to this post; I can’t believe I forgot to mention it! Thanks, Katie

  9. I want to make a 7 pound boneless turkey breast in the IP, but I can’t find out how much time it will take. How do I find out? Thanks!

    1. I’m not sure on this one, Bonnie, but I would think just about any boneless recipe for meat could extrapolate – I feel like a few pounds of chicken usually cooks in 15 minutes, so I would guess 30-45 but I can’t be sure. I recommend getting in this Facebook group: I bet you’ll have an answer within an hour! 🙂 Katie

  10. What size whole chicken do you do in instapot? My family loves chicken and I am new to cooking 🙂

  11. Rachel Rutkoski

    Thank you Katie, great post! We just ordered an IP yesterday when they were on sale. So excited to start using it!

    I am curious your opinion about making bone broth in the IP or even a slow cooker. Do you just skip the step of skimming the foam off the top of the broth?

    When I make broth on the stove top it is straightforward enough to bring it to a boil and then skim. But once I tried using my crock pot on high and I never really saw much foam come to the top. Pretty sure I didn’t have ultra pure bones or anything. I guess you just leave the impurities in the broth when using the instant pot?

    1. Rachel Rutkoski

      I guess maybe you could use the saute function to bring the broth to a boil, skim, and then close it up?

      Is that what you do?

  12. Cooking potatoes in the IP has been a massive time saver for me – I cook 5 or 6 medium-sized ones and then keep them in the fridge to heat up, or chop up for hash or whatever else. I always do a quick release with potatoes, cuts down on the time quite a bit and I don’t find it makes any difference to the taste or texture. There’s only three of us in our family though, and the little one doesn’t like potatoes, so I could see how it wouldn’t cook enough for six people!

  13. In your bone broth encyclopedia post, you mentioned that you would condense the broth. Is that something you can do in the instant pot more quickly? I know you said leave the lid off, so I’m not sure if it would be any different in the instant pot. Thanks for all your posts on the instant pot and on broth in general! I just made my first bath of chicken broth and I am excited for the turkey this year! Lol 🙂

  14. Thanks for the post! I ‘pre-soak’ my beans for 10 min on high pressure with just water, then I quick release, open the lid and add salt, then set for 30 min on ‘bean’ mode. Quick release after. All in all, it’s about an hour for delicious beans! I’m curious if I even need to do the pre-soak, but I want to add salt before they’re done, and I’m not sure if they will cook as well with it in there in the first place. Any thoughts?
    Also, is the reason you put your pot in the garage overnight for the rice pudding just so you won’t have to use the refrigerator space?
    Thanks again!

  15. You don’t have to cut the spaghetti squash in half before you cook it. You can do it whole in the Instant Pot, and then cut it around the girth (rather than end to end) to get the longest possible strands of “spaghetti” from your squash.

  16. Can slow cooker bags be used when using as a slow cooker?
    Debating purchasing an IP
    Also now I saw 8 qt slow cooker bags online. I see a 8 qt IP is now available.

  17. Thank you so much for commenting on the extra time needed to build up and release pressure. I have used my IP twice and am in love! The first time I made it I was very disappointed that I didn’t have bean soup in 7 minutes. While it was still a bit faster and so much nicer not to have to watch the stove, It would have been nice to have a more realistic heads up on the time. Thank you so much for including this in your recipes, it makes planning a lot easier.

    1. Jennifer, I think so! The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker, but I imagine all their settings are pretty much the same (I am just guessing though). Stovetop pressure cookers actually need about 5 minutes less from what I understand. Enjoy! 🙂 Katie

  18. I do hard boiled eggs in mine all the time. Manual setting for 5 minutes on high and then let the pressure drop naturally then plunge them into icy cold water. Perfect!

  19. Susi Matthews

    What a marvelous post, thank you!

    I was given an IP by a wonderful friend for *her* birthday (yeah, I know, how kind is that, right?) But reading manuals isn’t actually very helpful in figuring out how to really USE a new product like this. I posted on Facebook, as you do, after I used it last night for the first time since some friends wanted to know what I thought of it. This morning another friend (I am SO blessed in my friends!) posted this link and I’m grateful!

    Now I’m going to do hard boiled eggs and rice and I may never buy canned beans ever again!

    I’m a single, self-employed person so finding good, economical and tasty things I can make for myself that also make me happy is a real win/win situation.

    Long-winded way of thanking you for this post; a I’m looking for things to be grateful for today and thought I would include you!

    1. What a lovely and edifying comment, Susi, thank you! I keep hearing that the perfect hard-boiled eggs are 6+6+6 – 6 minutes at pressure (low, I think?) and then 6 minutes before you release the pressure and then 6 minutes in an ice bath. We need to try it but I keep forgetting! Enjoy that big-kid toy! 🙂 Katie

  20. Can you explain better how you make rice pudding. I LOVE the stuff but making it and storing in the oven every 15 minutes for an hour and half was exhausting and so far stovetop has not been good either. Do u make he rice one night and the. The next night put it back in and if so how much milk to rice do u even do. I am worried I will add to much and have rice soup or to little and burn it. Lol.

  21. We had dinner an hour late every night for a week while I figured out -for example – that 7-minute bean soup actually takes an hour. But i love the thing. A frozen roast cooked to tender in two hours?! Here’s a tip: it has a sauté function which, if you happen to use it before pressure cooking, helps the cooker build up pressure much faster than normal, I guess because it’s preheated. I also use the sauté function to bring broth to a boil for making gravy. I use my Instantpot about twice a week, and once I figured out the time discrepancies, it has saved many steps and hours. Anyway, great post, I’ll bookmark it. Thanks 🙂

      1. Tracey Lackey

        THANK YOU for doing that! Although I figured that out early on, it’s still very frustrating to read recipes that say “Roast in 20 minutes!” uh no, not gonna happen.

  22. Intriguing! I use my crockpot all the time – would you recommend it in addition to a crockpot or is there tons of overlap?

    1. I have both right now Sarah – but because the Instant Pot CAN be used as a slow cooker, you can have it all in one item. However, I think its pot is smaller than my slow cooker, so that’s not going anywhere…but there are some huge perks to the IP, particularly when you’re not planned ahead. 🙂 Katie

  23. I only have one burner on my stove that gets really hot, so making a big dinner can be a pain if two things have to boil. Using the IP to boil water for pasta is a lot faster than any of my burners can attain. I just fill it with water, leave the lid off and set it for stew

  24. The yogurt function is amazing! The only drawback is it takes up 8 whole hours in your IP so you can’t use it for something else! We now time it to make yogurt overnight and it’s fantastic!

    Also, a suggestion: if you like your steamed veggies really more on the al dente side than mushy, you can set the steam function to 0 minutes and they come out perfect!

  25. Hi! Quick question on the frozen chicken breasts-ok or not? I got a little confused! I just got my Instant Pot and am so excited you are posting recipes and tips!!

        1. Maybe there are different models because I’ve cooked two large chicken breast from frozen in 12 min and they’re thoroughly cooked. Additionally, it only takes my IP 5-10 min to come to pressure but I usually use hot water and have it on sautée as I’m throwing things in.

          I also cooked two huge sweet potatoes from start to finish in 25 min, so for me it’s incredibly faster than the oven!

  26. Have you tried the yogurt function? We’ve made it twice–once in jars sitting in the steamer insert and once just straight in the pot. Both worked and it was so, so easy.

  27. What do you use for a steamer insert with your instant pot? I’ve had mine for over a year and love it, but haven’t done steaming.

    1. I LOVE this steamer basket for use in my IP! Just bend the handles straight up or break them off (they come off pretty easily with a pair of pliers and a strong tug).

  28. I LOVE my Instant Pot. It makes the best one-pot everything: soups, stews, sauces, eggs and cheesecake. Most recipes are easy. After throwing items in pot and setting it, I wash the prep dishes and set the table. I use it everyday, if not multiple times. There are times I wish I had two. I recommend getting another inner pot and silicone ring, so you can throw another item in quickly.

    P.s. I also love the website

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