Before you cook with your Instant Pot, you should become familiar with all of the program keys and settings. This guide will show you what all of the buttons do and when to use the different settings.
First, I have to remind you of one very important thing. There are lots of different Instant Pot models and they each have their own program keys and settings. The above photo is my newer Instant Pot DUO Plus Model.
This guide will be an overview of the most common program keys that are on almost all Instant Pot models.
Instant Pot Settings
These are the three most common buttons and settings that you will use when you cook.
This button is what you use to tell your Instant Pot to cook your food. If a recipe says to cook at High Pressure, this is the button you should push. Press it and then use the [+] and [-] buttons to set the cook time.
After you set the cooking time, the pressure cooker will pause, and then it will beep to tell you when it starts the cooking process. Some models, such as the Duo Evo Plus, have a start button that you need to press to tell it to start cooking.
Just like the name implies, this button turns on the Instant Pot and heats the inner pot so that you can sauté or brown meats and veggies. You can also use this button to simmer ingredients with the lid off. Adjust the sauté level to more if you want to brown meats and less if you just want to simmer liquids.
Get to know where this button is, you will use it on almost every recipe. This button does what it says - it will either keep your food warm or turn off the Instant Pot completely.
Instant Pot Program Keys
The most important thing you should know about all those buttons and settings on your Instant Pot is that they are preset suggested cook times. That means that if you hit "poultry" on it, it won't be able to tell if you used frozen chicken or be able to tell you if the chicken is completely cooked.
You will still have to use common sense and a meat thermometer to tell if your food is completely cooked.
You may not use these as often, but here are some other buttons that you might see on an Instant Pot, along with what happens if you press them. With every button, if you press more or less after you press the specific button you can adjust the cooking time up or down.
- Pressure - this button allows you to switch between high and low-pressure settings.
- Timer - this sets how long you are telling the pressure cooker to cook your food.
- Manual/Pressure Cook - this button allows you to set a custom pressure level and cooking time.
- Delay start - use this button to program your instant pot to cook your food at a predetermined time.
- Keep warm - this button turns the auto keep-warm function on and off. This will keep your food at temperatures between 145-172 degrees F.
- Slow Cook - There are three temperature levels for this button - low (180–190°F), normal (190–200°F), or high (200–210°F). You can also adjust the cooking time.
- Steam - this button cooks at high pressure for 10 minutes.
- Porridge - this selection will cook at high pressure for 20 minutes.
- Multigrain - this button cooks at high pressure for 40 minutes.
- Rice - this button cooks at low pressure. It is the only fully automatic program.
- Egg - this button cooks at high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Cake - this button cooks at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- Yogurt - to make perfect homemade yogurt and to ferment Idli/Dosa batter for South Indian food as well as to sprout beans.
- Poultry - this selection cooks at high pressure for 15 minutes.
- Bean/Chili - this button cooks at high pressure for 30 minutes.
- Meat/Stew - this button cooks at high pressure for 35 minutes.
- Soup/Broth - this button cooks at high pressure for 30 minutes.
Instant Pot Steam Release Settings
Since the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, it uses steam sealed tightly within the appliance to cook your food. There are three things you should know about how to release this steam so you can open the lid safely.
Natural Pressure Release
After the pressure-cooking cycle finishes, many recipes call for natural pressure release. This method allows the pressure to slowly release over time.
Depending on the liquids in the dish, this may take up to 20 minutes. Many of the recipes on my blog call for a 10-minute natural pressure release, which means you should allow the pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes, and then manually release the remaining pressure by turning the Pressure Release from Sealing to Venting.
This is also called a combination release. Chicken, lamb, beans, and lentils work best with a natural pressure release.
The Pressure Release, also called Steam Release, is the black knob on top of the lid with arrows that point toward Sealing and Venting.
For all pressure-cooking recipes, secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. This builds the pressure inside the pot, which then cooks the food. After the cooking program is complete, you can move the Pressure Release to Venting to release the pressure.
Never place your hands or face directly above the knob when venting. Either use a heat-resistant oven mitt or stand as far away as you can and turn it from the side, keeping your hand out of the path of the steam. Once all the steam has vented, the float valve pin next to the Pressure Release will drop, at which point it is safe to open the Instant Pot.
After the pressure-cooking cycle finishes, you may see a recipe call for quick pressure release, also known as QR. Once the pressure-cooking cycle is complete, turn the Pressure Release from Sealing to Venting to release all the pressure. This stops the food from cooking further and works well for quick-cooking vegetables and fish. Tip: My biggest tip when doing a quick release is to use your left hand to move the knob from sealing to venting. As the hot steam comes out slightly towards the right side and using your left hand prevents the steam from getting close to your hand. You can also use a wooden spatula to turn the knob.
Reset Your Instant Pot
The Instant Pot remembers your most recent setting for each cooking program for a more personalized experience. To reset to factory default settings of all cooking programs, press Cancel so that the Instant Pot displays Off, then press and hold the Adjust button until it beeps.
Do not let all the buttons and options intimidate you. This is a fantastic appliance that will make cooking healthy foods so much easier. All the Instant Pot recipes here on Ministry of Curry explain how to use the pressure cooker step by step. You are going to love how it works. After you use it a few times, you'll become more comfortable with it too.