If you are new to Instant Pot, and are looking to find out more about it – from the different types / models of Instant Pots, to its primary components, and most importantly – how to get started with an Instant Pot, then this Instant Pot basics post is for you.
In this post, I have also shared why I feel the Instant Pot is different from / better than the trusty Indian pressure cooker, many of us have been using since ages.
My hope is that at the end of this post, you will feel confident about buying / using an Instant Pot.
If however, you still have questions that haven’t been answered, feel free to drop me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.
What is an Instant Pot?
Instant Pot is essentially an electric pressure cooker that also works as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, food warmer, and so much more.
Why use an Instant Pot over the Indian Pressure Cooker?
Indians are not new to the concept of pressure cooking. In-fact it’s hard to find an Indian household without the good old trusty (yet mostly grungy looking) pressure cooker. I personally had used 2 different kinds of Indian pressure cookers before ever using the Instant Pot.
And to be honest, at first I had assumed that the Instant Pot was simply a fancier, better-looking, westernized alternative to the Indian pressure cooker, which would not have much function, over and above what the pressure cooker could deliver. But I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The Instant Pot is so much more than just a pressure cooker, and so much better than the Indian pressure cooker in many ways – that there is simply no comparison.
I am listing out some of the top ways in which Instant Pot is superior to the Indian pressure cooker (and why you’ll learn to love it as much as I do).
Instant Pot vs Indian Pressure Cooker
1. Unlike the Indian Pressure cooker, the Instant Pot is not only a pressure cooker, but it is also a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, food warmer, and so much more.
2. You can set cooking time in the Instant Pot, after which it auto shuts off. And then you can release the steam, either immediately or after a certain specified time, depending upon the recipe. No more counting whistles and worrying if you miscounted it, or recruiting your family members to count the whistles. 😀
3. Compared to the traditional pressure cooker, the Instant Pot does not make a mess, and it’s also easier to clean. Moreover, it’s made of stainless steel, which is so much better than most old pressure cookers which were made out of some kind of aluminium blend material.
4. The Instant Pot is also really quiet, especially compared to the regular Indian pressure cookers. So no more startling babies out of their sleep or fitting your cooking between baby’s nap schedule. 🙂
5. And finally, the Instant Pot is portable. You can carry it along with you. And make a big variety of one pot dishes, so long as you have an electrical outlet. Which is always available in most hotels and holiday homes.
Types of Instant Pot
Once you’ve made the decision to buy the Instant Pot, there is the question of which one to buy. Because ever since the time the Instant Pot was first launched, the company has released many different kinds and versions of the Instant Pot, with the core functionality being more or less the same, but with additional upgrades.
Moreover, each version of the Instant Pot is available in many different sizes. All of which can add to the confusion of which Instant Pot to buy.
But here it’s important to understand, that at-least with the Instant Pot, all upgrades are not created equal. Not every newer version is better than the older one.
The Duo is their most popular base model, and one I highly recommend. It comes with 13 standard one-touch programmable functions, 10 proven safety mechanisms, and in 3 sizes – 3 quart, 6 quart and 8 quart.
I have the 8 quart one – their biggest size. Perfect for bigger families, but also for meal prepping, and party cooking.
The Duo Nova is a fairly recent model, which also comes with 13 standard one-touch programmable features, and 10 proven safety mechanisms. But this one comes in 4 sizes – 3 quart, 6 quart, 8 quart and 10 quart.
It has all the amazing features of the base model and one more – the Duo Nova comes with a lid that auto seals. No need to remember to put the Instant Pot on sealing mode with this model. Which in my opinion is a major win!
I bought the 6 quart size of this model, as I already had the 8 quart size. And I needed something a little smaller than the 8 quart one, which I use mostly for bulk cooking / meal prepping.
I bought these two models of Instant Pot after a lot of research and comparing the several models available. So if you have any questions about them or how they compare with the other models, drop me a comment with your question, and I’ll be happy to help you out.
Getting Started with Your Instant Pot
If you have already bought your Instant Pot, but you haven’t yet opened or used it, and are here to know more about it, I’ve got you covered. I assure you that after you are done reading this post, you’ll be confident about using your Instant Pot.
How do I know this? Because I was right there where you are. I opened the box of my first Instant Pot months after buying it! Yes, you read that right. Forget testing recipes, I did not even open the box for months.
And you may wonder why. Especially considering I only ordered the product after I was 100% convinced about it, and I was also not new to pressure cooking.
Honestly, I was simply overwhelmed. I over-estimated the learning curve that would be involved in figuring out the Instant Pot. And I guess I just felt like I did not have the bandwidth to deal with or learn something new. Especially when I already had the pressure cooker. And I wasn’t missing out on anything.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong. On both accounts.
Firstly, I was missing out on a lot – the Instant Pot does so much more than the regular pressure cooker. And secondly, I was wrong about the learning curve as well – the Instant Pot is ridiculously simple to use!
So if you haven’t yet broken into your brand new Instant Pot, know that you are not alone. I was there, along with so many others I know.
And know that it can be done. It’s really simple and easy. And once you start, you’ll wonder why you ever procrastinated.
In the section below, I have outlined some Instant Pot basics and the things you need to know before you start using your Instant Pot. If there is anything that I have missed that you have questions about, feel free to ask me in the comments.
Instant Pot Basics for Beginners
When you first open your Instant Pot (IP), it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. But honestly, you don’t need to know a whole lot to get started.
In the section below, I’ll first share the basic components of the Instant Pot, and then I’ll highlight the essential functions, and things you need to know to use your Instant Pot.
Understanding Instant Pot Parts
In this section, I’ll highlight the basic parts of the Instant Pot. In addition to these, there are other Instant Pot accessories. Some of which come with the Instant Pot, while others are available to purchase separately.
Either way, the following are the basic components of the Instant Pot that you need to be familiar with.
1. The Exterior Pot – The exterior pot is the base unit of the Instant Pot.
2. The Inner Pot – The inner pot is placed inside the exterior pot, and is made of steel. It’s the pot in which you cook all the food.
3. The Lid and Sealing Ring – Much like the Indian Pressure cooker, the Instant Pot comes with a lid that has a sealing ring to lock in the pressure.
4. Steam release valve & Float valve – You’ll also find the steam release valve & the float valve on the lid. The steam release valve is a knob which you can move to point either towards sealing or venting. The float valve (red in color) is the best indicator of whether the Instant Pot is pressurized. If the float valve is up, then the Instant Pot is pressurized, if it’s down, then it’s not.
5. The Display Panel – This is the main LED panel at the front of the exterior pot, which houses all the instruction buttons.
6. Condensation Collector – The condensation collector attaches to a slot at the back of the exterior pot.
How to Use the Instant Pot
Once you are familiar with the parts, it’s time to get familiar with the main panel of the Instant Pot, with all the manual & preset buttons of this electric pressure cooker.
Which might seem like a lot at first, but it’s really not. In-fact I’d say when you are first starting out, ignore everything else, and focus on understanding the following 2 settings. That’s all you’d need to know.
1. The Pressure Cook Button / Function
2. The Saute Button / Function
All the other buttons are just pre-set modes for the most part.
Understanding Instant Pot Instructions
Most recipes will call for Pressure Cooking for a certain amount of time. And will specify two things –
- pressure cooking time, which you can set on the panel, and adjust with the +/- buttons.
- high pressure or low pressure, which you can switch between by pressing the pressure cook button.
If you want to Pressure cook something in the Instant Pot, here’s what you’d need to do – put the thing you want to pressure cook in the pot, then plug in the IP, ensure the sealing ring is in place, close the lid, and move the position of the steam release valve to sealing.
Then press the pressure cook button once, and then again in case you want to shift between high / low pressure. And finally adjust the time to what you want by using the +/- buttons. That’s it, there is no start button to press. In 5-10 seconds, the Instant Pot will show the ON sign, and start building pressure.
There will be some recipes, that will call for using the Saute Function. This is even simpler and works very much like an electric stove top.
For Sauteing something in the Instant Pot – you’d first need to plug in the IP, add a little oil or butter in the pot, and press the saute button. Once the oil / butter warms a bit, you can add the thing you want to saute.
Like you had two modes for pressure cooking, there are 3 modes for sauteing – less, normal & more, and you can simply press the saute button to switch between these modes.
Think of the saute modes of less, normal & more, like you’d think of the flame / heat setting of your regular stove top – low/medium/high flame or setting.
Oh also, when you press the Saute button, it will show the standard saute cycle of 30 minutes. You can ignore this. Saute for as long as you need to, and cancel anytime. Like I said, just treat these functions like you would your normal stove top.
That leaves you with understanding only 2 more things, which I’ve mentioned above, but are worth reiterating.
When pressure cooking, always ensure to have the steam release valve pointing to sealing.
Some IP models (like my Duo Nova) come with an auto seal, in which case you don’t need to worry about this. With those models, all you need to ensure is that the sealing ring is securely in place before you close the lid, and start pressure cooking.
The float valve is the other thing you need to watch for. It’s not something you have to physically manipulate. But it’s something to keep an eye on.
Once there is pressure built in the pot, the float valve goes up, and stays up, until the pot is pressurized. Never even attempt to open the Instant Pot when the valve is up.
You can either wait for the float valve to come down naturally (natural pressure release) or turn the steam release valve to venting to forcefully release the pressure in the pot (quick pressure release), and have the float valve come down.
Either way, always wait for the float valve to be down, before you open your Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Basic Terminology
Now that you are familiar with the parts, and also the basic elements of the display panel, this is the last piece of the puzzle – the four most commonly used terms when it comes to Instant Pot recipes (two of which I just mentioned above).
When the cooking cycle is over, the Instant Pot will beep, and enter the Keep Warm Mode if you keep the auto keep warm function turned on.
The LED will display the lapsed time like this – L0:05. This indicates the number of minutes it’s been since the cooking cycle is over. In this case – L0:05 – it means it’s been 5 minutes since the cooking cycle is over.
This is especially relevant, when recipes call for quick pressure release after a certain amount of time has elapsed.
Quick Pressure Release
When a recipe calls for a timed quick pressure release, then you monitor the lapsed time, and forcefully release the pressure from the pot by turning the steam release valve to venting once the time has been reached.
For instance, if a recipe (like Chicken Biryani) calls for a quick pressure release after 10 minutes, then once the display shows that L0:10, turn the steam release knob to venting, and let the steam out. Once all the pressure has been released, and the float valve has come down, it’s safe to open the lid of the Instant Pot.
Natural Pressure Release
When a recipe (like Chole Masala) calls for a natural pressure release, then you wait for the float valve to come down on it’s own. Once it does, then your dish is ready, and you can open the lid of the Instant Pot.
Pot in Pot (PIP) Method
Pot in pot is a method of cooking more than 1 item in the Instant Pot at the same time. This can be done by placing a pot on a raised trivet or rack inside the Instant Pot, while cooking something in the main inner pot of Instant Pot (below the raised pot).
That being said, if the two items do not have similar cooking times, then you can add some water, put the trivet / rack in, place the pot on it, and cook item #1 in the pot on the raised rack. This way the inner pot stays clean, and you can cook item #2 right after you are done with the first dish cooked in the pot on the rack. No need to clean in between.
Understanding Instant Pot Cook Time
And finally, the best kept secret when it comes to Instant Pot cooking. The actual cook time.
I mean it’s no secret, but it’s easy for newbies to misinterpret what the cook time on a recipe means.
For instance, if the recipe calls for 6 mins of pressure cooking – the cook time shows as 6 mins, which is correct. But the pot takes time to come to pressure. And then depending on whether the recipe calls for a quick pressure release or natural pressure release, there is more waiting time after the pressure cooking is done.
So know that cook time only indicates the pressure cooking time. Not the total time taken. Which can be a lot more.
For instance, when I make Chicken Biryani in my Instant Pot, the pressure cooking time is only 6 mins. But my Instant Pot takes about 10-12 minutes to come to pressure, and then I do a quick pressure release 10 mins after the pressure cooking is done. So total time in the Instant Pot is about 25-30 mins.
It’s the reason why many people wonder at the name. Because the Instant Pot is not really ‘instant’.
It’s also the reason why it’s recommended that newbies start with The Water Test. Because even though all you’d be doing is boiling water in your Instant Pot during the water test – it will give you a basic idea of how the Instant Pot works.
Instant or not, I personally feel like the Instant Pot is still worth its weight in gold for busy moms and families. Because of everything it can do, and the hassle free precision it can deliver.
So if you haven’t already got one, you should totally get it. Check it out here. I personally have this model, and I love it.
Hope this post has been helpful to you, and has given you the confidence to either buy or finally break into your Instant Pot.
If you have any more questions, feel free to drop me a comment, and I’ll get back to you.