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The Ultimate Instant Pot Guide For Beginners

The Instant Pot is an amazing device, but at first glance it’s pretty overwhelming. There are just so many buttons! How can you possibly choose the right ones for your dish? Luckily the Instant Pot isn’t actually that complex. You just need to know a bit about how it works and what the various functions do before you get started. To help you out, here is The Ultimate Instant Pot Guide for Beginners!

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The Ultimate Instant Pot Guide for Beginners

Basic Instant Pot Tips

First of all, make sure to read through the manual that came with your Instant Pot. Each model is different and some have more function buttons than others. For this guide, we’ll be using the 7 in 1 IP-DUO (6qt). The manual also includes some handy tips and suggestions about the various features. And it goes into detail on how important things, like the steam release handle, work.

Now before we get into my Instant Pot guide for beginners, the first thing you need to remember is that an Instant Pot is not just a pressure cooker. It can also sauté (like a frying pan) and cook things slowly (like a slow cooker). Getting additional accessories like a steam basket or small springform cake pan makes it even more versatile (because yes, you can even make cake in the Instant Pot!).

Also remember that an Instant Pot isn’t exactly instant. While the cook times for most foods in the Instant Pot are amazingly short, your Instant Pot will also need time to get up to pressure and time to release that pressure. So something with a 10 minute cook time could actually take 25 minutes from start to finish. But still, most of that time passes without you having to actively interact with the Instant Pot, so compared to cooking on a stove top, you’re still saving a lot of time!

One last thing before I start this Instant Pot guide for beginners- be aware that many foods are best cooked with additional liquid (water or broth) added. The Instant Pot needs this to create the appropriate steam to cook your food fully. Thick liquids (like cream of soups) don’t count. Dairy also doesn’t pressure cook well.

The Instant Pot‘s Basic Controls

This wouldn’t be a good Instant Pot guide for beginners if we didn’t discuss the basic controls! Below is a picture of the control panel for the IP we’re using for this guide:

Underneath your Instant Pot‘s LED display is a section that says “Low Pressure” and “High Pressure.” The pressure button changes these when you’re doing a manual program.

Under the pressure indicators is an area that says “Less | Normal | More.” These are called the mode indicators. The “Adjust” button changes these. This will affect the cook time. You can’t use the Adjust button for the Rice or Manual functions.

Under the mode indicators are a minus symbol and a plus symbol. You can push the minus or plus to manually adjust the cook time. You can change the cook time for all the function buttons except for the “Rice” function. This is important, because different foods of the same category (like different beans) take a different amount of time to cook.

Below that are the “Adjust,” “Timer,” “Manual,” and “Keep Warm/Cancel” buttons (the exact location of these buttons may vary a little across different Instant Pot models). I already covered the “Adjust” button and will discuss “Manual” in a bit.

The Timer button is used to delay when the Instant Pot starts heating up and working. So if you set a timer for 1 hour, it’ll start warming up in 1 hour, then go through the cook time you specified. Don’t use it for perishable foods that can go bad if left out at room temperature (like raw meat) or foods with a porridge-type consistency (they could mess up the float valve and overflow if left alone).

The Keep Warm/Cancel button can do either of the two things in its name. If your Instant Pot is running a cook program, pushing this button cancels it and puts the machine on standby. If the Instant Pot is on standby, pushing this turns on the keep warm program to keep your food warm until you’re ready to eat it. The Instant Pot will automatically go into keep warm mode after it finishes cooking.

Now let’s get down to the meat of this Instant Pot guide for beginners… the function buttons!

The Instant Pot‘s Function Buttons



I’m going to start this section of my Instant Pot how-to guide off with the manual button. It’s not technically classified as a function button, but I think it should be. I like it because it’s the one that gives you the most control. With this button you get to choose whether you cook your food at high or low pressure, and you can set your own cook time. If any of the preset buttons don’t work as you’d like, just go with the manual button! Once you become more used to working with your Instant Pot, you may decide to use this button most of the time.



The sauté button is another button you’ll probably wind up using a lot. It saves you from dirtying a frying pan just to brown foods first (like you would have to do with a slow cooker). For best flavor, it’s usually a good idea to sauté your meats a bit first. You could also use this setting to sauté additional ingredients, like onions and bell peppers.


The soup button is for cooking liquids like soup (obviously) and also broth. What’s great about this function is that it makes the Instant Pot hot enough to get your liquid simmering, but not scalding hot. This way your soup ingredients don’t get too broken down.


This preset meat button is for non-poultry meats like beef and pork. It’s also for cooking thick stew-type meals. Use the Adjust button to change the final texture of the meat. Set your Instant Pot to the More setting if you want the meat to be very tender and more broken down.


Did you know that you can cook dry beans in your Instant Pot? It’s a great way to save money, compared with buying canned beans (especially if you eat organic). You can use this setting to cook your raw beans, or you could use it to cook bean-based dishes (like chili). I’d suggest using the Adjust button to set your Instant Pot to the More setting for thoroughly cooked, tender beans.


This handy button will quickly become your favorite if you love chicken! You can even use it to cook frozen chicken if you forgot to defrost it. Use the Adjust button to change the final texture of the chicken, or to adjust the cook time for more or less chicken in the pot.


The rice button essentially gives your Instant Pot the ability to also be a rice cooker. As mentioned earlier, you can’t change the cook time for this function. Your Instant Pot will set its own time based on how heavy your rice is. The rice can be raw or parboiled.


This Instant Pot function is one of the more complex ones. It’s designed, as it says, for multigrains. So if you’re cooking wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, lentils, and other hardy grains (or mixtures of several of those grains), then you’ll want to use this function. If you press the “More” button, the Instant Pot will include soak time, which is handy if your grain requires it. This setting does take some time, though. “Normal” is 40 minutes of active cooking time, “Less” is 20 minutes, and “More” is 45 minutes of soaking + 1 hour of cooking.


I’ve seen this button have different names for different models, but it’s the same idea. It will make porridge out of grains like oats or rice. Use the “Normal” mode for rice porridge and the “More” mode for porridge made of other types of grain or beans. With this setting you have to use the natural release or else your porridge could splatter out of the steam release.


This function is the best for cooking crisp veggies! It’s also great for seafood. You’ll want to use this one with plenty of additional liquid, and put your food in the steam rack or buy a steam basket to use. And at the end, use the quick release. The natural release will take too long and the food will wind up overcooked.

Slow Cook

We’re nearing the end of my Instant Pot Guide for beginners, but I don’t want you to go without knowing about this handy feature. It essentially allows you to use your Instant Pot like your slow cooker! Use the plus and minus buttons to change the time and use the Adjust button to change the heat level. Not every slow cooker recipe can convert to an Instant Pot set to “Slow Cook,” but it’s definitely worth a try!


If your Instant Pot has this feature, you can use it as a yogurt maker! You can either make it straight in the Instant Pot’s inner pot or you can make your yogurt in glass jars. There are several steps to this process, so if you’re interested in this, you’ll want to consult your model’s manual.

And there you have it- the ultimate Instant Pot guide for beginners! Now you’re ready to go try your first Instant Pot recipe. Have fun!

What function button do you think you’ll be using the most?

To figure out which Instant Pot you should purchase, click here!


  1. Great info-you should have done the manual with the instapot! I have a question on the saute mode. Is it possible to adjust the saute temp to less or normal? When I make meatballs in there it always is on the highest “more” automatically & I would like to lower the temp so they don’t get dark so fast.

  2. I’ve just received my Instant Pot. Super excited. Any tips on cooking a whole turkey breast without drying it out? Or should I just trust the pot? Add water or broth?

  3. My Instant Pot does not have the same buttons as yours. Above my Manual button is the adjust button. To the right of the Manual button is the Keep Warm button.Above this button is the Delay Start button. How do I change the temperature settings for low, normal or high?


  4. Thank you so much for this information. The cookbook that came with mine said to use the “more”button if I wanted lighter, fluffier rice. But it wouldn’t work so I thought the pot was defective until I read this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you. (And yes, you should have written the manual)

  5. In the book some of your recipes call for a 6 cup baking dish to go in the instant pot. Which do you use? Loving the instant pot and your recipes!

  6. Hello Brittany,
    I just wanted to tell you that my instant pot, which I have had for a year or possibly 2, finally earned its place on my kitchen counter. I’ve pulled it out a few times in the past, tried 20 or so books, and finally got your book from the library. It is a g-send. I just want to buy it for myself and all of my friends and relatives.

    Not to bore you, but I have picky 13 year olds. This morning, I made the vegtable rice, and the chicken piccata. It was so easy, and most of all delicious. I can’t wait to give it to the kids for lunch. I happen to have all the ingredients required on hand, which also made it so easy.

    I follow weight watchers. I’m down to the weight I want. I’m so excited to eat healthy, real food. I haven’t even read your whole book yet, but I must say, what I have read has been to unbelievably helpful.
    Congratulations to you and your wonderful books. Does your family know just how lucky they are to eat great and healthy delicious food that will help them to maintain a good weight and not think about calories too much.
    Fantastic work.
    All the best to you and yours.

  7. When I cook sou do I I turn the pot off and let it naturally vent or does it naturally vent without me having to turn it completely off?

    1. Hi Julie,
      The Instant Pot will naturally vent without you turning it off. When the pot stops cooking it switches to a keep warm mode and it starts to naturally vent. Most people just generally leave the pot on as it switches automatically to the keep warm function and begins to naturally release since many recipes call for a natural pressure release for a certain amount of time and the clock on the Instant Pot will automatically take care of tracking that time for you.

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