How to set up and use your Instant Pot for the first time

You have an Instant Pot! and now you have it how on earth do you actually use it?! Here is our guide to using your Instant Pot for the first time

Of course there is an instruction manual that comes with your Instant Pot, but it is still a little confusing to set up and use. This is an easy to follow complete BEGINNER guide to setting up and using your Instant Pot for the very first time!

I wrote this post because I know so many people who have purchased an Instant Pot and then just left it in the box for ages!  They took one look at it and thought it looked too complicated, and so put it aside for when they had more time to figure it all out.

But of course none of us ever has enough time to figure things out completely. We are all in a rush and all trying to do several things at once. So this post is intended to be a really fast and easy way for you to actually take that Instant Pot out of the box, set it up and use it!!

Instant Pot


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An Instant Pot really isn’t that scary once you get to know it, and once you have used it a few times you will be a pro. But there is no doubt that at first glance all those buttons, and then the vent and how to release it can really make you break out into a sweat and just put the pot right back in its box!  

So first things first, the Instant Pot I have is this one.  It is the DUO60 6 qt 7-in-1 multi-use Instant Pot.  These instructions are written using that particular model, but really the instructions should be pretty much the same for whatever model of Instant Pot that you have. These instructions are not intended to take the place of the official instructions that come with your Instant Pot, and you are advised to read them.  This post is to make it easier to understand how the pot works in addition to official instructions.

First of all, let’s take a look at all the different parts that your Instant Pot comes with:


Instant Pot pieces


1   Instant Pot outside
2  Instant Pot lid
3  Inside of the pot
4  Metal pot insert
5  Accessories
6  Power cord

When you first take your pot out of the box, it is best to clean it.  Just rinse out the inside of the inner stainless steel pot with some soapy water, and rinse and dry completely.  Wash the utensils, cup and trivet.  You can just wipe over the inside of the pot and the outside with a slightly damp cloth – don’t use too much water at all here.

If you are going to do the water test first, which I recommend to check that your Instant Pot is working correctly, it will really clean the inside of the inner pot with boiling water.


Once you have cleaned all the parts, place the inner stainless steel pot directly inside the main pot.


Instant Pot inside pot


Next you should attach the power cord to the back of the pot.


Plug in the power cord of the Instant Pot


Next, attach the condensation collector. This is the plastic cup-type piece that collects condensation. It may be a little bit of a challenge attaching this at first.  Just line it up and slide it into the back of the pot.





The outside of the lid has a steam release handle.  This should always be in the ‘Sealing’ position.  The only time this is not in the sealing position is if you are using the pot as a slow cooker, or if you are releasing steam (more about that later).

There is also a float valve next to the steam release handle (the float valve in on the right in this photo, the steam release handle is on the left).


Sealing and venting of the instant pot 


The float valve (which is a little silver metal tube) moves up and down, in fact if you take the lid and push that valve from the inside of the lid, you will see that it moves up and down very easily. This is important to learn: When that float valve is in the down position, it means that the pot is not pressurized, which means it is safe to open the lid.

If that float valve is up, the pot is pressurized and you should NOT open the lid. The valve will move down as the pressure drops.



Inside the lid is the sealing ring. It is important that this fits correctly.  If you change the ring and don’t fit it back correctly you will not be able to cook properly with the pot.  These rings can get stretched out so be gentle when pulling them or replacing them.  You shouldn’t need to touch the sealing ring unless you are cleaning your pot lid, or you are replacing the ring.  


Instant pot sealing ring 


When you place the lid on the pot it is important to turn it to the close position and make sure it is closed.  When the lid is on correctly you will hear a chime noise.  The lid must be placed on correctly by turning to the close position.  To close the lid, place the lid on the base and line up the arrow in the center. Then turn the lid until it locks into place. If you try this a few times you will soon get the hang of how to do it correctly.

In this photo (below), the lid is not closed correctly (look at how the lid is not lined up with the handle on the left)


Instant pot lid


In this photo you can see that the lid is closed, as it is lined up correctly:





Do the Water Test in your Instant Pot

This test is a good way to make sure not only that your Instant Pot is working correctly, but it also allows you to get to know your Instant Pot better, without actually cooking something.

Plug in the Instant Pot.

Place the metal pot inside the outer pot.

Pour around 3 cups of water into the inside pot.

Place the lid on the pot.

Make sure the steam handle release knob is in the “Sealing” position on the lid 

Press ‘Steam’ on the control panel.  

Set the time to 2 minutes. You do this by pressing the + and – buttons until you get the right time.

Note: The first time I used my Instant Pot I accidentally set the time to 2 hours. I wondered why it was taking so long until I realized my mistake. So make sure you are just setting the timer for 2 minutes!

The Instant Pot now needs to reach pressure, which can take several minutes.  The display on the pot will say ‘On” until pressure is reached. There is not anything wrong with your pot at this point, it is just getting to pressure.  Just be aware it can take several minutes for it to reach pressure.  This will be the case whenever you make a recipe with your pot, and you need to take this time required into account when preparing any meal in the pot – the pot has to reach pressure first before it will start cooking.


Instant pot on


Once it reaches pressure, the float valve that I discussed earlier will be in the up position.  You will also know it has reached pressure because the time remaining will show on the control panel. It will then start counting down the time.  

When you first use the pot, you may notice a kind of hot plastic smell. This is normal when you first start using the pot and will go away usually after the first use.

Once the Instant Pot has completed its cooking cycle, it will beep, and the display will show L0:00.  It will now also go into a Keep Warm mode.  

To turn the pot off just hit the cancel button. Once it is off the display will read OFF.


Instant pot turned off


You cannot open the pot now without de-pressurizing it first.  The valve will be in the up position, meaning that it is still pressurized.  You can do 2 things – either release the steam naturally – do a ‘Natural Release” or you can do a “Quick Release” which will manually release the steam.   If you do a natural release you just need to wait for the float valve to go down on its own, which can take anything between about 10 minutes to 30 minutes.


If you do a quick release, you need to be very careful of the steam.  To do the quick release just move the pressure handle from the ‘Sealing’ position to the ‘Venting’ position.  The steam being released can really burn you, so don’t have any body parts near the valve as you are releasing the steam. I always use either an oven glove or a thick cloth, I never put my hands directly on the pot as I am releasing the steam. I also stand to the side and not anywhere near the direction of where the steam is escaping from.  The float valve will be in the down position once all the steam is released.  You can now remove the lid.

Recipes will give instructions to either do a natural release or a quick release – so this is what those recipe terms mean.

You should now be more familiar with your Instant Pot and what it can do! You haven’t yet cooked a proper recipe of course, but you should now be more familiar with how the Instant Pot actually works.  



Questions about Instant Pot use can always be found at the main Instant Pot company website right here. 


You may also like these posts right here:

Instant Pot Indian Curry Recipes

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You have an Instant Pot! and now you have it how on earth do you actually use it?! Here is our guide to using your Instant Pot for the first time







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