I remember the emotions I went through when I first decided to purchase the Instant Pot: Excitement. Skepticism. Anticipation. But when that beautiful big box arrived at my door, all emotions faded into one. Absolute overwhelm. How do I unbox this thing, let alone use it?!
I knew enough from stovetop pressure canning that I wanted to treat the pressure cooking experience with the same safety and caution. And it doesn’t help that I’m the type of person who MUST read every page of an owner’s manual before I can use something.
So I did what any smart and overwhelmed person would do. I stuck my Instant Pot in a closet. For two months.
It finally took the help of my good friend Tricia (who happens to run Once A Month Meals) to get over my mental IP block. She came to my house and walked me through everything I needed to know. We actually filmed our escapades, if you want to watch.
Fast forward three months. I’m now absolutely IN LOVE with my Instant Pot. In fact, I just ordered a second one and unboxed it the moment it came.
Unfamiliar with the Instant Pot? It’s an electric programmable pressure cooker that cooks food quickly without compromising food quality or integrity. It can cook frozen ground beef in 25 minutes and roast a whole chicken in 30. It can make hard boiled eggs in 2 minutes …and there’s no need for an ice bath!!!! It can make delicious bone broth in 1 hour — the stuff that used to take me 24 hours to make. People rave about its ability to make perfect cheesecake and creamy oatmeal in a fraction of the time.. It can also serve as a yogurt maker and rice maker. AND it functions as a slow cooker. AAAAAAAAND you can make up freezer meals and cook them STRAIGHT from frozen — no thawing!
If you’re unsure how to get YOUR Instant Pot out of the box and use it, you’ve come to the right place.
Step 1: Open the Box
Take a deep breath. Awesomeness is about to happen. If you purchased your IP online, it most likely came in a giant brown box. Inside that box is a large white box. Open that one.
Step 2: Set Stuff Aside
If you’re a must-read-the-manual person like me, this may be hard. But save yourself some sanity. Set it aside. Also remove the Styrofoam packaging around the lid. Carefully lift your IP out of the box.
Step 3: Remove the Plastic Wrapping
Once you’ve removed the IP from the box, free it from the plastic. Turn the lid counter-clockwise and remove the lid (there are arrows to guide you). Inside your pot, you’ll find a bunch of handy tools, two cups, and your electric plug, which we’ll get to momentarily. Be sure to remove the plastic around the stainless steel metal insert/bowl.
My particular Instant Pot model came with a rice paddle, rice cup, soup ladle, and trivet. Set those aside to be washed and used later. There is also a power cord and condensation cup which we will use immediately.
Step 4: Remove the Film Cover
Across your digital display is a film protection cover. I highly recommend you remove it. (Especially so you don’t later give yourself a heart attack wondering why your display suddenly looks cloudy with condensation building behind it. Don’t laugh — this actually happens to quite a few people!)
Step 5: Attach the Condensation Cup (if your model has it)
I have the DUO60 7-in-1 model which comes with a condensation cup. Look at the plastic tools that came tucked inside your bowl. It’s the cup that is rectangular looking. Turn your IP around and snap it in place to the back. It’s actually hard to see it, but I promise it fits.
Step 6: Insert the Power Cord
Insert your power cord into the back of the Instant Pot. Be sure you push it in firmly. More than one person has thought their IP had manufacturing defects because it wouldn’t turn on. Turns out, you just have to make sure the plug is secured all the way.
Step 7: Make Sure The Weighted Knob Is On
On the top of your lid you’ll find a giant black weighted knob that swivels back and forth to indicate sealing (closed) or venting (open). This is one of the most important parts of your Instant Pot. Make sure that knob is fully attached and pushed down all the way.
Next to the weighted knob you’ll also see a small round metal pressure pin. It stands tall when high pressure is achieved and falls when pressure is normalized. If you flip your lid over, you should hear the pin “clink” – letting you know it is free of obstruction.
Step 8: Check the Sealing Ring
Inside your lid, you’ll find a rubber ring (also called a sealing ring). You will need to remove this rubber sealing ring and wash it each time you cook. Each time you cook, you should remove it to make sure it is intact, is free of debris (because you’re going to wash it eah time, right? *cough*), and doesn’t have any nicks or cuts. (If you find that it does, please throw it away immediately and replace it with a new one!) I keep my sealing rings in ziplock bags labeled “savory,” “sweet,” and extra. Because the rubber rings can retain faint odor, I like to keep a spare on hand.
Simply snap the sealing ring back into place. I find it is easier to start snapping it in by the nobs on the inside of the lid. I also highly recommend keeping a spare sealing ring on hand so that if yours does wear out, you aren’t stuck! Instant Pot now offers special color-coded ones so you can easily decipher between sweet and savory rings.
Speaking of nobs, you’ll notice some on the inside of your lid. In the picture above you see two variations of the same lid. The removable metal case (blocking shield) is designed to help prevent food from escaping into the pressure pin. Remove this from time to time to clean and wash.
Step 9: Plug Into The Wall
Now here comes the exciting final step! Plug your Instant Pot into your outlet! You should hear a happy beep greet you (I love that sound!) and the display should read OFF.
Step 10: Run the Steam Test
You’re alllllllllllllmost ready to get started cooking! But there’s one more thing you need to do – run the steam test.
This can take awhile. While you’re waiting for the steam test to do it’s thing, keep scrolling down.
You’ll see a list of interesting articles that will help expand your knowledge of everything the Instant Pot can do, including Instant Pot accessories you should know about.
There are quite a few people who say the steam test isn’t necessary… to just go ahead and cook. However, I feel like the steam test helps break in your Instant Pot and work out any kinks and factory dust. Plus, it’s hard to go wrong boiling water. 😉
So here’s how to do the Steam Test:
- Plug your Instant Pot into the outlet. It will beep once and say OFF.
- Fill your stainless steel bowl with water to the 3L line. If you want to speed up this process, use HOT water. (EDIT: I’ve received a lot of feedback that you don’t have to use as much water as the manual says. 2-3 cups is more than plenty. Use your discretion.)
- Check the sealing ring to make sure it is attached (this is a good habit you want to ingrain).
- Attach the lid. You’ll know it’s attached properly when you hear beeps.
- Move the sealing valve to “sealing” (toward the back).
- Press the STEAM button. It should light up.
- You’ll see two buttons [ – and + ]. Push the [-] button until your display reads 2. This stands for 2 minutes.
- Now, step back. The IP is going to do its thing. Here’s what’s happening:
The IP will automatically start after a few seconds – and the display will switch to ON. The water inside your IP is now going to rapidly heat (though “rapid” is a relative term; remember – a watched pot never boils, haha). You might see some wisps of steam escape from the pressure pin. Once the IP heats up enough to create pressure, the pin will pop up. The display will switch from ON to 2 (and give you some more happy beeps). The display will then countdown the minutes to zero and – wait for it – give you more happy beeps. Then the IP will automatically switch to keep warm. But it will show that display with a giant L001 which means it has been keeping warm for 1 minute. It will continue to count upward with the minutes. There are two ways to release pressure: either wait for the pressure to release naturally and for the pin to drop (and then the lid will unlock) OR turn the sealing valve to “venting.” But be aware – steam can shoot out! This is called a quick pressure release.
So… now you’re all set to cook in your Instant Pot!
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