First and foremost, before you use your Instant Pot for the first time, make sure you take the time to read the user manual to familiarize yourself with the parts and how it operates. You may also want to see the section titled “Instant Pot Water Test” before you begin. The water test will demonstrate how the pressure works. Once you’ve done that, be sure to read your recipe from start to finish before you start cooking.
Instant Pot Parts
Knowing the parts of your Instant Pot is essential to understanding how your new device works. Read the user manual before assembling or using your Instant Pot. Different models have different capabilities and accessories, but most, if not all, include the main unit, a stainless steel cooking pot, a steamer rack, a sealing ring, glass lid, the lid to the main unit with a pressure and steam valve and a condensation collector.
This is the silicone ring that helps seal steam inside of the pot. The sealing ring is replaceable—if yours tears or breaks, you can buy a new one on the Instant Pot website or other sites like Amazon. It can be removed for easy cleanup, too and can even be washed in the dishwasher!
The inner pot is the part of the Instant Pot that you cook the food in, and it’s removable, which makes for easy cleaning!
This is the outer part of the Instant Pot. It’s the part of the Instant Pot that heats up and hosts the control pad on the outside. The inner pot is placed inside—don’t cook anything in the Instant Pot without inserting the inner cooking pot first!
The steam rack can be placed directly into the pot for when recipes call for the food not to be completely submerged in liquid.
Steam Release Handle
The steam release handle controls whether the Instant Pot releases steam naturally (which means you don’t have to do anything) or the manual, quick-pressure release, which the user flips to quickly stop the cooking process.
We mentioned this before, and we’ll say it again: Make sure you read your Instant Pot manual before your start cooking. The Instant Pot is an awesome device, but at times not completely intuitive. It may take some practice to get the hang of things! But if you’re armed with the manual and this article, you are well on your way to becoming a pro.
There are additional optional accessories that you can purchase as you begin to get comfortable with your appliance. The inner cooking pot that comes with the Instant Pot can be swapped out for a non-stick ceramic pot that’s easy to clean. If you’re using your Instant Pot regularly, it’s beneficial to have two inner pots to use. It’s also a good idea to purchase an extra sealing ring or two as this particular part tends to absorb odors and needs frequent washing.
Another popular item that helps with Instant Pot cooking is a glass lid that fits over the inner pot. The glass lid will allow you to see what’s happening when you use the “Saute,” “Keep Warm” or “Slow Cooker” functions.
The items mentioned above are the most popular accessories, but you can also purchase novelty items like a steam rack with handles, yogurt cups, cake pans and loaf pans.
Manual vs. Natural Release
There are two techniques to release pressure in your Instant Pot when the cooking time is over. The natural release will slowly release pressure without you having to do anything. The natural release causes less friction and motion in the pot and is good for cooking foods with a high liquid or starch content, like soup. The process can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes.
Alternatively, the manual release, also called quick pressure release, will release pressure in one to two minutes which quickly stops the cooking process. This is useful for quick-cooking foods like vegetables or tender seafood. To trigger the manual release, you will turn the switch located on the top of the appliance from sealing to venting.
When you manually flip the switch, steam will rapidly exit the appliance so do not stand over your pot and keep your face away from the steam. You can also flip the switch using a wooden spoon so you can keep your distance. When the pressure is released, the floating valve will drop and you will be able to open the lid. The floating valve is the silver dot located to the right of the switch. The lid will not open until the pressure is fully released.
Instant Pot Water Test
So you just took your Instant Pot out of the box and you can’t wait to put it to good use—we don’t blame you! But before you start experimenting with your favorite recipes, you should conduct what’s called an Instant Pot water test so you can familiarize yourself with how the pressure works.
Step 1: First, place the pot inside of the heating element making sure that nothing is in between the two.