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How To Use The Instant Pot – Dos & Don’ts

Tips for Getting Started Using Your New Instant Pot

Learn how to get started using your new Instant Pot. I will walk you through the initial water test, as well as share some do's and don'ts to help you get comfortable using your new favorite kitchen appliance!

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So you have a brand new, shiny Instant Pot, but now what? So many people are scared to start using their new appliance and leave it sitting in the box collecting dust.

Well, fear no more! I will walk you through the first steps of using your new Instant Pot and help you feel more comfortable using it so you can get cooking!

If you still haven’t unboxed your Instant Pot, make sure to check out my unboxing video so we can do it together. Then head back over here to start using it.

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Save these Instant Pot Dos & Don'ts for later.

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Instant Pot Don’ts

Here are a few things you shouldn’t do while operating your Instant Pot.

Don’t Be Scared!

There is no reason to be scared of the Instant Pot. Sure, we’ve all heard the horror stories of the old stovetop version pressure cookers, but the Instant Pot is safe and once you get used to it, will likely become your new best friend!

don't be scared to use the instant pot
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My good friend kept putting off unpacking her new Instant Pot because she was terrified of doing the pressure release. I helped her conquer her fear 🙂

The Instant Pot has safety features that prevent any of the things that made us scared of using a stovetop pressure cooker. So let’s leave our fears behind and get cooking!

Don’t Place Anything Over the Release

So this one is a big no-no. You may hear people saying they drape a towel over the pressure release valve when releasing the pressure. Well, it’s just not safe. The Instant Pot valve was designed to release steam upward, and putting anything over it will impede this, not only making it a hazard but also possibly damaging your unit. Just don’t do it.

a towel placed over the pressure release valve of the instant pot
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Never place a towel over the pressure release valve.

The Instant Pot company also does not endorse the use of any steam diverters.

Don’t Place Your Instant Pot Under Kitchen Cabinets

When you release the pressure of your Instant Pot, the steam that comes out is very hot. Placing the pot under kitchen cabinets will likely damage your cabinets. Find a solid, stable place to place your pot and make sure nothing above it can get damaged.

an instant pot placed under a cabinet
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Placing the Instant Pot under your cabinets can damage them. So, don’t do it.

Don’t Place Your Instant Pot on Your Stove

This may seem like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many people place it on their stovetop and accidentally turn on the stove. This will immediately melt the bottom of your pot rendering it useless. Don’t do it!

an instant pot placed on the stove
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Too many Instant Pots have been damaged after being placed on a stovetop. Never place your pot on the stove.

Don’t Try to Open the Pot While It’s Under Pressure

The Instant Pot comes equipped with a safety mechanism that doesn’t allow you to open the pot while it’s under pressure. That being said, do not attempt to force it open if it is still under pressure and the float valve is still in the “up” position.

don't try to open the instant pot after it has come to pressure
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Never attempt to open the pot after it has come to pressure.

Now, let’s get started with our dos!

Instant Pot Dos

These are things you want to do when you get started using your new Instant Pot.

Do the Water Test

I’m sure you’ve heard people saying you have to do the water test before getting started. Confession: I didn’t do it, I just dove right into cooking. So if you’ve already started cooking, don’t worry, everything will be fine if you didn’t do the water test.

showing how to do the water test in the Instant Pot
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The water test is an easy way to get started using the Instant Pot for the first time.

But if you’re a bit scared and want to get your feet wet, then the water test is definitely the way to go. The water test will confirm that your pot is working properly and it will allow you to do your first pressure release!

The water test is very simple. All you need is 3 cups of water and your Instant Pot.

Do Make Sure Your Liner and Sealing Ring are in Place

Make sure you have your liner in the pot and your sealing ring is on properly. To confirm you’re doing this right, watch the video above where I walk you step by step through the water test.

checking the sealing ring in the instant pot
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Ensure that the sealing ring is always properly placed.

You will pour your 3 cups of water into the Instant Pot, and close the top. On the video, I show you how to do this. I struggled with the top my first time so don’t feel bad if you can’t get it to close on your first try!

Do Set Your Pot to Sealing

Once the top is on, move the pressure knob to “sealing”.

setting the instant pot to sealing
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Set the pot to “Steam” and using the +/- adjust buttons, set it for 5 minutes.

setting the instant pot to steam for 5 mintues
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adjusting the cook time on the instant pot
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And that’s it for now. The pot will say “On” for several minutes. Once it reaches pressure and the pin goes up, the countdown will start.

performing the water test in the instant pot
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Once the countdown reaches zero and the water is done “cooking”, the Instant Pot will beep and it will switch to “warm” mode. You can now press cancel and it’s time to do the pressure release!

Do a Quick Pressure Release

This is probably the part that scares people the most. I promise, it’s not hard and you’ll be a pro in releasing the pressure in no time. All you need to make sure of is that you don’t put your hands or face above the release valve. The steam that comes out is super hot and it will burn you.

performing a quick pressure release in the instant pot
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In the video, you can see exactly how I release the pressure. Once all the pressure is released, the pin will drop and you can open your pot. You’re done with the water test!

the float value is up on the instant pot
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When there is pressure in the pot, the float valve will be up.
the float valve is down on the instant pot
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Once all the pressure has been released from the pot, the float valve will fall.

Do a Natural Pressure Release

If you’ve heard the terms NPR and QPR thrown around you’re probably wondering what it all means. QPR is short for Quick Pressure Release and NPR is Natural Pressure Release. When a recipe calls for QPR that means you will immediately release the pressure manually by turning the release valve from sealing to venting. Once all the steam is released, the pin will drop and you can open your pot.

releasing pressure from the instant pot
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When a recipe calls for NPR that means you don’t have to do anything, you will let the pot release the pressure on its own. It will seem as though nothing is happening, but steam is indeed slowly being released.

When your cooking time has reached zero, the display on the Instant Pot will change and it will have an “L” on it and it will begin counting up instead of down. This counts the minutes your pot has been naturally releasing.

a ten minute natural pressure release in the instant pot
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This is what the digital display looks like after a 10-minute natural pressure release.

So if, for example, a recipe calls for a 10 minute NPR, then your cooking would end and you would allow the time to start counting up. When the display reads L 0:10 you would then release the rest of the pressure manually until the pin drops. If a recipe calls for a Full NPR, that means you would do nothing after cooking is finished and you’d wait for the pin to drop on its own. A full NPR can last up to 30-40 minutes depending on what you’re cooking.

Once again, the video will show you exactly how this all works.


You’re probably wondering if you need to buy lots of fancy accessories for your new pot. The short answer is no. Your Instant Pot will come with everything you need to get started. However, there are some accessories that are definitely nice to have. These are the basic ones I couldn’t live without:

Mini Mitts

I LOVE my mini mitts! I use them every day, even when I’m not using my Instant Pot. They are durable and I can depend on the quality. I’ve had them for several years and they are still in perfect shape.

removing the trivet and cake pan from the instant pot
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Extra Sealing Rings

Sometimes the sealing ring absorbs the smell of whatever you cook in your pot. While you can soak them and try to get the smell out, I like having different colored rings for different meal types. I use my red ring for strong things like curry, chili and things like that and my blue one only for desserts. The white one that came with the pot I use for everything in between.

red and blue instant pot sealing rings
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I do recommend you purchase the brand name rings to ensure they work properly.

Long Handle Trivet

I was lucky that my Instant Pot came with this trivet. I love the long handles that allow me to take the food out of the pot easily. If yours didn’t come with a long-handled one, this one from Amazon is perfect.

flip the trivet mess free pasta right side up
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If you want to see what other fun accessories you can get, check out my Ultimate Must-Haves Guide to Instant Pot Accessories. I wrote descriptions for all of them so you can see which ones would be good choices for you.

Do Join My Instant Pot Group

I have a group on Facebook that is precisely for beginners. It’s a wonderful community with over 200K members. If you have any questions you will certainly get answers there! So head over to Instant Pot for Beginners and get lots of recipe ideas, tips, tricks and everything else you need to get cooking.

Do Get Cooking

Now you’re ready to start cooking in your Instant Pot! I have put together a list of the Easiest Recipes for Beginners. Try them and you will be successful!

I’d love to hear how your first time using your new Instant Pot goes. Comment below and let me know!

Happy Cooking!

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  • Bonnie says:

    Still not sure how to use the soup setting. Should steam be coming out the valve or should it be set closed. If so what is the difference between soup and pressure cook. Thx

    • Hi Bonnie! When pressure cooking, it’s normal for some steam to come out of the knob while the pot is coming to pressure. Once it comes to pressure and the pin is up, then no steam should come out. Make sure you have the knob set to sealing. As far as the soup button, it cooks food on “low and slow” which is perfect for soups. It doesn’t heat up the soup too fast, causing the ingredients to disintegrate. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Chris Huiett says:

    So happy your out here. I’ve never used a pressure cooker and scares me a little. All I can remember is my grannies blowing up and food all over ceiling etc. That was 65 years ago!

  • Mary Jane says:

    When you do a natural release, do you turn the pot off? Or let it stay in the keep warm phase? Thanks!

  • Cathy says:

    Do you have any whole30 recipes?

    • Hi Cathy! I don’t know much about Whole 30, I couldn’t guide you to any recipe that would be Whole 30 compliant. Do let me know if you find one on my blog that works! Thank you for stopping by!

  • Sue says:

    I’ve had my pot for a year now and wished I saw an article like this when I was newbie. Very informative. I will pass the link on. Thanks for sharing!

  • Val says:

    This was very helpful, thank you.
    When you suggest people subscribe to your newsletter, is there a fee?

    • Hi Val! So glad you found the post helpful. It doesn’t cost anything to subscribe to my newsletter. You will receive about an email per week with my newest recipes and posts. Sometimes, if there’s a special sale out there or something extra special to share, I’ll send out two emails in one week, but that’s about it. You can unsubscribe at any time. Hope this helps clear it up! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

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