Do you feel overwhelmed by all the functions or settings on your instant pot? You are not alone! Regardless of your model or make, learn EVERYTHING you need to know about each Instant Pot Setting and how to use them!
Once you learn how to use your Instant Pot, you may be wondering what do all these buttons do, and which setting is best. This guide will walk you through exactly what each function does and which ones you should use. Spoiler Alert: Most of the settings on the Instant Pot are USELESS!
When my Instant Pot first came in the mail, I was a bit baffled at where to begin.
I had purchased the Instant Pot Duo model and there were SO many buttons!!! Even after completing the initial water test, It took me a bit of time (and a few mistakes) to realize that there is really only a few functions I need to utilize when pressure cooking to make delicious instant pot recipes.
Instant Pot Settings
At first glance at your electric pressure cooker, it looks like you can cook just about anything with a simple touch of a button.
Manual/Pressure Cook Setting
The manual or pressure cook setting allows you to set the cook time to whatever you would like. This is by far the MOST utilized function on the instant pot. Basically you are just setting a specific cook time on high pressure. This means YOU control the outcome!
To Use the Manual Button:
- Hit Manual.
- If you need to adjust pressure, hit the pressure button until high or low pressure is lit up (unless you have the Instant Pot Lux--it only cooks on High pressure)
- Hit the plus or minus sign to adjust time.
This function is great for browning meat, sauteing veggies or thickening up a sauce at the end of pressure cooking. I use this function for my Instant Pot Mongolian Beef and Instant Pot Chili.
To use Saute Function:
- Press the "Saute" button.
- Select a temperature with the “Adjust” key for “Normal”, “More” or “Less”.
- When Instant Pot reaches the given working temperature, it displays “Hot” and you can start sauteing.
- One full “Sauté” session will run for 30 minutes.
- Normal is like medium heat on a stove top and More is like high heat on a stove top and less is like low heat on a stove top.
The yogurt function is only used only to make yogurt.
The yogurt button is able to be adjusted by hitting the "adjust" button until it says "boil" or 8:00 or 10:00. These functions are unique to yogurt recipes.
If you plan to make Instant Pot Yogurt, I STRONGLY suggest investing in a model that has the yogurt setting.
This function adjusts pressure for high to low--not an option on the Instant Pot Lux. And is RARELY used! Most recipes are designed to be cooked on high pressure. But it is important to pay attention to because if you accidentally hit a button that causes the pressure to drop from high to low, your results will be drastically impacted.
To use the Pressure Button:
- After you hit manual, hit pressure to adjust to high or low pressure.
- Set your timer on for manual cooking as needed.
The adjust button is to adjust the temperature of the instant pot when using the slow cooking, yogurt, or saute functions between less, normal, and more.
The timer function is used to delay the cooking time. This is great when making Instant Pot Steel Cut Oats or Instant Pot Brown Rice. You can prep the rice in the morning and set to be ready at dinner time or prep oats and wake up to warm oatmeal!
There are two things to keep in mind when using the delay start option. You don't want to leave anything raw or that could spoil in your Instant Pot for an extended amount of time. So perfect for cooking oats in water or rice in water, but NOT using for Instant Pot Pot Roast.
The second thing to keep in mind is you are setting the timer as to when you want your pressure cooker to START--not when cook time will start. The delay start does not account for the time it takes to come pressure. Therefore, if want dinner ready in 2 hours but the recipe takes 20 minutes to come to pressure, 20 minutes to cook, and 20 minutes to release pressure set your timer for just 1 hour, so that it begins the cooking process in 1 hour and in 2 hours it will be completed.
To Use the Timer Function:
- Select either manual (pressure cooking) or slow cooker mode, as these are the only two modes compatible with the timer function.
- Set your cooking time.
- Within 10 seconds of setting the cooking time, press the ‘timer’ button.
- Use the +/- keys to set your delay time.
Slow Cooker Button
The Instant Pot Slow Cooker function is not equivalent to the temperatures on a slow cooker. I have a guide on how to use your Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker. Spoiler Alert: It DOES NOT work like a regular slow cooker!
Other Instant Pot Buttons
Depending on the instant pot model you have, your electric pressure cooker may have settings for meat, chicken, rice, cake, eggs, sterilize, steam and/or soup/stew. These are functions that I do not use or recommend. It is much better to cook on high or low pressure and manually adjust the temperature yourself based on what you are cooking.
Click on picture for Download!
How do you release steam/pressure "naturally"?
Hi Krissy! It means to NOT moving the vent knob to the venting position after cook time, which releases steam and causes the pressure to be released. Instead, let the float valve float down on its own. This video on pressure release may help.
Just an FYI-when using the Slow Cooker mode, "Low"=Warm, "Normal"=Low, and "High"=Medium to High on a conventional slow cooker/crockpot.
Thanks Marilyn! I cover that in detail in how to use an Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker as well 🙂
I just bought the duo nova 6 qt instant pot for my Birthday last weekend. What button is the manual? I tried making lasagna tonight and it was a disaster! Bought a springform pan and made the lasagna. Maybe shouldve parcooked the noodles. Not sure how figure how long to cook lasagna? The other day made a roast with potatoes and carrots and it all turned out ok but the roast wasnt like it is when making in crock pot. Help me understand what the buttons functions mean and how do I know how long to cook foods?
Hi Judy! For your model, the button you need to use is "pressure cook" in place of manual. Here is my instant pot lasagna recipe and instant pot pot roast recipe that may help in the future. You may also want to sign up for my email Instant Pot tips that will help walk you through the basics.
Simple question but I’m confused so please answer specifically. Cooking tortilla soup in instant pot. Directions say pressure cook on high, normal for 9 minutes. Does the 9 minutes start once it’s reached pressure? I’m assuming so. When 9 minutes is up it says natural release for 10 then instant release after. If I walk away and it releases on its own naturally what happens then? Does it go into keep warm mode? How long will it keep warm and safe?
Hi Jillian! Yes, cook time starts AFTER pressure is reached. You can let the instant pot release pressure on it's own and it will keep it warm for up to 10 hours. In fact, I really recommend that you allow natural pressure release for at least 15 minutes for most soups--to prevent hot liquid from spewing out vent knob. But some recipes do require a shorter release (without seeing the actual recipe, I can't be positive, but I think for tortilla soup it should be just fine.) Hope that helps
If you are not following a specific recipe, how can you determine an exact cook time using the manual method you just discussed. Is there a chart or formula to calculate cook times for various foods?
Hi Claire! While not an exact science, this tips for how to convert recipes for your Instant Pot may help.
My son gave me the $99.99 IAIQ instant pot for Christmas. I am trying to make yogurt now. There are no directions for setting the pot to boil. I press yogurt twice but all the display says is 8:00. The directions show a milk container contents being poured into the inner pot saying pour in warm milk. It does not have an adjust button but everything else including a multigrain button (?). I heated my milk in a pot on the stove and am now waiting for it to cool on the countertop. Do you have any directions for this make instant pot. I don’t know how to communicate with the manufacturer. Thanks for any help you can give.
Hi Shirley! This is one model I am not familiar with and I can not find the user manual anywhere online, so I unfortunately I am not sure how to troubleshoot for you. I think since it says add warm yogurt right to the instant pot, this model does not boil for you. Sorry about that!
Dennis M Kane
What about the Keep Warm function. This function is confusing to me?
Hi Dennis! The keep warm function is the default to keep food "safe" if you were to forget about it. If you don't want the keep warm to stay on, you need to manually hit cancel once cook time has elapsed. Pressure will still come down naturally.
What does a recipe mean turn ur instant pot on main course
Hi Stephanie! I have never heard to turn onto "main course." I do not know of a model that features that function. Let me know what model you have and I can try to help further.
But if you pressure cook eggs they will explode, won't they? You can use the "steam" function to make hard-boiled eggs.
Hi Tanya! Pressure cooking eggs is my favorite way to make hard boiled eggs...your eggs will not explode. But I do recommend letting your eggs come to room temperature frost to minimize cracking.
I am new to your website. So excited to try your recipes, they look awesome. Thank you for taking the mystery out of “instapottimg.” Now I understand why some of the things I have cooked in the instapot didn’t turn out as well as I expected.
I am so happy you found these tips helpful and hope many more tips inspire you 🙂