Instant Pot Cookbook For Dummies
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This article discusses the basics of the Instant Pot. Take a look at its parts and various functions so you know exactly what your soon-to-be kitchen best friend can do for you.

Parts of an Instant Pot

The first step to using your Instant Pot is getting to know all its parts. Subtle differences exist between each make and model of the pot, but the general structural components of the pot are the same (see the following figure):
  • Cooker base: Meet the “meat and potatoes” of the Instant Pot! The cooker base is the home to the heating unit. It houses the inner pot. Be sure to keep the cooker base dry — don’t submerge it in water.
  • Power cord: The newest version of the Instant Pot has an attached cord, whereas the previous models have a power cord that needs to be inserted into the pot and the wall.
  • Control panel: The control panel is where you’ll choose the function(s) and set the timer.
  • Inner pot: When you open the lid, you see a shiny stainless-steel pot. This pot is removable and dishwasher safe. The inner pot has size markings on the inside and a max fill line. When using your Instant Pot, make sure to never exceed the max fill line.
  • Lid (top and bottom): The Instant Pot lid has many parts working to lock the pressure inside and keep your food cooking to perfection. The lid has robust functions — from an intricate steam-release valve that functions in both Quick Release and Natural Release modes, to the simple close and open lid position marker.
  • Silicone sealing ring: If your silicone ring is missing or not fitted correctly in the pot, your pot will be unable to come to pressure. These rings are essential!

You may want to keep a couple extra rings on hand. For example, we use red ones for savory foods and translucent ones with milder foods, like yogurt, cheesecake, and rice. The rings can carry a flavor or odor after cooking multiple items.

  • Anti-block shield: The anti-block shield is on the inside of the lid next to where the float valve sits. The anti-block shield protects the exhaust valve. Both are important and need to be noted when cleaning and properly placed when the Instant Pot is in use.
  • Float valve: On the top of your lid, you’ll see a metal piece near the venting mechanism — that’s the float valve. When your pot is under pressure, the float valve rises up; as it depressurizes, it toggles down.
The parts of an Instant Pot. The parts of an Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot’s Features

The Instant Pot has a variety of features unique to its special design. Although the slow cooker of the past definitely had its time to shine, the Instant Pot has taken the elements we love about that appliance and done so much more.

To understand how the Instant Pot can function the way it does, you need to understand a bit more about the pot. Regardless of the model you have, every Instant Pot is a pressure-cooking unit that helps to cook food quickly under pressure, resulting in quality, time-efficient meals. Over the years, the Instant Pot has evolved to include more robust functions and settings (or Smart Programs, as you may see them referred to within the user manual). This figure shows the Instant Pot Smart Programs panel.

The Instant Pot Smart Programs panel. The Instant Pot Smart Programs panel.

If you notice that your pot doesn’t have some (or many) of these functions and settings, don’t worry. This book is designed to allow you to enjoy a majority of the recipes regardless of the model of pot you have.

Here’s a guide to the Instant Pot’s functions:
  • Manual/Pressure Cook: Pressure builds up in the pot depending on whether you set it to low or high. The higher the pressure, the higher the temperature in the pot, so be mindful of this as you set the pressure for leaner cuts of meat.
  • Soup/Broth: This function allows pressure to build in the pot to cook soups and broths. The Instant Pot team has specifically programed this function to take into account the nature of soups to prevent overcooking vegetables. However, be mindful of the time you set this for because it still reaches high temperatures.
  • Meat/Stew: Ready to have your mind blown as you take that tougher cut of meat and watch it transform into a moist, tender delight? This function can do that for you.
  • Bean/Chili: Beans are a staple we constantly make in the Instant Pot. Whether you’re cooking dried beans from scratch or making a quick chili using canned beans, this function helps ensure that you don’t end up with a mushy mess.
  • Cake: If you’re craving a light and fluffy cake, this function can help you achieve that with a little manipulation of your standard cake recipe. You won’t get the browning you’d typically see in an oven, but it’ll produce a picture-perfect quality nonetheless.
  • Egg: Save your money and hard-boil your own eggs. This function can aid in helping you do so.
  • Sauté: Just as you would sauté on a stovetop, the Instant Pot has its own built-in Sauté This is a great way to embrace the all-in-one cooking method the Instant Pot can provide. You can sauté your recipe base (like onions and garlic) and then add the remaining ingredients right on top and get that much closer to enjoying your meal in no time.
  • Rice: Yes, you can get rid of your rice cooker and use the Rice setting on your Instant Pot for the perfect texture of rice every time.
  • Multigrain/Porridge: From baking breads to making hearty oats, these functions are available on select models.
  • Steam: This pot can really do it all, as you’ll quickly find out when we enlist the help of the Steam function for the vegetables throughout the recipes. Tight on time and just need a few potatoes for dinner? This does the trick in under 10 minutes.
  • Yogurt: This function may seem less “instant” than others because it does take quite a bit of time, but we promise, the end result is well worth it. Save your hard-earned money and safely whip up a batch of your own homemade yogurt.
  • Sterilize: The high temperature of the Instant Pot allows you to perform a deep clean on glass jars to ensure a safe end result.
  • Bake: This function — brand-new on the latest Instant Pot — is sure to please the bakers in your house! It has a custom pressure control that allows it to be toggled on and off so you can let the heating unit of the cooker base work its magic to get the perfect baked texture.
  • Sous Vide: Low and slow is the motto of this function, which uses a bag and hot water to cook the food. It’s typically used on proteins, but you can toss in vegetables to get a tender, melt-in-your-mouth end product within a few hours.

You need to use resealable plastic bags or specific sous vide bags to insert the food in before placing it in the hot water bath.

After you press one of these functions, you then need to move on to adjusting some settings. Each function may have a few options, depending on the model of the pot you have, but here are the basic settings all pots have:
  • High/Low: Most functions allow you to adjust the temperature from High to Low (some models have a Normal temperature as well). This setting involves the pressure inside the pot and the temperature the pot will reach to cook your recipe.
  • Keep Warm (On/Off): This setting is used throughout this book to help keep the food warm. The default setting has it set to On; however, some of our recipes specify that this function needs to be set to Off for optimal results. Don’t worry, we keep this clear in the recipes!
  • +/–: When you press this button, you get up to 4 hours of high and low pressure, and three Keep Warm settings up to 99 hours and 50 minutes.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Meri Raffetto, RDN, founded Real Living Nutrition Services (, which pro- vides one of the only interactive online weight-loss and wellness programs.

Wendy Jo Peterson MS, RDN, enhances the nutrition of clients ranging from elite athletes to pediatric patients, and is currently a culinary instructor at Mesa College.

Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN, is a dietitian, culinary instructor, award-winning coauthor of Born to Eat, and a contributor to Taste of Home magazine.

Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT, is a dietitian, personal trainer, nutrition professor, and media authority on TV and in print, sharing evidence-based facts.

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