Put that kitchen star to use with our easy get-started tips.

By Stacey Ballis
February 10, 2021
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Did you get a new Instant Pot for a holiday gift, or did you take advantage of the sales to invest in one for yourself? Is it still in the box, taunting you? Never fear. There are some simple things you can do to feel confident when using your new appliance. Just pay attention to these tips and tricks and you'll be an Instant Pot pro in no time!

1. Read

Read all of the instructions that came with your unit very carefully. Twice. Every multi-cooker is slightly different, so it will be essential to get to know the safety rules, cleaning guidance, and operation instructions before you start to cook. This bit of time and effort will pay off in confidence.

2. Start with recipes you trust

Eventually you will be able to wing it with your multi-cooker, but when you are just starting out, relying on well-written, well-tested recipes from trusted sources to get going will go a long way in building your skills, and giving you good results.

RELATED: 95 Instant Pot Recipes You'll Want to Make Again and Again

Whether you choose cookbooks that get good reviews, recipes from news sources, online recipe resources (like this site!) or recipes from friends or family that they love, start smart and build those skills so that you can start to get intuitive with the unit as a cooking tool. When sourcing recipes online, look for ones that have the combination of a high star rating with a lot of reviews. A five-star rating with three reviewers is not necessarily as meaningful as a four-star rating with three thousand reviewers.

3. Prep in advance

The faster the cooking style, the more important it is to have all of your ingredients ready to go, and preferably already prepped and measured. The Instant Pot has instant right in the name: The whole point is speed and efficiency, so it is not helpful to have to stop mid-recipe to find an ingredient in the pantry, peel and chop a carrot, or measure out a teaspoon of spice. Get all of your ingredients organized, measured, and prepared and your cooking will be smooth as silk.

4. Pay close attention to safety

While these units are very safe, they still have the potential to be dangerous if not used properly. Be sure to use them on a stable, solid surface, ensure that cords are not dangling where they can get snagged on passersby, and be sure they are not on a surface that can be damaged by heat. If you have kids or pets, make sure to have an eye on them, you do not want your son who loves to press buttons to accidentally switch it to sauté, or your cat to paw at the steam valve during cooking! If possible, do not leave the room when the unit is cooking, and always follow the recipe instructions for pressure release.

Credit: Courtesy Instant Pot

5. Only use approved accessories

There is no worse feeling than discovering that the bargain steamer insert you bought has scratched off the nonstick coating in your cooking bowl, or that the baking dish you got doesn't fit in your unit. Be sure that any accessory you buy for use with your cooker is specifically approved for use in that unit.

6. Be clear on what the machine can, and cannot, do

Multi-cookers are amazing tools, but they are not a one-stop shop. So be sure to manage your expectations when it comes to the dishes you choose to make in your unit. Will the Instant Pot make your grandma's famous baked beans in a fraction of the time with no soaking? Yes, it will. Will it give you that deep russet crust on top that everyone fights for at Thanksgiving? Nope. Cooking quickly will never give you slow-cooked flavor, so as you choose dishes for your pot, make sure that you are choosing wisely.

7. Keep it clean

One of the things that really makes a difference when using a multi-cooker is to really follow the maintenance instructions. Empty and clean the condensation cup, make sure the lid gasket isn't retaining oils or odors, check that the valve release is fully cleaned after every use, for example. As Nick Lowe once said, "Guitar tuning and airplane maintenance are always worth the effort." Instant Pot cleaning could be added to that list!

8. Don't be afraid

The most important tip for new Instant Pot users is to become frequent Instant Pot users. Like any other piece of equipment or tool, the more you use it, the better you will get at it. Start simple and small. Cook some basic packaged frozen meals like those from Tiller & Hatch or use an Instant Pot simmer sauce. Steam rice to accompany your dinner or make chicken stock. Work your way up to more complex recipes as you start to gain confidence.