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Instant Pot 101

Written collaboratively by Hope Kleine, former SDSU Extension Health Education Field Specialist, and Taylor Willhite.

Pressure cooking is a popular cooking option as it cooks and tenderizes food quickly. The Instant Pot works by quickly heating contents of the sealed pot, resulting in a buildup of steam and pressure. The increased pressure forces moisture into the foods and aids in tenderizing.

A variety of foods can be made in the Instant Pot. From boiled eggs to frozen chicken, a press of a few buttons provides a healthy meal with minimal work. If an Instant Pot piques your interest, consider how many mouths you are feeding when determining what size to purchase.

Size Selection

Choose an Instant Pot size based off of how many you are cooking for:

  • 1 to 2 People: 3-Quart
  • 3 to 6 People: 6-Quart
  • 6+ People: 8-Quart

Getting Started

Here are a few ways to get comfortable using your Instant Pot for quick, healthy, hassle free snacks!

Boiled Eggs

Add one cup of water to the inner pot and place the rack inside. Place desired amount of eggs on the rack, place lid on Instant Pot and push “Egg” setting. For soft boiled eggs, cook for four minutes and quick release. For medium boiled eggs, cook for four minutes, let natural release for five minutes, then quick release. For hard boiled eggs, cook for six minutes, let natural release for five minutes, then quick release.


Add ½ cup water to the inner pot and place the rack inside. Wash and core apples, then cut into quarters. Place quartered apples on rack, place lid on Instant Pot and push “Pressure Cook.” Set time to four minutes. Natural release for five minutes, then quick release. Use fork to remove peels and whisk applesauce. Optional: Add cinnamon or other pureed fruit (like strawberries!) for added flavor.


Press the “Sauté” setting. Once the Instant Pot is warmed up, add 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add ½ cup popcorn kernels using a wooden spoon to evenly coat them in oil. Stir occasionally as the kernels continue to heat up. Cover with a glass lid and watch the kernels pop! Optional: Season with 1 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder and your favorite herb!

Helpful Tips

  • Get familiar with the different release options: natural release begins when cooking is complete, and the pressure slowly releases on its own and quick release requires you to move the valve from “sealing” to “venting”. You will know when the instant pot is depressurized when the floating valve releases down into the lid. Typically, your recipe will indicate which release option to use.
  • The Instant Potâ can be used to sauté foods using the sauté option.
  • The lid can rest on the handles.
  • When releasing the steam, it can be helpful to wear an oven mitt to prevent contact with the steam.
  • To prevent potential moisture splatter when releasing the vent, carefully place a dishtowel over the steam vent before opening.
  • Purchase multi-colored gaskets. Assign a color to be used when making specific flavored foods. For example: red for spicy or heavily seasoned foods, blue for sweet foods, and white for bland foods.

Safety Considerations

  • Never attempt to can or preserve food in the Instant Pot.
  • When pressure cooking, ensure at least the minimal amount of liquid is used as listed in the user manual.
  • Never fill the Instant Potâ more than 2/3 full. For food that expands (i.e. rice, pasta), never fill more than ½ full.
  • Always read the user manual before your first use.

Related Topics

Nutrition, Health