Instant Pot Duo

Instant Pot Quick Start Guide: Best Tips, Recipes, and Accessories

Instant Pot and I go back to that day I reached to open my microwave oven only to have it glare at me with a fatal error message in its little display screen. What?!

I googled “Whirlpool” plus the error code and learned that the cost to replace the electronics that had blown out would be far greater than replacing the whole thing. Great. But not this week. Surely, I could get along without a microwave until some more convenient time to replace it, right? Wrong!

Instant Pot Duo

Every time I turned around it seemed I was reaching for that microwave. Within a couple of hours I realized that a microwave oven has become a staple item that is quite necessary in my typical American kitchen. But it wasn’t always that way.

I remember in 1971 when roughly 1% of households in America had a microwave oven. Most everyone liked the idea but it was also terrifying. The fear was radiation and the danger of standing closer than five feet of the thing and getting nuked.

On that day my microwave died, I was cooking dinner in my Instant Pot for the first time. That’s how doable it is to master Instant Pot.

Basic kitchen appliance

Here’s my take: Instant Pot is the future’s “microwave.” While the Instant Pot company can barely keep up with the demand having sold more than 53,000,000 units so far, many people are still fearful that a pressure cooker is going to blow a hole in the roof, set the house on fire, or any other number of irrational fears. Sure, pressure cookers are nothing new, but Instant Pot has taken this fabulous way of cooking to new levels of technology and safety.

Soon, I predict, Instant Pot will become an ordinary basic kitchen appliance. New homes will come with Instant Pot built into the countertop. Top-of-the-line cooktops will come complete with Instant Pot. And we’ll laugh about the days when people were afraid.

Mastery is so doable

Instant Pot comes with an owner manual and recipe book. Both should be considered required reading but honestly, I found them to be unbearably boring while only marginally useful. What follows are the websites, tips,  accessories, and recipes(!) that put me on the fast track to falling in love with my Instant Pot.

A Quick Start Guide to Instant Pot

Do these 3 things first

1. Perform the Instant Pot Water Test. Do not skip this.

2. Start with eggs. The difference between hard-boiled and steam pressured eggs is quite amazing. HERE is an excellent tutorial.

3. Join the Instant Pot Community page on Facebook. You can read what others ask, what other members answer, and post your own questions and successes. A great community. The Instant Pot website contains a wealth of information and how-tos.


No mistakes

HERE is a list of common mistakes new Instant Pot users make, that if you can avoid, you’ll be way ahead. Do not miss this.


Make sure you know how to clean your Instant Pot. HERE is a great tutorial.


Unlike your circa-1993 dorm microwave with its mysterious “potato” and “casserole” buttons, Instant Pot function keys are actually, well, functional! For pressure cooking novices, the Instant Pot’s preprogrammed settings—including soup, poultry, rice, beans and chili, and stews—take most of the guesswork out of how long and how high to pressure-cook a meal.

Case in point: Every morning I prepare a single serving of Steel-Cut Oats in my 3-Qt. Instant Pot: 1/2 cup water, 1/3 cup milk, 1/3 cup steel-cut oats, pinch of salt. I apply the lid and punch “Porridge.” Sixteen minutes later with a quick-release, breakfast is ready. Could it get any easier?

Steam it

The steam function is meant to quickly and briefly cook vegetables. It turns Instant Pot on at full heat and full pressure, and is preset to cook for only a few minutes. However, I prefer using this setting as a nifty hack for reheating frozen meals—and is especially great at steaming those potstickers (about 3 minutes) we all stash in the freezer for emergency snacks. I am not immune to a little prepackaged help now and then.


Current Instant Pot models come with a sauté function in addition to the preprogrammed timed settings. It’s truly a one-pot wonder. Use it as you would a skillet to brown ground beef or onions on a stovetop before switching to pressure cooker mode for a seamless transition.

Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

I’ve become an Instant Pot recipe hound—searching for and testing recipes that are specific to Instant Pot. So far, I have few misses but a lot of hits. Here are ten favorites, complete with links:

Instant Pot Mac n’ Cheese

This is the first thing I made in my Instant Pot and I was stunned—10 minutes start to finish! It took longer to get all the ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry than it did to get the best ever, creamy, from-scratch, awesome Mac n’ Cheese on the table.

Hint: I added about 2 ounces Velveeta cheese to the recipe, which is (believe it or not) the secret even professional chefs use to keep the cheese smooth, never clumpy or stringy.

A bowl of food, with Cheese and Casserole

Photo credit:



Chinese Broccoli and Beef

Think of the best take-out Broccoli and Beef you’ve ever eaten then multiply by ten. That’s what you’ll have when you take 15 minutes to make it including fluffy white rice (all at the same time) following this detailed recipe with a photo tutorial.

A plate of food with broccoli, with Pork and Ground beef

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Zuppa Toscana Soup

Think Olive Garden. Yep, this is  is a copycat recipe for Instant Pot and it is amazing.

A close up of a bowl of food, with Soup and Olive Garden



Drive Thru Tacos and Burritos

Make it yourself in your Instant Pot in about 10 minutes and as a bonus, you won’t wonder what’s in the meat!

A plate of food on a table, with Chicken and Taco

Photo credit:


Instant Pot Pork Carnitas

This recipe and tutorial for pulled pork carnitas is fantastic! So easy in Instant Pot and so fast. Hint: Don’t use a skillet to brown the meat as directed in the recipe. Use the Instant Pot sauté function! You’ll understand when you get there.

A close up of a plate of food, with Pork and Chicken

Photo credit:


Instant Pot Skinny Sloppy Joes

What’s more kid-friendly than a big ol’ sloppy joe! This fabulous low-cal recipe is as delicious as it is fast to make!

A plate of food sitting on top of a wooden table, with Beef and Sloppy joe

Photo credit:


Thick Instant Pot Greek Yogurt

Once you make it from scratch, you are not likely to ever buy those small, pricey containers of yogurt again. It’s cheaper and so much better! HERE is the recipe. (To make yogurt you need the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, which has the Yogurt function.)

A bowl of fruit on a plate, with Yogurt and Microwave oven

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Instant Pot Perfect Oatmeal

This tutorial recipe will knock your socks off if you love a really perfectly prepared bowl of creamy oat groats, steel-cut oats, rolled or quick oats.

A bowl of food on a wooden table, with Oatmeal

Photo credit:


Whole Chicken

Yes! And it comes out gorgeous, moist and amazingly better than anything you’ve eaten (bold statement, I know) and in just 40 minutes or so, depending on the size of the chicken. Seriously, this right here is worth the cost of an Instant Pot, in my book.

A close up of a plate of food, with Chicken and Soup

Photo credit:



Red Beans and Rice

This is a flavorful dish that you can make without having to wait all day, thanks to the magic of Instant Pot. No need to presoak the beans, either.

A plate of food on a table, with Rice and Bean

Photo credit:


As you become familiar with all of the ways to cook with Instant Pot, you’ll soon realize you need a few accessories. Like stacking pans, racks, strainer baskets, and so forth. Here are the best inexpensive options.

Cleaning tools

There are critical areas on Instant Pot that need to be kept very clean. And they’re almost impossible to reach! That’s why you need OXO Good Grips Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set. It is the only way I know to keep the valves and that area und the top rim nice and clean. The brush especially is just the perfect size and shape to get the job done!


Square pans

These 6-inch Wilton Aluminum Performance Pans are just the perfect size to fit inside Instant Pot. They can be stacked in an X shape on top of each other in a 6-quart pressure cooker pot. I’ve used them for Teriyaki Salmon (another favorite!), lasagna, and cornbread.

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Mesh basket

This RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel 3-quart basket comes with handles that can be removed to fit inside Instant Pot, to cook or steam all kinds of vegetables, fruit or pasta. Simple lift out.


Springform pan

This Gabkey 8-inch circular Springform pan. Yes you can make the best cheesecake in Instant Pot, but you’ll need a good springform pan that fits inside the inner pot. This one is perfect in the 6-quart size Instant Pot.


Steamer racks

This set of rack is just perfect for holding ramekins, eggs, cakes and so on above the water level. Makes for easier stacking and multi level cooking inside Instant Pot.


Bundt pan

Adorable as it is useful inside Instant Pot because yes you can bake cakes! They turn out so moist and delicious. And so fast your head will spin. This 6-cup Bundt comes in a choice of colors.


Oven safe bowls

Pyrex bowls that are tempered for high heat in oven and pressure cooker, like this Anchor Hocking 7-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Container comes in handy for pot-in-Instant Pot cooking. Think oatmeal, rice, jams, etc. Also great for cooking 2 things at once, for example, meat in the bottom of the pot, trivet, then Pyrex bowl with rice. (This is something you likely already have in your cupboards. Put it to good use!)


Instant Pot

Not exactly an accessory, this is the main event! Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W is the model I own and love. I find it to be the best expensive option of Instant Pot choices. Price varies almost daily, but if you can find it for under $100, that’s a deal!


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12 replies
  1. Katie says:

    Mary got me hooked on the instant pot a few years ago with her spaghetti recipe. My family still loves it.
    I’m guessing Mary’s probably already told us this but even so, it bears repeating. The instant pot is 100% worth it even if all you ever make is hard-boiled eggs! They are so easy to peel that I am now making deviled eggs and egg salad again! Also, I cook the eggs in a steamer basket. No fancy racks required for that function for me. Bring the whole pot insert including the steamer basket to the sink. And they rinse off so easily.

    I’m now having a blast trying new recipes.

    Thank you, Mary

  2. Diana says:

    My Instant Pot is a Duo Crisp. It doesn’t have a Yogurt button but you can still make delicious yogurt using the Sous Vide mode. Thank you Mary for all that you do!

  3. Mickie says:

    I have grown to love my Instant Pot. It is a learning curve. I’m in my 60’s and it is a different way of cooking. It does take some time to learn the do’s and don’ts but it is worth the effort! Once you understand how it works it becomes so much easier:)

  4. Gail Forsberg says:

    My daughter would like a small instant pot as she has very little space in her tiny kitchen and only cooks for herself. Can you recommend a small one? Thank you so much for all that you teach me every day!!!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      This 3-quart Instant Pot is perfect for singles and 2-person families. Or 4-person families with 2 adults, 2 small children. It has almost all the same features as the 6- and 8-qt models. I have both 3- and 6-qt IPs and both of them get quite a workout. This 3-Qt Instant Pot from Amazon is the one I have. You may be able to find the 3-qt model elsewhere. I’d check Target, Walmart and Kohl’s. You can get accessories sized for the 3-Qt model as well.

  5. Janet Hall says:

    I got one, tried using it and had the worst experience with a FB Instant Pot group when someone private messaged me that it was rocket science and I need to just figure it out. I got out of the group and gave the instant pot away. My slow cooker works just fine. BTW, my co-worker gave hers away as well. Worst investment ever.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Oh, that’s too bad, Janet. I guess we need to realize that cyberspace is not all goodness and light. But giving up on IP because of a rude comment? Wish you’d contacted me before giving up on IP. I’m sorry both you and your co-worker didn’t give your IPs a reasonable chance to show you how they can improve your cooking and your lives!

      • Janet Hall says:

        Thank you. I did try it a few times. The brown beans were not as good and I had the hardest time figuring out if the cook time included the pressurizing and depressurizing or not. It took longer to make mashed potatoes in the IP than on top of the stove. Again, I was allowing time for it to pressurize, cook time, depressurize, and I was never sure how long to cook them. Oh well…lesson learned.

  6. Madeline says:

    I loved your article on Instant Pots. You took the words out of my mouth, I have a 3qt. given to me that I don’t know how to use. How do I get your notes and recipes? I agree the books that came with are not useful!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Read the article again, Madeline. Follow the steps. There are links all the way thru. Start with boiling water. Click on the links. Then move on to eggs. Keep the manual handy as you go, so you can see what the steps are referring to (sealing, venting, manual pressure, etc.) You’ll be cooking like a rockstar in no time!


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