Instant Pot Settings & Buttons Explained (Not Just For Beginners!)

If you’re new to the Instant Pot pressure cooker and find yourself confused by all the buttons on the front control panel, this article is for you. It’s also for more experienced Instant Pot cooks who perhaps never use the smart programs because they don’t know how or why. In this detailed post, we will look at the most common Instant Pot settings and buttons across models, explain how they work and the best ways to use them (as well as when it’s better to use the manual settings). 


Instant Pot settings and buttons explained in detail

You might be wondering, does anyone actually use all those Instant Pot buttons? Some people find them to be a guiding light and others are put off by just how many there are. It also doesn’t help that many recipes designed for the Instant Pot tend to use manual settings rather the pre-programmed options. We’ve decided to dive deep into the world of Instant Pot buttons to bring you this definitive guide. This is probably the most in-depth, detailed article on Instant Pot settings on the Internet so we’ve got some quick links for you to navigate to the button you’re most interested in learning about. You might also want to check out our guide on How To Use The Instant Pot For Beginners here.

 

So, how do Instant Pot SETTINGS work?

Each Instant Pot setting button is essentially a SMART PROGRAM option. Most smart programs, or buttons, simply set the pot to HIGH or LOW pressure for a specific period of time most closely aligned with the food it is meant to cook. For example, the default SOUP button sets the pressure cooker for 30 minutes at HIGH pressure, which you could use to cook any food that requires that much time and pressure. 

If you press each SMART setting button more than once, it will toggle between Normal, Less or More options, which gives you more control of time, temperature or default pressure. For example, the RICE button can be set to Less or More depending on how soft or firm you like your rice or the type of rice you might be cooking. 

Some buttons don’t use the pressurizing function of the Instant Pot. For example, Slow Cook and Sauté settings use the heating element that sits underneath the inner pot. They are programmed for heat level and time. 

To keep it super simple, it is possible to use the Instant Pot for all recipes using just a few important buttons. With the Pressure Cook or Manual (on older models) buttons in addition to the Pressure Level and [-] and [+] buttons, you can control the time and pressure level which are otherwise preset for the rest of the buttons. This will work for any recipe that requires pressure. For non-pressure cooking, the Sauté, Slow Cook and Yogurt buttons help you accomplish a similarly custom cooking setting.

 

Instant Pot Duo CLASSIC, NoVA & other basic models

Let’s do a quick rundown of all the Instant Pot settings, as also known as “one-touch” or “smart” program buttons, on the control panel of Instant Pot Duo Nova & Duo Classic models. The Duo Nova is the recommended Instant Pot for beginners and that’s what we used to put together this guide. 

Instant Pot MANUAL SETTING (Pressure Cook Button)

Depending on the model, the Instant Pot manual setting button will either say Pressure Cook or Manual. This is the setting you’re likely to use the most. The temperature, pressure level and cooking times can be adjusted on the control panel.

Instant Pot Manual Button

  • Turn the Instant Pot on. It should say OFF on the screen, indicating it’s in the Stand-By mode. 
  • Select Pressure Cook button (Manual on older models). The default settings will be Normal mode (35 minutes cooking time) on High pressure. If you press the Pressure Cook button again, it will change from Normal mode to Less or More, which simply changes the automatically programmed cooking time. Less would be 20 minutes and More would be 45 minutes. 
  • Use the +/- keys to change the cooking time in each mode. In most cases, you will leave it in Normal mode and simply adjust the time as needed.
  • Use Pressure Level button to adjust the pressure level; press it to toggle between High and Low. For most recipes, you will use High pressure except for cooking more fragile foods like fish, seafood or fast-to-cook vegetables. 
  • With the manual setting, you can use Natural Release or Quick Release or a combination of both once the cooking is done. 

See our step-by-step post for how to use the Instant Pot with manual settings here.

 

Instant Pot SOUP Setting (SOUP/BROTH BUTTON)

The default Instant Pot soup setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at HIGH pressure for 30 minutes. The soup program brings contents of the pot to a slow simmer and results in a clear broth due to lack of boiling motion. Below is how to use the Soup/Broth setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Soup Setting Button Explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add all ingredients, seasonings and liquids to the pot and stir. Secure the lid on top. Press the Soup button. It will say Normal, 30 minutes at High Pressure. If you press the Soup button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More (this simply changes the cooking time). 
  • Normal mode – 30 minutes at High pressure – recommended for soups with meat.
  • Less mode – 20 minutes at High pressure – recommended for soups without meat. 
  • More mode – 4 hours at High pressure – recommended for soups that require longer cook times such as rich bone broths. Release the pressure naturally. 

Use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

Instant Pot less, normal and more modes

INSTANT POT SOUP COOKING TIPS

We find that most vegetables, including potatoes, don’t need the full 20 minutes at High pressure and will often overcook and get too soft, so for most vegetable-based soups, 5 to 10 minutes at High pressure is usually enough.

If you’re cooking something like a beef and vegetable soup, you may choose to pressure cook in two stages: set to cook the meat in a broth with some onions, carrots and celery on Soup/Less mode, then release the pressure and add the rest of the vegetables. Secure the lid again and set on Pressure Cook/Manual or Soup/Less mode and adjust the time to 5 minutes. 

Most soups use a lot of liquid, so it is recommended that you release pressure naturally once the cooking timer is done. Simply leave the Instant Pot undisturbed. However, the foods inside keep cooking at a slower rate while the pressure is releasing. You can always release pressure naturally for 5-10 minutes and then use the quick release method.

Should you sauté first? In some cases, you may want to saute foods like onions, garlic, carrots and celery or to brown the meat first, which can add more flavor to the soup. In this case, press the Sauté setting first and cook off the vegetables in a little oil or fat for 3-4 minutes uncovered. Then add the rest of the ingredients and liquid, secure the lid and choose the Soup setting in whatever mode you like.

 

INSTANT POT Meat/Stew SETTING 

The meat and stew setting is best for cooking large or tough cuts of meat at high pressure. This button can be used for cooking meat pieces in a little broth or stews that contain meat in them. Below is how to use the Meat/Stew setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot meat or stew setting explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add meat, seasonings and liquids to the pot. Secure and lock the lid. Select the Meat/Stew button. The default Instant Pot meat setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at High pressure for 35 minutes, which is suitable for most dishes like beef stew or pulled pork. If you press the Meat/Stew button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More (this simply changes the cooking time). 
  • Less mode – 20 minutes at High pressure – for soft texture meat; great for diced steak, pork or lamb, pork or beef ribs, ground meat like when making taco meat or Bolognese sauce, and most stews that use diced or ground meat. 
  • Normal mode – 35 minutes at High pressure – for very tender meat texture; great for slightly larger pieces of meat and for stews that use tougher cuts of meat like Beef Bourguignon.
  • More mode – 45 minutes at High pressure – for fall-off-the-bone texture; great for pork shoulder, beef pot roast or lamb roast.  

If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

COOKING TIPS

Allow meat to “rest” for 5-30 minutes, depending on size. It will reabsorb cooking juices for tender, succulent meat. Essentially, what this means is that you should allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally when possible. 

Should you sauté first? In some cases, you may want to brown off the meat first or sauté foods like onions, garlic, carrots and celery, which can add more flavor to the dish In this case, press the Sauté setting first and sear the meat on both sides in a little oil or fat for 1-2 minutes uncovered. Then add the rest of the ingredients and liquid, secure the lid and choose the Meat/Stew setting.

 

INSTANT POT Bean/chili SETTING 

The Bean/Chili setting button can be used to cook larger dry legumes such as beans and chickpeas in liquid or to cook chili or another type of stew that uses dry beans. The program settings (Less, Normal & More) use High pressure and result in different doneness of beans. When cooking beans, always use NR (natural release) to release pressure after cooking is done. Below is how to use the Bean/Chili setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Bean Chili Setting Button Explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add dry beans, liquid and salt to the pot. Secure and lock the lid. Select the Bean/Chili button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at High pressure for 30 minutes. If you press the button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More (this simply changes the cooking time). 
  • Less mode – 25 minutes at High pressure – for a firmer bean texture or to cook black beans, dry lima beans, Navy beans,  black-eyed peas, Adzuki, anasazi, dry peas.
  • Normal mode – 30 minutes at High pressure – for a softer bean texture or to cook red kidney beans, white kidney beans (cannellini), Pinto beans, black-eyed peas (for softer texture). 
  • More mode – 40 minutes at High pressure – for a very soft bean texture or to cook harder legumes like chickpeas and soybeans (increase time to 45 minutes).

COOKING TIPS

Ensure dry beans are completely submerged in water. Dried beans double in volume and weight after soaking or cooking. To avoid overflow, please do not fill the inner pot more than to the ½ mark to allow for expansion.

Although not necessary, soaking the dried beans can speed up cooking significantly. Immerse the beans in 4 times their volume of water for 4-6 hours. Cooking times for pre-soaked beans at High pressure can be halved from the program settings (on average). 

Lentils (green and brown) only need 10 minutes at High pressure, so you could use the Less mode and manually adjust the time or use the Manual setting instead. 

Note: You can also use the Multigrain setting to cook most beans.

 

INSTANT POT Poultry SETTING

The poultry Instant Pot setting is best for cooking…you guessed it…chicken! The mode you choose depends on the size of the chicken pieces and the cut as chicken breast needs less cooking time and is easily overcooked compared to chicken thighs. You can use this setting to cook chicken meat or a dish that contains poultry in it such as chicken and potatoes or chicken and rice (see more notes on this below). Poultry setting is only available on 6-quart and 8-quart models, not on the mini! Below is how to use the Poultry setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot poultry button setting explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add chicken, seasoning and liquids to the pot. Secure and lock the lid. Press the Poultry button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at HIGH pressure for 15  minutes, which is suitable for larger pieces of chicken. If you press the Poultry button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More (this simply changes the cooking time). 
  • Less mode – 5 minutes at High pressure – for soft texture meat; great for thinly sliced chicken breasts or diced chicken cubes (use Natural Release after cooking), diced chicken and rice or potatoes, vegetable soup with diced chicken, chicken wings.
  • Normal mode – 15 minutes at High pressure – for very tender meat texture; great for whole chicken breasts, chicken thighs and drumsticks cooked in broth or on top of a trivet. For chicken breasts, you may want to reduce the time to 10 minutes to avoid overcooking and allow 5 minutes of natural release. 
  • More mode – 30 minutes at High pressure – for fall-off-the-bone texture; great for cooking a whole chicken on top of a trivet, which you can finish briefly in the oven for extra color, as well as for super-soft, braised chicken meat and chicken stock. 

If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

COOKING TIPS

Allow poultry to “rest” for 5-10 minutes, depending on size. It will reabsorb cooking juices for tender, succulent meat. Essentially, what this means is that you should allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally when possible. 

Should you sauté first? In some cases, you may want to brown off the meat first or sauté foods like onions, garlic, carrots and celery, which can add more flavor to the dish In this case, press the Sauté setting first and sear the meat on both sides in a little oil or fat for 1-2 minutes uncovered. Then add the rest of the ingredients and liquid, secure the lid and choose the Poultry setting.

 

INSTANT POT Rice SETTING

This button is made for cooking medium and long-grain white rice. The Rice setting uses low pressure and a 10-minute natural release is recommended for perfect results, however, we found that 2-3 minutes natural release followed by quick release is sufficient. Below is how to use the Rice setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Rice Setting Button Explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add rice, water or stock and seasoning if you wish. Secure and lock the lid. Press the Rice button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at Low pressure for 12  minutes, which is suitable for slightly larger rice kernels. If you press the button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More (this simply changes the cooking time).   
  • Less mode – 8 minutes at Low pressure – tender but firm to bite texture; great for thinner white rice such as Basmati and Jasmine rice. 
  • Normal mode – 12 minutes at Low pressure – for normal texture white rice; great for regular medium to long-grain white rice and for more al dente Arborio risotto rice.
  • More mode – 15 minutes at Low pressure – for softer texture white rice; great for slightly softer risotto. 

If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

RICE COOKING TIPS

1 cup of dry white rice usually yields 3 cups of cooked rice.

Depending on the volume of rice, cook time may range from 8–15 minutes. So, if 8 minutes is normally enough for 1-2 cups of dry Basmati rice, you may need to adjust to 10 minutes for say 3 cups of dry Basmati rice. 

Unless you’re making risotto using Arborio rice, you should always rinse white rice 4-5 times under cold water. This will remove some of the starch and result in fluffier, more separated cooked rice. 

The perfect grain to water ratio is 1 cup white rice to 1.25 cups liquid; if cooking risotto rice, the ratio is 1 cup Arborio rice to 2 cups liquid (or even more depending on the consistency you like).

Brown rice and wild rice require much longer cooking times and are best suited to the Multigrain or Manual settings. 

 

Instant Pot Multigrain SETTING

This setting is best suited to cooking tougher, whole grains like brown and wild rice, farro, millet and steel-cut oats; it can also be used to cook dry beans and a mixture of grains and legumes. We find that this is one of the most confusing functions for people because some of the recommended manual cooking times for grains don’t match the pre-programmed setting times, so it’s hard to know when to use this function. Below is how to use the Multigrain setting on the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot multigrain setting button explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add the grains, liquid and seasoning if you wish. Secure and lock the lid. Press the Multigrain button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at High pressure for 40 minutes. If you press the Multigrain button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More.
  • Less mode – 20 minutes at High pressure – use this mode for dry brown rice, wild rice, black rice and allow natural release after cooking. You will get slightly firmer to bite wholegrain rice. This button is also suitable for making rice congee/porridge. Farro, millet, and kamut grains will also turn out great with Multigrain Less setting and natural release.  You can also choose this setting for cooking dry black beans, lima beans and black-eyed peas with natural release after. 
  • Normal mode – 40 minutes at High pressure – use this mode for cooking brown rice, wild rice and black rice that will have softer texture when cooked. It’s also great for barley, spelt berries and wheat berries, ground coarse polenta, mung beans, chickpeas, soybeans and other firmer or larger-sized dry beans. Allow natural release when cooking is done. 
  • More mode – 45 minutes warm water soaking + 60 minutes at High pressure cooking – this function is a little different in that it will first heat up the water in the pot and let the grains soak in it for 45 minutes, after which the pressurizing and cooking will begin for 60 minutes.  This setting is suitable for cooking really tough grains or a mixture of grains and beans. More specifically, this is useful when you’re making a larger batch of grains like barley and wheat berries or chickpeas as the volume of the food might require slightly longer cooking time and pre-soaking can be beneficial. For example, this would be a good function to use to make a large batch of wild rice and beans together or say brown rice and chickpeas in one pot.

If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

If cooking dry beans, ensure they are completely submerged in water; the same if you’re making a mixture of grains and beans. 

 

INSTANT POT Porridge SETTING

The porridge setting on the Instant Pot can be used to cook oatmeal using old-fashioned oats and steel-cut oats, rice porridge and congee or porridge-like dishes that use a mixture of grains that expand in liquid. Ideally, you should use natural release when cooking high-starch foods that expand or a combination of 5-10 minutes natural release and quick release to follow. Below is how to use the Porridge setting on Instant Pot.

Instant pot porridge setting button explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add the grains, liquid and spices or fat if you wish. Secure and lock the lid. Press the Porridge button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at High pressure for 20 minutes. If you press the Porridge button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More.
  • Less mode – 5 minutes at High pressure – this is suitable for cooking rolled (Old Fashioned) oats and risotto-like porridge or rice porridge with slightly firmer to bite texture. 
  • Normal mode – 20 minutes at High pressure – use for steel-cut oat porridge or rice porridge with a slightly softer texture and for making congee. 
  • More mode – 30 minutes at High pressure – use for a porridge/congee that contains a mixture of beans or tougher grains. 

If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 

Here are some suggested water to rice/oats ratios for porridge and oatmeal dishes:

  • Rolled oats (Old-Fashioned Oats): 1 cup oats to 2-3 cups water depending on how thin or thick you like your oatmeal. Porridge/Less Mode with natural release.
  • Steel-cut oats: 1 cup oats to 3-3.5 cups water. Porridge/Normal mode with natural release.
  • Arborio rice: 1 cup rice to 2 cups water. Porridge/Less mode with natural release.
  • Congee/rice porridge: 1 cup rice to 4-6 cups water depending on how thick or thin you like it. Porridge/normal mode with natural release.
  • Rice pudding: 1 cup short-grain or medium-grain rice to 3 cups liquid (water + milk). Porridge/Less mode with natural release. You can do 1 cup water + 1 cup milk for cooking and add an additional cup of milk or some cream at the end, together with some butter. 

INSTANT POT STEAM SETTING

The Steam setting on the Instant Pot is perfect for cooking vegetables, fish and seafood, tofu and any other food that is suitable to steaming. This function uses Low pressure, which helps to avoid overcooking the food and means that the Instant Pot will come to pressure quicker. You need to use the trivet/steam rack provided to elevate food from cooking liquid. Always use QR (quick release) to prevent food from overcooking. Below is how to use the Steam setting on Instant Pot.

Instant Pot steam button explained

  • Turn the Instant Pot on, it will say OFF to indicate the Stand-By mode. Add a cup of water to the inner pot and place the trivet on top. You can place the vegetables or a piece of fish or thinly sliced chicken on top of the trivet OR you can use an additional steam basket or a round pan with holes that fits inside the pot. A steamer basket might be useful for smaller-sized vegetables or cut-up vegetables to prevent them from falling into the water.
  • Secure and lock the lid. Press the Steam button. The default setting is pre-programmed to set the pot to cook at Low pressure for 10 minutes. If you press the Steam button again, you can adjust the mode from Normal to Less or More.
  • Less mode – 3 minutes at Low pressure – use for steaming vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, peas, snow peas, bok choy, asparagus and so on.  Also great for steaming fruit like apples, pears, peaches, apricots and plums. This mode is also a good setting for cooking fresh shrimp. Do not use for root vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes or white potatoes as take longer to cook. 
  • Normal mode – 10 minutes at Low pressure – use for steaming fresh fish like salmon or white fish fillets, fresh clams and mussels, and for cooking frozen shrimp; dumplings can also be steamed using this setting mode – use 10 minutes for frozen and reduce the time to 7 minutes for freshly-made or defrosted dumplings/potstickers. 
  • More mode – 15 minutes at Low pressure – use for steamed sliced or cubed butternut squash, new baby potatoes, cubed beets. You can also use it to steam sliced chicken breast. For whole chicken breast, you will need to manually increase the time to 20 minutes. You can also steam condensed milk into caramel but you will need to increase the time to 40 minutes.
  • If desired, use the − / + buttons to further customize the time. The cooking time may be adjusted at any time during pressure cooking. 
 

INSTANT POT SLOW COOK SETTING

The Slow Cook is a non-pressure cooking setting that is compatible for use with any common slow cooker/Crockpot recipe. The pot is heated but is not pressurized and the Less, Normal and More modes correspond to Low, Medium and High slow cooker settings but you will need to adjust the time manually. 

You might want to use this setting for making dishes ahead of time while you’re away from home or overnight. There are times when slow-cooking might work better for certain recipes than quicker pressure cooking. Below are the steps for how to use the Slow Cook setting on Instant Pot. 

Instant Pot slow cook setting button explained

  • Add food and liquid ingredients to the inner pot. You might choose to Sauté some foods first if specified in a particular slow cooker recipe. If you do, make sure to press Cancel to stop the Sauté function before you proceed with Slow Cooking. 
  • Once all the food and liquids are in the pot, place and close the lid or use a glass lid with a venting hole. If using Instant Pot’s regular lid, press the quick release button down until it clicks and locks into the Vent position. This is important for slow cooking! On Duo Classic models, turn the steam release handle to the Venting position. 
  • Press Slow Cook setting. You can press Slow Cook button again to cycle through the Less, Normal and More temperature options. Less is the same as Low (180-190F) on a slow cooker, Normal is Medium (190-200F) and More is High (200-210F) temperatures. 
  • Use the − / + buttons to adjust the cooking time as needed for your specific slow cooker recipe. For example, if a recipe says ‘6 hours on HIGH’, choose More setting mode and adjust the time to 6 hours. 
  • After 10 seconds, the cooking timer will appear and will start counting down. You can choose to leave the Keep Warm setting selected (default) or press it again to turn it off. If left one, it will keep the food warm when cooking is done.

INSTANT POT SAUTE SETTING

The Sauté is another non-pressure cooking program that can be used in place of a frying pan or flat-top grill. For recipes that call for browned onions or garlic, it’s important to sauté them before adding liquid to the pot as you will release a lot of flavor this way. Another reason to sauté first is for browning meat. Lastly, sautéeing before cooking is a great way to increase heat and reduce the amount of time your pot will take to come to pressure. 

Instant Pot Saute setting button explained

  • Star the Instant Pot. Insert the inner pot into the cooker base. Do not use the lid for the next step.
  • Select the Sauté button. After 10 seconds, the cooker displays ON to indicate that it has begun heating. When display switches from On to Hot, add ingredients you want to brown. Note: You can add ingredients before the Hot message appears; if you do, it may not appear at all. This is normal.
  • The control panel will display a 30-minute countdown timer as a maximum Sauté time, you can use it for reference if you like or adjust it using -/+ buttons. 
  • The default temperature setting for Sauté function is Normal mode. Press Sauté button again to cycle through for Less and More modes (temperature options). Use Normal for general pan searing or sautéing, Less for simmering, thickening and reducing liquids and More for Stir-frying or browning meat.
  • Press Cancel to stop the Sauté process. It is recommended to deglaze the inner pot to ensure food items do not scorch during pressure cooking. To deglaze, add some liquid (e.g. water, broth, wine) to the hot pot. Use a wooden or silicone scraper to loosen anything that may be stuck to the bottom of the inner pot. If you brown meat, remove it from the pot first.
  • Add any other ingredients and liquids. Stir if needed or leave layered and continue with the manual or smart program settings to pressure cook the food. 

How to saute in Instant Pot

USING SAUTE FUNCTION AFTER COOKING

The Sauté function is also useful for finishing the dish after pressure cooking is done. Once the pressure has been completely released, open the lid and then press Sauté button again. Press the button again to cycle through Less or More for lower or higher temperature.

Use it for:

  • Simmering the sauce or broth in the dish that needs to evaporate and reduce or thicken.
  • Adding more fragile or no-cooking-required ingredients like baby spinach, fresh tomatoes, fruit, cheese, milk or cream.
  • Thickening sauce with butter, cream or flour.
 

INSTANT POT YOGURT SETTING

The Yogurt button is a non-pressure cooking Smart Program made for easily fermented dairy and non-dairy recipes. The setting modes Less, Normal and More are used for different times of fermentation or for boiling (pasteurizing) the milk. Below are some basic steps and setting options for making yogurt using the Yogurt setting button. 

Instant Pot Yogurt Button Explained

PASTEURIZING/HEATING MILK

  • Add milk to the inner pot. A minimum of 4 cups of milk is recommended for a 6-quart Instant Pot (2 cups for 3-quart and 6 cups for 8-quart). Secure and close the lid. Make sure to press the quick-release button down until it clicks and locks into the Vent position. On Duo Classic, turn the steam release hand to point to Venting. Do this before you select the settings and make any adjustments. 
  • Select Yogurt setting. The default mode is Normal. Press Yogurt again to cycle to the More option. The display indicates boiL. After 10 seconds the cooker begins heating. This setting mode can be used to pasteurize the milk but is also there for heating the milk before adding in the starter culture. When pasteurization/heating completes, the display indicates End. 

ADDING STARTER CULTURE

  • Remove the lid and use a thermometer to check the temperature. Note: Milk must reach a minimum of 72°C (161°F) for pasteurization to occur (if that is what you’re after). Allow hot milk to cool to just below 43°C (110°F), you can transfer it to a bowl and place in an iced bath to speed up the process. 
  • Once at the right temperature, add a starter culture to the milk according to package instructions. You can also use plain yogurt as a starter, ensure that it contains an active culture. Use 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt for 4 cups of milk. 

FERMENTING YOGURT

  • Once your warm milk and culture mixture is in the inner pot, secure and lock the Instant Pot lid again, making sure the quick release button is clicked into Vent position (or steam release handle is pointing to Venting).
  • Press Yogurt again to cycle to the Normal option. The display indicates 08:00 hours. Use the − / + buttons to adjust the fermentation time if desired (up to 99 hours and 30 minutes). Longer fermentation will result in tangier yogurt. After 10 seconds the cooker begins heating. The display timer counts up to the set time from 00:00. When fermentation completes, the cooker beeps and displays End.
  • Transfer to storage containers; cover and chill until cold, about 6-8 hours, or up to 10-14 days.
  • The Less mode is used for lower temperature fermentation (e.g. Jiu Niang, a sweet fermented glutinous rice dessert) and the default time is set to 24 hours. Use the − / + buttons to further customize the time according to the recipe. 
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HOW TO MAKE INSTANT POT YOGURT CUPS

Yogurt cups are a convenient way to portion out your yogurt into individual or smaller servings.  After adding the starter culture to the pasteurized or warm milk, carefully pour the milk into your yogurt cups and seal them tightly. Clean the inner pot thoroughly and place the steam rack/trivet on the bottom of the inner pot. Place the sealed yogurt cups on the steam rack and add water to the inner pot until the cups are submerged halfway. Follow steps in “Fermenting Yogurt” above.

 

KEEP WARM SETTING

This setting keeps the contents of the pot at low temperature to maintain heat for serving. The Keep Warm setting turns on automatically after cooking on all Smart Programs (including Manual settings) except Sauté and Yogurt. It is set to count up from 00:00 to 10 hours and will then automatically switch off. 

Keep warm setting on Instant Pot

If you don’t want to keep the food warm after cooking, you can press the Keep Warm button again to turn it ON or OFF. Do this after you have selected one of the smart programs or manual settings, or at the end of the cooking process. 

You can also change the temperature at which the food is kept warm. While in Stand-By mode (when the display shows OFF), press the Keep Warm button to cycle through Normal (145 F), Less (135F)  and More (167F) temperature modes. Please note that the temperature will be remembered for next time. 

Use the − / + buttons to set a warming timer up to 99 hours and 50 minutes.


DELAY START SETTING

This setting button allows you to set the Instant Pot to begin cooking later. It can be set to a minimum of 10 minutes or a maximum of 24 hours.

  • Select a Smart Program and adjust the settings as you desire, then press Delay Start. Note: Once Delay Start has been selected, there is no way to return to the cooking settings. To adjust Smart Program settings, press Cancel and enter new selections.
  • When the timer field flashes, use the − / + buttons to adjust the delay time. E.g., 02:00 indicates that cooking will start after 2 hours.
  • Press Delay Start again to toggle to the minutes field and follow the same process as the previous step. 
  • Delay Start begins automatically after 10 seconds and the timer counts down. When Delay Start ends, the Smart Program begins, and the display indicates On.
  • Delay Start is not available with the Sauté or Yogurt Smart Programs

CANCEL/STAND-BY SETTING BUTTON

When the cooker is plugged in but not in operation, the display reads OFF to indicate Standby mode. Press Cancel to stop a Smart Program or Manual cooking at any time. The cooker returns to Standby mode.

Cancel button on Instant Pot

 

Instant Pot Ultra/DUO PLUS/ OTHER Smart extras

Cake setting

This high-pressure mode creates a very moist, dense cake. For a lighter, moister cake, use the Less mode; for a denser cake, use the Normal mode; for a really dense cake, such as a New York Style cheesecake, use the More mode. You will need to use a trivet/steam rack and a cake pan, ideally covered with foil. Use Natural Release after cooking is complete. 

Egg setting

This program is designed for cooking extra-large eggs, so you may need to adjust the time for smaller eggs. For a soft-cooked egg, use the Less mode; for a medium cooked egg, use the Normal mode; for a hard-cooked egg, use the More mode. Plunge eggs into an ice bath afterwards to prevent overcooking. Use quick release after cooking is complete. 

Sterilize setting

This program is designed for sterilizing baby bottles, jars, and utensils. Use the Less mode (no pressure steam sterilization at 181F) to pasteurize dairy products and sterilize tempered glass and heat-resistant plastics. Normal mode (low pressure hot water bath canning at 230F) or More (high pressure hot water bath canning at 239F) for sterilization of baby bottles, jars, utensils and water-bath canning of acidic fruits and vegetables.


With each new model of the Instant Pot, there seem to be more settings and functions but the good thing is that the most common 9-10 settings are always the same. We hope that this guide has cleared up any confusion you might have had about the Smart program buttons. As we mentioned at the start, the beauty of the Instant Pot is that you can choose to use the pre-program settings or you can replicate them and have more control with Manual/Pressure Cook settings. Once you understand what they do and experiment with using them for different foods, you will get a better idea of what to use and when. 

If you have any further questions about the SMART PROGRAM settings or you’ve found a new way to use them, let us know in the comments below. 

By Instant Pot Eats

About us: We are a team of Instant Pot enthusiasts, who love good food and cooking. Our blog is dedicated to delicious recipes you can make using your trusted pressure cooker.

PS. This post may contain Amazon affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. 

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Comments

16 Comments
  1. What does it mean when my instant pot show the P sign and the flame sign, please advise, thank you.
    When I first started using it those signs did not appear.

  2. I can’t thank you enough for this guide! After studying the instructions that came with my IP, I was left clueless about even the core function of steam cooking. Further, I was daunted by the number and array of buttons because, having watched videos showing electronic displays in the cockpit of the F-22 Raptor with a similar array of buttons controlling almost all the aircraft’s functions, I assumed that the buttons on the IP similarly executed entire sequences of different steps, merely converting the complexity of precision-guided weapons to highly specialized and similarly complex precision-guided cooking tools.

    For example, I figured that the Yogurt button would take the centuries-old simplistic way of making yogurt and break it down into, say, 12 precise steps, each representing a single distinct element of the process of transforming raw ingredients to finished product. The IP’s cooking action would be adjusted to optimize the step. Such precision would enable the most inexperienced home user tall enough to operate it (child safety!) to exactly replicate yogurt made in the centuries-old simplistic way.

    Thanks to you, I now understand how simple each button is, especially compared to the F-22’s, although there is a slightly disconcerting difference, which is the lack of an ejection seat. (I’ve written to the company several times, but for some reason I haven’t heard back from them. But I digress.)

    Now that I have benefited enormously from this article, and discovered so much more information and assistance, I have to praise your site for representing the very best of what the Internet can achieve. You’ve used its capabilities to share your knowledge, skills, experience, imagination, and passion with the whole world of people who may be able to gain from them but would otherwise have no access for not being within your community.

    You are generously contributing what’s obviously a huge amount of time and effort (not to mention the money for a Level A+ website) to the world’s “knowledge base of life” and making the planet just a little bit better for it.

    Thank you.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much! We are so glad this guide helped you. We truly want everyone to enjoy cooking with their IP without being frustrated with the learning curve at the beginning.

  3. Very helpful article! On the Face Book pages, there is very little mention of the special settings, which is a bit disappointing. I’m so glad I came across your article, now I have a much better idea of how to utilize my IP to its maximum potential.

  4. Milk is already pasteurized unless you’re buying raw milk. Why do you say that heating it to make yogurt is ‘pasteurizing it?

  5. Such good helpful information in article! I’m new to instant pot and knew absolutely nothing before reading article. Easy to understand , written clearly with novice to expert in mind. Thank you!

  6. This is a wonderful article! So much useful information and clear explanations. Thank you for all the work that went into writing this down, it is VERY helpful!

  7. This is BY FAR the best info on the Instant Pot I’ve ever come across! I commend you!
    InstantPot should let you write their manuals!
    Well done and THANK YOU.
    Did you do something similar for the Instant Vortex Airfryer?
    Kind regards
    Bentjie

  8. This is probably a stupid question, but is there a way to print this article? I NEED to have a copy of this in my kitchen! I just recently had to replace my old electronic pressure cooker with a 10 qt. Instant Pot, and I REALLHY need to have some kind of a cheat sheet in my kitchen! This is the closest I’ve found and would love to have this printed out.

    1. Hi Deb,

      We are actually working on a Print-friendly PDF for this article, so it will soon be up this post. In the meantime, the easiest way to print this would be to use the Print function from your browser but it doesn’t format the page very nicely. Stay tuned, we will soon have a PDF version available.

      Irena

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