How The Timer On An Instant Pot Works

The Instant Pot is my favourite kitchen appliance. It’s so incredibly compact and versatile making it perfect for a range of different recipes even in the smallest of kitchens.

However, using the appliance for the first time can be daunting.

There are a number of different buttons and settings and while the purpose for most of these are relatively obvious, setting the timer and then understanding how it works isn’t.

The timer on an Instant Pot counts down from a time that you set. When the timer reaches the end of the countdown, it shuts off. Alternatively, if you have the keep warm setting on, it simply lowers the heat and pressure to the right setting to keep your food warm.

However, sometimes when you set the timer on your Instant Pot you’ll notice it counts up instead of down and in some cases, the number the timer reaches can surpass the time you set.

Again, for new users of the Instant Pot, this can be incredibly confusing, however that doesn’t have to be the case.

How To Set The Timer On An Instant Pot

Once you’ve added your ingredients to the Instant Pot you can go ahead and close the lid ensuring that the pressure release valve is set to sealing.

Then you’ll want to use the buttons on the appliance to set it to the correct setting whether that be pressure cook, slow cook etc.

Then you can either use one of the pre-timed functions along the right or left-hand side of the display.

These will have the name of the ingredient (i.e. beans, rice, soup etc.) and be pre-set to the best temperature (high-pressure or low-pressure) and time to produce the best results.

In this case, you wouldn’t have to then go ahead and manually set the timer.

However, if you’re following a certain recipe or would like your ingredients cooked a certain way then you might want to manually set the pressure type and the timer.

To move between the pressure settings (where applicable) go ahead and click the pressure cook button, then press it again and watch the light move from the low pressure to the high-pressure marker.

Then go ahead and use the plus and minus buttons to set the timer.

Depending on the cooking function (slow cook, pressure cook etc.) you can set a timer from 1 minute up to 24 hours.

Once you’ve set your timer the display will show ‘on’.

This might make you think that you’re Instant Pot timer isn’t working. However, this isn’t the case.

Instead, the ‘on’ button signals that the timer has been set and the Instant Pot is now heating up.

After a while, you’ll notice that steam will begin escaping from the Instant Pot out of the venting hole.

This usually tells you that the temperature inside the Instant Pot is close to being ready.

Once the pot has reached the desired temperature it will then begin counting down from the timer you set.

As a result, if you set your timer on the Instant Pot to 30 minutes, the food won’t be fully cooked in 30 minutes as you’d need to factor in the amount of time it takes for the appliance to heat up.

The amount of time it takes your Instant Pot to heat up can vary depending on a number of factors (tips and tricks on how to speed this process up below).

Once the timer has then finished counting down the Instant Pot will then begin to beep and the display will show ‘LO:00’.

This means that the Instant Pot has switched to the keep-warm function. This happens automatically at the end of the cooking time.

This is useful if you’re not right there when the cooking time ends and you want your food to stay warm for dinner.

When the keep-warm function is set the timer will begin counting up.

Once you’re ready to serve you can go ahead and release the pressure.

Now if you’re Instant Pot has been on the keep-warm function for a while (usually 30 minutes or more) then the pressure may have naturally released.

However, if the Instant Pot hasn’t reached the keep warm stage or if it’s only been in that stage for a few minutes then you’ll need to manually release the pressure instead before you can open the lid to the appliance.

To end the keep-warm function simply press the cancel button on the appliance.

Then to manually release the pressure you need to knock the valve on the lid from sealing to venting when you do this steam will release out through the top hole.

This steam is incredibly hot!

Therefore I always recommend doing it with a towel or a fork so you can keep your hand/arm either protected or at a distance from the venting hole.

Manually releasing the pressure will take a couple of minutes (the exact time will vary depending on the ingredients inside).

A quick tip: Don’t use your Instant Pot near wallpaper or wooden cabinets. Over time the steam that either naturally or manually comes out through the venting hole at the top can cause damage to these materials and cause them to warp.

Once the venting process has finished the lid to the Instant Pot will unlock and you’ll be able to twist the lid open.

How To Heat Up Your Instant Pot Faster

While the Instant Pot is very fast but sometimes you want it to be even faster and in this case, there’s a couple of tips and tricks you can use;

Use Saute Mode As A Pre-Heat Mode

One way to speed up the time that takes it from turning the appliance on to when it pressurises to when the timer counts down is to turn the saute mode on as soon as you pull it out.

The saute mode sets the timer to 30 minutes and you don’t need to adjust it at this point.

Instead, just allow the appliance to run on saute mode as you gather and prepare your ingredients.

Then once you’re ready to put the lid on and start cooking the ingredients then the pot will already be heated and therefore get to the desired temperature for cooking significantly quicker.

Use Boiling Water Instead Of Cold / Regular Water

If your recipe requires you to add some water consider using boiled water instead of cold/regular water from the tap or water machine.

Since the temperature of the water is higher this will heat the inside of the pot once the lid is on and help the temperature get to the desired level faster.

Use Smaller Cuts Of Meat

If you’re cooking meat inside your Instant Pot then you’ll generally find the smaller the cut the quicker it reaches the required temperature and the less time it takes to cook.

Therefore aim to cut your meat into small cuts of an inch or two rather than a whole pork shoulder for example.

Side note: Smaller cuts of meat also allow you to use a smaller Instant Pot whereas a larger cut of meat will require a larger Instant Pot which isn’t always feasible.

Use Less Liquid

All ingredients inside of the Instant Pot require some amount of liquid if you are cooking using the pressure cook function. Without this, the food will simply burn.

However, the amount of liquid you put inside the Instant Pot will impact the amount of time it takes for the pot to reach the desired pressure.

Therefore if you can consider using less liquid (or use warm/hot liquid instead of cold as discussed above)