Instant Pots have many wonderful functions that make them the ideal kitchen companion. You can simply select a pre-programmed cooking option, for example, and the pot will do the rest of the work.
However, if you’re still learning how to use an Instant Pot, the many Instant Pot symbols and display icons can seem confusing. Sure, you’ve selected the program you want to use, but all of a sudden there are symbols appearing on the screen, and you have no idea what they’re telling you.
Today, we’ll take you through all the symbols you can expect to see on your Instant Pot. No more need for panicked Googling partway through the cooking process. We’ll show you what each icon means and what you can do when you see it appear.
Instant Pot Symbols on the Control Panel
There are different models of Instant Pots, all with a slightly different control panel that you use to operate the appliance. The basic layout usually consists of the following: a digital display screen, cooking program keys, and other operational buttons.
When you interact with the preset cooking programs or operational buttons, various symbols may display on the screen. Each Instant Pot’s digital display uses slightly different icons to indicate that certain functions are active.
If you have the Instant Pot Ultra, for example, all the information is written out in words, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out what the icons mean. However, if you own one of the other Instant Pot types, like the Duo Plus, you may want some guidance on all the Instant Pot symbol meanings.
Instant Pot Display Screens & Icons
As mentioned, there are many different screen displays on Instant Pots. Many of the ones that displayed symbols are no longer being sold, like the Duo Nova, Duo Plus, Max and Smart Wifi. If you have one of those older models, you’ll still want to know what the various symbols mean, which you’ll find down below.
The only model currently being sold in 2022 that has symbols on it is the Instant Pot Duo Pro Crisp.
Instant Pot Duo
The easiest screen is the base-line Instant Pot Duo. This screen has the least amount of symbols displayed and only a few buttons that are well labeled.
Around the outside of the display window are the pre-set buttons that you can use to set a cook time for your meal. On the bottom row is the Slow Cook, Pressure Level, Keep Wamr, Yogurt, Saute, Delay Start, Cancel and Pressure Cook buttons. On the screen itself, there is just a digital time display. Under that is a setting or low vs high pressure and below that is a Less, Normal, and More setting for the saute mode.
Instant Pot Max
The hardest display to read is the Instant Pot Max. It has a plethora of symbols to learn and displays almost all the information on a digital screen readout because it’s a touch screen.
On the top left is the settings button, then the unit of temperature gauge where you can set it to F or C, then the altitude button where you can set it to ft or meters and input your altitude. Finally, there’s the sound indicator where you can turn sound on or off.
The series of empty circles are progress bars that show how far along preheat, cook, and keep warm are. Under that is the timer clock. Then you have the pressure buttons that can be set to low, high, or max. You can also set the temperature to low, high, or custom, and the temperature will also be displayed here for sous vide and canning. For most people this is where the Max is the most confusing to use.
Finally, there’s a keep warm display, a venting display, and a delay timer.
Instant Pot Display Icons & Their Meanings
If you happen to have one of the earlier models where the symbols and icons are on the screen, you can use this guide to understand the symbols.
Some icons on the Instant Pot display screen are clear and it’s easy to guess their meaning. Some of the others are less clear and might stump you. So let’s clear up the confusion and take a look at the various Instant Pot icons on the screen, and what each of them means.
The icon showing a flame under a pot appears whenever the heating element is active. This indicates to you that the element is heating up and cooking is in progress.
You’ll see this icon during pre-heating mode. It may also appear during the actual cooking process if the element needs to heat up some more.
Some newer Instant Pots give more detailed information on the heating process by displaying a progress bar. You’ll see the words “Pre-heating” and “Cooking” on the display screen, along with a progress bar for each.
The icon of a pot with the letter P inside indicates that a pressure cooking program is active. Some models of Instant Pots don’t have this symbol. Instead, the display will show the word Pressure with options like Low or High selected.
If you select one of the preset cooking programs, like Stew or Soup, the pressure cooking icon will appear. Most of the presets use pressure cooking, but there are some exceptions. If you selected the programs Yogurt, Sauté, or Slow Cook, the pressure symbol will not be displayed.
Remember that while the pressure cooking icon is showing on the Instant Pot display screen, the lid is sealed tight, and you should not attempt to open it.
The Keep Warm function shows that food in the Instant Pot is being kept warm after a cooking program has finished. This is indicated on the screen with either a symbol of a pot with steam coming out or a thermometer icon, depending on your model.
If you use the Instant Pot Ultra, instead of one of these icons, it simply shows the words Keep Warm with an On or Off option displayed next to it.
Don’t be confused when using the Instant Pot Max or Pro Plus. Here you’ll see both a thermometer icon and a pot with steam icon. In this case, the pot with steam indicates the Keep Warm function.
Unit of Temperature Thermometer
The thermometer symbol pictured above is there to indicate whether you’re using Fahrenheit or Celsius as your unit of temperature. It looks similar to the thermometer icon on the Max and Pro Plus that indicates Keep Warm, but it has an F and C next to it.
The speaker symbol on the display screen indicates whether the sound is on or off. You can switch off the sounds of the cooking process starting and finishing, but you cannot switch off the safety alert sounds.
Some Instant Pot models show an icon of a speaker with a line through it. Other models display an X next to the speaker icon to indicate that the sound is switched off. Once again, the Instant Pot Ultra displays no icons but simply shows the word Sound with On and Off options.
Some Instant Pots also have a clock icon that appears when the Delay Start button is pressed. This clock symbol is often paired with a timer that counts down the time until cooking starts.
If you’ve selected a cooking preset and set a timer to wait before the Instant Pot starts cooking, the clock icon will appear. This shows you that the cooking process has not yet started and the delay timer is in effect.
All the models of Instant Pots have a Delay Start function and timer, but only the Duo Evo Plus, Pro Crisp, and Pro Plus display the clock icon.
The Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Pro Crisp have an additional healthy air frying function. If you have selected the Air Fry smart program on the Pro Crisp, you will see a fan icon on the display screen. The Duo Crisp doesn’t display any icons.
There is also a special temperature display that appears when you use Air Fry mode. In other cooking modes, only the temperature level is indicated, such as High or Low. In Air Fry mode, the actual temperature is displayed in Fahrenheit or Celsius.
The Pro Plus and Max pots also feature a venting function. This allows you to select the method of releasing pressure from your Instant Pot.
There’s a difference between the Pro Plus and the Instant Pot Max venting symbols. The Pro Plus has the words Natural, Pulse, and Quick displayed underneath each symbol, making it easier to determine the meaning.
On the Max pot, it might not be as clear what each of the three icons means. The symbol of a circle with a line through indicates Natural Release mode. The dotted line circle icon shows Pulse Release. And the solid line circle icon indicates that you have chosen the Quick Release method.
Understanding The Instant Pot Icons
Most of the time, there’s no need to panic when you see an Instant Pot display icon appear. These icons are just meant to keep you up to date on what’s happening inside your pot. Or, the icon is simply confirming that the function you have already selected is indeed active.
We hope that now you have a clearer picture of all the Instant Pot icon meanings. While there are many symbols and some differences across models, you’ll probably only be using your own pot. And the more you cook with your Instant Pot, the more familiar you’ll become with its specific display symbols.
If you want to learn more about Instant Pot messages and other information displayed on the screen, take a look at my detailed guide on Instant Pot terminology.
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Laura spends a lot of her time cooking and creating recipes to share. She loves traveling and learning about new foods around the world to bring into her own recipes at home.