Illustration: Nicholas Davison

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Moving Too Slowly
The pressure-release valve is another unassuming-looking feature of the Instant Pot that's actually superimportant. If it's not turned to "Sealing" when you begin cooking, the cooker won't come up to pressure. But here's the thing that trips up many first-timers: When the cooking time is finished, and you're ready to use what recipes refer to as the "Quick Release" method for venting the steam, you need to open that valve quickly. The longer the steam stays inside the pot, the more your food will cook—which can mean the difference between perfectly tender vegetables and limp, overcooked ones. Put on a sturdy oven mitt (the steam is extremely hot) and push the valve in a counterclockwise direction to the "Venting" position to let the steam out.