If you have not had a friend blab on and on and on about the Instant Pot, you are either a very lucky person or you have no friends.
It’s not a new gadget — it has actually been around since 2010. And, it’s not a secret — Instant Pot broke the Amazon Prime Day record in 2016 by selling 215,000 units on just that day alone. But the sensation reached sheer madness this year, spawning cookbooks, websites, and even entire decal lines dedicated to the machine. Yes. You can customize your Instant Pot with decals! Decals!
So what’s all the hype about?
Let’s get one thing straight before we begin: “Instant Pot” is a brand. The actual gadget is a multicooker that functions as a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, saute pan, and food warmer all in one. There are many multicookers out there. But none so famous as the Instant Pot.
If you are susceptible to buying things off infomercials, this is the gadget for you! If you like saving money, space, and time, this is the gadget for you! Basically, they will have you believe that there is no reason why anybody would not want one.
Is it actually useful?
Well, sure. The real question is whether you really need it to do everything it advertises. Me for example? I have never been interested in making my own yogurt. I think slow cookers are lazy and steamed food is boring. I make really, really good rice on the stove top. I have never needed a food warmer, as far as I know. And I have a lot of fancy pans that I use for sautéing. Really, the only thing about this Instant Pot that piqued my interest was the pressure cooker function. So, I started there.
I happened to be hosting a dinner party the night I got my Instant Pot. I had secretly hoped it would come in time for me to make that night’s dinner in it. And technically, it did. But between being intimidated by the 28-page instruction manual and not wanting to treat my guests as guinea pigs, I made dinner the old fashioned way — you know, with that thing called a stove.
My experimenting started the next day. I went with something that was not on my dinner menu rotation — not because it is difficult to make but because it is a rather time-consuming dish. I decided to make short ribs. Instead of three hours, I got fall-off-the-bone tenderness in just 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. I was amazed.
The next few days, I made everything in the Instant Pot: beans, soup, baked potatoes, eggs, butter chicken! I used the pressure cooker function almost exclusively at first and then started experimenting with the slow cooker. Then, I even tried making yogurt.
As skeptical as I was, I would have to say that the Instant Pot is pretty handy for many things. It’s just not the be all, end all of kitchen gadgets.
Get it if...
...You are a fancy person who needs to have coq au vin on a Wednesday, because you can now do that thanks to the Instant Pot. Dried beans? They were perfectly cooked without soaking or boiling in just 30 minutes. The speed in which you can cook something using the pressure cooker function is completely, undeniably awesome.
If you are really busy, then the delayed cooking and slow cooking functions will be your jam. I’m still not a huge fan of slow cooking but understand it sometimes serve its purpose. One thing that I loved was that you can sear your meats before you set it to slow cook, all right inside the Instant Pot. This is a big advantage over other crock pots.
The delayed cooking capability is also great because it allows you to set a time for when you want the machine to start cooking — say, an hour before you get home from work.
Skip it if...
...You are kind of a simple eater. It probably takes less time to just make your food on the stove. I mean really. It takes the Instant Pot a few minutes to reach the optimal pressure point — at which point it then starts to count down your cook time. It then takes a few minutes for it to depressurize when it’s done cooking (even if you are using the “instant release”). If you are just trying to steam something for a few minutes, the entire production hardly seems worth it. That’s kind of how I felt about making eggs in the Instant Pot. Yes, steamed eggs are fantastic — definitely try them if you have not. But the boiled version is at least three minutes faster. Same goes with steak or any kind of seared meat: a pan is just way easier to wield and clean than the honking Instant Pot.
It takes some practice and a basic understanding of science to use this thing. You are cooking at a lower (but more efficient) heat than any other cooking gadget so there is a bit of a learning curve. You will want to follow at least a few recipes until you know exactly how long to cook everything. There are presets on the machine that will help train your brain. So definitely use those when you first start using the Instant Pot. They may have you thinking that you can just throw things in there and everything will just come out perfectly, but it’s kind of not the case.
My final takeaway:
I might not be using the Instant Pot every day, but I sure am glad I have one in my arsenal.
Instant Pot Duo60 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Cooker
This is the six-quart version. If you have a big family, you should opt for a 10-quart.
You might also like:
Cooking Under Pressure
A book of classic recipes from the godmother of pressure cooker cooking.
Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot
A collection of simple recipes with interesting flavors from a New York Times food columnist.
Genuine Instant Pot Tempered Glass Lid
Because sometimes, you just can’t take the suspense and need to see what’s cooking inside the pot. The pressure cooker lid is completely opaque.
Genuine Instant Pot Sealing Ring
If you are planning to use the Instant Pot all the time, for everything, you are going to want to designate certain rings for certain flavors because the rings tend to absorb strong flavors permanently. You might want one for desserts and another for onion soups.
ekovana Stackable Stainless Steel Pressure Cooker Steamer Insert Pan
These will come in handy when you want to cook several dishes at once.
Genuine Instant Pot Silicone Springform Cake Pan
Once you get into the Instant Pot wormhole, you will see there is a lot of talk about cheese cakes. Trust us, you’ll want one of these.
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