Having raved about my Instant Pot for over two years, I am thrilled to see a tipping point has been reached and this wonderful, Canadian-made appliance appears to be the most popular holiday purchase in 2017.
I wanted to write a post about it since I have been (happily) answering questions about this device over the past few weeks. I’m sure there are new owners who either bought the Instant Pot themselves or were gifted one and are not sure where to start or what to make.
Why do people love these things so much?
Speed. Since it cooks at high pressure, it cooks fast, even from frozen. No need to thaw.
Convenience. In addition to speed, you can walk away and do other things while it cooks. So even if the cook time for a given recipe is 30-40 minutes, that time does not have to be spent in the kitchen.
Safety. Traditional stove top pressure cookers have been around for ages, but they were risky since they could explode. You had to watch carefully. Electric pressure cookers are stand alone appliances with have safety mechanisms to prevent this. That being said, you still have to read the instructions to ensure safety with the Instant Pot. For example, ensuring the silicone ring in the lid is in place. Or ensuring you keep you hand away from steam when using the quick release method of reducing pressure.
One Pot. Many IP recipes involve adding all the ingredients, closing the lid, pressing a button and walking away. Also, with the sauté function, you can do things like soften onions or brown meat right in the pot. Then add the remaining ingredients, close the lid, set the time and walk away. Alternatively, at the end, you can use the sauté function to add more delicate vegetables or thicken/reduce a sauce.
Multi-functionality. It is also a slow-cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker (some models), steamer, etc.
Easy to clean. The pot is stainless steel and cleans easily. All the parts except the exterior are dishwasher safe.
What do you use it for?
This is the most common question I get. It’s understandable, especially since everyone has gotten by without one for so long. Why bother adding a new appliance?
I primarily make the same things I did before, only faster.
Slow Cooker Recipes. I have a few go-to slow cooker recipes that I prepare the same way but then cook in a fraction of the time. I don’t have to think ahead or take time in the morning to start the slow cooker. To determine the time, I use the IP cooking time chart.
Instant Pot Recipes. With the increasing use of electric pressure cookers, there are countless recipes available online or in books. I enjoy testing out these recipes.
Vegetables. A frequent use of mine is baking sweet potatoes or spaghetti squash. I can do both in under 20 minutes, which is a considerable time saver compared to the conventional oven methods. This is my go-to during my cycling club nights. In 20 minutes, I can steam sweet potatoes, prep some protein and put together a quick dinner before my evening ride.
Broth/Stock. I never made my own broth before owning an Instant Pot. After learning about the benefits of broth and having the ability to make it quickly, it has become a staple. I save up bones in the freezer or buy from the butcher, and after making a batch (2 hours), I freeze the broth in 1/4 cup pucks using a silicone muffin tray. Whenever I need broth, I count the number of frozen pucks required. Similar to making broth in a slow cooker, your house will smell like broth during this process.
Eggs. You can make soft or hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. While I do not think the process is actually faster, I do like the convenience of placing the eggs on the rack instead of dropping them into boiling water attempting not to break the shell. I also enjoy not having to keep my eye on a boiling pot of water.
Does it do everything?
It is not ideal for things that should be cooked in a dry heat. Cooking with pressure requires liquid, whether added or from the food itself. Now, there are some items that can be fully or partially cooked in the IP and then finished in an oven or seared on the stove top. For example, I cooked ribs in the IP for 30 minutes then finished them under the broiler in the oven. They were amazing.
Note: Instant Pot now has the Gem, an 8-in-1 programmable rectangular multi-cooker with a bake and roast option, so technically this could disregard what I wrote about dry heat; however, the most common purchase right now is the round pressure cooker.
What size is best?
There are a few sizes ranging from a mini 3-quart to an 8-quart. I have a 6-quart model and it works well for me. I think if you are cooking for a large family or want plenty of leftovers, then opting for the 8-quart is probably better.
Where should I start?
Honestly, there is so much good information out there, you could start with simply searching for Instant Pot recipes and try one that looks good. However, I do highly recommend these two links as starters:
NomNomPaleo. Even if you don’t follow a paleo diet, this site is a great starting point with directions on one-pot meals, making broth, spaghetti squash, etc. Michelle Tam is one of the Instant Pot’s best advocates and she knows the device inside out (when I saw her at a book signing a few months back, she had 4 IPs). Her blog is full of step-by-step photos. She even has a summary of Instant Pot recipes.
Orange Sesame Chicken. This is a recent favourite. The author, Danielle Walker, adapted her earlier slow cooker recipe to be done in the Instant Pot. The recipe includes a video so you can see how she does it. I highly recommend thickening the sauce at the end (I take the chicken out then thicken the sauce, but it’s completely up to you).
Getting up to pressure. For the majority of functions, the IP needs to build up pressure before the timer begins. The timing is variable depending on what is in the pot (how much, frozen vs fresh, etc). In my experience, most items takes about 8-10 minutes to build pressure then start the countdown. So, when a recipe says 8 minutes (e.g. spaghetti squash), that’s the time it will take once it has reached it’s pressure. In order to time your meals, add about 10 minutes to whatever you are making. I’ve seen some upset users complain online about this, but it’s just the nature of the cooking method.
Size. A few people have commented that the device is bigger than they expected. Much like a slow cooker, it does take up some space. You can see all the dimensions and weights on the IP Comparison Chart page.
Is it worth it?
Someone asked me recently if this device will be a passing fad. I honestly don’t think so. Much like how the slow cooker has been around for a long time, I think electric pressure cookers will also have a long life.
You may have been fine all this time without one, and you may continue to be fine without one. But, I believe this is a genuinely a worthwhile investment.