If you haven’t already jumped onto the Instant Pot bandwagon, you might be wondering if there’s really something to this or if it’s just a fad. Do you really need one? Should you buy one? Is it really faster? Will you really use it? These are great questions, and I’m super glad you’re asking them.
Thinking through a purchase is kind of my “thing.” Honestly, I go overboard when researching a purchase, and I geek out sometimes on asking questions other people wouldn’t give a thought to. (Like the cost-per-serving of dry beans compared to canned beans.)
But before we get to the part where I tell you how much I love my Instant Pot and why you should buy one, I want to address what it is not.
Why Not to Buy an Instant Pot
In my humble opinion, these are real reasons you don’t need an Instant Pot:
- Because everyone else has one. Sadly, I am no cooler or more popular today for owning an Instant Pot than the day before I bought one. Darn it.
- If you can’t afford it. Seriously, there’s is nothing so magical or life-changing about it that makes it worth going into debt. (Later, when I’m singing its praises for helping save money, remember that interest on a credit card is way more expensive than what you may save on groceries.)
- To replace a microwave. It isn’t that fast. In fact, Instant Pot is kind of a misnomer. It’s faster than a slow cooker, and usually faster than cooking on the stovetop. But it won’t pop out fully-cooked meals in a minute. For that, you need a microwave and a package of ramen noodles.
- If you’re afraid of pressure cookers. I’m not sure why, but it seems some people who are deathly afraid of pressure cookers buy Instant Pots and then go into Facebook groups to say they are afraid to plug it in. Some common-sense safety precautions are all you need (just like when you’re cooking over a hot stove), but if this doesn’t comfort you in the slightest then maybe that’s a good reason not to buy an Instant Pot.
- If you don’t have room for it. While the Instant Pot doesn’t take up a ton of space, it is about the same size as a round slow cooker or an Oster bread maker. Take it from someone who has a small-ish kitchen, there’s going to be some competition going on for space in the cupboards. (However, if I had to choose, I would easily choose the Instant Pot over those other two appliances.)
Can you think of any other reasons you might not need an Instant Pot? If I think of something I’ve forgotten in this list (I probably have), I’ll come back and add it later.
But on to the fun part!
What’s So Great About an Instant Pot?
When I first purchased my IP Duo 6-quart, I was actually searching Amazon for a replacement slow cooker. But I didn’t really want a slow cooker, for several reasons.
I told you I overthink things, right? Well, to my way of thinking, there are just too many kitchen appliances out there that are the same basic shape, but each has only a very narrow range of temperatures. At that time I was thinking specifically of a yogurt maker (96 to about 110ish degrees), slow cooker (170 to 280 degrees, according to this article), and rice cooker (around 212 degrees, I think, but some have a “keep warm” setting).
Why don’t they just make one appliance that can cover all those ranges? That’s what I was thinking. And after a ton of clicking around on Amazon, I found this thing they called the Instant Pot.
Even then, it had over 1,000 positive reviews. And that was in 2015 – years before the Instant Pot craze hit the internet in general!
I can look back at my order and see that I paid $142.38 after tax. Because yes – I bought it. This was after discussing it with my husband and reading a lot of reviews, but it seemed like exactly what I was looking for and I had the money so I really did spend that much on an Instant Pot. Which feels sort of crazy to me now, since they are much, much cheaper these days. (They are literally half that price now!) But I never regretted getting it when I did.
Actually, that leads me to a question that’s important to answer…
Are Instapots Worth the Money?
I’ve had mine for four years and I’ve used it plenty. You can tell that it’s very well made – a quality kitchen appliance. The stainless steel inner pot is somewhat hefty and it cleans up perfectly. Whenever I notice that rainbow-like discoloring that sometimes happens with stainless, a little Bar Keepers Friend brings it back to perfection.
10 out of 10 recommend, as my daughter says.
Benefits of the Instant Pot
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
- It is almost entirely “set it and forget it.” Honestly, since I work from home I tend to get immersed in what I’m doing and forget that I have something on the stove. (It’s so easy to check email or try to do one thing real quick and then an hour later realize you didn’t turn down the heat on the beans.)
- I can cook meat from frozen. Because I don’t remember to take things out of the freezer the night before.
- The stainless steel pot is SO easy to clean!
- I can cook dry beans in an hour or so, total. That’s without soaking them first.
- I can make a gallon of yogurt at a time. And I do.
- It doesn’t heat up the house.
- It makes great brown rice.
- When you use it to hard-boil eggs, they peel perfectly!
- I can sear a pot roast right there in the same pot it’s going to cook in.
- Unlike a stovetop pressure cooker, I don’t have to babysit it and turn the heat down. (See #1 above.)
Is the Instant Pot Better than a Stove Top Pressure Cooker?
Yes and no. For me, it’s mostly yes. Like I mentioned in the “Benefits” section, with the electric pressure cooker you don’t have to make any adjustments to the heat; it does it for you automatically.
I do have a Presto stove-top pressure cooker that I have used and loved for years. It’s great, and I’ll probably never get rid of it.
One thing both types of pressure cookers have in common is that they have a sealing ring and a little “hat” that safely releases a little bit of steam. The stovetop pressure cooker “hat” makes a steady hiss-hiss-hiss sound that reminds you dinner is cooking. The IP is mostly silent until you release the pressure.
With either pot, you need to change out the sealing ring. The stovetop type also has a little rubber button that is usually sold with the sealing ring. The Instant Pot has a silicone sealing ring (no rubber button) that has lasted a really long time. Both do need to be replaced eventually, and I think they are probably similar in price.
One disadvantage of the IP is that you can’t use it for canning. For that, you will still need a traditional canning setup.
Can you cook rice in an Instant Pot?
Can you ever! I started using my IP immediately to cook brown rice. You just pop in the right amount of rice, the right amount of water, seal the lid, push the buttons, and then you can literally forget that rice even exists. It won’t burn or overcook or turn out gummy.
Obviously I’m not talking about using it for instant rice; I don’t think you probably need a pressure cooker (or even a rice cooker) for that. I usually cook brown rice, but lots of people use their IPs for jasmine rice, basmati, long-grain white rice, grains like quinoa, etc.
But you might not want to put rice on to cook in the Instant Pot before you leave for work in the morning (unless you have the programmable model). I’m not sure if it would still be great after an eight-hour workday – but then again I’ve never tried it.
Is the Instant Pot Better than a Slow Cooker?
You can use an Instant Pot like a Crockpot or slow cooker. On the model I have, there’s a button for that, and instructions in the manual.
There are some differences though, between an Instant Pot slow cook function and a traditional slow cooker. For the most part, these are positives.
Difference #1: You can’t sear meat in a slow cooker. You know those recipes that tell you to brown your roast on all sides before putting it into the slow cooker? YES, I always hated that! Because you dirty up a skillet and you lose all the flavorful brown bits. The IP Duo60 7-in-1 comes with a stainless steel inner pot and a saute function that lets you sear meat, then deglaze the bottom, then slow-cook or pressure-cook your roast all in one pan. (Honestly I think this benefit is what got me to shell out the 142 bucks.)
Difference #2: The Instant Pot may not let as much liquid evaporate as when you use a slow cooker, so you might need to adjust the water content in your recipe. However, before you do that you may want to try a few things. First, when you’re not using the Instant Pot to pressure cook, you can remove the silicone sealing ring. That way it isn’t sealed up so tightly. Next, you make sure to set the little valve on top to the position that allows steam to escape.
Difference #3: Another (good) difference between a slow cooker and an Instant Pot is that all models of the IP have a locking lid, which makes it terrific for bringing to parties and potluck dinners. It’s so much easier to transport. I know that some models of slow cookers have lids that lock in place, but you might have to sacrifice some other feature you wanted in order to get one that does.
Difference #4: The last difference is really just a personal opinion that might not make a difference to anyone else: I work from home, and I don’t like smelling dinner all day. Oh yeah – at first it smells delicious, right around lunch time when all I can think about is how I can’t have any of it yet. Then as the afternoon wears on the food-smell becomes overbearing, to the point that by suppertime I don’t want to eat it. (This was another reason I really didn’t want to buy another Crockpot.) With the Instant Pot, it doesn’t take me all day to cook dinner, so I’m not subjected to that.
But honestly, if you don’t work from home and you loove, love your slow cooker because you can dump in the ingredients, turn it on low, and go to work, then you might be fine with only that appliance. Or, if you have the money and the space, there’s no reason not to have both!
Which Instant Pot Should I Buy?
My recommendation is always to buy the 6-quart Instant Pot. There are many different brands of electric pressure cooker, and even within the Instant Pot brand there are several different models and sizes to choose from.
The two I think are pretty much great for anyone are these:
- IP Duo60, 6-quart, 7-in-1 Instant Pot
- IP Lux, 6-quart
If you want to make yogurt, do look for the “Yogurt” button on the one you buy. From what I’ve heard, the LUX models sold in retails stores do not have this button, nor do they have a high/low pressure setting. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re not worth buying – some people never plan to make yogurt and would rather save a few dollars to have their Instant Pot now. And honestly, I have yet to use a low-pressure setting. I’m not even sure what it’s for.
I also recommend the 6-quart size for one reason: most recipes you’ll find are for the 6-quart pot. They do sell an 8-quart and a 3-quart. If your family is huge the 8-quart might be worth having, but then you’ll need to learn to adjust recipes. If you have very little counter space, the 3-quart may be worth getting; just remember that you can make small quantities in a big pressure cooker, but not the other way around.
What Are Some Things You Can Make in the Instant Pot?
In no particular order, here are some of the foods you can cook in the Instant Pot. (I’ve personally made all of these, except the ones at the end with an asterisk next to them.)
- Pot roast, potatoes, onions, and carrots (or your choice of vegetables)
- Pork carnitas filling
- Rice (including brown rice, Basmati, jasmine, etc.)
- Dry beans (including red beans, black beans, Great Northern, garbanzo, cannellini, pinto, etc.)
- Frozen pieces of chicken, pork, beef, etc.
- Whole chicken (not frozen)
- Soups and stews
- Steamed vegetables
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Stock (aka bone broth) and meat or vegetable broths
- Steel cut oats
- “Baked” potatoes*
You can also make pasta in the Instant Pot – macaroni and cheese or spaghetti – and I’ve done both with success. However, because they both have thick sauces you do have to follow special directions, which I can never seem to remember. Since I can make spaghetti and homemade macaroni and cheese on the stove without even thinking about it, that’s what I usually do.
So what do you think? Are you interested in getting (or saving up for) an Instant Pot? Or do you just want to stick with what you’ve already got?