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For most of my life, I never considered myself a cook.
I grew up eating whatever my parents cooked at home, going out to eat with my boyfriend, or just grabbing fast food wherever. I loved food, but it was more about eating it than cooking it myself.
And then I moved out.
At first, my boyfriend and I would get food from typical fast food chains and casual joints. As much as I love a greasy burger or burrito bowl, it wasn’t healthy. And the cost adds up quickly. I knew that something had to change now that we were living together.
Before I met my current boyfriend, I ended up staying at my sister’s house often. She enjoys cooking, and had me help out when she prepared meals for us.
I learned some basic cooking techniques from her during my time there. But as someone who’s considered lazy by others, I didn’t like cooking when it involved babysitting pots and pans on the stovetop.
Then my sister told me about the Instant Pot. She raved about it, telling me about the delicious meals she’s made just with this one kitchen appliance. This magical pot has changed my outlook on cooking. Even if you’re not a (good) cook, the Instant Pot will change your culinary life.
What Is the Instant Pot?
Simply put, the Instant Pot is a multi-cooker. It does six or seven things, depending on the model you choose. The Instant Pot is primarily an electric pressure cooker, but it’s also a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté/browning pan, and a warming pot. The non-LUX models also have a yogurt-making function.
One kitchen tool that does seven different things? Sign me up! I certainly don’t have the space for seven separate appliances, so the convenience factor is definitely there with the Instant Pot. Plus it can make foods that normally take several hours in a fraction of that time.
The Instant Pot exterior is fingerprint-resistant, heavy duty, brushed stainless steel. There’s a condensation collector cup that snaps into place on the outside for collecting excess liquid. Inside is a stainless steel inner pot where you throw all of your ingredients.
The lid features an anti-block shield (pictured above) that prevents food particles from blocking the steam release valve. The plastic sealing ring is a vital component. Without it, pressure won’t build inside the pot, and nothing cooks.
There’s a floating valve pin on the top of the lid that indicates pressure and prevents the lid from opening.
To get rid of pressure, steam must escape through the safety valve at the top. This is the knob that you can turn to seal or vent position.
When recipes call for Quick Release (QR), you must gradually release pressure by turning the valve to vent. Be careful of the steam! Natural Pressure Release (NPR) is allowing the pressure to go down by itself with no user input. This occurs during the Keep Warm phase, which happens right after the cook time.
While the Instant Pot components may be intimidating at first, it’s not too bad once you get the hang of things. It is highly recommended to read the manual and do the initial water test to see the basics in action.
The Pros and Cons of the Instant Pot
There’s a lot of pros to having the Instant Pot, but it isn’t without its own set of flaws, as well.
Convenience Is Key
The best part about the Instant Pot is the fact that it’s an appliance that lets you dump in the ingredients, set it, and then forget about it. It does all of the work for you, so you can go sit back and relax for a while as the food cooks. If you’re a parent, then this is even better, as you can spend time with your little ones while they wait.
The “dump-it-in-and-forget-about-it” mentality that comes with Instant Pot cooking also means not having to babysit your food on the stovetop or oven. For me, this is a huge benefit, as I don’t like having to wait around in front of a stove in a hot kitchen.
Another nice thing about the Instant Pot is that you don’t have to be a good cook to make great food. Even if you have zero cooking experience, the Instant Pot lets you easily make pot roast, soups, stews, and whatever else you’re craving with minimal effort. Just find some reputable recipes, follow the directions, and voilà!
Plus, it’s especially useful for foods that normally take several hours in a slow cooker, such as pot roast. And in the end, there’s less to wash.
For those with limited kitchen space, the Instant Pot can be a great space-saver with its multiple functions. Theoretically, you can probably replace most of your kitchen appliances with a single Instant Pot. No more rice cooker, slow cooker, microwave (Instant Pot’s Keep Warm setting can heat up leftovers), or yogurt maker. While it’s plausible, it’s not completely advisable, as I’ll get to in a moment.
The Instant Pot Isn’t Perfect
However, the Instant Pot is not the end-all-be-all of kitchen appliances because while it’s mostly great, it has some downsides.
The first downside is while the Instant Pot can be a timesaver for a lot of things (like stew and pot roast), sometimes it doesn’t save much time. For simple things, like eggs or steaming vegetables, it may not be worth the effort. This is due to the Instant Pot needing to build pressure first, which takes several minutes, in addition to the actual cooking time. Plus, little things like that aren’t too hard to cook traditionally.
One of the biggest disappointments is the slow cooker functionality, and there’s a lot of mixed reviews out there. Since the Instant Pot heats up differently than a slow cooker (heat from center bottom rather than traveling upwards to the sides of the ceramic pot), you have to adjust the Instant Pot’s settings for slow cooking.
This means that the Instant Pot’s Low is equivalent to Keep Warm on a slow cooker, Normal is Low, and More is High, respectively. If you plan to do slow cooking, it’s better to keep your Crock Pot (or whatever slow cooker brand you use) around, because the Instant Pot’s better at pressure cooking than slow.
Finally, the biggest negative about the Instant Pot is probably how intimidating it looks at first glance. It’s a technical piece of machinery and unlike anything you’ve cooked with before. There can be a bit of a learning curve with it, but once you get the hang of it, cooking with it becomes a breeze. But you’ll have to get over that initial hump first.
Getting Creative With the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot is great with roasts, stews, soups, broth, chicken, rice, and quick meals without requiring you to babysit it the entire time. But what else can you do with the Instant Pot?
A lot, actually.
Cook Your Own Homemade Dog Food
One of the reasons I decided to start cooking more is because I’m trying to eat healthier. The same applies to your faithful adopted friend.
Kibble is just dry pebbles that come out of a factory and look rather unappetizing. And since it’s processed, dogs can suffer inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and more health issues if that’s all they eat. Especially with cheaper brands of dog food.
But if you have an Instant Pot, it’s entirely possible to make your own homemade dog food. While dogs need a lot of protein, they also need some carbohydrates, fat, and vitamins.
When you make your own dog food, you can mix together various sources of protein, produce, and other supplements that are safe for dogs to consume. Prep time, cook time, and cost are minimal, and there will be plenty of food for your pup. You may store remaining servings in the fridge for up to two weeks or frozen for up to three months.
Serve Up Some Sweet Desserts
The Instant Pot is primarily used for making savory foods, but it is entirely possible to make desserts in it as well.
One of the most popular Instant Pot desserts is cheesecake. Who doesn’t love a decadent cheesecake?
The key with making cheesecake in the Instant Pot is the pot-in-pot method. This requires placing water on the bottom of the inner liner, and then using the trivet (or a metal rack) to hold a springform pan.
All of the ingredients for your cheesecake go in the pan that sits on top of the water. One cup of water (usually the minimum for cooking anything in the Instant Pot) is necessary for creating steam and building pressure.
If you love making homemade desserts, the Instant Pot is a great tool in your arsenal. A simple internet search will bring up many Instant Pot dessert recipes. There’s also room for experimentation if you have an understanding of how pressure cooking works in general.
Create Your Own Yogurt
Yogurt not only tastes good — it’s healthy, too. But buying it constantly at the store can get expensive, especially if it’s a frequent purchase. Fortunately, you can make your own batch of fresh yogurt for a fraction of the cost with the Instant Pot.
To make yogurt with the Instant Pot, all you need is cold water, milk, and a yogurt with active bacterial cultures to serve as a starter. There are some special tools required, including food thermometers, and a stainless steel ladle.
All Instant Pot models, except for the cheaper LUX, come with a Yogurt setting. This makes the pot boil milk at around 180 degrees F. Then the milk needs to cool, you prepare the yogurt starter, add the yogurt to the cooled milk, and incubate for at least eight hours.
If you use the cold start method, it’s much easier, but you’ll need more specific ingredients to make the yogurt. Either way, you end up with fresh yogurt that you can flavor yourself, and you get more yogurt for less than buying it at the store.
Make Hard Lotion Bars for Everyone
Have you ever wanted to make your own lotion bars at home? Without the Instant Pot, you’ll have to use the double boil method.
This method is cumbersome, annoying, and prone to accidents. But with the Instant Pot and the Keep Warm setting, the way of double boilers is no more.
To create your own hard lotion bars, you need cacao (or shea) butter, beeswax, olive oil, and your favorite skin-friendly essential oils. Just set your Instant Pot to Keep Warm and toss in the butter, beeswax, and olive oil so it all melts together. Mix in the oils if you choose to use them, and then set aside to harden (or place them in the fridge).
Once they’ve set, you can wrap them up in parchment and give them some fancy packaging. These would make great gifts, or you could even try selling them eventually if they’re a hit.
How I’ve Benefited From the Instant Pot
While I’ve only had the Instant Pot for a few months, it’s changed my life for the better. I used to eat out much more because I was too lazy to cook, but the Instant Pot has changed my outlook.
Rather than going out to eat or eating processed frozen or canned foods, I cook with the Instant Pot several times a week. I keep various red meats, chicken, and fish in the freezer, and make sure my pantry carries essentials for many recipes.
When I make meals for my boyfriend and I with the Pot, there’s always leftovers, which means money saved on the next day’s meals. Plus, since I know everything that goes in my meal, there’s no more guessing what’s in my food (goodbye, weird mystery meat).
Doctors have told me that I need to eat healthier, and the Instant Pot is pointing me in the right direction. It’s ignited an interest in cooking for me. Sometimes I get in the mood to make steak or breakfast, and I have no problem with turning to the stove or oven, or even investing in new kitchen tools.
The Instant Pot Community on Facebook is very active, so I’ve been spending some time there, as well. People share lots of recipes and tips, so I’ve been able to try some new foods that I probably wouldn’t have thought of making. It’s been a great way to branch out.
Even though the Instant Pot is great, it is by no means the end-all of kitchen appliances. However, it has improved my life because of how easy it is to make complete meals with it. What’s not to love about just dumping in ingredients, setting it, and then walking away and forgetting about it until dinner’s ready?
Plus it’s a super versatile tool, because it’s not only a pressure cooker, but it’s a rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and more. You’ll feel like a chef once you start cooking with the Instant Pot.
And for those who want to be more creative, there are many unorthodox things you can make in the Instant Pot. It’s quite revolutionary!
Do you have an Instant Pot? Has it made your cooking life much easier? What are your favorite recipes or things to make in the Pot? Let us know in the comments!