I love to cook, and I’ve become somewhat of a collector of gadgets. I love getting and learning about new tools, especially ones that will save me time and/or effort!
However, more than a few of these devices spend most of their time sitting on a shelf or in a cupboard. I love having them when I need them, but their usefulness is sporadic at best.
My Instant Pot is not one of those sidelined gadgets or forgotten tools. It has become my new best friend in the kitchen, mostly due to the fact that it can do almost everything I need in half the time! It’s perfect for a busy mom who wants to serve her family delicious, but healthy, food.
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When the Instant Pots started getting really popular last year, I thought they looked neat but gimmicky. The outlandish claims of cooking a frozen roast in under an hour seemed questionable to me – a little too good to be true.
Then I started seeing people post on social media about how much they used and loved their Instant Pots, and I began to think maybe there was something to them. When I saw a couple women that I knew and trusted recommend them, I knew it was something I wanted to try for myself.
Never heard of an Instant Pot? Here’s what it is, in a nutshell:
What is an Instant Pot?
- Electric, programmable pressure cooker
- Intelligent multi-cooker
- Can do the job of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker/porridge maker, sauté/browning pan, steamer, yogurt maker and stockpot warmer
- Cooks faster, uses less energy, and preserves more nutrients than traditional methods
- Safer than the old pressure cookers – has 10 fool-proof safety protections
Why Do I Love My Instant Pot?
- Savory tender meat – You wouldn’t believe how juicy and tender the meat is after it’s finished cooking. In fact, we had some beef left over from part of a cow we had bought that was really low quality, and even Levon’s master grilling skills couldn’t produce a good steak from it. I didn’t want to throw it away, so I cooked it in my Instant Pot. It was tender and delicious! We were amazed.
- Speedy cooking – Although the cooking claims that you’ll read on the box and in recipes aren’t quite the full story (more on that later), it really does produce high quality meals in half my usual time or less.
- Can set it and walk away – With two little kids to watch and wrangle, I love anything that I don’t have to babysit while I’m cooking! Simple is the name of the game these days, and the Instant Pot allows me to set it and forget it!
- Preserves nutrients – The Instant Pot actually cooks food at a lower temperature than most other cooking methods. The pressure is what allows it to cook more efficiently, and therefore more quickly. The lower temperature and faster cook time preserve more nutrients than those that use high temperatures to cook.
- Full flavor – So far, everything I’ve made has been full of flavor and mouthwateringly delicious!
- Energy efficient – As someone who is very budget conscious and frugal, I love energy efficiency!
- No need for thawing – I am notorious for forgetting to thaw frozen meals and meat before I need them. With the Instant Pot, you don’t have to! You can cook from a frozen state. All it requires is a few extra minutes. How awesome is that??
- Extremely versatile! – This is my favorite trait of the Instant Pot. I can make almost everything I want to in it!
What Have I Made in My Instant Pot?
- Boiled Eggs – This is my new favorite way to make boiled eggs! (Even better than my previous fool-proof method!)
- Rice – It makes the most perfectly-textured rice!
- Dried Beans – So fast! No more overnight soaks and all-day cooking! I can do up a bag of beans in a couple hours!
- Whole Chicken
- Chicken Stock – Check this out: One day, I cooked a whole chicken (and used the meat for 4 different meals), made chicken stock from the bones, cooked some dried beans, and made white bean chicken chili all in one day! If any of you have ever made homemade chicken stock or dried beans, you know how amazing that is.
- Pork Loin & Pork Chops
- Steel Cut Oats – You may have seen my post on Facebook, but I tried steel cut oats a few years ago and thought they were gross. I didn’t care for the taste or the texture at all. But I love them in my Instant Pot! I’m not exaggerating at all. They are so gooey and creamy and full of flavor. (Recipes below.)
- Refried Beans – I have always made my refried beans in the slow cooker, and I still might on occasion, but it was much faster in my Instant Pot.
- Mashed Potatoes – There was nothing earth-shattering about these, just faster and easier.
- Beef – As I mentioned earlier, even low quality cuts of meat can be salvaged by the Instant Pot!
- Chicken Alfredo – I’m mentioning this dish specifically because there was something REALLY cool and exciting about it. I was able to make this using raw chicken and dry pasta with a little sauce and the two cooked up together perfectly! I’m keeping this recipe in my back pocket for those “Uh oh, I need a simple supper fast!” nights.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you with your Instant Pot cooking:
Instant Pot Tips & Tricks:
- Understand the timing – The cook times listed in recipes are a bit misleading. That’s just the time it takes to cook once it has reached necessary pressure. You will need to factor in additional time to build pressure and time for the pressure to release. It’s going to vary depending on what you’re cooking, but it can take up to 15-20 minutes to build pressure, and anywhere from 30 seconds (if using a quick release) to 25 minutes (if using natural release) for the pressure to come back down.
- Needs at least 1 cup liquid
- You can convert slow cooker recipes
- Pay attention to whether you are to use quick release or natural pressure release. – Most of your recipes should specify. A quick release is good for foods that might easily overcook, such as quick-cooking vegetables or seafood. A natural release is nice because it doesn’t cause a messy spray and will keep your kitchen a bit cleaner. 🙂 It’s good for foamy or high volume foods. It’s also good for keeping delicate foods intact.
- Freezer meals – When preparing freezer meals for the Instant Pot, freeze them in round containers. That way you can just pop them out and put them right in your pot. No thawing necessary!! (For real. That’s one of my favorite things about them!)
- Don’t throw away the leftover liquid – Anything you make in the Instant Pot requires liquid, and after several nights of use, we were running out of things to use to dispose of the leftover liquid. A friend suggested I use it to cook my rice. She was right! The leftover liquid lent a nice subtle flavor and delightfully creamy texture to my rice. You can also use the liquid to make broths, stocks, sauces, and gravy.
- Other helpful accessories:
- 6” glass baking dish – I have several recipes that direct you to prepare the food in a round glass baking dish and then set the dish on a rack in your Instant Pot. I got this simple Pyrex one.
- Rack – Your Instant Pot will come with some kind of rack, but depending on which kind your particular model includes, you may want another.
- Silicone Mini Mitts – The inner pot spins, which makes stirring and scraping really difficult sometimes. These mini mitts are on definitely on my to-buy list!
Okay, you’re saying, they look great. But what kind do I get??
What Instant Pot Should I Get?
- Here is my #1 piece of advice – Do not fall for a knock-off brand. My first electric pressure cooker was a Power Cooker Plus (the As Seen On TV brand). The very first thing I made (from the brand’s own recipe book, mind you) produced undercooked meat and hard pasta. And it took wayyyyy longer than advertised to build pressure. Our dinner that night was significantly later than expected, which is not a fun thing with a hungry toddler. Learn from my mistake – get the trusted brand.
- Piece of advice #2: Don’t worry about the pre-set functions! I spent so much time when picking out my Instant Pot worrying about which functions I was going to use more often. After I got it and learned how to use it, I realized that it doesn’t matter a bit! You can cook anything in any of the pots using the manual button and adjusting the time. The preset functions just make it a little easier to remember how long to cook, and cut down on how many times you have to push a button. The only exception is the rice function, which is fully-automated. But all the Instant Pots I’ve seen have it, so you don’t have to worry there.
- High & Low Pressure – One of my cookbooks says that 99% of what you will make will use the high setting. Several bloggers I have read who have the Instant Pot Duo say that they have never even used the low setting. So this is also not a big deciding factor.
- What I should have based my decision on was size. I wish I would have paid the extra money for a larger pot. The 6 quart is fine now, but as our family grows, we are going to outgrow our pot. At some point, I will need to spring for the 8 quart.
This is the Instant Pot I ended up getting, and it has served me well!
By now I know you’re dying for some of the fabulous recipes we’ve enjoyed. I won’t list them all (I’ve used my cooker probably 5 times or more a week for the last 6 weeks. That’s a lot of recipes!), but here are a few!
Instant Pot Recipes:
- Many of the recipes I’ve used came from my two Instant Pot cookbooks:
The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook
Instant Pot Cookbook: The Quick And Easy Pressure Cooker Guide For Smart People
I love the blue one, but a little caveat about the red – there are several typos and a few confusing or conflicting directions. I do like a lot of the recipes in it, but I wouldn’t recommend using it until you’ve gotten a good feel for Instant Pot cooking and will be able to fill in the blanks left by the recipe instructions.
Steel cut oats | Tidbits
Honey Pork Chops | Once a Month Meals
Chipotle Beef | Kitchen Stewardship
Pinto Beans | Instant Pot
What do you think? Does it sound like something you would like to try? I highly doubt you’ll ever look back once you get one. I can’t say enough good things about mine!
Thanks for joining me in my new love affair, and happy cooking!
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