Between busy schedules and limited time to prepare a meal, staying fit can be challenging, especially when unhealthy, processed food is readily available wherever you look. If you are looking for a simpler solution to meal prepping, the Instant Pot is your saving grace. It has gained a popular nickname Instapot over the years.
By now you’ve probably heard the buzz going around about the Instapot. It’s one of the latest kitchen trends on the market. Don’t believe the hype? Search the internet to find thousands of rave Instant Pot pressure cooker reviews singing its praises. The promise of a fast, fresh and healthy homemade meal is one of the greatest appeals of the Instant Pot. It doesn’t matter whether you are paleo, keto, vegan or just trying to eat better, pressure cooking is the answer for healthy food made fast. This article will tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Instant Pot.
What is an InstaPot?
The Instant Pot is a multi functional electric pressure cooker. It’s essentially one machine that does the work of seven! It works as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan all in one! Now, we are not saying to go ahead and throw out your oven, but the instant pot is one essential kitchen appliance that can do just about everything!
The Instant Pot has been around for a while – since 2006 to be exact. But it hadn’t really gained popularity until the last few years, when sales hit the roof. According to Robert Wang, the company’s CEO, sales have doubled and tripled in the last five years. In 2016, approximately 215,000 units were sold on Amazon Prime day alone, without a single advertisement. The functionality of the Instant Pot speaks for itself, and people want it!
One of its many benefits is that it makes cooking simple and easy, which enables you to put your energy into making your cooking healthier. You can make low-calorie, high-fiber meals — everything from beans and grains to chicken and meat — in half the time it would take on the stove top or oven.
What is the difference between a Pressure Cooker & a Slow Cooker?
The slow cooker is the old faithful of kitchen appliances. What makes a slow cooker so appealing is that it allows you to cook delicious meals low, slow, and unattended. The key to cooking with a slow cooker is that the temperature stays around 200 degrees. This is a difficult task to accomplish on the stove top, without constantly turning the temperature up and down. And the oven isn’t accurate enough to maintain such a low temperature. The slow cooker works its magic on the toughest meats by breaking down the collagen so that in a few hours time the meat is a moist, fork-tender texture. Whether you’ve spent the day at work or just relaxing at home, there’s nothing like coming home and having a hot dinner ready.
The Instant Pot is the trendy new kitchen appliance that’s quickly making its way into homes everywhere. The Instant Pot not only serves as a slow cooker, but it has the capability to do many other things. Because of its multi functional purpose, it has a little bit more of a learning curve than the traditional “set it and forget it” slow cooker. But once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy to get a handle on using all the functions of the device. Both pressure cookers and slow cookers are great kitchen devices, but why not just save the counter space and use the Instant Pot that has a slow cooker and pressure cooker combined in one unit?
Features of the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot has quite a few buttons on its interface, which can be a little overwhelming at first. The basic buttons you will want to know are:
- Manual: this button is the standard pressure cooker setting. It defaults to high pressure (which is a pressure of 10.2-11.6 psi and a temperature of 239°F-244°F), but the pressure can also be adjusted to low if needed by pressing the “pressure” button. Most foods can be cooked on this setting, except for rice and yogurt.
- Saute: this button helps you give your meat a good sear and your vegetables a nice saute, bringing out the flavors even more before you throw them in the pressure cooker. There are three temperature ranges that you can choose from: “normal” (320-349°F), “more” (347-410°F), and “less” (275-302°F), which you can toggle between by pressing “adjust.”
- Keep Warm/Cancel: this button stops the process of whatever the Instant Pot is doing at the moment. It can be used if you forget to throw in an ingredient, or if you think the food is done before it is done cooking. If you press the button a second time, it will switch over to keep warm mode (somewhere in the temperature range of 145-172°F). Another unique feature is when it is done with its selected cooking program, the Instant Pot will automatically switch to “Keep Warm” for up to 99 hours!
- Pressure: this button changes the pressure for almost every setting, with the exception of “saute,” “slow cook,” and “yogurt.”
- + and –: These buttons change the time on the “manual” setting, but it does not work for other pre-programmed settings.
- Adjust: This is the button to use when adjusting the cooking times for pre-programmed settings, except for rice since that is fully automatic.
Now that you know some of the basic buttons, you are ready to start cooking. Of course, you don’t want to forget about the “fancier” pre-programmed buttons too, like “soup/broth,” “rice,” “meat/stew, “bean/chili,” “porridge,” “steam,” “slow cook,” “yogurt,” and “poultry.” It is important to note that there are a few different models of the Instant Pot that may include more or less pre-programmed buttons.
If you own a stove top pressure cooker, you probably know or have heard stories of the potential dangers associated with pressure cookers. Horrifying visions of scalding hot pressurized contents exploding all over the kitchen walls may come to mind. Many people are actually fearful of using pressure cookers for this very reason. Cooking should be fun, not anxiety-inducing. This is where the Instant Pot comes in.
The Instant Pot is much safer than its stove top counterpart and is loaded with safety features. In fact, it has 10 levels of safety.
- Lid Close Detection – detects proper lid position. The device will not activate pressurized cooking capabilities without the lid being properly closed. Only the warm and saute feature will work without the lid.
- Leakage Protection – leakage around the lid prevents the pressurized cooker from reaching optimal pressure. This would present risk of burning the food. The Instant Pot detects this by calculating the pre-heating time. If it takes longer than usual, it will switch to the “keep warm” feature.
- Lid Lock Under Pressure – the device will not allow the lid to unlock when contents are still under any amount of pressure.
- Anti-Blockage Vent – prevents food from blocking the steam vent
- Automatic Temperature Control – regulates the temperature based on the type of food that is being cooked.
- High Temperature Monitoring – avoids burning food.
- Extreme Temperature and Power Protection – cuts off power if the temperature or electrical fuse exceeds the safety limit.
- Automatic Pressure Control – regulates the pressure to stay at a safe level during the duration of cooking.
- Pressure Regulator Protection – ensures that pressure is kept beneath the safety limit.
- Excess Pressure Protection – releases the pressure into a separate internal chamber, in the event the pressure exceeds the safety limit.
Knowing how these cookers work and how to use them properly can ensure a much safer and more enjoyable pressure cooking experience!
Another great benefit of the Instant Pot is that it is energy efficient. By now, you have learned that cooking is easy and fast with the Instant Pot. Less cooking time translates into less electricity used. On average, you will save up to 70% on electricity when comparing it to other common kitchen cooking appliances, such as a stove or oven.
If you have ever touched a slow cooker in the middle of cooking a typical 6-hour long meal, you will know that they get pretty hot – sometimes almost hot enough to burn you. The Instant Pot is unique in this circumstance. It has a double layer of insulation with air pockets to harness and concentrate the energy fully on cooking the food. In fact, during long duration cooking, the heat is only on 40% of the time. This is because the Instant Pot focuses on pressurized cooking. Try touching an Instant Pot while it’s cooking, and see the difference.
The Instant Pot requires less water for cooking due to the device being fully sealed. When comparing it with steaming, you will use 75% less water on average. This is yet another way the Instant Pot shows us its energy efficiency capabilities.
Which Instant Pot Model is Right for You?
Since there are so many different versions of the Instant Pot, it can be difficult to choose which one. It’s best to compare the differences of each to find out which works best for your and your family.
Instant Pot LUX60 V3 6Qt (6 in 1)
Instant Pot Lux V3 6 appliances in 1 enhanced version includes a Cake and Egg program in addition to the Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer. It doesn’t include a yogurt maker, but if that’s not something you are concerned about, it is a less expensive model with many capabilities.
Instant Pot DUO60 6 (7 in 1)
This is one of the most popular models of the Instant Pot. It has the original 7-in-1 multi-functionality which combines a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and saute/browning functionality. There are a total of 14 pre-programmed functions ranging from rice to stew. It can saute meats and vegetables and also serves as as a pressure cooker and a slow cooker.
Instant Pot DUO Plus 60 (9 in 1)
This model is an upgrade to the DUO60. It contains everything as the original model, but has a few upgraded features as well, including cake egg and sterilize settings. Yes, you can even sterilize baby bottles in the Instant Pot. This newer model also contains some features that make cooking with the Instant Pot easier. The large, blue LCD display light helps you see how the cooker is progressing from far away. Status icons allow you to see if cooking is in progress, what pressure program is selected, and whether the warm or sound functions are on or off.
Instant Pot DUO Plus Mini 3Qt (9 in 1)
This mini instant pot serves as the perfect companion to your existing Instant Pot. This compact model gives you the ability to make small meals, vegetables or side dishes, while freeing up your larger model to make a main dish. This model contains all of the features of the original, plus an egg maker and sterilizer.
Instant Pot Ultra 6 Qt (10 in 1)
This Instant Pot Contains everything that the Duo Plus 060 has. In addition to all of these great features, it contains an exclusive “Ultra” feature. Developed to provide unlimited control in pressure and non-pressure cooking conditions. It allows you to adjust functions based on your and preferences.
Which one should you get? It really depends on your needs. Consider the features and what you would and wouldn’t use. Also, if you are cooking for just you, perhaps a smaller size would be better. But if you have a family of 5, you might want to look into a 6 qt or and even larger 8 qt. model of the Instant Pot.
What can you cook with the Instant Pot?
Given that the Instant Pot has so many functions, it can be overwhelming to figure out where exactly to start. So before you start making delicious meals, it is important to understand how it all works. You can help familiarize yourself with the Instant Pot by running a water test. By just testing out a few cups of water, you can ensure that everything is working properly, that your sealing ring is on correctly, and you understand how the sealing and venting mechanisms work. Once you know the basics of operating your device, let the cooking begin!
Hard boiled eggs are a great way to introduce yourself to cooking in your Instant Pot. Start by simply placing the eggs in the metal rack that was included with your Instant Pot, along with one cup of water. Close the the lid and the vent valve so they are in the proper locked position, and then press the “manual” button and adjust the pressure to high. The timing differs based on how you like your eggs cooked.
- Hard-Boiled – 5 minutes
- Soft-Boiled – 4 minutes
- Poached – 1 minute
The timer will go off, signaling the eggs are done. Release the pressure by sliding the steam release handle to the “venting” position, making sure to keep hands, faces, pets, children, and important documents out of the way of the escaping steam. Remove the eggs with gloves or tongs and get them into some ice water to stop the cooking process. Serve immediately or transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to chow down.
If you love making soups, you probably know that making stock takes hours. The Instant Pot turns hours into minutes. The best part is that it is so inexpensive to make. Saving scraps of carrot peels, chicken bones, onions and celery work together to bring an amazing flavor to your stock that is sure to be healthier and tastier than the store bought chicken stock. Simply dump it altogether season with herbs and seasonings, then cover with water up to the maximum fill line. Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes with valve to sealed position. Then allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally for 30 minutes, before releasing pressure manually. Then strain the chicken stock and enjoy!
These are just a few simple things you can do in your in your Instant Pot. Don’t forget you can steam vegetables, create one pot pasta meals, make delicious desserts, and more. Just when you think there’s something you can’t do in the Instant pot, you will find a recipe for it. You will be shocked at all that you can do with the Instant Pot. There are numerous recipes for quick Instant Pot Meals on Pinterest.
Instant Pot Cookbooks
The Instant Pot has gained so much popularity over recent years, that there are now paperback cookbooks dedicated to Instant Pot recipes. Online recipes are great, but if you want to be sure to keep your recipes for a lifetime, check out some of the paperback cookbooks that are available. Amazon sells one of the top-selling Instant Pot cookbooks, The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals.
Once you get really advanced in cooking with the Instant Pot, you can begin to convert some of your favorite recipes into pressure cooker recipes. But first, you have to make sure that your recipe will be suited for the Instant Pot. Since the Instant Pot requires water, your recipe will ideally have some water or other liquid base already in it.
Beans, soups, meats, and slow cooker recipes are generally easily adapted to the Instant Pot pressure cooker. Although there are a lot of things that can be pressure cooked, not everything is going to work well in the Instant Pot. If you are looking for a crispy, fried coating on chicken, pressure cooking won’t give you the results you are looking for. If you have lean or tender meat, pressure cooking may not be the best method.
The pressure cooker works well with meats that are tough or fatty, making them succulent and tender. It works well with soups, making them taste like they’ve simmered all day. It works well with vegetables, making them tender and tasty. And all of this is done within minutes, instead of hours.
The key to adapting a normal recipe to a recipe that is compatible with the pressure cooker is adjusting the amount of time. There are multiple charts online that can help you determine how long to cook certain foods in the pressure cooker. As a starting point, you can reduce the time for meats by two-thirds and pasta can be reduced by one-half.
If you have more than one ingredient in the Instant Pot, determining the timing can be a little tricky. After all, a large 3 lb chunk of roast will take longer to cook than diced potatoes. In this predicament, you can either cut the roast into smaller pieces so the cook time matches the cook time for the rest of the ingredients. If you aren’t fond of cutting up the roast, another method could be to cook the roast first then add the potatoes in later.
Instant Pot Cleaning Instructions
The Instant Pot has little maintenance other than post-meal clean up. But it is important to know how to deep clean the Instant Pot as there are a few key parts that can make or break the performance of the device, and you wouldn’t want to damage those!
Here are the detailed instructions of how to clean your Instant Pot safely and effectively.
- Unplug your Instant Pot. It’s always best to unplug any electrical appliance before cleaning to eliminate the risk of electrical shock.
- Get your cleaning products ready. A cotton or microfiber cloth and dish soap work best. Vinegar can also be used for tough areas.
- Take off the lid and the interior pot from the housing. This allows you to be able to clean in all areas needed.
- Wash the outside of the housing. Be sure to remove all free-standing crumbs and wash dried-on stains. Never immerse the housing in water as there are electrical components that are key to the device working properly.
- Clean in the cracks and crevices. Don’t overlook these parts as this is where food and crumbs can easily build up over time, which can make it even more difficult to clean. A small brush can help you get into those hard-to-reach spots.
- Hand-wash the lid. When you allow the Instant Pot to cool naturally, the condensation that builds up will naturally loosen anything stuck on. It makes it easy to wipe off with hot soapy water. Every once in a while, you will need to remove the screws from the lid to do a deep clean.
- Remove the steam release handle for cleaning. Food particles can easily get built up under the steam release handle. Remove it gently, examine, and clean.
- Remove the anti-block shield for cleaning.The anti-block shield can be found underneath the lid. Remove the anti-block shield and wipe the steam valve gently. It is important to remember that the steam valve should never be removed. After cleaning, reattach the anti-block shield and tighten by hand. If you regularly let out steam while cooking with your Instant Pot, you may want to clean the steam valve on a regular basis.
- Remove the float valve. Remove the silicone ring anchoring the float valve and clean both portions; reattach when dry. Always inspect the float valve to make sure it can move up and down easily without obstruction.
- Remove the sealing ring. The silicone sealing ring should be removed for cleaning periodically, as the ring can take on different flavors. Inspect for any cracks or damage. You may want to have an extra sealing ring on hand just in case.
- Wash the inner pot and steam rack. These items can be hand washed or placed in the dishwasher.
- Protect the finish on the inner pot with vinegar. To prevent discoloration on the stainless steel inner pot, wipe or soak with vinegar.
- Reassemble the Instant Po.t Put everything back together, making sure each part is securely reattached to ensure the proper seal.
Common Instant Pot Mistakes To Avoid
Operating an Instant Pot isn’t foolproof. New Instant Pot users are prone to making mistakes, but most of them can be avoided by finding out what the common mistakes are and how to do it the right way.
Forgetting the internal pot in the housing unit. Even an experienced user can forget. You might find yourself rushing around the kitchen trying to get dinner going, throwing everything into your Instant Pot only to find out later on that your forgot to put the internal pot in the housing unit. This can be seriously damaging to your Instant Pot. Try putting on the lid when you remove the inner pot to remind yourself to put the inner pot back in.
Overfilling your Instant Pot. If you look inside the Instant Pot, you will see that there is a “Max Fill” line. You never want to fill it past this line. Doing so will risk clogging the venting, which could cause big problems. If you do happen to overfill it, use the natural release valve to relieve the pressure. Then remove the extra water, reseal, and you’re good to go.
Using Quick Release when Cooking Foamy Food in your Instant Pot. Foods such as grains or beans tend to create foam when cooking in the Instant Pot. By using the quick release, you are sure to have a foamy mess on your counter top. Instead of using the quick release, try releasing the pressure gradually by turning the venting knob just a little until you hear a hissing sound. Hold it at that position to release the pressure gradually.
Pressing the Timer Button to Set Cooking TimeAs a new Instant Pot user, you might think it makes sense that the “timer” button would be used for setting the cooking time. In this case, however, the “timer” button is used for delayed cooking. If this button is pressed, your food will not be cooking. You will know delayed cooking is on if there is a green button lit up. Simply, press the “warm/cancel” button to start over again.
Forgetting to put the Venting Knob in the Sealing Position.
Another very common mistake that new Instant Pot users make is forgetting to turn the venting knob to the sealing position. Make a habit to turn the venting knob to the sealing position each time you cook. You will know that it is in the sealing position when the floating valve has popped up.
Putting the Instant Pot on the Stove and Accidentally Turning the Stove on.It happens. You set your Instant Pot on the stove because you have limited cabinet space. It’s all fine and dandy until you go to turn your burner on completely forgetting your Instant Pot is on it. This can completely damage the Instant Pot, by melting the bottom. If you are limited on space, think about purchasing a kitchen utility cart to prevent this catastrophe from happening.
Cooking with Too Much Water in your Instant Pot. When you add too much water to your Instant Pot, your cooking time will increase. This can cause your food to be overcooked; not to mention, the excessive water to seasoning ratio will cause the food to be more bland. To avoid this, make sure you are using the correct amount of water for your food.
Forgetting to Reattach the Sealing Ring on the Instant Pot The Instant Pot has a very important component called a sealing ring. Many users take it out for washing after each use. It’s very easy to forget to put back on, but it is essential for pressure cooking. Steam escaping from the lid acts as a cue that the sealing ring has not been properly placed or is missing altogether.
Instant Pot Accessories
The Instant Pot is such a versatile kitchen appliance. That being said, there is a wide selection of accessories that you can purchase to go along with your instant pot. These handy accessories can make your already useful Instant Pot even more useful!
The steamer basket accessory can be used to steam some your favorite foods. Steaming is a healthier option, because it retains the vitamins and nutrients contained in vegetables. The steamer basket is made out of high quality stainless steel. It also includes an egg steamer rack, which can be used for cooking hard-boiled, soft-boiled, or poached eggs. Not to mention, it doubles as a multi-functional device as it can be used for other types of foods and even a cooling rack!
Silicon molds work great for making small portions. You can use them to cook egg bites by pouring in your egg mixture into the molds and placing the mold into your Instant Pot. Add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pot, cook on low pressure for 3 minutes, then do a natural pressure release. Silicon molds can also be used in the microwave or even the oven up to 425 degrees.
The 6″ Springform Cake Pan accessory fits perfectly into the Instant Pot, for cooking cakes, cheesecakes and more. Yes, you can even make desserts in the Instant Pot! It’s made of glass and silicon for durability and easy cleaning.
As simple as it sounds, a silicon lid is one of the best accessories you can get for your Instant Pot. It allows you to easily store your food by simply putting the silicon lid on the Instant Pot without having to store it in a separate container.
Now you can take your Instant Pot with you wherever you go. Get the travel bag that offers padded protection for wherever your travels take you. It even has an accessory compartment for you to take your accessories along with you. If not for traveling, it’s also a great bag to have to store your Instant Pot in at home.
Is the Instant Pot worth it?
The Instant Pot is definitely worth the price and the hype. If you add up all of the functions that the Instant Pot can do and then compare it to how much it would cost to buy each of those appliances separately, you are actually saving hundreds of dollars! It is just one small device that can do the job of many, ultimately saving you time, money and space.
If you live a busy lifestyle, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Let the Instant Pot do all the work for you, all while eating healthier and living a better life. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken the plunge and purchased an Instant Pot and agree that it has been life changing. Why don’t you take the plunge too?