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The Instant Pot has been all the rage this past couple of years. Although intrigued, I held off for a while because of three main concerns. Maybe you are holding off for some of the same reasons. Let me share what I found out.
My concerns about the Instant Pot were:
- Is pressure cooking safe for my food?
- Is it scary to use? (This one might seem weird, but I had a stove top pressure cooker that was an adrenaline ride to cook with to say the least.
- Is it just another kitchen gadget to clutter up my cupboards?
When the 8 quart Instant Pot went on a deep discount for Amazon Prime Day last year, I finally did some research. (Spoiler alert: I decided to buy one. 🙂 )
Here is what I found out about the instant pot:
- My primary concern regarding the Instant Pot was wondering if cooking with the instant pot was healthy. Would cooking under pressure would leave any vitamins and minerals in my food? I am a traditional foodie (you can go here for an explanation, but it basically means I try to eat like my great-great grandmother did as much as is possible.) Since there is no way my great-great grandmother would have used a digital pressure cooker, I was skeptical. Slow and low is the way our ancestors cooked. However, technology has delivered a few of my favorite daily-used kitchen tools: my food processor, my dehydrator, and my Vitamix. So, I set out to get an answer to this question. Luckily, I came across a couple well-researched articles from two of my favorite bloggers addressing this exact subject. (This article from Kristen over at Food Renegade, this article from Katie at Wellness Mama.) The bottom line is that generally more nutrients are retained during pressure cooking than cooking on the stove, in the oven, or in the slow cooker because the pressure cooker cooks the food more quickly. Ok, sold on that front because I love nutrients in my food (who doesn’t?).
- Now for the second concern: Was it scary to use? Would it blow up and spray food all over my kitchen? I only used my stove-top pressure cooker twice because it was so scary to use. It had this nerve-wracking rattle that was akin to the ticking of a bomb. Would this be the same way? The answer was absolutely not! The Instant Pot actually has quite a few built in safety mechanisms to insure that there will be no exploding happening. Ok, I’m feeling pretty good now, but what about my last concern?
- My final concern of course was would I actually use the Instant Pot? Was it going to take up valuable real estate in my cupboards or become my new favorite kitchen tool? For this, there was no researchable answer. This one is very personal. Once it came up at such a reduced price during prime day, I just said “the heck with it” and took the plunge. By the way, the answer is: My favorite kitchen tool by far!!
Why I love my instant pot:
- It makes perfect hard boiled eggs, even farm fresh eggs. If you have ever tried hard boiling farm fresh eggs, you know that they are so fresh that you end up losing about a third of the egg with the peel!! So frustrating whether they are from your own chickens or you spent good money buying them! You won’t save any time by hard boiling eggs in the instant pot, but you will have perfect eggs that peel so easily!
- It makes the best bone broth that gels wonderfully and in much much less time!!! I now make smaller batches since making bone broth isn’t an all-day affair. This translates to more real estate in my freezer which is always welcome.
- It cooks beans from dry to ready in a couple of hours. I still like to soak my beans first to unlock nutrients and make them easier on the digestion. (I also think they taste better this way.) You don’t have to soak them before you cook them in the Instant Pot. If you fell behind on your meal planning and want some beans to go with the tacos you just decided to cook, voila!
- It makes awesome risotto without constant stirring and in at least half the time! Need I say more?
- It makes perfect cheesecakes in a fraction of the time. What?! Yep, you heard me right!
- You can also make a flavorful stew or chili in less than half the time of the stove or slow cooker.
What I don’t use my instant pot for:
- Large cuts of beef, lamb, or pork: Although there are many recipes out there for doing exactly this in the Instant Pot, I find that I don’t get that melt in your mouth, falling apart texture that I love from doing large cuts of meat in the slow cooker or in the dutch oven. (Maybe I just haven’t met the right recipe though.) It is so easy to brown one of these cuts, throw it in the slow cooker, and come home to delicious pulled pork, pot roast, or braised leg of lamb. The Instant Pot does have a slow cooker function, however, which is a bonus if you don’t already have a slow-cooker or you are tight on space.
- Whole chickens: I’m really not a fan. You need to change the pressure cooking time depending on the size of your bird. It has to be just right to ensure that your chicken is fully cooked, but not overcooked! If I am going to roast a whole chicken, I like to do it slow and low in the dutch oven like this recipe from fellow traditional foodie (and my absolute favorite blogger), Jenny from Nourished Kitchen. It is fool proof and keeps the bird so moist and flavorful. All you need is time for it to hang out in the oven. (I have to plug her cookbooks here because I love them so much. They are The Nourished Kitchen and Broth and Stock from the Nourished Kitchen. Both of them have wonderful recipes and absolutely beautiful pictures.)
- Rice or Quinoa: The exception to this, of course, is risotto. For regular steamed rice though, I find it so simple to cook rice on my stove top that I rarely use the Instant Pot for it. If you haven’t mastered rice on the stove top, however, maybe you would like to use the rice steaming function on the Instant pot for more assurance. The Instant Pot does do a good job cooking rice, but it takes about the same amount of time as the stove top, so I like to keep my Instant Pot available to do bone broth or one of my other favorite pressure cooker recipes.
Questions to ask yourself to decide if you need an instant pot:
- Do you fall behind in meal planning and need to make dinner quickly sometimes?
- Do you make bone broth regularly or would like to make bone broth but don’t have the time?
- Do you hard boil eggs?
- Do you love risotto?
- Do you make cheesecakes often (or would you if it were faster)?
- Would you like to make stews and chilis more quickly?
- Do you like to make beans?
- Would you use the rice steaming function?
If you decide to take the plunge and get an Instant Pot, there are tons of great recipes online, but I still love cookbooks. My favorite Instant Pot cookbook is Instant Pot Obsession.
Instant Pot Accessories: Do you need any?
- Extra sealing rings: I would recommend getting an extra couple of sealing rings for a couple of reasons. First, if you plan to do cheesecakes, other desserts or breakfast dishes such as steel cut oatmeal, it is nice to be able to switch out the seals. The seal seems to hold a bit of odor. Although I have never had the odor transfer to my food, I keep a savory and a sweet seal, each a different color, for this reason. It is also good to have an extra seal around in case yours tears. My original seal is in great condition, especially considering the amount of use it has gotten since I got it in July (about 6 months). I keep an extra one on hand because I would hate to be prepping for a dinner party and find out that I had a tear in mine!
- 7 inch cheesecake pan: This is the only other accessory I have purchased for my Instant Pot. I chose a 7 inch cheesecake pan made of a silicone and glass. (It was out-of-stock, and I was unable to link to it for you on Amazon, sorry.)
- Steaming basket: I regularly use the vegetable steaming basket that I already had when hard boiling eggs. You don’t have to use one to do hard boiled eggs because the Instant Pot already comes with a rack, but you can fit more eggs in the basket.
- Clear Lid: If you don’t have a standard-sized clear pot lid, and you will be using the slow cooker function, you may want to spring for the clear lid.
Do you have an Instant Pot? Do you use it? What is your favorite thing to make in your Instant Pot?