So you too are wondering what is an instant pot cooker? I've been seeing them everywhere in the past few months, so I set out to find out and ended up buying one.
Like me, chances are you've seen them on the shelves of superstores, or on Amazon. Or maybe you came across a blog post, social media post or forum posts singing the praises of this new take on the old-fashioned pressure cooker.
I've used a pressure cooker for years to make kitchari and soups, so I already was a fan of this cooking method. But, I've also recommended them to clients who were resistant. For the most part, women tell me the hissing and the potential of having it blow up intimidates them.
So, I guess pressure cooking isn't as popular as it was in the days of our grandmothers?!
Enter the Instant Pot Cooker – a self-contained, electrical pot with built-in safety features. It promises the cooking of a meal in 10 -15 minutes, so you can see why it's so popular. You can find plenty of fans online willing to share their favorite recipes, tips, and adaptations.
So, what is an Instant Pot Cooker?
The Instant Pot is a self-contained programmable appliance that produces nutritious, healthy food. It's one part pressure cooker, one part slow cooker, with more functions controlled through a digital interface.
You tell it how long you want to cook your meal under pressure, set the timer and you're good to go. It automatically brings up and holds the pressure at a safe level and will not allow you to open the pot while it's pressurized. This makes it as easy to operate.
The cooking is very hands-off. You set it, and then walk away until you’re food is ready. It has the advantages of using the slow cooker but takes less time. It works well when you want to shorten the amount of time it takes to make a healthy meal.
Does The Instant Pot Really Cook That Fast?
One of the big appeals of the Instant Pot is how quickly it cooks food. But, the ability to cook an entire meal in 15 minutes or less sounded too good to be true.
Let me start by pointing out that it does indeed cook pretty darn fast. But, the claims that it can cook a chicken breast in 5 minutes is valid, but a little misleading.
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While that is the time the food needs to cook under pressure, the actual time before you can eat is longer because the pot needs to come up to pressure first. This process can take anywhere from 10 minutes to half an hour. The fuller the pot, the colder the ingredients (even frozen), the longer it will take to come up to pressure. Once it does, the countdown timer will start.
After the food as cooked for the allotted time, it takes a little while before you can open the pot. There are two options and which one you choose will depend on the meal you're preparing.
- The first is to release the pressure through the vent in the lid. This causes hot steam to escape and the pressure to go down within a matter of minutes.
- The second option is a process called Natural Pressure Release (NPR). Whenever a recipe calls for this, you shouldn't turn the valve to release the pressure. Instead, you let it sit until the pressure release on its own. It's important to allow for this extra time when the recipe calls for it.
Does this mean the Instant Pot isn't fast? Of course not. It's still a much quicker method of cooking foods like beans and the likes than any other cooking style.
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Choosing the Right Instant Pot Cooker
The Instant Pot Lux
This is the basic Instant Pot model and the one I recommend if you're new to pressure cooking. This is the 6-in-one model. It's a pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker, with saute' and keep warm functions as well.
The Instant Pot Duo
This is the 7-in-one and will do everything the Lux can do, but it's also a yogurt maker. If making your own yogurt at home appeals to you, spring for the duo, otherwise go with the basic lux model to save money.
It does everything the Lux does plus it can also make yogurt.
The instant Pot DUO6O is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, saute', yogurt maker and warmer.
The 9-in-1 Instant Pot Smart + App
If you like gadgets prefer the ease of saving your favorite recipes and instant pot settings on your smartphone and love complete control, this is the model to get.
If you're on a budget, go for the Lux model. If you're a big fan of making yogurt, consider the Duo, and if your budget allows, go for the latest model with full smartphone app integration.
This model will: Pressure cooker, slow cook, saute', steam, make cakes, pasteurize, make yogurt, cook rice and warm.
To be honest, it's hard to go wrong and no matter what model of Instant Pot you choose.
Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner In the Instant Pot
The Instant Pot shines with hot cereals. The best tasting oats I've ever had come from cooking them in it. We like warm cereal, and the best part is no constant stirring required.
Or there's saute' function, you can even use it to scramble eggs or cook sausage in a pinch. Or you can hard-boil a lot of eggs to last all week long.
Here's a collection of some of our favorite breakfast recipes I've found online:
- Peaches and Cream Oatmeal from Adventures of Mel
- Vanilla Latte Steel Cut Oats from Pressure Cooking Today
- Banana French Toast by Living Locurto
- Egg Bake by Slapdashmom.com
- Quinoa Blueberry Breakfast Bowl by Sidewalkshoes
- Giant Instant Pot Pancake by Kirbiecravings.com
- Instant Pot Breakfast Burritos by A Real Food Journey
- Instant Pot Breakfast Cobbler by Epicurious
Lunch and Dinner
The Instant Pot does a great job at cooking one-pot stews, soups, and beans. Mexican Pinto beans made from scratch are a favorite, and the Instant Pot cooks them perfect every time.
With a quick Google search, you can find plenty of yummy recipes to try as well as lots of directions for adapting your recipes.
If you're a meat eater, pressure cooking can help to make the meat lighter and easier to digest.
And let's not forget about side dishes. From rice to mashed sweet potatoes, or scalloped potatoes, the Instant Pot can do it all. Here are a few of the favorite lunch and dinner recipes we've collected so far.
Where to Look For More Instant Pot Recipes
The Instant Pot comes with a recipe booklet which includes recipes for starters, sides, mains, and desserts. But, since the Instant Pot has been so popular for the past few months, there are plenty of cookbooks published. Browse through your local bookstore, or head on over to Amazon to see their selection of Instant Pot Cookbooks right now.
If you have friends or family members who are Instant Pot fans, ask them for their favorite recipes and jot them down on recipe cards. If there’s a group of you, you can start to regularly exchange recipes. If someone brings an Instant Pot dish to a potluck or gathering, ask them for the recipe. It won’t take you long to establish a nice little library of tried and true recipes.
Blogs And Google Searches
If you’re looking for something specific, do a quick Google search is always a great idea. You’ll be able to find chicken thigh specific recipes or instant pot ready recipes for spaghetti and meatballs.
Along the way, you’ll likely come across all sorts of different blogs where fellow Instant Pot users share their experiences and recipes. Bookmark them, or just browse around when you come across them for plenty of fresh recipe ideas. Try the recipes as is, or use them as inspiration to come up with your take on a dish.
Go Social With Pinterest And Facebook Groups
Last but not least, let’s not forget about social media. Pinterest is an excellent source of Instant Pot recipes. Do a quick search and follow a few Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker boards for plenty of new recipe ideas in your Pinterest Feed.
By far my favorite way to come across new recipes to try or get suggestions for recipe adaptations is Facebook groups. There are several good Instant Pot specific groups you can join and participate in. You’ll find a wealth of information in these groups along with all sorts of helpful tips and ideas.
With these suggestions, I’m sure you’ll find more Instant Pot recipes than you’d ever get a chance to try. Cook up the ones that look good or sound delicious and start to build up your very own library of family favorite Instant Pot recipes.