All posts by Kate Palbom

Kate Palbom is a food and travel writer constantly in search of her next meal. She is an avid cook and cocktail enthusiast who loves to share food experiences with others.

Do You Really Need an Instant Pot? What You Need to Know Before You Buy

The Instant Pot is a time-saving, multi-purpose, customizable cooking machine that’s transforming meal-time and building a cult-like following.

But if you’ve received this trendy tool as a gift or you’re thinking of buying on, there are a few things you need to know first. From models to meals, to why they’re so darn popular, our Instant Pot review is your guide to the appliance everyone’s talking about.

instant-pot-pork-recipeGet the recipe for Instant Pot Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwiches

What is an Instant Pot, Anyway?

Like your slow cooker, Instant Pots house an inner pot warmed by an electric element. But the Instant Pot is more than a slow cooker, it’s a multi-cooker. It replaces up to seven common kitchen appliances, like a pressure cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker, and speeds the cooking process so you can simmer, braise, slow cook, steam, and warm faster. And according to some, you can make wine in it too.

Related: Best Instant Pot Recipes for Quick and Easy Dinners

How to Choose an Instant Pot Model

If you aren’t sure which one to buy, Instant Pot model comparison can be a bit overwhelming. That’s because you can select from eight different models within five distinct product series ranging in size (six to eight quarts), and features (from 6-in-1 to 10-in-1).

Beginner (and busy) meal makers can take advantage of the 10 Smart Built-in Programs found in the Lux Series models, while intermediate cooks can play with the 14 programs in the Duo and Duo Plus models. True Instant Pot enthusiasts can wield the Bluetooth enabled, Ultra model and its whopping 16 programs to expand their repertoire to include yogurt, cake, eggs, and even sterilized baby bottles.

Be sure to consider how you cook now. Are you a big batch cooker, or are you more prone to making smaller meals for a family of two? Go through some of your favourite recipes and consider which ones could be made faster or better in an Instant Pot. Do you make a lot of braises, stews, grains, yogurt, legumes already? This will help you decide the model and size best fit for your cooking habits.

If you are in the market to replace your ageing slow cooker, this might be a good option, as it can be used in a variety of ways.

Related: The 30-Minute Instant Pot Curry a Nutritionist Makes Every Week

5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and CheeseGet the recipe for 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese

The Pros and Cons of Buying an Instant Pot

Pros
1. Faster Cooking with Pressure

What drives the Instant Pot’s popularity—apart from its ability to make great food—is that it provides users with the most sacred resource of all: Time. Yes, meal prep and warming the machine are required, but the dishwasher-safe Instant Pot dutifully (and silently) cooks two to six times faster than conventional methods. That means you can cook braises like pulled pork, tender stew and roast beef in under an hour, making them weeknight accessible.

2. It Makes Great Rice

When it comes to taste and texture, the machine’s evenly distributed heat and steaming process ensures vegetables keep their colour, and that grains emerge fluffy and soft.

3. The Sauté Function Brings the Flavour

Like your Dutch oven, you can sauté meats, onions or bloom spices right in the Instant Pot. So go ahead and sear that pork tenderloin, then deglaze with wine or stock, pop the lid on and pressure cook it right in the same pot. The result is tender meat without losing any of that beautiful flavour caused by browning right in the pot.

4. There are Tons of Great Instant Pot Recipes

The Instant Pot also delivers variety. Between the app, cookbooks, and innumerable blogs, novel recipes are just a click away. Easy dishes like an Instant Pot whole chicken are great for weeknights while time-saving staples like Instant Pot beef stew or our 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese are ready in a snap. What’s more, the Intelligent Programming and Save Customized Cooking settings on the LUX and DUO models memorize your preferred settings and learn to cook your meal exactly the way you like it every time.

If you are already making your own yogurt weekly, or are looking for a way to make faster curry, the Instant Pot might be your dream machine.

Instant Pot Chicken AdoboGet the recipe for Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

Cons
1. You Need Counter Space

Fast though it may be, Instant Pots can eat up much needed counter space so be sure it will get enough use to justify its prime real estate next to the toaster or the coffee maker.

2. There’s a Learning Curve

This may be the Swiss army knife of kitchen appliances but mastering the extensive features, double-digit programs, and hefty instruction manual can be time-consuming. Compared to the ease of turning the knob on your trusty Crock Pot, the learning curve can be steep. Also, dealing with high pressure makes some people nervous and you want to feel confident that you’ve sealed it correctly before bringing it to full pressure.
But there is good news: Instant Pot’s website is home to a mountain of getting started and troubleshooting videos, FAQs, and even live support.

3. It May Not be as Fast as You Think

On the practical side, not everything is cooked faster in the Instant Pot. By the time the machine gets up to pressure, cooks, then depressurizes, you could have boiled those potatoes on the stove. Keep in mind how much braising, rice and yogurt-making you do regularity to determine if this will indeed be a timesaver for you and your family. Also, because the pressure and slow cooker functions seal in the steam, you’ll need to give yourself extra time to bubble or boil off extra liquid, so your stews are the right consistency.

vegan-mac-and-cheese

The Best Vegan Substitutions for Eggs, Dairy and More

Eating a vegan diet shouldn’t mean letting go of your favourite foods and flavours.  Whether you are beginner vegan or cooking for a vegan friend,  making animal-friendly food is now easier than ever. Even common ingredients like cheese, eggs, milk and even meat have easy vegan alternatives and substitutions. Here, we show you how to easily make your most-loved recipes (even the meatiest ones) with a vegan twist.  These easy substitutions will help make your dreams of fluffy vegan pancakes, vegan cheese and even vegan alfredo sauce a tasty reality.

Vegan Cheese

Most major grocery stores now have a vegan food aisle, complete with vegan “cheeses” that are shredded, sliced and bursting with real-dairy appeal. There are lots of great vegan cheese brands to choose from, but you can also make it yourself. To make your own vegan “cheese” at home, you’ll want to pick up nutritional yeast, a vegan staple with a rich, Parmesan-meets-cheddar flavour. Nutritional yeast can be pulsed in a food processor or blender with soaked raw cashews or medium-firm tofu to make a ricotta-style “cheese,” or pulverized with walnuts to make pasta-perfect “parmesan.” To make tangy, vegan Greek “feta,” skip the nutritional yeast and instead crumble medium-firm tofu into a bowl, then toss with distilled white or white wine vinegar, black pepper, salt and dried oregano.

Vegan Egg Substitute

In baking recipes like cookies and muffins, if you’re replacing just one egg, you can simply use 2 Tbsp of water in its place. If a recipe calls for two to three eggs, it’s time to pull from your egg-free bag of tricks. For the same volume of eggs, use mashed banana, a pinch of baking powder mixed with applesauce, soy yogurt or ground flaxseeds mixed with water. In savoury baking, like quiche, try soft (silken) tofu blended until smooth with a bit of flour and salt.

Vegan Milk and Cream Substitute

Even meat-eating households have some form of non-dairy “milk” in the fridge. Take your pick of delicious and nutrient-rich soy, coconut, rice, almond, oat and cashew milks, and add to recipes in the exact quantity called for. Buy unsweetened varieties, for use in both savoury and sweet recipes, and try full-fat canned coconut milk as an alternative to regular heavy whipping cream. To make vegan buttermilk, add 1 Tbsp lemon juice per 1 cup of non-dairy milk.

Vegan Substitute for Meat and Poultry

While you can have your pick of prepared vegan “meats,” many plant-based cooks prefer to keep things all-natural. Cooked, mashed lentils make an amazing base for “meaty” meatless pies, while portobello and shiitake mushrooms add big, bold umami taste to any dish. For burgers, turn cooked, mashed beans and rice into patties, or roll into “meatballs” to serve with tomato sauce and pasta.

Vegan Butter

Vegan margarine and “butter” are an easy, store-bought solution to any recipe calling for the stuff, but there’s another option, too. Coconut butter or coconut oil can be mixed with water and added to your recipe as a creamy substitute. For every 1 cup of butter in a recipe, use 3/4 cup liquefied coconut butter or coconut oil and 1/4 cup of water.

Vegan Sauces and Condiments

This may surprise you, but animal products are hiding in many common condiments and sauces. Worcestershire sauce, Caesar salad dressing and puttanesca sauce all contain anchovies, a good number of prepared miso pastes contain fish and mayonnaise is loaded with eggs. Check out your local health food store or your grocery store’s vegan aisle to purchase plant-based alternatives. Or, if you have the time, you may even want to try making them yourself.

You can have your cream sauce and eat it, too. Try this decadent (but healthy!) Vegan Lemon Fettuccine Alfredo, and kick dairy to curb.