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.
Get 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
Get the recipe for 5-Ingredient Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
The Pros and Cons of Buying an Instant Pot
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.
Get the recipe for Instant Pot Chicken Adobo
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.