Instant Pot or Not?

It seems like Instant Pots are all the rage these days. Lots of people are crazy about their Instant Pot while others are still not sure they’re worth the counter space.  While I don’t actually have an Instant Pot, I have the functional equivalent.   I’ve had a multi-cooker that functions as a slow cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker for a couple of years now and I’ve recently added an electric pressure cooker to my supply of kitchen appliances.  Personally, I don’t think either of them deserve permanent counter space, so I keep them in the other room (along with my bread machine) and get them out when I need them.

Slow Cooker/Multi-Cooker

For me, the multi-cooker has been worth it for these three purposes alone.

1. making yogurt

2. making chicken stock; and

3. for keeping the mashed potatoes warm on holidays.

It’s also useful for stews, braises and beans. Full-disclosure, I’m not so into the dump it and turn it on style of cooking. I like to cook, to taste as I go.  Also, I find that browning the meat and aromatics that go into a dish first really adds to the overall flavor.  I’ve never thrown a bunch of ingredients in my slow cooker and come home from work to dinner. Though, writing this right now, that sounds so appealing. Still, I use my multi-cooker and I’m glad I have it.

Electric Pressure Cooker

I’ve been interested in getting a pressure cooker for quite some time. Finally, at the end of this year, faced with my plan to embark on a year without shopping, I took the plunge. I chose an electric version in part because of the whole Instant Pot craze and the amount of recipes for electric pressure cookers that were cropping up on all of my feeds as a result. The other reason was because electric pressure cookers have so many safety features.  You can’t mess up and end up with beef stew on your ceiling.

So far I’ve been exceeding my goal of trying three new recipes a week – thanks to maternity leave and the snow. Even though I’ve only had it for a few weeks, I’ve tried a bunch of recipes for the pressure cooker. Ribs (twice), beef stew, saucy beans, refried beans, green chile chicken chili, easy-peel eggs, chicken stock, lemon chicken, chana masala, Vietnamese caramelized chicken and risotto.  As with the multi-cooker, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone without being abe to taste, or even see what’s going on with my food as it cooks. Still, it is pretty amazing how much tenderness and flavor you can get out of foods by cooking under pressure. Stock in 45 minutes? Ribs in just over 20? Risotto in 5? Yes please.

So it’s a game changer.  Well, in a way.  It takes time for the cooker to come up to pressure and for the pressure to release.  So those times need to be taken into account when you are meal planning. And if you cook like I do, you’ll still want to  brown your proteins before or after cooking in the pressure cooker. Since liquid is not released once everything comes up to pressure, you will also want to reduce sauces. These steps take some time. I typically have at least an hour for weeknight cooking, which I find to be enough to make all of the pressure cooker recipes I’ve tried, but its definitely not 20 minute cooking.  Nor is it set it and forget it cooking. Fine by me, but if that’s what you are looking for then consider yourself warned.

The Verdict

Yes to both. I don’t keep them on my counter and I love the idea of being able to use them both for holidays or entertaining when there’s not enough room in the oven or on the stovetop. Honestly, neither one is going to change my life.  Or replace my beloved dutch oven.  But both make dinner easier in one way or another. I think it all comes down to being self aware about who you are as a cook and thus, how you will really use (or not) use either one. My test, given the space I have and other factors, is: If I use it once a week it gets to stay.

I would love to hear other perspectives on the Instant Pot, slow cooker or similar gadget. And if you have any good recipes, send them my way!


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