It’s been almost a year since I got my Instant Pot.
Can that be right? Or possible?? Yeesh.
I guess so. It was a generous gift from my parents at Christmas and my birthday last year. I feel like I should have more expertise by now, or at least more foolproof recipes in my repertoire.
Alas, I am not Queen of the Instant Pot. (That honor probably goes to Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo. Who is the queen of all the food things. And who is, incidentally, also a pharmacist. Fist bump!)
I do have enough experience with the basics that I might be able to help you decide if you want to take the plunge when it’s on sale. Or maybe where to start when you finally dig it out of the box.
So here are some of your questions and my sage answers. With links provided when I know my answer sucks.
What is an Instant Pot?
It’s a particular brand of electric pressure cooker. You know, those scary, whistley things your grandma used to can green beans? Sort of like that. But a lot less terrifying and labor intensive. And a lot more versatile.
Without going into pressure cooking theory (let’s face it, that section of chemistry class was eons ago…), food cooks more quickly at higher pressure as well as temperature. These electric programmable cookers are much easier to control than the old stovetop ones.
You can do the “set it and forget it” routine from old infomercials.
I have a 6-quart, but don’t ask me the exact model. Aficionados on the Facebook groups know the intricacies of each, I don’t. I’m pretty sure mine is this one: Instant Pot Duo60 6 Qt*.
Mine has a lot of buttons, but here’s the down low: Each corresponds to a different time and either high or low pressure. They are adjustable so you can set them to what works for you, so you don’t have to hold the button for ages when you want to make broth for 120 minutes after you made veggies for 5.
Most foods will cook under high pressure.
What are these knobs and rings and doodads?
I don’t know the technical terms for this stuff, so bear with me. The things you need to know:
The black knob thing on top can be turned to sealing or venting. Make sure it is set to sealing so the IP will come to pressure. If you’re doing a quick pressure release, this is what you (very carefully) turn to venting. With an oven mitt or a thick towel. In an open area. Possibly with a towel over it to minimize spattering. (You can also pull it off for cleaning. I didn’t know that at first. 🤷🏻♀️)
The little silver button on top rises when the IP is at pressure. It clicks back down when pressure has been released and you’re able to open the lid.
The sealing ring goes inside the lid and is the source of much angst for the IP community–either from forgetting it (yep, I did that once) or from it developing a lingering smell.
If you forget to put the ring in, the IP explodes! (No, no it doesn’t. Psych.) But it may ruin your recipe because it won’t come to pressure. I forgot it while making some veggies and it wasn’t a huge deal.
As for the smell, mine is a little smelly sometimes, especially after garlicky meat. The worst was after some pork loin that had garlic powder on it. My husband said it tasted like a barn, so I’m hoping it was a fluke. That said, I have since been hesitant to use much garlic powder.
I haven’t noticed the smell/taste transferring to other foods, though. I tried putting the ring out in the sun once. I think it helped a little? Other people recommend baking soda, vinegar, and other wacky home recipes for cleaning. Still others have bought separate color-coded rings*, one for savory and one for sweet recipes. I am too lazy for this. I make food and hope for the best.
What could you make in it? Honestly, pretty much anything. Whether it ends up being quicker or tastier is up for debate. From one-pot pasta meals to cheesecake to hardboiled eggs to who-knows-what-they’ll-think-of-next.
Don’t expect to make anything browned or crispy without putting it under the broiler or frying after cooking. Other than that, I think I’ve seen it all.
So basically, it can probably be done, but you are the judge of whether it’s worth it because of time, convenience, or flavor.
What do YOU make in it? My favorites are, in no particular order: jasmine rice, ribs, Kalua pork, applesauce, spaghetti squash, bone broth, and cauliflower/celeriac/parsnip mash. All simple things where I can control the ingredients based on what I can tolerate and it still turns out well. I wish I had more experience with one-pot meals, but I just don’t. I usually feel like it’s too risky when I have to adapt recipes past the point of recognizability, you know? I do feel more like I’d be able to try inventing my own recipes now that I’ve gotten more used to it. #learningcurve
Is it actually faster than other cooking methods?
My wishy-washy answer is that it depends. Yes, the “cook time” is almost surely less. BUT- you also have to factor in time for the IP to come to pressure before the cooking timer starts. This can vary significantly, but it is usually around 10 minutes. If your food is still frozen or there is a lot of liquid to heat, it can take much longer.
Also consider that what goes up must come down. Spinning wheel, got to go ’round…
Some recipes use a quick release (QR) method where you would use the pressure valve on top of the lid to release pressure. Many recipes, especially meats, use natural pressure release (NPR). NPR requires more time to allow the pressure to, well, naturally decrease. Tack on an extra ten minutes or so for NPR. (Not to be confused with listening to public radio for ten minutes. Important note.)
For recipes that take forever in the oven or crock pot? Worth it. I’ve read that Kalua pork takes fourteen hours. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Yes, it’s nearly two hours in the IP, but that’s such a small fraction of the original cooking time!
It’s probably not faster when I’m making rice, BUT (and this is a big BUT) I don’t have to babysit it. I can make my stir-fry in peace, knowing the rice will be warm and ready when I’m finally done chopping and wok-ing.
Why do you use it instead of a crock pot or stove?
Like I’ve already mentioned, it can be hands-off if you’re following a simple recipe. I like only having to wash one pot, and I like that it’s a stainless steel pot that doesn’t weigh fifty pounds like my crock. #awkwarddishwashing
Some recipes actually taste better. I’m in love with IP ribs, and I don’t care who knows it! #namethatmovie
I think spaghetti squash has a better texture. Rice is certainly more reliable. (Meaning, I’ve had many less pans to leave soaking for days with burned rice in the bottom…)
The Moral of the Story: A lot of this depends on your schedule. Are you home an hour or two before you need to eat supper? On nights when we have something going on after school, I find the IP nearly impossible to use just because of timing. With setting a slow cooker in the morning, you don’t have to mess with it again until several hours later, and there’s more room for timing adjustment.
On that note, the IP does have a slow cooker function. I have not used this. I’ve heard mixed reviews about it. [shrugs shoulders]
Side note for you fellow AIPers out there (aka people doing the Autoimmune Protocol subset of Paleo): a lot of us deal with histamine intolerance, myself definitely included. I have found that by cooking meats and bone broth more quickly with the IP that I have less severe histamine reactions. It’s not perfect, but it is helpful. Food for thought.
Yes and no. The book it comes with is nearly useless, at least in my opinion. It may give general cook times to go by, but not much by way of details or instructive how-tos. See below for resources…
Is there a conversion factor for slow cooker recipes? Can you just adjust the time?
Nope. You need to either become an IP wizard and have an intuition for these things, or you need to follow a tested IP recipe to avoid epic food failures. The internet is your friend here.
Here are a few sites I recommend:
- Their latest cookbook, Ready or Not*, has some fantastic IP recipes!
- Check out Jennifer’s amazing Paleo IP cookbook* if you want a whole book of IP-specific recipes.
You can also become part of the huge Instant Pot Community group on Facebook. But beware, there can be high drama. Yes. In a Facebook group. About Instant Pots.
If you do decide to join the group, here’s how to survive and get some helpful info or recipe links:
- Hang out and read for awhile before jumping in.
- Do a search before asking newbie questions.
- When you feel like you have the hang of it, or when your newsfeed is clogged up by the same old posts about someone forgetting the sealing ring or melting the IP on the stove, get out. The group has served its purpose.
- Don’t ever use the term “InstaPot”, or they may rip you a new one. It’s called an Instant Pot, and it’s apparently a big deal.
Can you double a recipe and double the cook time?
The quick answer is no. The long answer is that the cook time with either remain the same or be shorter. Yes, I said shorter. Also, be careful not to overload your pot, especially with items that may foam like beans or pasta. Read more here: doubling recipes.
Congratulations for making it this far! Next up will be an IP recipe round-up for the basics. As long as I can find the recipes I used as inspiration. Hmm…> iv>