The Instant Pot has taken the home cooking community by storm. Have you considered buying one too? Or maybe, you’re wondering what exactly is everyone talking about?
We are extremely busy with activities and homework during the week, so I took the plunge, because I need to simplify my meal planning and prep. Here’s my experience so far!
I bought the 8 quart version of the Instant Pot (IP), but it also comes in a smaller 6 qt version. I’ll be honest, it took me awhile to appreciate its capacity. It is a large machine, especially for my small kitchen. It doesn’t fit in any of my cabinets, so I have placed it on the counter to live. Not ideal, but it has encouraged me to use it regularly.
When Amazon had their Prime Day in July, I bought the 8 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Instant Pot at a lower price. Theoretically, this machine can replace 7 different appliances. The 7 functions:
- Slow Cooker
- Pressure Cooker
- Rice Cooker
- Yogurt Maker
- Food Warmer
The only machine that my IP could replace is the slow cooker, because I don’t own these other appliances. I’m working my way through the functions, but I haven’t given up my slow cooker quite yet. I’m still trying to figure out how to convert many of my favorite slow cooker recipes into Instant Pot recipes.
6 quart vs. 8 quart: Does the size matter? I bought the 8 quart, because I have a 6 qt slow cooker and after reading up on the IP, I found many people regretting not going with the bigger size. Also, the 8 qt price on Prime Day was better than I could get a 6 qt at a big box store. This size does come in handy with the whole chickens, but for other things the 6 quart would have been just fine too. It’s really a personal decision. What size slow cooker do you regularly use? If that size works, that might be your answer.
So, you bought an Instant Pot! Now what?
Along with the actual appliance, you’ll also find in your box: a stainless steel cooking pot insert that sits inside the appliance, a stainless steel steam rack/trivet, rice paddle and soup spoon, a measuring cup, recipe book, and the owner’s manual. One note: You will ALWAYS use the cooking insert. There will never be a time that you don’t use it!
READ the manual!
You need to understand the parts that came with the IP and how the appliance works. Also, DO THE INITIAL TEST RUN as described in the manual. This will help you understand how the IP works and familiarize yourself with it. One note, use 3 cups of water for the initial test. I filled the pot to the 3 liter line…big difference in time!
Do you need additional accessories?
The lid contains a silicone sealing ring that is known to retain the smell of savory foods and I’ve experienced this as well. The concern is that the smell will transfer to other foods that you cook. One suggestion in the Facebook group is to purchase additional rings. They come in different colors and you can use one color for savory foods and another color sweets.
Another suggestion is to soak the silicone ring for several hours in a mixture of: 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, 3 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons Blue Dawn and 1 cup of water. After soaking, place the ring outside in the sun.
I have noticed the smell of some of my savory recipes staying with the ring, but I haven’t noticed it transferring to other dishes. However, I have yet to make a sweet recipe and it is possible to make a cheesecake in the Instant Pot. YEP, you read that right! It’s on my list of things to try. I don’t want my cheesecake to smell and taste like last night’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes, so I’m going to buy an extra ring for sweets.
And speaking of meatloaf and mashed potatoes in the IP! It is AMAZING. Recipe coming soon! I used a springform pan that I already owned to make the meatloaf and I’ll use it for the cheesecake, so that might be an extra accessory to purchase.
The best place to look for IP recipes is of course, Pinterest. I also highly recommend the Facebook page: Instant Pot Community, not only for recipes, but help and guidance, especially for the new user. Search your questions in the group and if you don’t find an answer, post your question. You will most likely have responses within minutes.
The Pressure is NO Joke…but don’t let that scare you!
So, what is a pressure cooker, anyway?!?! A pressure cooker is a sealed pot that uses water or liquid to cook foods. The appliance comes to pressure and cooks food rather quickly. However, it is slightly misleading. While the IP does reduce the cook time, you still need to include the time that it takes for the IP to get to pressure, because that is when the cook time starts. ALSO, after the cook time, the pressure needs to release and that time could vary by recipe. Overall, the total time should be less than traditional appliances.
2 ways to release pressure: Quick Release and Natural Release. Most recipes tell you which type to use.
- Quick Release: READ & FOLLOW THE MANUAL FOR COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS! This is when you release the pressure manually immediately after the cook time has ended. You must BE CAREFUL and keep hands and face away from the HOT STEAM that will spray out of the top of the appliance. The first time, however, is a little intimidating and another reason why the initial test run is so important. Once you understand how to release the pressure manually and how the pressure responds, you’ll feel a little more at ease.
- Natural Release: READ & FOLLOW THE MANUAL FOR COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS! This is when you leave the IP alone after the cook time and the pot naturally releases the pressure. After the cook time, you can either allow for a natural release for a set amount of time and then do a quick release for the remainder, or allow for IP to cool down naturally all the way. The time it takes depends on how much is in the IP.
Is the Instant Pot safe?
Personally, I was very intimidated at first by the pressure releasing, but once I understood how the appliance worked, I am now very comfortable with it. It did take a few recipes before I was completely comfortable though. The IP has safety locks set in place. The pot can not open until pressure is released, but YOU MUST FOLLOW THE MANUAL FOR COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS. I can not stress this enough.
Cooking in the Instant Pot: The Basics
With 7 functionalities, the IP could replace a few appliances in your kitchen. I have a small kitchen and my 8 quart IP is very large, so at this time I keep mine in a corner on the counter. I’m using it regularly for basics and then there’s endless recipes of entire one pot meals.
One favorite feature I should mention is the Delayed Cooking with Timer. You can delay the start of cooking for up to 24 hours, so you can prepare your IP in the morning for it to be ready when you get home from work.
How to Make Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Instant Pot
I love hard-boiled eggs, but didn’t make them very often, because whatever stove top method I tried the eggs would practically be unpeelable and half the egg went in the trash with the shell. I NEVER offered to take deviled eggs to a pot-luck, because mine would look horrible…and embarrassing!
But the IP makes hard-boiled eggs that are so easy to peel and I find myself making hard boiled eggs many mornings for breakfast.
Step 1: Place the trivet (that came with the IP) in the (insert). Place the eggs on the trivet. You can put as many eggs as will fit on the trivet in a flat layer. Add one cup of water to the IP.
Step 2: Turn on the IP. Press Manual and adjust the time to 6 minutes on high.
Step 3: After the 6 minutes, allow for a Natural Release of 6 minutes, and then release all of the pressure. Prepare a bowl with ice water.
Step 4: Carefully open up the IP and move the eggs (I use a slotted spoon) to the ice bath. Once cool enough to peel, they’re ready to eat, but if you’re saving for later, keep in the ice bath for at least 6 minutes to stop the cooking process.
Please NOTE: This method has worked perfectly for me, however, if you search “how to make hard-boiled eggs” in the Facebook group, you’ll find others use different times and have different outcomes. You might have to test the times, but start with my method, and you can always adjust the Natural release time if you want a different outcome.
How to Cook a Whole Chicken & Make Chicken Stock
Cooking a whole chicken is a great way to stretch your grocery dollar! I cook them so much that I wrote a separate post with the directions. This post also explains how to make your own chicken stock in the IP.
Find it here: How to Cook a Whole Chicken in the Instant Pot
How to Cook Dried Beans in the Instant Pot
Cooking dried beans sounds like a lot of work versus buying canned, but it has many benefits.
- Cooked beans taste better than canned beans.
- Cooked beans have significantly less sodium than canned beans. Have you read the label on the can?
- And finally, cooked beans are cheaper than the canned version. Beans are an inexpensive way to add protein and fiber to your diet and cooking them will save you even more money.
Cooking the dried beans in the IP will dramatically reduce the cook time. It varies by bean, but for example, cooking dried black beans takes at least 8 hours in the slow cooker and 1 1/2 – 2 hours on the stove top. In the IP, it took me less than an hour to bring the pot to pressure, cook, and allow for a natural release–for soaked beans.
Non-soaked beans take longer to cook…just one more reason to soak the beans. The manual offers instructions and cook times every type of bean, non-soaked and soaked. I always soak the dried beans first, because I’ve read that helps reduce the gasiness of the beans…that’s all I needed to read to add this additional step 😉
Instructions to cook beans:
- Rinse beans and pour into a soup pot. (You could use the IP insert to soak too.) Cover the dried beans with a few inches of water. The dried beans will double in volume and weight after soaking. Cover the pot and allow to sit on your counter 8 hours to overnight.
- Drain in colander and rinse with fresh water.
- Pour the soaked beans into the IP inner pot. The manual advises to not fill the inner pot more than half of its capacity. Cover with water.
- Turn the machine on to Manual and follow the cook times in the recipe book that you received in the box. It lists the times and it will depend on the type of bean and whether they are soaked. For example, I recently cooked a pound of soaked dried black beans and I set the cook time for 15 minutes.
- After the cook time, allow for a complete Natural Release. It took about 33 minutes for my black beans.
Related Reading: How to Cook Dried Beans – 2 Methods: Stove Top & Slow Cooker Method
How to Rice in the Instant Pot
The IP has a built in rice function and the recipe book that comes with the IP lists many types of grains and rices with the appropriate grain to water ratios and cook times.
We prefer jasmine rice and I used a ratio of 1 part rice to 1 and 1/4 parts water. It is suggested to rinse the rice before cooking. Add the rice/water to the IP. Close the IP. Press the Rice button and adjust the time to 12 minutes on low. Allow a Natural Release for 10 minutes, then quickly release pressure and the pot will open.
Caution: Be sure to stir the rice so it is an even layer before cooking. I didn’t do this my first time and the rice was not evenly cooked.
Honestly, while it was easy to cook the rice in the IP, I will most likely stick to my stove top sauce pan method when just cooking rice. I don’t cook large amounts of rice at a time, usually just 1 cup or 2 and the stove top works just fine for me for such a small portion.
How to Make Applesauce in the Instant Pot
My family loves applesauce and I make my own sugar-free version on the stove top, so I’m anxious to try the IP method. I’m working on this and will update this post as soon as I make my first batch.
Related reading: How to Cook Sugar-Free Applesauce on the Stove Top
Along with the basics, I have cooked many One Pot Dinners. Some were hits and others were misses. It could have been the IP, it could have been the picky kids. You will need to test and experiment to find your family favorites. Our absolute favorite was the One Pot Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes. You can find a recipe on Pinterest.
I’m an avid home cook, so I don’t regret buying the IP. However, I don’t feel it has been as life-changing as others are claiming. It really is a personal opinion and decision. I’m having fun with it.
Are you thinking about purchasing an Instant Pot? Or do you have one? What are your favorite recipes? Please share your experience in the comments!