The Instant Pot is a multifunctional pressure cooker that speeds up cooking without compromising flavor or quality. With so many ways in which to use this pressure cooker, one might wonder if it lives up to its promises.
Prior to the Instant Pot, I had never used a pressure cooker, so this was a brand new experience for me. The Instant Pot cooks food rapidly, rather than slowly, but it still has a slow cooking function for those who want to start cooking their dinner before heading out for the day.
The Instant Pot can also be used as a rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and can even sauté ingredients. With so many uses packed into one machine, it’s an ideal appliance for the home cook with a busy lifestyle.
The Instant Pot comes with a manual that walks you through the set-up process. I found it very easy to follow along with and was impressed by how simple it was to get the machine ready to use. Before putting it together, you should wash the cooking basin and lid in warm soapy water. Let it air dry or dry with a paper towel.
Once the Instant Pot is assembled, you need to do an initial run of it to disperse any residue and ensure it works properly. To start, I filled the pot with water up to the '3' line, as directed by the manual. I recommend using 3 cups of water instead so that it will the test run will go quicker. When using the Instant Pot, the less liquid it has to heat, the less time it takes.
Once the water has been added, the lid needs to be locked in and the steam valve needs to be turned to seal. Then, you turn on the machine and press 'Steam' and set the time to 2 minutes. The manual says within a few minutes, steam will be released and the overall process should take 10 minutes maximum. Personally, this part of the set-up was much lengthier for me.
It took about 15 minutes for my Instant Pot to start releasing steam and 30 minutes for it to shut off, cool down, and be able to be opened. So when you go through the initial run, be patient and expect for it to take a bit longer than 10 minutes.
I found programming the Instant Pot extremely easy. I love the digital display and the preset cooking functions. Unfortunately, my first time cooking with the Instant Pot did not produce ideal results, though.
For my first time using it, I decided to steam veggies for a quinoa curry bowl. I added the veggies with 1 cup of water as suggested by the manual and then set the time to 8 minutes. After the steam had been released from the valve, I opened the Instant Pot to discover my veggies were overcooked.
Upon a second try with the same recipe, I had similar results. I cut the cooking time down to 4 minutes but it still came out overcooked, albeit less so than last time. I then learned that most veggies such as zucchini and squash, which are what I used, actually only need a couple of minutes.
My takeaway from using the Instant Pot is patience is key. I would advise first time users to try out their Instant Pot on a weekend when they don’t have much going on. If you have a completely free day, it’s the perfect opportunity to set it up, go through the initial test run, and try cooking with it for the first time.
I would also advise to always underestimate cook time rather than overestimate it. Make sure you read the manual thoroughly for suggested cook times on the type of food you are cooking. I would say ideal foods to start out with would be firm foods that won’t cook too quickly.
Soups and stews would be great for the first time cooking with the Instant Pot. Dried beans are also really great to cook in the Instant Pot since normally they take over an hour to cook. But in the Instant Pot, it will only take 30 minutes, maximum. Plus, you'll end up with a large volume of cooked beans you can use throughout the week in other recipes.
Overall, I think the Instant Pot is a great appliance to have on hand. The more I use it, the easier and more encouraging it becomes. My favorite part of the Instant Pot is how straightforward it is to use and how it doesn't require supervision. It's rare that I can start dinner and walk away from the kitchen without returning to burned food. But with the Instant Pot, hands-off cooking can be delicious.
Try one the recipes below to get started cooking with your Instant pot!
Instant Pot Starter Recipes
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You can find the Instant Pot in different sizes and price points on Amazon, Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table. The larger 8 quartt Instant Pot Aura Pro, with 11 multifunction cooking options can be found at Sur La Table.
Images via Karissa Bowers
While the manufacturer did provide a product for review purposes, all opinions and views expressed in this article are the author's own.
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