When I was growing up I remember countless summers when my mom canned green beans and tomatoes with her stove top pressure cooker. She always warned me to stay out of the kitchen while she was canning, because she said it could explode and burn me. I don’t know if that was an exaggeration, or simply a tactic for me to leave her alone while she was canning. But ever since then, needless to say, I had always been terrified of pressure cookers.
Until I discovered the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. And let me just say, this is NOT your mother’s pressure cooker!
Today’s electric pressure cookers don’t only can food, they can also cook, sauté, steam, cook rice, slow cook, and even make yogurt. You can cook most any kind of food in them, even foods that you may not have thought you could, like this delicious allergy-friendly meatloaf, and it always turns out moist and juicy. In addition, their multiple safety features make it nearly impossible for them to cause you harm, including the following:
- Lid close detection
- Leaky lid protection
- Lid lock under pressure
- Anti-blockage vent
- Automatic temperature control
- High temperature warning
- Extreme temperature & power protection
- Automatic pressure control
- Pressure regulator protection
- Excess pressure protection
You can get more details about the safety features on the Instant Pot website.
OK, I think I’m convinced that this thing isn’t going to explode while I’m cooking with it.
There are many brands of pressure cookers to choose from. I personally love the Instant Pot DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker. I love it so much, in fact, that I bought two of them! For many meals, you can truly make everything in one pot. However, if you have a main dish and a side that have drastically different cooking times, you can’t cook them in the same pot at the same time. If you don’t want to invest in two pressure cookers, you could always prepare your side dish another way (like in the oven or on the stove top) while your main dish is cooking to perfection completely hands free.
Instant Pot, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Before I discovered the Instant Pot, my slow cooker was my appliance of choice for getting healthy food on the table fast, without spending hours in the kitchen. I loved the simplicity of being able to throw a bunch of food in it, and hours later you had a healthy, scrumptious meal.
Then last year I discovered the Instant Pot, and it was like angels singing. The amount of time and headache that this one little appliance saves me in the kitchen is astounding. I still use my slow cooker occasionally, but I find myself using my Instant Pot now on a regular basis.
Here are a few reasons why I love my Instant Pot:
- One-pot for browning, cooking, even making gravy. For dishes that require it, you can brown or sauté your meat right in the Instant Pot (make sure to choose the Sauté setting). Then add the rest of your ingredients and change to the Pressure setting before pressure cooking your food. For pot roasts and other meat dishes, you can then remove the meat and veggies when done, and make your gravy directly in the same pot (again switching to the Sauté setting) with the remaining juices. It’s truly one-pot cooking!
- Set it and forget it. I don’t know about you, but I have this knack for boiling things over on my stove top. Whether I’m boiling water for pasta, rice, or anything really, more often than not it boils over on me. This is because I can’t stand to sit still and do nothing while watching the pot. I mean, there are 100 things I could get done in the time it takes for the water to boil, so I’m running around doing this and that, thinking I’ll return to the stove just before the water boils over. But I never make it on time. With the Instant Pot, you turn it on, set your pressure level and the number of minutes, and leave. When it beeps, you come back and release the pressure, and your food is perfectly cooked. It’s impossible for anything to boil over.
- Perfectly cooked food. Dishes cooked in pressure cookers tend to be incredibly moist and juicy. No more burns, scorches, or dried out food. It’s very difficult to mess up food you make in the Instant Pot, but not impossible. Two things to remember, ALWAYS make sure you add the recommended amount of liquid to ensure proper pressure is reached, and don’t cook it for too long. If you follow the cooking instructions in your cooker’s guide or on any pressure cooker recipe, you shouldn’t have to worry about overcooking (or under cooking) your food.
- Easy clean up. This probably goes without saying, but if you’re only using one pot to cook an entire meal, then there is only one pot to clean afterward. In addition, since you can simply set the timer and walk away while your food is cooking, you can utilize the time that you’d normally spend tending to the cooking for cleaning up your prep area. Most of the clean-up is finished before your dinner is even ready!
- Saves time. For dishes that traditionally take longer to cook, like roasts and stews, the Instant Pot cooks them faster, even including the time it takes to reach full pressure and then to release the pressure after cooking. And if you forget to get your meat or veggies out of the freezer and thaw them ahead of time, you can throw your frozen food directly in the pot. No need to thaw first! You need to make sure, however, that you add the appropriate number of minutes to the cooking time. Your pressure cooker’s manual will tell you how much time to add for each type of frozen food. To save even more time, you should know that you don’t have to sauté veggies like onions ahead of time if you don’t want to. I have not noticed any difference in flavor or texture whether I sauté them in the pot prior to pressure cooking or not.
- Cook pasta and rice with the dish. Yes, you heard that right! You don’t have to boil your pasta or rice separately and stir it in at the end. For most pasta or rice dishes, you can simply throw the uncooked pasta or rice directly in the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and it turns out perfectly cooked (for rice make sure you’re NOT using the instant kind). I was very skeptical of this at first, especially with gluten-free pasta, since it doesn’t always cook to the same consistency as regular pasta. Well I can attest that gluten-free pasta cooks perfectly in my Instant Pot, with a much better consistency than when boiling it on the stove.
So what’s the downside?
I don’t think any product is 100% sunshine and roses, and I want to give you a completely honest picture if you’re thinking about making an investment into a pressure cooker. These aren’t necessarily all bad things, just things to be aware of:
- I don’t care for the Slow Cook feature. I can’t explain why, but slow cooked meals don’t seem to turn out quite as good as when I use a traditional ceramic crock. Perhaps it’s because there doesn’t seem to be a “low” setting. When I tried setting the dial to Less (which I thought was the equivalent of low), the Instant Pot did not heat up. Only the Normal and More settings seem to put out any heat. When I choose Normal, this seems to cook hotter than a traditional slow cooker does on its low setting, so I think the food was getting slightly overcooked.
- I don’t recommend using some of the other preset cook times either, like Soup, Meat/Stew, Poultry, etc. I typically set the pressure time manually according to whatever recipe I’m following. I’ve had the best luck doing it this way, as the preset times seem to be drastically different than most recipes call for in my experience.
- Beware of sensational cooking time claims. For example, you may hear someone mention that you can have fully cooked quinoa in only one minute. This is only partially true. In reality, one minute is the cooking time once the cooker has reached full pressure. What you may not realize is that it can take anywhere from 5-15 minutes for your pressure cooker to reach full pressure after you turn it on before it starts cooking your food. And then there’s the pressure release time after it’s done cooking. So your one-minute quinoa could actually take 10 minutes or more from pot to table once you start your cooker. The plus side is that it’s totally hands free and you don’t have to worry about the pot boiling over!
I hope this article helped to give you a complete understanding about Instant Pot pressure cookers. This is the one I use and love:
Do you have an electric pressure cooker? And do you love yours as much as I love mine? Let me know in the comments.