There is a lot to like about cooking with an electric pressure cooker, which is what the Instant Pot actually is, but there is plenty to beware of as well. In this post, I will discuss different aspects of this kitchen gadget that I feel aren’t talked about enough.
On the upside…
First, let’s talk about some of the positive aspects. One-pot cooking is actually pretty great when it comes to cleanup. You don’t have to wash three or four different pots and pans AND the dish you ultimately cook the entire meal together in. This is a big time-saver and doesn’t overflow your sink.
The Instant Pot is also capable of being very versatile, but I suspect most owners will focus in on certain types of cooking that benefits them the most. We’ve used it for cooking rice, chili, burrito bowls, pasta and sauce, and a couple of other recipes that we’ve come to enjoy form this cooking tool. We haven’t tried to make yogurt, cheesecake, or quite a few other things that it is likely quite good at simply because those things are not part of our regular diet. The short note here is to not get caught up in all of the hype about what it “can” do and instead focus on the things that you need it to do.
Recipe consistency has been another big benefit for us as well. Even when we vary recipes slightly or maybe mix everything to a different extent, they come out very evenly cooked with a consistent texture and flavor throughout. With certain ingredients like rice, you have to be a bit careful to ensure that you don’t leave the rice on the bottom or it will burn. But, beyond that, you don’t have to obsess about little details before putting on the cover for the final cook period.
Not everything is perfect
We’ve found some drawbacks to this method of cooking, but they are easily worked around once you “accept them” as being things that you are going to change. In this vein, let’s hit some of the low points like the fact that the silicone sealing ring will only take a couple of uses before it develops a strong odor from the food you’ve been cooking. This is quite well-known and the simplest thing to do is to order a few different color rings (so you can tell them apart) and use a different one for different kinds of meals. If you -do- make things like cheesecake, you should use a ring that has NOT been used to cook saucy or spicy foods as that will impact the flavor of the final product.
While having to wash only one cooking pot is nice, you do have to take your time and clean it correctly. The first step is to soak it if it cooled completely. Then we wash with a textured cloth to get the heavier food off. The next pass is with Barkeeper’s Friend to get the residual stuff off. Last is one more wash with dish soap and it’s ready to be dried. It’s a lot for this one pot, but FAR less overall compared to cleaning a bunch of pots and pans.
The recipes you will find are sorely misguided when it comes to how long these meals take to make. I honestly don’t understand how these people are coming up with these time estimates, but it really needs to stop.
As an example, the prep time and cook time for a burrito bowl meal that we make are both listed at 10 minutes for a total time of 20 minutes. Prep involves, dicing the chicken, dicing an onion, and mincing garlic. It also requires measuring out chicken broth, salsa, chili powder, rice, and salt. And let’s not forget opening the can of beans and thoroughly draining and rinsing them. Could I actually do all of that in ten minutes? I suppose, but only if I had already pulled out all of the measuring devices, knives, etc. And, I would need to be cutting up chicken tenders and not chicken breasts. Still, maybe this one isn’t TOO far off.
The cook time is on a whole other level, though. It takes a couple of minutes to get the cooker up to sauté temperataure. While you could do this while prepping ingredients, I don’t recommend it. The onion has to cook for two minutes (possibly longer) then you add the garlic and cook for another minute. You’ll spend the next two minutes adding in all of the rest of the ingredients. Only then, can you twist the top on and start the pressure cooking. Up to this point, you’ve spent a guaranteed 5-6 minutes of actually “cooking”. Next, cancel the sauté mode, put on the cover, turn on pressure cook mode and set it for ten minutes. The Instant Pot takes at least ten minutes to reach full pressure. That’s when the timer you set will start. The ten minutes of cooking time has just reached almost half an hour.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great cooking tool and works very well. Don’t get all excited by recipes that promise extremely complex meals in under 15 minutes because it’s a LIE. 🙂
Still, we use ours quite a bit, especially since we are now doing almost all of our cooking at home. It does a great job for us and is our go-to cooking option for a number of different meals. We also still give the slow cooker a lot of use. That’s another way to cook a few meals that we absolutely love. And there’s nothing wrong with having that aroma fill the house all day when it’s chilly outside!