The Instant Pot — It’s not your grandmother’s pressure cooker

My grandmother was quite a cook, and as a young girl, I remember from time to time she would dig far back in her kitchen cabinet and pull out a large pot with a strange top — her pressure cooker.

The pot looked like any ordinary pot, only a bit larger. There was a handle on the pot portion and a handle on the lid as well. On the very top of the lid was a place for the regulator gauge. The regulator was circular, about two inches in diameter. It was very, very heavy, like a small but heavy version of a hockey puck. It had a hole in the side that my grandmother would slide on the top of the lid. Once in place, eventually this hard, heavy, metal object would start to jiggle on top of the pot. Eventually it would shake and rattle and hiss and would crescendo to such a level, I thought the piece was going to fly off the pot like a loose cannon and then the entire pot would explode right there in my grandmother’s kitchen. I was so afraid I would hid under the kitchen table between the chairs as my grandmother would go about her business in the kitchen as if nothing was going on. A few minutes later she would fold up a dishtowel in her hand and carefully she would remove the regulator, and the family would sit down to a delicious dinner.

For years I watched my grandmother cook, and that’s how I learned to cook and feed my own family. But one thing was for sure — I thought I would never use a pressure cooker…until now!

During the 2017 holidays I kept hearing about the Instant Pot. I was seeing ads and hearing the praises of this meal-making marvel. I became curious and skeptical, but finally, my curiosity got the best of me and by the end of January on a Friday, I was the owner of a 6 quart LUX Instant Pot delivered right to my door by Amazon. I have to admit I was excited to get it. I pulled it out of the box and set it on the kitchen counter and admired the functions; sauté, steam, rice, meat, cake…wow. It was intimidating, and for two days the thing sat there in plain sight taunting me.

I read the owner’s manual, and frankly, the more I read the more confused I became. It was complicated with its own jargon. I also found a very active Facebook group that I joined, and read through most everything that came across my newsfeed. By Sunday evening I was ready to face my fears and tackle the water test, a test that’s suggested to make sure your pot is operating properly before you try food. It went well and helped my comfortability level tremendously! I was ready to make a meal.
Since I purchased my pot, I’ve made three meals: BBQ pork chops, garlic Tuscan chicken, and a pot roast with vegetables. And while I’m not completely at ease with the pot, I’m getting there.

So what makes the Instant Pot, sometimes referred to as an Instapot, so popular?

1. It cooks quickly. The 3–4 pound roast I made would’ve taken me at least four hours to cook traditionally in the oven or about six to eight hours in the slow cooker. In the Instant Pot, it took me one hour and twenty minutes. So it’s a huge timesaver. In some cases, the prep work takes longer than the cooking time.

2. Clean up is a snap. You can perform different functions in the same pot. For example the garlic Tuscan chicken recipe, I was able to sauté the chicken to brown it and then I used the pressure cooker function to complete the cooking process. The stainless steel inner cooking pot and the lid are both dishwater safe.

3. The food is flavorful and full of nutrients. Even less expensive cuts of meat come out tender and tasty when cooked properly in the Instant Pot.

4. The heat is contain inside the pot. So you won’t heat up your house, which is great during the hot summer months.

So it saves the cook both money and time while serving up a delicious and nutritious meal. What I’ve learned since I bought and started using my Instant Pot.

1. I’m not the only one who was intimidated at first. Reading the Instant Pot Community posts on Facebook, I found many other newbies to share my same feelings of intimidation. And there is power in numbers!

2. There are many different versions of the pot. What’s different are the size and the functions.

3. Some people like their pot so much, they use it to cook everything. It can make things you may have never thought about like yogurt, cheesecake, even dog food, but Instapot users say it doesn’t fry food. I see its value, but some things can be made just as quickly, if not quicker, on the stove or in the oven. Having said that, it has so many uses that the one pot wonder is perfect for camping trips where you have access to electricity. Depending on the model, it comes equipped with standard functions such as sauté, steam, rice cooker, slow cooker, soups and stews, and pressure or on some models, which is the same as manual setting on others.There’s also a delayed start function and a warmer to keep food warm after cooking.

4. The Instant Pot can have issues and malfunctions. If it’s a manufacturer defect or under warranty, I understand the company is very easy to work with and will replace the pot. Minor issues include user errors such as a loose sealing ring (the silicon ring in the lid that makes the seal needed for the pot to reach the proper pressure), not enough liquid (there needs to be enough liquid for the pot to reach the temperature needed for the proper pressure), and the “burn” notice one might get if there’s not enough liquid and the food starts to burn and stick on the bottom of the pot.

5. Sometimes you can make the entire meal in one pot. But I’ve found that many people buy separate smaller pots for cooking sides.

6. I mentioned this before, but seriously, you can cook just about anything in the instapot. For cooking some things such as eggs or yogurt or cake, you need accessories for your pot. There are silicon baking items and ramekins for cooking the “pot in pot” method and racks and steaming baskets for the steam method. The list goes on and on. Speaking of accessories, you can also buy fun decals to personalize your pot.

7. Instant Pot cooking has its own jargon. As you learn more about it, you quickly learn that NR = natural release and QR = quick release. Burn = call for take out!

8. There’s no loss of recipes. Instapot recipes can be found all over the Internet, including social media, with the most found on YouTube and Pinterest.

What about you? Do you own and cook with an Instant Pot?

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Writer, blogger, content specialist, avid reader, and book lover

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Tana Poncsak

Writer, blogger, content specialist, avid reader, and book lover