Instant Pot Review: Why It Deserves a Spot in Your Kitchen

Instant Pot Product review

Eleonor Lee

There has been a lot of hype about the Instant Pot since it first came out in 2010. Now a huge sensation in the North American home kitchen scene, it was invented by ex-Nortel employees and had its beginnings in Ottawa, Canada. I have to admit I was a late adopter when it came to buying and using this fancy appliance in my own kitchen. I thought I was doing just fine with traditional cooking, using the stove and oven, along with different types of pots and pans, so why would I need this fancy schmancy thing?

 

Purchase trigger

My curiosity about the Instant Pot (manifested by the online research I started doing, and questions I started asking some fellow home chefs), and a nice in-store discount offered by one of the big box stores, drove my loving other half (yes I’m the better half ;-), to pick up one. Overall, the reviews posted online by other folks who had started using it seemed great, but still, I was on the fence on whether to get one or not. Fall-off-the bone ribs cooked in 30 minutes? Tender beef stew also in 30 minutes? Really?! The rave about it seemed too good to be true. And given that I’ve never used a pressure cooker or slow cooker before, I had no experience of my own to be able to relate with other reviewers and gauge how well this would improve my life as a home chef.

 

First meeting

When my other half brought home a new 6 quart Instant Pot (IP) DUO home, I unpacked the good. And there it was - my first IP, in person. Well hello there! It looked like a robotic pot, loaded with buttons on its chest. It also came with several accessories - a trivet (a term which I have never heard of until IP came into our home), useful for steaming food; a spatula; and a ladle.

Instant Pot Duo 6 quart

 

I then read (or more like studied) the manual. Yes, every page! The appearance and weight of this thing is a bit intimidating, and because it uses high pressure for cooking, I didn’t want to just “wing it”, and risk blowing up my kitchen in the process. Okay, that’s probably an exaggeration, but a serious-looking kitchen appliance deserves due diligence.

The manual begins with a number of things to remember to safely operate this equipment, and I do keep these pointers in mind, especially:

  • Never attempt to open the lid whenever high pressure cooking is in progress (i.e. whenever the float valve is up)
  • Ensure you have at least 500ml of water or other liquids whenever cooking in high pressure

Fast forward three months, and I have used my IP to make several dishes, including BBQ chicken drumsticks, pork rib soup, macaroni and cheese, and beef caldereta (Filipino stew).

 

instant pot pork loin roast

 

Lessons learned from experience

  • Total cook time
      The total cooking time includes time for IP to get up to high pressure plus actual cook time plus natural pressure release time (unless you’re doing a quick release of pressure). For example, if you’re cooking 2-3 lbs of meat with about 5 cups of liquid, pressure build-up time may take approximately 20-30 minutes, before it starts cooking for another 30 minutes. If your recipe calls for natural pressure release, then this could take another 10 minutes or so. That’s approximately 90 minutes or so of total cook time, before your dish is ready.
        • Messy cooking
          Cooking starchy ingredients that expand, like pasta, could get a little messy when doing a quick pressure release. Be prepared to clean the areas that could get splattered with moisture from the IP particularly when doing a quick release of high pressure.
            • Deglaze after saute
              IP can be used to saute (or brown) ingredients including meat. If there are brown bits stuck at the bottom of the pot after sauteeing, make sure you deglaze it (i.e. dilute with water, wine or other liquids), otherwise your IP would automatically suspend cooking to avoid burning food in the IP. It’s a burn protection feature built into it. We didn’t know this the first time we used IP to make the BBQ chicken drumsticks. Even though the recipe is on the official Instant Pot website, it didn’t say anything about possibly requiring to deglaze after sautéing the chicken.
                • Air out
                  Unless you don’t mind having your house smell like food particularly when you need to saute, place your IP under your kitchen range hood fan to clear the air of smoke and cooking odours. This implies you’ll need to put it on your stove or cooktop. You could improvise by placing a large and solid board on top of your stove (make sure all burners are NOT hot and are turned OFF), and then placing your IP on the board, right under your range hood.   

                     

                    The verdict? The Instant Pot is worth the purchase. Here’s why:

                    • Meat always comes out super tender, as in fall-off-the-bone consistency in just 30 minutes or less of actual cook time. To make a simple pork rib soup (that is, soup made from pork ribs), for example, I could cook it on the stove top for a total of 1 to 1.5 hours, but the meat would not be fall-off-the-bone tenderness. It would be, if cooked in the IP, for about the same total cooking duration.
                    • The flavour is fantastic. It may be comparable to traditional cooking, or perhaps slightly better depending on the dish and the aromatic ingredients soaked in it during the cooking process.
                    • It’s gives you something interesting to chat about, and perhaps some bragging rights,  with your relatives and friends. Having this fancy schmancy appliance that yields delicious results can make you look like a sophisticated home chef!

                     

                    I also recommend having these kitchen utensils on hand when using an Instant Pot:

                    • Long handled stirring spoon, soup ladle and spatula (for deglazing) - My 6-quart IP came with a soup ladle and spatula, however, the handle is rather short
                    • Kitchen tongs - useful for turning meat when sauteeing and transferring from the IP to a serving dish
                    • Steamer basket
                    • Kitchen gloves - useful for keeping the inner pot steady while stirring or sauteeing, and for removing the inner pot while it’s hot
                    • Kitchen towel - a damp towel can be placed on the lid to speed up the natural release of pressure

                     

                    Are you considering to get an Instant Pot, or already have one? I'd love to hear about your experiences using it.



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