I travel (a lot) and work (a lot), so I’m always looking for time savers to make my life easier. One of the things I love is my crock pot, and when I realized the time was quickly approaching when I’d have to replace my beloved mushroom-adorned crockpot after 20 some years, I wanted to find an equally useful replacement. When I heard people talking about the super cooking powers of the Instant Pot, I thought it would be just the thing to take the place of my dearly loved crockpot.
And, even though I really enjoy cooking, sometimes 'ya just need a little help to make life run a bit smoother. So here’s my experience with the Instant Pot. Spoiler alert in case you didn’t pick up on the title - I didn’t love it.
Here’s my first mistake. Although I usually do extensive research before I buy, I was spontaneous here. Read on. I ordered a 6-quart Instant Pot Duo IP. It had seven settings, including a slow cooker setting. Yay! I got a great deal on it for $69.95 plus a $10 gift card, so basically $60. When it arrived on my doorstep and I unpacked it, I noticed the box said, “Pressure Cooker”. Huh? Had I made a mistake and bought the wrong thing? I thought I ordered an Instant Pot. After a quick Google search, I realized that Instant Pot was the brand name of the modern day pressure cooker. Yup, that pressure cooker. You know, when you were a kid and you heard stories about a friend’s mom practically blowing up the kitchen when the lid blew off of the pressure cooker. The mom was scraping whatever she was trying to cook in the pressure cooker off the ceiling for weeks. Well, the Instant Pot is the safer, modern version of it that sits on your counter not on the stove top. It reminds me of R2D2.
Here’s my second mistake – confusing actual cooking time with the entire cooking process. The instructions said it can reduce cooking time by 70%. Yeah, it may reduce cooking time by 70%, but it’s a pressure cooker which means it has to do what? Build up pressure. And that takes what? Time. And when it’s done cooking, you guessed it - you need time to let that pressure release. So while it may reduce the time it takes to actually cook, the time it takes to build up and release pressure is all part of the cooking process. So not a true time saver as far as I’m concerned.
Here’s the science of how a pressure cooker works from Fine Cooking. It’s pretty fascinating.
I cooked a number of things trying in vain to love my Instant Pot - three different kinds of dried beans (black beans, cannellini beans, and chick peas), chili, potato soup, quinoa, brown rice and hard boiled eggs. I chose these foods because my hubby and I eat them on a regular basis. I didn’t cook any meat, chicken or yogurt because I wanted to see how the other things cooked first. Here’s what I thought:
Beans: I used the pressure cook setting for beans/chili. It took about 30 minutes of actual cook time, but again, it takes time to build up pressure prior to the start of the cooking process and time to release the pressure at the end of the cooking process.
Black beans: Cooking time was exactly as stated on the cooking chart provided with the pot. Beans were in tact and soft. The beans were in slightly better shape than when I cook them in my crock pot. Opinion: Win.
Cannellinin beans: Same results as black beans. Opinion: Win.
Chick peas: The suggested cooking time produced beans that were slightly firmer than I would have liked, but not bad. Opinion: Meh.
Chili: I used the beans/chili setting, about 30 minutes cooking time. The chili was fine, but the silicone gasket that helps form the seal on the lid of the cooker smelled like chili, even after soaking it in vinegar, baking soda and dish soap…twice. Opinion: Fail.
I later read that the Instant Pot gasket will retain the smell of foods cooked in the pot. Gross.
Note: I also read you should buy multiple gaskets depending on what you’re cooking. Stop it. No.
Potato Soup: I used the slow cooker setting to make my fave soup– cheddar baked potato. I wasn’t impressed with the slow cooker setting. The soup never seemed to quite get hot even after I changed to a higher setting. Worse, the soup smelled (and had a faint taste) of chili. Ick. Opinion: Fail.
Quinoa: The chart said quinoa cooks in one minute. Whaaat?!? Well, after it built up pressure for five minutes, cooked for a minute and released pressure for five minutes the quinoa was great. Note: quinoa takes about 10 minutes to cook on the stove top, but it came out slightly better in the Instant Pot. Opinion: Win.
Brown Rice: I used the multigrain setting as recommended. 20-22 minutes. Uh, isn’t that the time it takes to cook rice anyway? I know, I know, brown rice takes about 40 minutes to cook. I soaked my rice for a few minutes like I usually do, then cooked with 1 cup water to 1 cup rice as instructed for 22 minutes. Result? The rice was not cooked after 22 minutes. I added a half cup more water and cooked on high for five more minutes. Result? Some grains of rice were cooked and others were not. There was also a bit of excess water. Opinion: Fail.
Hard cooked eggs: I used the manual pressure cook setting on high as suggested. Five minutes to build up pressure. Five minutes to cook. Five minutes to release pressure, then place eggs in ice bath for five minutes. That’s the same amount of time it takes me to cook eggs on the stove top. Blogs gushed that eggs are sooo much easier to peel. Nope. They’re sooo much creamier. Nope. They were the same hard boiled eggs I cook on the stove top. Opinion: Meh.
Clean up: The stainless steel insert is much lighter than the ceramic insert of my crock pot, but the Instant Pot insert stained immediately and I couldn’t get the stains out even after I used my go to cleaner - baking soda. Yeah, my crock pot is pretty well stained up, but that’s after more than 20 years of use. Opinion: Meh.
Verdict: So here’s my third mistake - believing all the hype. I’m probably in the (extreme) minority and maybe I’m too old school and unnaturally attached to my crockpot. Maybe I didn’t give it enough time or maybe I got a dud pot. I don’t feel as if the Instant Pot made my life any easier, so I got rid of it. It’s not a useless product, I just don’t think it’s the wonder product it’s being touted as. If it works for you, great, but I just couldn’t drink the “Instant Pot coolaid.”
Do you have an Instant Pot? Do you love it, hate it, or something in between? Let me know about it on Facebook or in Traveleidoscope’s comment section!
P.S. Here are some of my favorite travel photos of 2018!