Photo: Kaila Harmon
To be honest, I’ve always been skeptical of the Instant Pot trend. I just never understood it. Why would you need a fancy pressure cooker when you have a slow cooker that makes delicious dishes (like these!) just as well? And who needs another bulky appliance cluttering up their kitchen counter?
So you can imagine my reluctance (and forced “thank you”) when I unwrapped a brand new Instant Pot for Christmas this year. But I decided to give it a try.
Psst! Thinking about purchasing (or gifting) one? Here’s a comprehensive guide.
The Trial Run
It was just like any other Tuesday night—after a long day at work and an even longer drive home thanks to rush hour traffic, the only thing I wanted to do was change into sweatpants, order Chinese takeout and spend the night planted on the couch watching Gilmore Girls reruns. Basically, the thought of slaving over the stove for an hour making roast chicken or some equally complicated dinner made me want to curl up and cry.
And then I saw the Instant Pot, still unused, sitting on top of the cabinet. In that moment, I decided “tonight will be the night.”
My recipe of choice? Basic fried rice. After all, I was craving Chinese food so making a healthier (quicker) version at home seemed like a good decision.
I began by pouring the rice and vegetable stock into the Instant Pot and letting it cook for about three minutes. Seriously, that’s all it took. Then, after letting the pressure build for 10 minutes, I opened the valve to release the pressure and steam. There are two different optiions for this: natural or quick and I’ve learned you can use whichever you’d like. I prefer natural because it releases slower and isn’t as terrifying, honestly.
Then you saute the veggies, add the egg, and the entire dish is done in less than 15 minutes. That’s even faster than take-out!
What I Learned
Since then, I’ve made a slew of meals in my Instant Pot, everything from oatmeal to beef stew to pasta. And while I’ve fallen in love with the pressure cooker, there are a few key things I’ve learned while using it.
1. Make sure you use enough liquid.
This is very important. A good rule of thumb is at least one cup (and if you’re making something that absorbs liquid easily, use even more). I learned this the hard way when I put in less than the recommended amount and ended up burning half of my rice.
2. Adjust recipes based on your taste.
For example, stir fries made in the Instant Pot won’t have the crunch you usually get at a restaurant so if that’s a deal breaker for you, cook that meal with a traditional method. And pasta cooks extremely fast in the pressure cooker so if you prefer al dente noodles, skip it.
3. Know when to use it (and when not to).
An Instant Pot is great for a lot of things but would I ever completely give up my slow cooker or Dutch oven? Nope. There are some dishes that are just best done the old-fashioned way and it’s important not to try to replicate everything in your pressure cooker.
Moral of the story: If you haven’t given the Instant Pot a chance, I recommend it wholeheatedly. It’s an easy way to get dinner on the table faster. Not to mention, using a pressure cooker definitely makes you feel like a professional chef! It’s a win all around!