For the past year I’ve been dragging my feet on investing in a new slow cooker. The handles on ours have broken all to pieces, and this makes for an interesting adventure anytime I try to pick it up. On Black Friday I finally decided to break down and check out what kind of slow cookers Amazon had on sale. The prices for slow cookers ranged from $20 for a very basic model to $150 or more for a swanky bluetooth controlled high-end cooker. While searching I came across a deal for an Instant Pot…. $63 to be exact.
What is an Instant Pot?
I had noticed Instant Pots in posts on Facebook, but I didn’t really know what they were. I could also clearly see that the Black Friday deal was half of the original price, so it was worth investigating. As I looked into what this pot could do, I realized that it was essentially a multi-functional cooker, including:
- Slow Cooker
- Electric Pressure Cooker (safer than stove top pressure cooker)
- Rice Cooker
- Yogurt Maker
- Saute pot
After reading some reviews and watching an instructional video for beef stew in 30 minutes (using the pressure cooker function), I decided it was worth trying. If it didn’t work out, I’d go out and buy a new $20 slow cooker.
The Instant Pot (6 quart) arrived in 2 days thanks to Amazon Prime! (How did I live without Prime before now? It’s not helping my American instant gratification tendencies.) I decided to test a wide range of recipes to utilize each function. The pot hasn’t left the counter in over week because I’ve been using it so much. Here’s what I tried:
- Beef and Barley Soup (Skinnytaste– she has a handful of Instant Pot recipes on her site.) This recipe has been a family favorite for years, and the IP made it so much easier. Instead of 3 hours on the stovetop, it took me 1 hour. I was able to saute the meat and veggies right in the pot, then add water and pressure cook for 30 minutes. Finally, I removed the lid, added the barley, and used the saute function to cook for the last 30 minutes with the lid off. It was super easy, and only used one pot. Win!
- Pumpkin Coffee Cake Steel Cut Oats (Healthy Slow Cooking)- I was utterly shocked at the short amount of time needed to prep steel cut oats in the IP. For this recipe, I simply dumped the ingredients in and pressure cooked for 3 minutes. Granted, the pot takes 5 to 10 minutes to warm up before the pressure cooking begins, and then you do need allow the pot to release the pressure naturally, but overall 30 minutes for cooking steel cut oats unwatched is huge.
- Dried Black Beans- I love to cook dried beans. They’re not coming out of a can salted to high heaven, and that’s always a win in my book. Very rarely do I begin beans on time though. I always forget to soak them overnight, and then I’m scrambling the next day. In the instant pot, I was able to cook dried black beans (unsoaked) in 30 minutes. Boom! They were delicious and ready to go into the enchiladas I was making.
- Chicken Breasts- Having cooked chicken breasts on hand makes throwing together quick lunches and dinner much easier. I had a 2.5 lb package of breast and was able to simply season them, throw them in the IP, and pressure cook for 25 minutes. (There’s a poultry button on the machine that makes the timing super simple.) Voila! Chicken on hand for recipes!
- Applesauce- I always have the greatest intentions of making homemade applesauce in the crockpot, but it NEVER happens, until this week. Six apples cut up (skin on) with a cup of water and six minutes in the IP made delicious applesauce. The kids were thrilled. It made a quart jar worth, so I’d probably increase the amount of apples next time to make it even more worth my time. And I knew exactly what was in our applesauce. No added sugar or preservatives!
- Rice- We typically only eat brown rice, which I bake using Alton Brown’s recipe. Baking brown rice is perfection, and it would be hard to convince me to use a different method. For the IP, I used 1 cup of brown rice and 1 1/4 cups of water. Instead of using the rice button (which is for white rice), I manually set the pot for 22 minutes. The finished rice was cooked well, but I think I let it sit too long in “keep warm” mode, and it dried out slightly.
- Slow Cooker- For this I made warm apple cider. This included warming the cider and serving directly from the pot all while the pot stayed on. The cider stayed hot and warmed back up quickly when the pot had to be refilled with room temp cider.
- Yogurt- This was the only function I really wanted to try but didn’t get to. I think I’m a bit intimidated, but there are some great tutorials out there, so I need to break down and just try it.
I think most of the tests above list out the pros for an Instant Pot clearly. It can really give your stovetop a rest and allow you to prep meals much faster. Clean up is also a real breeze. The pot comes clean easily, and I love that it’s stainless and not some mystery non-stick material. (I use a Norwex scrubbing cloth, and this takes off any stubborn food particles easily.) Finally, the size is wonderful. On screen my husband and I both thought the IP wasn’t as large as our slow cooker, but after actually checking our current cooker, we found the IP was a quart and a half larger. The six quart size is quite generous and can hold large batches and whole chickens.
The small learning curve for using a pressure cooker could be a con for someone who wants to jump in without reading the manual. This is usually me, but after a pressurized cappuccino incident once, I’ve become much more respectful of any tools involving pressure. So be sure to read the manual! The inner rubber ring on the lid of the IP also tends to hold food odors. This isn’t a huge deal since it doesn’t seep into what is currently cooking, but it’s noticeable when you’re washing it. Finally, it is a tall appliance, so storing it in a normal sized cabinet won’t be an option for us. I like to have most appliances put away, so I’ll need to make room in the pantry for the IP.
The Verdict: I definitely think an instant pot is worth it if you cook in a variety of ways. If you’re only interested in using it as a slow cooker, then there are certainly cheaper options out there. But if you are willing to read the manual and adjust to pressure cooking, the time you’ll save overall is certainly worth it. Be on the lookout for sales on Amazon if you don’t want to pay full price or use a price tracker app so you are notified when the price drops.
Have a great week!
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