I put off buying an instant pot for a few years because honestly, I was skeptical and not sure if it was worth it. Secondly, the price of the Instant Pot runs between $79.95 to $179.95. Let’s be honest, that’s a hefty amount if it will only end up sitting on your countertop rarely used, right?
I didn’t think much about it until I started looking for EASY recipes online and found a gazillion of mouth-watering Instant Pot dump recipes. From rice and beans and soups to all sorts of meat or vegetable recipes, it seemed like the Instant Pot can do it all!
Long story short, I got myself the 6-quart Instant Pot on sale for $69 (list price is $97) on Amazon.
But the big questions are:
- Should you buy an instant pot?
- Is an instant pot worth it?
- What is so great about an instant pot?
In this post, I’ll tell you what you need to know before buying this kitchen appliance and the Instant Pot pros and cons. I will also answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the Instant Pot to help you determine whether the Instant Pot is for you.
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But first, what is an Instant Pot and What Does It Do?
One of the most common questions I hear about this kitchen appliance is: Is an instant pot a pressure cooker?
Technically, the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker and works by heating and trapping steam inside the pot to create pressure and cook food faster.
The Instant Pot can also do many other things. You can also use it to sauté, slow cook, steam, cook rice and make yogurt. Yes, it does all that and more! There are some Instant Pot models that come with additional programs such as cake maker, sterilizer, egg maker, and more. So, the functions of your Instant Pot will vary depending on which model you buy.
Should You Buy an Instant Pot?
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, rice cooker, and slow cooker and are planning to buy these individual appliances, then my answer is a big YES, most especially if you want to save money and space. With just this one kitchen appliance, you can cook rice, pressure cook, slow cook, make yogurt, and more. Effortlessly.
However, most people already have a rice cooker and maybe a slow cooker/crockpot before the Instant Pot came out. So, I bet the most common dilemma most people have when buying this appliance is: What if I already have a rice cooker and a slow cooker, should I buy an instant pot? Is the Instant Pot worth it?
My honest answer is maybe. It really all depends on your needs, so I recommend reading the Instant Pot pros and cons below to know whether it’s worth it.
Full disclosure: I didn’t own any pressure cooker before. Although buying a pressure cooker had been on my bucket list for a long time, I put off getting myself one because I was terrified of the stories I heard about pressure cookers blowing up. But the Instant Pot comes with great safety features which made me change my mind!
3 Important Things to Know Before Buying the Instant Pot
Before we head over to the Instant Pot pros and cons, let me first bring up these three important things about the Instant Pot that I wished I knew before buying it.
The Size of the Instant Pot Matters
Carefully consider the size of the Instant Pot you are going to buy. In all honesty, I wish I bought this 8-quart Instant Pot because while the 6-quart pot looks big, you can only fill it up to 2/3 of the pot. I like batch cooking to save money and time, so the 6-quart size turned out a bit too small for my needs.
As a rule of thumb, when pressure cooking meats, fill only 2/3 of the pot because overfilling it may risk clogging the venting knob. However, if you are using the appliance for food that expands, such as beans, dried vegetables, or grains, fill only ½ of the pot.
That said, carefully consider the size of the Instant Pot you are going to buy as well as the size of your family.
It isn’t “instant” all the time
If you are new to the Instant Pot, you might think that it will make cooking instant, but that’s not always the case. I was a bit disappointed myself to learn that some dishes actually take longer to make.
For example, when a recipe says to cook for 30 minutes, it actually can take a bit longer than that because the appliance has to build pressure first before it starts cooking. And once the cooking time has ended, you CANNOT instantly remove the lid of the Instant Pot and serve the food. You still have to wait for at least 4 minutes for the appliance to depressurize through quick release or more if you opt for natural release by not opening the venting knob.
Building pressure can also take more than 4 minutes depending on how much meat and liquids you are cooking. And it can take even longer if you are cooking cold meats from the fridge.
So, sometimes, it makes sense to just cook on the stovetop. If you have lentils soaked overnight, for example, it might be quicker to cook it on the stovetop. On the other hand, meats and broth are faster to cook in the Instant Pot than using a crockpot.
It Only Works with Food with Liquids (Obvious?)
I never had a pressure cooker before and didn’t know exactly how this appliance works until when I tried it with not enough liquid. After a few minutes, my Instant Pot then said “Burn” on the front which means the food is burning. Thankfully, the appliance has a burn-protection sensor that once it senses there’s not enough thin liquid in the pot or there are burnt food pieces at the bottom of the inner pot, it automatically turns off the heating.
That said, you need to add enough liquid for the pressure cook mode to work properly and this means it cannot be used for deep frying or pressure frying just like any pressure cooker.
So, if you like your meats to be a bit crispy and browned on the outside, you’ll not get it with the Instant Pot or any other pressure cooker, unless you finish the cooking with other means such as: broiling it in the oven or stir-frying it.
It has a sauté function, though, that you can use for searing meat before pressure cooking it for a stew. It may give your food that nice charred flavor but it won’t give you that crispy texture on the outside.
Bottom line: Do not purchase the Instant Pot if your intentions are to use it for deep and pressure frying, or for dishes that do not use liquids. Make sure to read the Instant Pot pros and cons to make an educated decision.
The Instant Pot Pros and Cons : Is the Instant Pot Worth It?’
To answer the question “should I buy an instant pot?”, let’s talk about the Instant Pot pros and cons.
Instant Pot Pros and Cons: What is So Great About an Instant Pot
1. Multi-purpose cooking appliance
The Instant Pot allows you to do several things apart from pressure cooking. It has a sauté function which allows you to brown your meat and then cook vegetables right in the same pot. It can also function as a rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, and slow cooker, among others.
2. Saves Cooking Time
I know, I said that cooking food using the Instant Pot isn’t instant all the time. I had to bring up that point because people tend to buy the Instant Pot for its promise of “instant” food. It’s not always “instant” with the Instant Pot as it is with other cooking appliances.
So, does the Instant Pot save you time? Most of the time, yes. Compared to cooking in the stovetop, using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot can definitely save you a lot of time most especially when tenderizing tough meats and root crops. The Instant Pot works by trapping steam inside the pot which speeds up cooking time.
But, while there are COUNTLESS recipes that are way easier and quicker to make with the Instant Pot, there are also some recipes that are faster to make in the stovetop. So, before using the appliance, find out how much time it takes to cook it in the stovetop and the amount of food you are cooking; and only use the appliance when it makes sense to use it.
The Instant Pot is that one kitchen appliance that doesn’t require your constant attention. After dumping the ingredients in the pot and setting it to start, it will cook the food for you just like a rice cooker does and it will turn off heating once the set “cooking time” has ended.
Another key benefit of using the Instant Pot is that it allows you to program 24 hours ahead of time, meaning, you can set it to cook at a later time and have a great warm meal waiting by the time you arrive home.
I personally have not used this function yet but it’s something that I am sure we will find useful for when we have errands and want to come home to a delicious, warm meal.
4. Safety Features
I put off buying a pressure cooker because of safety issues. I have a curious toddler following me everywhere, which makes me nervous each time I turn on the stove and more when using a stovetop pressure cooker.
Well, it turns out the Instant Pot has built-in safety features that make it super safe to use even with small kids around. You need not worry about fire, overheating, explosions, or even getting burnt by accidentally opening the lid while it’s still pressurized.
Here’s why the Instant Pot is so safe to use:
The Instant Pot has a pressure control mechanism in the base that controls the heating element so it maintains the pressure of 10.12psi – 11.6 psi.
If the first pressure control mechanism malfunctions and the pressure exceeds 15.23 psi, the steam release will be pushed up automatically to depressurize, similar to how stovetop pressure cookers work.
But what if the steam release function fails? Don’t worry, when the pressure becomes too high, the Instant Pot still has an internal protection mechanism that will activate so the pressure is released into the internal chamber and the Instant Pot will stop heating.
The Instant Pot also has a built-in thermostat that regulates the temperature of the inner pot based on the type of food being cooked.
If you didn’t put water or liquid, the Instant Pot’s pressure cook mode doesn’t work. It also detects when there are food pieces burnt at the bottom of the inner pot causing heat dissipation problems. This usually happens when you didn’t put enough thin liquid and the food starts getting burned. Under such conditions, the Instant Pot will just stop heating and will say “Burn” on the front.
Extreme Temperature Protection
The Instant Pot also has a built-in special fuse that disconnects power when it senses high electrical current drawn by the cooker or when it reaches an excessively high temperature.
Lid Close Detection
What if you forgot to put the lid on the pot or you didn’t close the lid properly? The Instant Pot is also smart enough to detect if the lid is missing or not properly closed and it will not activate the pressure cooking mode under such conditions.
Lid Locks when Pressurized
The lid will be locked until the Instant Pot is depressurized and is safe to open.
That said, the Instant Pot seems very safe to use, and as an added bonus, you don’t have to babysit it to make sure that it’s working properly.
4. Stainless Steel Material
Worried about chemicals leaching into your food using unsafe cooking appliances? Well, the Instant Pot has a stainless-steel insert/pot, which means it’s safe for cooking and will not affect food quality in any way.
Ceramic crockpots are glazed to give them an attractive shine, but these glazes sometimes contain lead which can leach into food and cause food poisoning.
So, if you have a glazed ceramic slow cooker, you definitely need to consider switching to the Instant Pot.
5. Saves You Money
It’s a great appliance to use to save money on food. You can pick tougher and cheap cut meats, and they’ll end up pretty tender and flavorful in the Instant Pot. You don’t always have to pay a premium when your meat ends just as yummy as their costlier counterparts. And since you’ll be cutting down on cooking time (see point number 2), you’ll also save money on your utility bill. Plus, it doesn’t heat your house so you wouldn’t have to amp up your air conditioning while cooking.
What I Hate About the Instant Pot
1. It Isn’t Instant All the Time
I bet this is one of the first things you’ll read in any article that talks about the Instant Pot pros and cons, and it’s because the Instant Pot is marketed as that magical kitchen appliance that can help you cook quickly or “almost instantly.”
I was disappointed myself to learn that some dishes take longer to make. BUT, while it takes a few more minutes to build and release pressure, the actual “active time” spent in cooking using the Instant Pot is still very minimal. After dumping the ingredients in the pot and setting it to start cooking, you pretty much don’t have to do anything else until the cooking time has ended.
2. You can’t always check on your cooking progress
Another disadvantage of the Instant Pot is that you can’t always check on your cooking progress because the lid is made of metal so you can’t see the food, and you can’t open it until it has released pressure. This means that if you really want to see your progress when pressure cooking, you need to wait for a couple of minutes to release pressure to be able to open the lid, and then another couple of minutes to build pressure again if you turn the pressure cooker mode back on.
However, the Instant Pot seems to cook food in a very accurate fashion and there’s no need to keep checking on your progress. I simply just follow the cooking instructions for the type of food I am going to cook, and it turns out perfect all the time.
3. Bulky and Takes Time to Clean
The Instant Pot may replace a couple of your other kitchen appliances, but it’s not small by all means. It can take huge space on your countertop, so it pays to know if you’ll have enough space for it in your kitchen.
Some users also remark that it can be tough to clean, given the crevices in the sealing area. If you’re meticulous about cleanliness, then the Instant Pot may not appeal to you in this area.
4. It may be too small to feed a large family
Instant pots come in 4, 6, and 8 quarts, which for some large families, may not hold enough food in one cooking session. That means you may need another instant pot. Also, it’s recommended to not fill the pot over two-thirds of its capacity, which means your 6-quart pot can only accommodate up to 3.5 quarts of food.
5. Smell remains on the lid
Some users have remarked on the lid retaining the smell of the previous meals cooked in the instant pot. Although it doesn’t affect the flavor of the current dish, the smell is still there. If handwashing the stainless-steel insert and the rubber lid doesn’t take the smell off, consider putting them in the dishwasher (they’re dishwasher-safe).
Commonly Asked Questions About the Instant Pot
Is an instant pot a slow cooker? Is an instant pot a crockpot?
Like many of you, perhaps, I had always thought that these two are the same, but it turns out that they are not. A crockpot is a type of slow cooker but not all slow cookers are crockpots.
A crockpot is a type of slow cooker with stoneware or ceramic pot sitting inside a surrounding heating element and it usually has two cook settings: “high” and “low.”
Meanwhile, a slow cooker refers to that kitchen appliance designed for slow cooking but it has an inner pot made of metal. That said, an instant pot is not a crockpot but is also a slow cooker.
What Instant Pot should I Buy?
It really depends on the features you need. If you think you can constantly use the egg maker, cake maker and sterilizer functions, then go for the Instant Pot Ultra.
Regardless of the model you choose, my recommendation though is to pick the biggest size most especially if you are feeding a large family. An 8-quart instant pot will help you save money and time by batch cooking.
What is the price of an Instant Pot?
The price of an instant pot runs between $79.95 to $179.95 but I’ve found these great deals online:
- Instant Pot Duo 6-quart — $74.96 (list price $99.95)
- Instant Pot Lux 6-quart — $49 (list price $79.95)
- Instant Pot Duo60 7-in-1 — $79.95 (list price $99.95)
- Instant Pot Duo 8-quart 7-in-1 – $99.00 (list price $139.95)
- Instant Pot Ultra 8-quart — $141.12 (list price $179.95)
- Instant Pot Duo Mini 3-quart — $59.95 (list price $79.95)
Is an instant pot healthy?
We’ve already learned that the Instant Pot’s inner pot is stainless steel, which means it is safe to use for cooking and does not contain lead like other cooking appliances. However, some people question whether cooking in the Instant Pot destroys nutrients.
According to this article, the majority of scientific studies say pressure cooking, in general, does not destroy the nutritional quality of food. One study even showed that cooking broccoli in a pressure cooker preserved 90% of its vitamin C compared to 78% preservation from steaming and 66% from boiling.
Final Thoughts: Is the Instant Pot Worth it?
When everything is said and done, the Instant Pot pros and cons should tell you whether it’s right to purchase one for your kitchen.
I believe that the benefits of the Instant Pot far outweigh its drawbacks. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or someone who’s just started out cooking, the Instant Pot takes out a lot of complexities from the cooking process and helps you save time and effort. It isn’t the perfect kitchen appliance (if there’s even one), but it’s a great tool to have around. The more you use it, the more you’ll realize the many wonders that the instant pot can do for you.