June 27, 2021

I Got an Instant Pot

3 minute read

I Got an Instant Pot

Last year, I picked up an Instant Pot multi cooker, thinking it would simplify cooking dinner on weeknights. Now that I’ve owned and used it for about 9 months, I’d like to share what I like about it, and what I don’t. For the record, I’m using the basic Instant Pot Duo 6-quart model.

Capabilities I Use

The Instant Pot is sort of like a Dutch Oven — it’s a thick-bottomed steel pot that can sauté, steam, and pressure cook food. And, much like a Dutch Oven, it’s very handy that quite a few recipes can be made in a single pot, which simplifies preparation and cleanup.

  • Sauté mode is overkill for just frying random items, but it’s great for browning chicken or vegetables for a stew.
  • I don’t use steam mode that often, but it’s nice for a healthy side dish of steamed broccoli or asparagus.
  • Pressure cooking works great for some recipes, and actually is better than the alternatives for several more.
    • I get great, reproducible results for hard-boiled eggs and for anything rice. It’s the best thing I’ve tried for these “simple” but often fiddly recipes.

Recipes Which Work Well

I’ve had great results for the following types of recipes:

Recipes Which Don’t

I’ve had really bad results with thick stews and chilis. Even recipes which I imagined would be fine (and always turned out fine in the slow cooker) fail miserably for me in the Instant Pot:

  • Hungarian Goulash
  • Chili
  • Other Hearty Beef Stews

Whenever I try these recipes, I end up scorching the bottom of the pot, and the Instant Pot deactivates itself to avoid a steam explosion.

I learned why this happens on reddit.com/r/InstantPot; unlike a slow cooker or a Dutch Oven which heats from all sides, an Instant Pot can only heat the bottom of the pot. Intense bottom-heating tends to work out rather badly with gravity — the heaviest foodstuffs sink to the bottom of the pot and can scorch.

Capabilities I Never Use

The model I purchased has 7 marketed capabilities, but I never use half of them:

  • I don’t use the rice cooker mode because I prefer the results from the recipes above instead.
  • I don’t use the slow cooker mode because I’ve heard bad things about it online, and I own both a dedicated slow cooker besides.
  • I don’t use the yogurt mode because I don’t use my Instant Pot for dairy.

How Does It Compare to a Dutch Oven?

When time permits, and especially for stews and chilis, I much prefer the results from a Dutch Oven over those from the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot can’t braise — it can’t caramelize the tops of meat and vegetables to get that beautiful brown char. For example, I would never want to do a brisket in the Instant Pot.

For simple soups or other one-pot recipes, I find the results broadly comparable. I would pick the Instant Pot for time and convenience, and the Dutch Oven for flavor.

Does It Make Weeknights Easier?

The original point of buying an Instant Pot was to make weeknights easier. I find it helps on weeknights in two regards:

  • The Instant Pot makes it possible to cook a whole soup or stew recipe in under one hour. I simply don’t have the time required to do traditional soup/stew recipes from scratch on a weeknight otherwise.
  • The Instant Pot greatly simplifies rice or steamed vegetable preparation.

It’s not a miracle product, and I don’t think it quite lives up to the hype, but I am generally happy with my purchase.

© Jeff Rabinowitz, 2023