So, the Instant Pot has been around since 2010 and I have just gotten around to checking it out.
Not necessarily because I am against it at all. I just assumed that it really would not add any value to my cooking. Especially since I already have a pressure cooker.
I will admit that I am a little sceptical about how well one machine can succeed at tackling so many jobs.
Well, I finally broke down and picked one up. Mainly because it was part of a huge sale.
I have to say that I am quite intrigued so far. So much so that I have decided to fully explore the Instant Pot on both the blog and on Twitch. I hope you will join me on this culinary journey.
We will try out different recipes and see if it lives up to all the hype.
This initial post is quite long, but will cover most information needed to understand and get started with the Instant Pot.
Even with my limited experience so far, I have discovered a few things:
- The vast majority of what the Instant Pot does is pressure cook
- It looks way more complicated that it is in practice
- Unlike my stovetop cooker, electric cookers require much less babysitting
Note: I have the Instant Pot Viva 9 in 1, so my buttons may vary from other versions.
What is the Instant Pot?
According to Wikipedia: “The Instant Pot is a brand of kitchen appliances. The brand’s original and primary products are electronically controlled, combined pressure cookers and slow cookers. The original cookers are marketed as 7-in-1 appliances designed to consolidate the cooking and preparing of food to one device”.
So it is first and foremost a pressure cooker. It also has the ability to control or react to temperature, while cooking without pressure. That would allow it to cook using different cooking techniques like slow cooking and sauteing.
Ok, so this is promising. Perhaps I could use this instead of my bigger stove top pressure cooker and my slow cooker. We will see.
Electric (Instant Pot) vs Stovetop Pressure Cooker
Before going any further, let’s get this out of the way.
The fundamental difference between them is the pressure level that is achieved and the amount of automation within the cooker.
- LOW: 5.8-7.2 psi HIGH: 10.2-11.6 psi
- These take about 20% longer to cook than stovetop cookers on the same high or low setting
- This cooker does incorporate automation while under pressure. It will adjust its temperature to maintain pressure and will automatically come down from pressure.
- LOW: 8 psi HIGH: 15 psi
- These cookers do not normally have any automatic features. Once the cooker comes to pressure it requires the user to adjust the stove temperature to maintain pressure. To come down from pressure, it requires the user to manually remove it from the heat.
Wow, So Many Buttons
With the previous understanding that this is primarily a pressure cooker, I looked at the front panel of the Instant Pot. Wow, that panel looks complicated. Why oh why are there so many buttons? My stove top cooker has two switches. That’s it.
My inclination is to try to figure out what is happening behind each one of those buttons. Why would I push them. When I do push them, what do they do?
So, yeah I started researching…. starting with the manual.
As it turns out, the majority of the buttons are actually just presets for timings. For example, if you push “Soup/Broth”, the display will light up showing 20 minutes.
The only thing the button does is give you a suggested time to cook your soup at high pressure. It DOES NOT determine whether the food is fully cooked. This is extremely important when it comes to meat. A thermometer must always be used to confirm.
This time can easily be changed with the [+] and [-] button.
Really? That is all it is?
Yup. This goes for the Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Cake, Egg, and Porridge buttons as well. They are all set to HIGH Pressure, and suggest a certain number of minutes.
So, if you want to harness your inner rebel, while cooking your beef stew …. Put all your ingredients in the inner pot, press the BEANS, CAKE, or EGGS preset. Adjust the time, and let that baby begin cooking. The results will be exactly the same.
Some buttons do have other things happening behind the electric curtain, and we will look at them throughout our journey. The infographic below, outlines most of the buttons.
The Most Important Buttons
When pressure cooking, the most important buttons include:
Pressure Cook/Manual: This is the button you push to declare that you want to pressure cook some food. Most recipes will use this button instead of the other presets to avoid confusion. The default setting is HIGH.
If your cooker allows, you can then change the setting to HIGH or LOW. For my cooker, I would press PRESSURE LEVEL to choose. Then I use the [+] and [-] buttons to change the cook time. In about 10 seconds the cooker will begin the process of coming up to pressure.
[-] and [+] : Adjust the cook time up [+] or down [-].
Other buttons you will probably use a lot:
Less / Normal / More: On my machine, there isn’t an actual button to adjust this setting. Pressing the same cooking function button repeatedly will allow you to cycle through these settings.
Slow Cook: If you want to make sure you are cooking low and slow and NOT at pressure, this is the button to choose. Use the LESS, NORMAL, and MORE buttons to adjust the temperature. Then I use the [+] and [-] buttons to change the cook time.
When using this setting, any pot lid that fits will work just fine. The provided Instant Pot lid also works, just make sure you adjust the steam release valve to VENTING.
Saute: This button basically allows for using the Instant Pot as a stove element. It can simmer (LESS), saute veggies (NORMAL), or browning meat (MORE).
In the beginning, these are the most important settings and buttons. Do not try to learn everything in one sitting. It can become very overwhelming.
As this journey begins I have already come to a number of assumptions:
- Since I am already a huge fan of pressure cooking, I will get a lot of use out of the Instant Pot
- The longer time needed to come up to pressure and cook, compared to my stovetop cooker will take some getting used to
- I will, hopefully, have a clear idea of whether the Instant Pot deserves to take up space in my kitchen
I hope you will join me on this journey and let us all know your experiences with the Instant Pot.