Coveting an Instant Pot? Here’s What You Should Know Before Getting One

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instant pot
Tina Russell / The Penny Hoarder

Behold the Instant Pot. If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you probably know someone who has one of these gizmos in their kitchen and just loves it.

Seriously, people rave about these things.

With booming sales fueled by online word-of-mouth and rave reviews on social media, this electric pressure cooker has become 2017’s gotta-have-it gadget. This kitchen appliance has gone positively viral.

If you’re thinking about buying one of these devices, or you just got one and you’re wondering what to do now, we’ve got answers to your questions.

Here’s our list of 15 things to know about the Instant Pot 7-In-1 Multifunction Cooker.

First, The Basics

instant pot

After soaking in water, the rice is drained prior to going into the Instant Pot. Tina Russell/ The Penny Hoarder

1. It’s seven tools in one. Like the “7-In-1” name implies, it bills itself as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute pot, steamer, warming pot and yogurt maker.

2. The most popular version costs about $100. The 6-quart Instant Pot currently sells for $99.00 on Amazon and for $99.99 on the Target and Walmart websites.

3. There are a few versions. While the 6-quart version is $99, there’s also a 5-quart model (price ranges from $93 to $135) and an 8-quart model ($130).There’s even a model equipped with Bluetooth that costs $167, if you’re so totally high-tech that you need to operate your kitchen appliances with your smartphone.

4. Its selling points are “fast” and “flavorful.” Like any pressure cooker or slow cooker, the Instant Pot offers set-it-and-forget-it cooking. Its fans say it cooks food way faster than a slow cooker, and its high-temperature cooking produces lots of flavor.

5. They’re cheaper than they used to be. Last year the 6-quart version cost $120 instead of today’s $100 price tag.

6. They might go on sale later this year. In 2015 and 2016, they went on sale on Amazon Prime Day. Amazon had the 6-quart model marked down to $69 last year, and it sold 215,000 units.

Amazon hasn’t scheduled Prime Day 2017 yet, but it will probably be sometime in mid-July. No word yet on whether Instant Pots will be on sale again.During last year’s holiday season, shoppers found Instant Pots on sale for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Food For Thought

7. The device is not intuitive. People often say the Instant Pot is user-friendly, but all those buttons and settings can seem overwhelming at first. Don’t be intimidated. Sit down and read the instruction manual first. Watch some introductory videos like this one, this one or this one. Don’t just wing it.

8. Another selling point is safety. Your grandma’s pressure cooker was a scary, rattling, hissing thing. Microwaves replaced those old-timey pressure cookers of the ‘50s and ‘60s for fast cooking.New-generation pressure cookers like the Instant Pot and its competitors from Cuisinart and Breville are easier to use and have more safety features.

9. This cooker is best for foods you want to be tender. The pressure cooking makes meat really tender. It’s good for foods you want soft and succulent — but you want them fast. Think ribs, chicken, pork, lamb, chili, risotto, soup, stews, beans and hard-boiled eggs.

10. It can brown meat if you use the “saute” function. Before you start the pressure cooking process, you can press the “saute” button to sear meat on the bottom of the appliance’s stainless steel pot. You press the “adjust” button to choose from three settings — low, medium or high.Keep the lid open.

A caveat here: One food writer who tested the appliance wrote, “You can’t get really good color on your meats with the relatively low heat of any electric pressure cooker. For better browning, I’ll sear on the stove and then transfer to the Instant Pot for the fast braise.”

11. It’s not good at making food crispy or crunchy or crusty. Chicken or potatoes roasted in the Instant Pot will never have that nice crisp crust.

Here we’ll let New York Times food writer Melissa Clark explain a downside of pressure cookers: “They just don’t do crisp or crunchy. Although most cookers allow you to brown meats and vegetables on the sauté function before cooking, any crunchy bits will wilt under the pressurized steam once you lock on the lid.”

So Many Recipes, So Little Time

12. There are a million, billion, trillion, gajillion Instant Pot recipes on the Internet. Not kidding here.

Social media is driving the Instant Pot’s popularity. Its Facebook community page has nearly half a million members. The various models have nearly 18,000 reviews on Amazon.

Fans love to share their recipes for chicken or chili or risotto — or weirder uses like popcorn or cheesecake. Some good places to start are here, here or here.

13. Some recipes take longer than their titles indicate. Sure, the recipe might be called “1-minute quinoa” or “7-minute rice” or “20-minute beef stew,” but it’s going to take longer than that. It can take 10-15 minutes for the device to build up pressure before cooking, plus more time to release the pressure after the cooking.

14. Use a cup of liquid to cook meat. When you’re starting out, a good rule of thumb is to use one cup of liquid when you’re pressure-cooking meat. That could include broth, water, soy sauce, etc. Too much liquid will dilute the flavor.

15. It has a cool lid. One food blogger, Dad Cooks Dinner, says his favorite feature is the built-in lid holders on top of the Instant Pot. When you remove the hot lid, you don’t have to set it down on the counter. You can fit a tab on the side of the lid into either of the Instant Pot’s handles, and the lid still stand up on its side.

For safety reasons, open the lid away from you. And never force the Instant Pot open.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line: You might consider acquiring an Instant Pot if:

  • You have an extra 100 bucks.
  • You have the free counter space.
  • You could use a kitchen appliance that cooks a lot of different foods fast.

Your Turn: Do you have an Instant Pot? What do you use it for?

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He cooks a lot.