To Instant Pot or Not: That is the Question

I had read so many good things about instant pots that I was more than anxious to try one. When my Mother-in-Law gave me an instant pot, I enthusiastically jumped into the world of instant potting.

I used the instant pot daily for weeks. Most of what I cooked in my new instant pot was purely experimental. After almost two years, the instant pot has settled into it’s place in my kitchen. I am uncertain if I will have a long term relationship with the instant pot, but do rely on it for certain things.

What do I use my instant pot for the most?

  1. Thawing. I do not own a microwave and have come to rely on my instant pot to thaw a block of meat quickly. My favorite thaw and cook is taco meat which I can warm up from frozen and  keep in the pot to sauté once thawed. I like the “one stop shop” for cooking.
  2. Sautéing. If I am not wanting a large splatter, I am able to sauté safely within the walls of my instant pot without making a large mess all over the oven. The size pot I own is a 6qt. which I have found it a bit too small to meet most of my needs, but it does sauté a pound of meet or an onion well if I am making a small batch of something.
  3. Bone Broth. I rely heavily on my instant pot to make my bone broth. It is a great place to dump my chicken bones and water in, set it for eight hours and walk away. It is a bit less messy than the stovetop.
  4. Mashed Potatoes. Mashed potatoes can take time to cook up. I like that I can peel , but not chop a dozen potatoes. Then I can add salt water to cover them. (Salt water prevents browning while they wait to be cooked). Then I can set the timer, head out to church and come home to soft potatoes, ready to drain off water and mash up with seasonings.
  5. Rice. The instant pot does a satisfactory job of steaming both sticky rice and long grain rice. I was able to pass my rice steamer on as a result of having the multitasking instant pot.
  6. Holiday Cooking. During busy cooking times, it is nice to have a tool in my kitchen that can be used as a burner, food warmer, or even cook a small ham or chicken.

Now all I have learned about my Instant Pot is not all bright and rosy. I quickly realized a couple things about the pot that were a disappointment.

  1. Instant pot’s are not instant. An instant pot has to warm up before the cooking process begins. So, although my rice might take ten minutes to cook, it takes about ten minutes to warm up the pot before cooking begins. 
  2. The pot is not a chef. I cannot put a whole chicken in the pot and check on it toward the end of its cooking cycle to see if it is ready. Due to the pressure inside the pot, I have to wait for the pressure to release before I can look in on a large cut of meat. It is too risky for me. I like to keep closer tabs on my food while it cooks and I don’t like being locked out of the process.
  3. The Pot Quickly Overcooks. Because steam is used in such pressure to cook for in an instant pot, I have found that food is easily overdone. Chicken falls off the bone, yes, but it also bland and much more dry than any other cooking method I have used. Such cooking can work to cook meat that will be used in casseroles and soups, but I do not like to use it for our main course.
  4. Crock Pot feature is very poor. I have an instant pot with a slow cook feature. It is more like a “keep it warm” feature and does heat up enough to actually cook the food. It is not worth using. After a few major disappointments, I will never use the crock pot feature on my instant pot again.
  5. Quality is simply not the standard traditional cooking. I am not trying to ruffle feathers in the instant pot community, but the instant pot simply is not as incredible as slower cooking methods. I believe this is scientific for two reasons. The first reason is that the faster steam cooking does not give adequate time for flavors to infused into the food like slower cooking methods. Roasting and slow cooking in a crock pot or stovetop allow much more time for flavor to seep and blend together. It makes complete sense. The second reason is the instant pot uses wet heat to cook, so meat like chicken is cooked without browning. The texture and flavor of meat cooked in the instant pot is very different than what is roasted in an oven. It is very much poached meat. Which has its uses in soups and casseroles, but is not the best in flavor compared to methods that allow browning.

So that is my current evaluation of Instant Pot cooking. It is certainly an unique kitchen tool and I look forward to working with it more in the future.