Getting used to the Instant Pot has been trial and error…but now that I have a firm grasp on what it can do and can’t do, it is one of my best friends in the kitchen. I love it because it allows me to cook a wide range of food, very quickly and perfectly. For a busy mom, this is important and the cost is minimal when all things are considered.
Instant pot vs pressure cooker …an introduction
It is a question I get asked a lot…Instant pot vs pressure cooker…should I be looking to get one. My answer is always…it depends…ok. this may not be helpful to every body but it really depends on what you cook.
I spent the last two months has testing this contraption relentlessly so I have a lot of information to share with you, hopefully by the end of this post will be able to make an intelligent decision on whether you should buy an Instant pot, a stovetop pressure cooker…. or neither.
I’ve never owned a rice cooker and I didn’t think it was worth the space on the counter but Instant pot changed my mind. Sure, I can make rice on the stovetop pressure cooker but I have to watch it closely so that as soon as they steam starts to escape from the lid, I have to turn it down to really low heat. That is twice I need to do something…once for the cooking time and once for the resting time…and I need to plan pretty well so that the rice does not cool off by the time I finish cooking the rest of the meal. In the Instant pot, it takes you one button and I am done. It will take care of cooking, resting and keeping the rice warm until I’m ready for it.
What can I say I am hooked, the rice setting works great for white rice, quinoa and buckwheat but for brown rice I need to use high pressure, so I use the manual pressure cooker setting. It is a few more buttons but with all of them pressed upfront and from then on, it’s just as easy as white rice and comes out perfectly every time.
It does breakfast too…
I am not a morning person and unfortunately one of my children they really likes sushi rice for breakfast with a fried egg on top. Since our town has a little bit of a crazy school bus schedule, she needs to be eating breakfast at 7:30 in the morning and there is no way that I’m waking up at 6:45 in the morning to make rice. With Instant pot, I don’t have to. Get everything assembled the night before and tell it to start cooking in a number of hours…and then to keep it warm…how awesome is that.
Yogurts and cheeses
I can buy excellent yogurt without going through the trouble of making it but I cannot buy excellent farmers cheese and to make farmers cheese, you need to ferment milk just like you do for making yogurt. In my house, especially in winter, that is easier said than done because we keep our house very cool. This is where the Instant pot comes in. It gives me the ability to reliably ferment milk in 8 to 10 hours.
I can’t possibly see buying this appliance just for this task but this feature happens to be there which is kind of nice. Since I bought my Instant pot, I’ve made more cheese than I have ever made in my entire life.
Pressure cooker vs instant pot…the slow cooker feature
I don’t use the slow cooker feature so I have not tested it but it’s basically the same as pressure cooker but 10 times slower…so I really don’t see the point so we’re going to move on to the main issue…pressure cooking.
Instant pot vs pressure cooker …which pressure cooker to choose
That’s really why most people buy the Instant Pot. It’s a pressure cooker but it’s not scary because it’s not called a pressure cooker.
Let’s be clear, all modern pressure cookers have safety features that do not allow them to explode. So, the Instant Pot is not safer than the stovetop pressure cooker but it is a lot more hands-off.
You do not need to be home to turn down the heat and then turn it off. You press a few buttons and then you walk away Instant pot. They do not take long to cook and offers a very flexible degree of completeness. My brown rice, polenta and chicken stock came out beautifully and so much easier and more convenient than using more traditional methods.
I think chicken stock alone is worth buying the Instant pot.
The dishes that I had the most trouble with was meat braises and beans. Meat braises and stews requiring you to brown the meat first and browning meat in the Instant pot is not easy.
The surface area is small and the walls are tall which traps the steam. The bottom of the pot is curved so all the oil runs to the sides and they heat turns down all by itself as soon as the Instant pot thinks it’s getting too hot.
My 6-quart Instant pot only fits 3 chicken thighs at a time and the browning is very limited, certainly no comparison to my Dutch oven. I can also do nearly three time the number of chicken thighs too…just something to bare in mind.
You also have to consider the smoke that is produced. The Instant pot sits on my counter so the smoke ends up on my ceilings and underside of my kitchen units. Obviously, my Dutch oven sits on the stove where the extractor handles the smoke.
In terms of the meat, they produce really good results. The meat is thoroughly cooked, very tender and a good consistency. It works well for ‘dry’ meats. The issue is when there is a lot of stock involved. This is not an Instant Pot issue; it applies to all pressure cookers.
With a high level of stock, the end result is not great. You can forget about cooking a great coq au vin in it. That is what your Dutch oven is for. In your Dutch oven, the stock reduces resulting in a strong and complex flavor that is layered. Your Instant pot does not reduce the stock so this is not possible to replicate.
The other issue I found with the Instant pot is that it is not great at cooking beans…at least not all beans. Unlike the stovetop pressure cooker which is fantastic at cooking beans, it is not just faster it’s really the best way to cook beans. This surprised me a little and it was disappointing.
The Instant Pot was very inconsistent, something I was a little surprised at. After some consideration, I think I have put my finger on it. Most pressure cookers, the stove top and the electric models have two pressure settings…high and low. The high on stove tops is 15 PSI and on the electric versions, it is 12 PSI.
This means you have to increase the cooking time on the electric versions as it is cooking at a slightly lower pressure than its stovetop counterpart.
When cooking beans, this advice is not always right. This certainly didn’t apply to beans. The issue was the time it takes to drop the pressure once the food was cooked. You cannot just open the steam release valve for items like beans as the contents boil like crazy…essentially destroying them.
Most delicate items need ‘natural release’ to stop them getting destroyed. However, in a pressure cooker, this can take up to 30 mins as the Instant pot is insulated…this means they are still cooking…resulting in broken beans.
I’m told the solution is to put a cold damp towel on the Instant pot to help cool them, unfortunately this did not work for me too.
It does work for some beans…black beans, kidney beans…hard beans are fine. It is the delicate beans that struggle.
Advantages of Instant Pots
- Time savings
- Energy savings
- Retain the shape and color of food
- Eliminates harmful microorganisms
- Retains nutrients within the food
I love my Instant pot but that is because I learned that it does have its limitations. I know that braising meats and cooking delicate beans is not a real option in the Instant pot. Classic dishes like Coq au vin are better suited to Dutch ovens.
However, there is still a wide variety of dishes that the Instant Pot is perfect for and there are a host of recipes online that are designed for them. Using stovetop pressure cooker recipes will not work.
If it is beans you want it for, I would suggest the stovetop version. I think it really boils down to this.
For everything else, the Instant pot will revolutionise what you do and how you do it. I highly recommend that you get one.
Let me know what you think of the Instant pot vs pressure cooker debate…have you tried them and what was your experience…let me know in the comments below.
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