Instant Pots have become something of a kitchen sensation over the last few years but are they worth it or are they just another of those kitchen gadgets that ends up in the back of the cupboard gathering dust?
What exactly is an Instant Pot?
It is really just another form of pressure cooker and therefore a way to cook food faster and in a more energy efficient way. Pressure cookers have been around for about 320 years after being invented by French Physician, Denis Papin. The more modern style of cooker became popular during World War II when time was more scarce with women working in factories but still needing to feed their families. They also had the advantage of using less energy to cook and therefore saving both money and time.
An Instant Pot is a more modern version of these older pressure cookers. It has more features and has to pass more safety tests than the older ones that could explode if the pressure was unable to be released.
How does a pressure cooker or Instant Pot work?
An Instant Pot or pressure cooker works by being tightly sealed and locked so that the steam cannot be released. They spend a few minutes building up the steam to required pressure and then begin cooking. Because the steam is trapped in the cooker the temperature reached is higher than normal cooking. This means the food is cooked quicker. Also because you are cooking with moisture the food cooked retains water and joints of meat for instance will stay juicy and tender even though they have been cooked very quickly.
What are the main reasons you might want to buy an Instant Pot?
There are many advantages or pros to owning an Instant Pot. Like everything there are cons too but first you might like to know a few of these things.
An Instant Pot can save you a considerable amount of time. Depending on what you are cooking they will produce a finished meal up to 70% quicker than a standard oven. If you are cooking faster than you are also using less energy so therefore saving money. They can help reduce your utility bills as well the time you spend in the kitchen.
You don’t even have to be home to make sure the dinner is ready in the evening. The Instant Pot contains settings that allow it to work the same as a slow cooker so you can throw the ingredients of a soup together, for example, and leave it to cook while you are at work. They also can be set to turn on and cook at a certain time so you could have the pot turn itself on an hour before you get home and keep the food warm.
Can I cook anything in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker?
You can cook a surprising amount of things such as hard boiled eggs, rice and even roast chicken but there are some things it cannot do. It is unable to deep fry or replicate frying to any satisfactory level. They will have a saute option but if you like the crispness that frying adds then you may be disappointed in an Instant Pot. Due to it’s cooking process it hydrates and tenderises meat so you will get perfectly juicy pulled pork but you will not get crispy bacon. It will make cakes, pancakes and even creme brulee.
What are the disadvantages or cons of using an Instant Pot?
As mentioned above, there is no way to produce crispy skin on chicken or crisp up potatoes or other meats. The inside of an Instant Pot is stainless steel meaning that it is safe to use for any food and non toxic. It will not corrode and wipes down easily. However due to the size and shape of the pot it can be a little difficult to clean.
There are a few other negatives, the Instant Pot not really being ‘instant’ is one. It needs a few minutes to reach the required pressure before it can start cooking and it also needs a few minutes (at least 4 minutes) to release the pressure after cooking. This means all recipe times you see will need some time added on.
With standard cooking on a hob you will be able to watch the food cook, taste it and alter the seasoning if necessary. With an Instant Pot you cannot interrupt the cooking process so easily. You would have to release the pressure before you can open the pot and then build up the pressure again before it carries on cooking. Also, some things don’t cook quicker in an Instant Pot. Making yoghurt for instance will take the same length of time as it would normally.
An Instant Pot is something you may want to consider if you are time poor but like to cook nutritious, tasty meals for yourself and your family. These days we take more care over what we put in our bodies, our appearance and our health and an Instant Pot can help make healthy food. It has the advantage of being able to keep food warm so everyone can have a meal regardless of having different schedules. It can allow you to keep to a routine such as working out while the cooker cooks your dinner without you hovering over it.
It can cook frozen meat, make one pot meals and it allows time so that the whole family can sit together. On the downside it cannot crisp skin, can be awkward to clean and you will need to choose the right size for your needs. A pot can only be full up to 2 thirds so you need to consider how many people you will be cooking for before you make your purchase. If you do decide to go with an Instant Pot you will find a whole world of recipes out there on the internet to help fire your imagination.
Like any purchase you must weigh up the pros and cons and make the right decision that fits you and your families lifestyles and schedule.