Let’s just get one thing straight, I am NEVER going to be a food blogger. I have no desire to go down that route so this isn’t the start of a new blog direction.
But I have to tell people about this machine because it’s a life changer.
I don’t like cooking, I’m not good at it and I hate having to find something that the kids will eat every night. It seems that the more effort I put into it, the more fuss they make about the meal that’s in front of them. One doesn’t eat tomatoes, one doesn’t like sauce, one won’t touch eggs and the 14 year old has now decided to go vegetarian. Meal times can be complicated.
Our meal choices had been reduced to an endless round of chicken nuggets, fish fingers, pizza and pasta when I started using a slow cooker to make stews and cook meat. Obviously not everyone would eat the end product, I had to remember to put the meal on hours before and a slow cooker can reduce veggies to mush if you aren’t careful. But I found cooking with a slow cooker pretty easy, and was using it to make slightly more interesting meals. It was also very good for baked potatoes which are a useful standby in our house.
Then just before Christmas, on Amazon’s Black Friday, I was scrolling through the offers and noticed that something called an Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 was half price. It was advertised as an electronic pressure cooker that can also be used as a slow cooker, rice cooker, food warmer, yoghurt maker, steamer and it also allowed you to saute and brown in the pot. I read the reviews and thought that it could be very handy, even if it just replaced my aging slow cooker. I added it to my Christmas wishlist, let my husband know about the reduction in price and waited to see if Santa would be kind to me.
When I first opened the box, I was a little worried because it does look slightly scary. Also I have memories of my mother using a pressure cooker and there was a lot of hissing and faffing involved.
When I took the Instant Pot out, it had a European plug attached, but there was also a UK plug in the packaging.
This is the size of the pot; it’s a bit taller and a bit narrower than a 4 slice toaster. I use it so much that I don’t bother putting it away but it’s not so big that I couldn’t find cupboard space for it.
I have only used the saute and the high pressure setting so far, as it cooks things quickly and I’m always short on time. Everything has been very tasty and vegetables have held their shape and flavour well.
So far I have cooked porridge, a whole chicken ( and made bone broth with the carcass), a top roast ( took longer than I expected in the end but very nice), lots of vegetables ( really quick) and macaroni cheese ( will always do pasta like this from now on).
I haven’t used the rice function yet but it’s supposed to work well, a friend of mine uses it to boil loads of eggs and I plan to use it for stews, soups and meat sauces as well. A lot of people make cheese cakes in theirs. This is something I plan to investigate!
The thing you must bear in mind is that if you want to use it as a pressure cooker, it needs some water in it to allow steam to form to cook the food inside. So there always needs to be at least a cup of steam in the bottom of the inner pot. The pot comes with a trivet that sits in the bottom and holds bowls or meat out of the water while your food cooks.
Forgetting to add water to the pot seems to be a common mistake made by beginner ‘potheads’.
The other common source of confusion when starting out is how to tell when your IP ( Instant Pot) is at the right pressure, and what to do with the vent at the back of the lid.
See the hole on left with a little white button at the bottom of it? As the pressure inside the pot builds up, this rises until it’s level with the top. When this button is up, there is lots of steam inside your pot. Sometimes, as the pot is heating up, you do see a little steam coming from this button. This is totally normal. Wait until the button has dropped before taking the lid off yours. I think there is actually a safety mechanism that stops you from opening a fully pressurised IP, but it’s always worth checking.
The thing that looks like a tap, to the right, is actually a valve you can use to control the pressure inside the IP. It has two settings; sealing and venting. Here it is set to sealing, and this closes the valve and allows the pressure inside to build up so that your food will cook. If you leave it switched to venting, then the pressure takes longer to build up and the cooking process takes longer. I have found this out myself, when I’ve forgotten to set it to sealing.
The main purpose of this vent is to be able to decide whether to vent naturally or use quick release after your food has been cooked. If you want to get into your IP quickly, then switch it to venting until the steam stops hissing out and the button drops down. Then open the IP with the lid facing away from you- just in case. In my experience, by the time button drops, there isn’t a lot of steam left in the pot at all.
Recipes will often tell you how to vent after cooking a particular recipe, but it’s worthwhile experimenting. Lots of people keep diaries of what has and hasn’t worked for them.
Other things you will need, if you are going to use a IP are recipes, accessories and a community.
The pot comes with a little book included, and there are plenty of Pressure Cooker cookery books out there, but to be honest, the internet is your best source of recipes. Just Google ‘Instant Pot whatever food you are cooking here’ and if someone else has tried it, you’ll find it. A lot of the recipes are quite Americanised, so it’s worth asking on the IP Facebook group if you don’t understand anything.
I have already bought a few different things to use in my IP. You will need some pyrex bowls if you are going to use the bowl in bowl method for things like porridge and lasagna. This is how I cook my breakfast. I have a glass slow cooker lid, but ironically I’m unsure how often I am going to use the slow cooker function and I also have a basket insert for steaming veggies.Then I bought a spare inner pot because they were half price, along with a silicon lid.
Finally if you are on Facebook, I’d urge you to join the group mentioned above. You can use it to tell people about what you have cooked, or ask questions or use the search function for inspiration.
So there you go. The Instant Pot is one of my current obsessions and I’m not a foodie kind of person at all. So far it’s had lots of use, and I don’t expect that to change. I’m so glad I spotted it on special, but I’d still buy it at the price it is now because it’s such a brilliant appliance.
If you have been thinking about getting an IP and do end up getting one or have one already, then please comment below and tell me what you use it for. I love getting new ideas for this thing.
The IP hasn’t solved my cooking problems, but it’s certainly made meal times that little bit quicker and easier. You won’t have seen the last of it.