If you've been basically anywhere on the internet lately, you've probably seen someone talking about the Instant Pot, commonly known as InstaPot. It's the latest craze gadget to hit the cooking world, and it does just about anything. Need a pressure cooker for that amazing stew recipe? It can be that. Need a slow cooker to cook beef shoulder to tender, falling-apart perfection over the course of hours? It can be that. Always seem to burn your rice? It's a rice cooker too. Hell, it even makes yogurt, if you're into that. Plus, it can steam, saute, and warm just about anything your heart desires. It probably also does your taxes, and walks your dog for you, although we haven't figure out how to unlock those features yet.
If you don't already own one of these magical things, you might be thinking this a bunch of hype for nothing—another superfluous kitchen gadget that you won't still be using a few months from now. But unlike most other fad gadgets, this machine is actually good at performing the functions it advertises, and that's why everyone is talking about it, not just the company trying to sell it to you. In fact, Instant Pot has had no traditional advertising to speak of. Most people hear about it by word of mouth and social media, and most Instant Pots are sold on Amazon, not in stores. And seemingly without any pushing or gaming from the company, the Instant Pot enjoys an impressive 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon based on about 17 thousand reviews as of right now. So what exactly do people love about it so much?
First off, the obvious: This little machine does the job of 7 times as many machines in 1/7th of the space. That means it's great for those with limited kitchen storage and those looking to downsize. It also makes a perfect wedding gift or housewarming present with its reasonable price tag and can-do attitude. For college students still learning to live on their own, it could be a holy grail.
The InstaPot also has the power to dramatically reduce the burden of cleaning dishes, since a single pot can replace a frying pan, a steamer, a sauce pot, and so on. It's easy to clean, too; most times, a quick soapy rinse of the removable inner pot and wiping any moisture from the housing unit is all it takes to clean up after yourself. The inner pot and the silicone ring that helps seal the unit shut can even be washed in the dishwasher.
The Instant Pot costs $99 on Amazon for the 6-quart pot, and $92.50 for the 5-quart. That may not be mere chump change, but compared to the $70-90 you'd likely pay for a pressure cooker, plus the $30-50 for a slow cooker, $30-40 rice cooker, $20-50 saute pan, and $20-30 yogurt maker, it's pretty much a major steal.
Still, if that seems a little pricey to you, Amazon reduced the price to only $69 last year on Amazon Prime Day, so if you keep a watchful eye on them, you may be able to snag one for a reduced price again soon.
Many pressure cooker owners worry about safety when pressure cooking. But using the Instant Pot for pressure cooking is very safe—likely safer than with most electric pressure cookers, and certainly safer than any stove-top pressure cooker. Not only does it operate at a lower and safer psi than most pressure cookers, but it also have plenty of safety features (10, to be exact) to help prevent injuries from product damage, normal use, and user error. While some have noted that the Instant Pot is not the world's most intuitive appliance—with so many buttons and features, it's impossible to completely master immediately—you don't typically have to worry about hurting yourself or breaking the product if you don't quite do something right. The worst thing you're likely to do to yourself is burn your fingers trying to remove the inner pot too soon after cooking. But don't worry, they've already thought of that.
Without a doubt, pressure cooking is one of the top ways people are using InstaPot, which is the reason so many companies are releasing pressure cookers that attempt to mimic—with varying degrees of success—InstaPot's 7-in-1 functionality. Pressure cooking has the ability to cook foods faster using less energy. This is because trapped steam inside a pressure cooker raises the internal pressure, which also raises the temperature and the boiling point of water within the cooker. This means food inside the cooker cooks gently but quickly. It also makes it easier for cooks who live at high altitudes where decreased air density can make it difficult to keep water below a boil.
The Instant Pot raises the internal pressure to around 11 psi, versus the 15 psi of many pressure cookers. This means that when adapating a pressure cooker recipe for the InstaPot, you may want to add a few extra minutes to the recipe's directions.
So what can you pressure cook in your Instant Pot? Pressure-cooked meats stay tender, beans cook quickly without splitting, and vegetables stay crunchy and vibrant instead of getting too mushy. You can even pressure cook a whole chicken. Stews, soups, baked beans, and pot roasts are popular choices for InstaPot cooking. Here are a few of our recommendations:
Tender beef with potatoes and gravy
Creamy chicken soup with wild rice and crispy veggies
Hearty savory and spicy chili in under an hour
Looking to learn more about pressure cooking? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Pressure Cookers!
It may have the word "instant" in it, but it doesn't have to cook at breakneck speed. Any slow cooker recipe can be made in the Instant Pot. Since most slow cooker recipes can also be cooked in a fraction of the time by pressure cooking, this function is more for those who like to throw ingredients into a slow cooker to cook overnight and be ready as soon as they get up, or who just love the smell of a good meal simmering away in the slow cooker all day long. Slow-cooked mulled cider, for example, makes your house smell amazing for hours and tastes amazing when it's finally ready. Just make sure you turn the steam release handle to the "venting" position.
It may seem odd to sauté using anything but a pan on the stove, but the InstaPot does this too, believe it or not. By adjusting to sauté "less," "normal," or "more," you can adjust between low, medium, and high temperatures to brown meats, stir-fry vegetables, even caramelize onions. Most often, this feature is used to brown meats and sauté vegetables before switching to the pressure cook function to finish cooking. This means there's no need to dirty extra pans when you want to use the pressure cook or slow cook options but need to brown meat or soften vegetables first.
Beef stroganoff is an excellent example: ground beef and onion can be browned using the sauté option before adding the sauce ingredients and noodles and pressure cooking until done. In fact, lots ofpastas are easy to cook in an Instant Pot. Lasagna is another popular one.
You may think that cooking rice is easy enough on the stove top, but once you've experienced making rice without having to check it over and over to make sure it's not burning, you'll never got back. Instant Pot is as good at rice cooking as other dedicated rice cookers on the market, plus it can also make risottos and rice pudding effortlessly.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Most InstaPot users don't seem to be using the yogurt making function much, but those who do rave about it. Not only can it make yogurt, but it can also pasteurize milk, making it great for quick breakfast needs. Yogurt can take several hours to make, even in the Instant Pot, and then requires additional time to refrigerate (unless you enjoy warm yogurt) so it's best done overnight so that it can be enjoyed come breakfasttime.
Speaking of breakfast, you can also make banana bread in about an hour and amazing steel cut oats in just a few minutes.
With blueberry preserves
With fresh berries and granola
We've already highlighted some of the ways in which the Instant Pot is a major timesaver, but this machine's lightning-fast speed really shines when you use it to make multiple dishes at a time. With the aid of the steamer rack insert that comes with the Instant Pot and some tin foil or additional pans (springform pans are often called for in Instant Pot recipes, since their round shape fits neatly inside) you can make meatloaf, veggies, and mashed potatoes all at once. Or without any extra accessories at all, you can make pork chops and rice. If you're looking to hard-boil eggs on one layer, steam vegetables on another, and reheat leftovers on yet another layer, you may need to invest in some stacking insert pans.
People often wonder if it's possible to do canning with an instant pot. The answer is yes...and no. There are two main canning methods: pressure-canning and boiling-water canning. The Instant Pot's pressure cooking function is regulated by a pressure gauge, not a thermometer, so it's not easy to know exactly what temperature your Instant Pot is reaching and whether you are actually eliminating harmful bacteria like botulism. Because of this, the USDA has not evaluated the Instant Pot's safety in pressure-canning, and you should avoid this canning method.
But you can do boiling-water canning in the Instant Pot, which works perfectly for acidic fruits and vegetables when making jams, jellies, fruit butters, and pickles.
It's perfect for both making and canning homemade applesauce, too.
Already have an Instant Pot and looking for more recipes? Here are some more tasty eats we couldn't bear not telling you about.
Convinced and ready to take the plunge? You can find the Instant Pot on Amazon.com. Already own one? Share your tips, tricks, and favorite recipes in the comments below!