Some Thoughts on the InstantPot
My brother gave us an Instantpot for a gift a few weeks ago and I’ve been cooking with it almost non-stop. Since I’d been talking about it in person I thought I’d gather some opinions and post them since you’ve asked me.
The first thing I need to write is that it is actually called Instant Pot. I’ve been saying INSTA Pot this whole time. It wasn’t until I was carrying the box home on the bus and had the logo in my face that I realized I was saying it wrong.
I wasn’t sure I’d like the Instantpot, but overall I’m pretty pleased with it. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because the owners seem to come off like they’re in a cult on Facebook and on YouTube. And to be honest, a lot of videos or posts online come off as if the writers or cooks don’t know the basics about cooking or recipes. I’m not a chef or anything, but I have a decent understanding of cooking basics. I’ve seen recipes where the protein isn’t sautéed or seared first, etc..
Another reason that I din’t think I’d like it because I don’t really use Slow Cookers ever. I’m not the type of person toleave tonight’s dinner in a slow cooker and then head out to work. When I have needed or used a slow cooker, I’ve been around the apartment. I’ve made queso or chili or beans or some dish here and there but it was ready within a few hours. And just like with beans, I’d just as easily use the dutch oven on or in the stove instead of using a slow cooker.
But I can see the versatility with the InstantPot. And that’s due to it’s pressure cooking features. I’m old enough to have tried the old pressure cookers and not liked them. With the IP- it’s much easier to pressurize.
Anyway, here are some unorganized thoughts:
When you first use an IP, follow recipes and write down what you did and what happened. The reason I mention this is due to LIQUIDS. You can’t run an IP “dry” so almost all recipes require some liquid.
“So what?” you say? Well, one of the first things you’ll try to make is something like chili, beans, a pot roast or a stew. If you’re used to making chili or beans on the stove, you know you can control the liquid content pretty easily.
Chili’s too thick? Add some liquid. Beans too liquidy? Take the lid off for a while.
When you use an IP and it’s pressurized, the lid’s on. You can’t tell what’s going on and adjust until the cooking program is done, the IP has de-pressurized, and you take the lid off. You have to wait to make adjustments.
The first few times I’ve used the IP I made the following mistakes. They were easily correctable and not technically mistakes but you get the idea:
- chili that wasn’t as thick as I was used to
- a lentil/sausage stew that was a bit more soupy than stew-y
- a pot roast that had a bunch of liquid in the pot, not a gravy-style sauce
- ribs sitting in liquid when they were done
So if you’ve read this far you’re saying so what, just adjust the recipes. You’re right- I did make adjustments and have gotten much better at using the IP. I wrote down what went wrong and made adjustments to the recipes.
This brings me to the other the main thing that I noticed when I first started using the IP: The recipes that I originally got ideas from all had TIMES in the titles.
If or when you get an IP you’ll be in a rush to cook dinner tonight. You’ll download a recipe called 20 Minute Chili! or 40 Minute Pot Roast! and you’ll be thinking, oh perfect, I’ll be ready to watch Netflix and eat dinner in 30 minutes.
This is BS for one reason: people use time in the titles which refer to the actual pressurized cooking time. This does not include the time to pressurize the IP (pre-pressure?).
So if you remember anything from this post just remember this part- it takes time for the IP to come up to pressure.
The great thing is my fancy LED IP actually tells me what’s going on and where it is in the process. Pay attention to yours if you can.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
Let’s say the recipe is called 15 Minute Chili. It’s not 15 Minute of total time. You won’t be eating in 15 minutes.
Here are the likely steps (note, this isn’t something I tried, just an illustration):
1. use the saute feature and saute the meat, and then onions. Likely time 20 minutes (and the IP has an awesome sauté feature)
2. drain the fat, add whatever it is to the pot you want: seasonings, beans, crushed tomatoes, some beer* and it takes you 3 minutes to do this
*don’t forget what I wrote above about liquids above
3. close the lid and hit 15 minutes – because it’s 15 minute Chili right?
–=the timer doesn’t start here yet=–
4. the IP starts warming up and pressurizing – let’s say 5-10 minutes. [we’re at 20+3+5 if I’m being generous]
5. The IP is pressurized, the timer starts and says 15 on it.
NOW the 15 minutes starts counting down.
6. The timer finishes (20+3+5+15=43 so far) and if you leave the IP alone it will slowly start to depressurize. But you’re in a hurry because you’ve been here for almost 45 minutes and thought you’d be eating 30 minutes ago so you hit the release valve
7. The depressurizing starts. This can take more than 5 minutes depending on how much you have in the IP – again, we’re at 50+ minutes here
You may be thinking “so what, I’ve made chili in almost an hour and that’s still less than if I used the dutch oven on the stove. In fact I walked off at step 3 and watched TV for a while. I don’t really do that when I’m using the stove.”
Well, I agree with you- my point is be wary of the time in the titles and in the recipes. It’s not as Instant as people make it sound.
Have questions or comments? Leave them below and I’ll answer them.