As someone who spends an ungodly amount of time on Pinterest, I recently got sucked into the portal of the Instant Pot.
For anyone who doesn't know, the Instant Pot is a kitchen appliance that says it's seven (!) tools in one: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, sauté pot, steamer, warming pot, and yogurt maker.
Given that this thing supposedly cooks food in a fraction of the time that it would take on the stovetop, it's probably no surprise that the Instant Pot already has legions of obsessed fans, Pinterest-ready recipes, and reviews saying that it'll basically "change your life."
Despite all that, it took me a while to actually buy one.
I'd always associated pressure cooking with cooking meat, since some cuts can take hours and hours in the oven but a quarter of that time (if not less!) in the pressure cooker. But the thing is...I don't eat meat.
Still, both regular people on Pinterest and some of my favorite snooty cooking blogs have always had pretty amazing things to say about pressure cookers in general. So after months of kind of casually researching the thing, it went on sale for Prime Day — and after a few other friends encouraged me to join the ~cult~, I gave in.
In the three weeks since then, I've admittedly...become hooked, TBH. Here's why:
1. I can cook some of my go-to meals in less than half the time that it used to take.
The first thing I cobbled together was coconut rice with frozen broccoli and peanut sauce. This is a semi-regular meal for me, except I'll usually allow like 30 minutes for everything to come together — but with the Instant Pot, the whole thing took about 12 minutes. And it came out PERFECTLY.
2. The Instant Pot cooks certain foods much better and (with the exception of using the microwave), a whole lot faster than any method I've tried — and in bulk!
I was able to knock out 5 pounds of expertly steamed sweet potatoes in 35 minutes. If you've ever tried making sweet potatoes in the oven or on the stovetop before, you will understand this is a BIG DEAL because it takes forever.
3. If you need to sauté something, you can do it directly in the Instant Pot.
You know all those slow cooker recipes that make you sear something in a separate pan on the stove first (or what I like to call complete deal breakers)? The Instant Pot lets you skip that entirely. This cauliflower-potato soup (I omitted the bacon) allowed me to sauté the onions and garlic in the same damn pot where I made the soup, which meant one less dirty dish.
But there are a few negatives to consider, too:
1. It's clunky as hell.
The Instant Pot takes up a lot of room! My 6-quart model is 13x12.6x12.2 inches and weighs nearly 15 pounds. It's also super ugly. This isn't a Le Creuset Dutch oven or KitchenAid Stand Mixer that can double as décor. It's ugly. It's the orthopedic shoes of appliances.
So, the $70–$160 question: Should you buy one?
Here's who I think would like it:
1. People who think the worst part of cooking is dirtying a bunch of dishes and waiting forever for your food to cook.
Meals that might otherwise take multiple pots or pans can sometimes be condensed into one — thanks to Instant Pot doubling as a sauté pan that you can put right on the stove. Also useful? Using it with an immersion blender. In fact, you should probably definitely get yourself an immersion blender if you, like me, make soup three times a week. (Soup is the best!)
2. Anyone who doesn't mind a little adventure or trying new recipes, as it's probably the best part of this thing.
I feel opened up to all of these new cooking communities, and there are even generous, patient people out there who will try to help you convert any recipe you're making into an Instant Pot recipe.
3. My fellow meal-planning dorks who get sick satisfaction in prepping ingredients the night before.
It is so satisfying to come home, dump vegetables into the Instant Pot with some water, and have a healthy, warm meal in like 15 minutes.
And while there are literally dozens of interesting and helpful guides, Facebook groups, and YouTube tutorials about the Instant Pot out there to aid you in your research, here are a few other things I had to figure out on my own:
• There are a few pieces of the steaming valve that aren't as secure as I thought they would be. There's a very specific way the lid locks in place, and I kind of chipped away at mine aggressively trying to close it. (The only lasting damage is on my ego, fortunately.)
• It takes a few minutes (maybe five?) for the thing to heat up. At first I got scared mine was broken or that I was doing it wrong. But nope! Just need to wait.
• Once your pressure-cooking is complete, some recipes call for letting pressure release naturally before switching "sealing" over to "venting." It's called "natural pressure release" versus "quick release." I found this (unreasonably?) intimidating, but when you make like one thing you'll immediately understand.