Here’s the lowdown on Instant Pot benefits and what I learned from the first six months of owning it.
Sure, it’s not the magical unicorn that some people assume it is. If you go into it with those kind of expectations then surely you’ll be disappointed. Kinda like how amazing I thought I’d be as a mother (before I actually had kids). HA!
But let’s be real: the instant pot scores some MAJOR awesomeness points in several areas. I wasn’t totally sure how much I’d love it at first. It seemed like yet-another appliance to use on occasion, and to be honest, I feared that it would eventually be relegated to the thrift store.
So the first thing I learned is that it’s awesome. I know, I know, that’s technically a matter of opinion, so let’s not count that as our first official thing. But seriously – I quickly realized that the instant pot lives up to its hype as far as I’m concerned, and for that, I was greatly relieved.
To elaborate on this claim, allow me to share these instant pot benefits and four things that I learned in the first six months of owning an instant pot:
1. The cook times in recipes don’t equal the time it actually takes
This is probably the thing that trips people up the most! When you read an instant pot recipe and it lists, say, 15 minutes of cook time, you assume that it takes about that long for your food to be ready. Big fat NOPE. A pressure cooker cooks much quicker than other methods, but it needs time to build pressure plus time to release it.
After you put the lid on and punch in your time, the timer doesn’t start counting down until the pressure has built inside. How long that takes depends on a few different factors – like how full it is, whether your ingredients are frozen or not, how much liquid there is, etc. Out of all of the recipes I’ve made, I’d say that it has varied between ten and thirty minutes for it to come up to pressure. (The latter being for something like a whole chicken, frozen solid.)
To release the pressure you have two options: natural pressure release (NPR) and quick release (QR). The QR is obviously faster, but some recipes call for NPR for best results, like more tender meat, for example.
2. The sealing rings can wear out
I had no idea until I learned this in the massive Instant Pot Facebook group, but the sealing rings (the round rubber removable rings inside the lid) can wear out and cause issues with the seal. If your instant pot doesn’t seal properly, it won’t cook properly, so this is pretty important. The feedback that I got in the Facebook group varied as to how long is typical for the rings to last, but I’d just go ahead and buy extra sealing rings to have on hand. (Here’s a blue and green 2-pack from amazon for the 6qt.)
Many people also keep a few different sealing rings on hand and use them exclusively for one type of recipe, ie. savoury vs. sweet, since the rings can absorb odour, and nobody wants a curry aroma cooked into their cheesecake. (Unless you’re super adventurous, in which case – you do you.)
3. The Instant Pot isn’t ideal for all types of food
Yes, the instant pot is really, really amazing. Yes, I think it’s totally worth the money. In fact, it’s even worth living on my precious countertop space, and is the only small appliance that I don’t put away because I use it multiple times a week.
BUT… there are still many recipes that don’t work best in the instant pot. Sure, you can try (and inevitably – somebody has) but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal.
I’ve never done oatmeal or pasta in the instant pot because I find it easier to just throw a pot on the stove and monitor the progress myself, not to mention the lack of pressurization time, etc. And sometimes, if I want a perfectly crispy skin on a roast chicken to look lovely when serving to guests, I’ll opt for oven baking instead.
I definitely recommend playing and experimenting with your Instant Pot, but remember that if a certain recipe doesn’t turn out as great as you hoped, others most certainly still will.
4. It’s deceptively simple to use
I can’t count how many people I’ve heard tell about how they excitedly ordered their Instant Pot, then froze with intimidation the second it crossed their threshold. Many friends talk about how they let it sit in the box for weeks (or months!) before finally pulling it out and using it. I didn’t quite do that, but I did start out super slowly, only using it for whole chickens and bone broth for the first few months.
There are a lot of functions and buttons on the front of an Instant Pot, but get this: I’ve literally only used a handful of all of the buttons for all of the many recipes I’ve tried and the ones I’ve created. I’ve only ever cooked on manual mode, which simply requires setting the timer. I’ve also used the sauté function a couple of times at the beginning of a few of my recipes.
Once you figure out how to cook on manual mode, you can cook like 90% of the recipes out there, and that’s a billion times easier than you think it is. (I’m looking at you, intimidated still-in-the-box Instant Pot owner.)
Instant Pot Recipes from Red & Honey
In preparation for this series, I developed twelve Instant Pot recipes to encourage you to get that Instant Pot out of the box and get cooking!
Instant Pot Herb Chicken Lunchmeat
Instant Pot Potato Salad with Magical Bacon Superpowers
Instant Pot Shredded BBQ Chicken
Instant Pot Hummus
Instant Pot Shredded Beef Tacos
Instant Pot Mild Chicken Curry
Instant Pot Strawberry Chia Seed Jam
Instant Pot Maple Pork Stew
Instant Pot Best Ever Chili
Instant Pot Irish Beef Stew
Instant Pot Chana Masala (Indian Spiced Chickpeas)
Instant Pot Salted Caramel Cheesecake
19 Easy (Real Food) Instant Pot Recipes for Hesitant Beginners
If Pinterest is more your style, we’ve put together a fantastic Instant Pot Pinterest Board with tons of Instant Pot ideas from all over the web.
Most importantly – USE YOUR INSTANT POT! This series isn’t sponsored by Instant Pot in any way – we just want to encourage you to expand your Instant Pot horizons and have fun doing it!
Plan to Eat sponsored this post because they believe that eating at home should be easier, and I totally agree. I’m all about finding the best hacks and tools to make that happen. Meal planning is one of the best tricks of the trade, and the Instant Pot is definitely another!