Instant Pot – What’s all the hype, you ask? With all of the advances in technology, we see new or improved cooking gadgets featured almost daily. It seems this past Christmas the Instant Pot was the rage amongst many of my friends. Several of them received said gift & have been too intimidated to try it. I’ve had many texts, IM’s etc. ranging from “How do I work this thing?” to “It scares me; I haven’t tried it yet.” to “What do you think about it?” Full disclaimer – I don’t own one nor have I tried one yet. Being a chef, you can imagine my addiction is to kitchen products & gadgets where the techie has to check out the newest, latest greatest tablet, smartphone or smartwatch as soon as it’s available.
Last year, I have to admit, I was a bit enamored with the air fryer. A friend allowed me to borrow his for a bit to try it before I decided to purchase one. It was great. Cooking was simple, quick & healthier (even if it did involve tossing in some Ore-Ida tater tots from time to time). Ultimately, however, I returned it to him & decided to forgo purchasing my own since my countertops already house a Vitamix, a coffee pot, a convection toaster oven, 2 sets of canisters and a large pottery vase to hold the essential utensils. Being a minimalist, it drives me nuts just to have these few items out on the counter, so I couldn’t imagine adding the Instant Pot to the mix.
But I digress. We are here to talk about all things that cook – whether it be slow, under pressure or multiple items at once. So, here’s a quick go-to guide to help you decide which is right for you. Wikipedia gives these three “summarized” definitions of each type. The Instant Pot is a combined pressure cooker & slow cooker a.k.a. “Crock-Pot”…poor Jack, we’ve all cried over our love of Jack & Crock-Pots. The Instant Pot is marketed as a 7 in 1 multi appliance cooker, both those mentioned previously, as well as a rice cooker (Yep, I have one of those.), a yogurt maker (Cuisinart makes a great one- for frozen yogurt. Who wants that other kind anyway, right?), a Sauté pan (I’ve lost count on how many of these are under my roof.), a steamer (Come on admit it, you’ve had one too…we’ve all been on that “I’ve got to eat healthy bathing suit season is around the corner kick at one time or another in our lives.) And, finally, it’s marketed as a food warmer…think about it, what did you take to your neighbor’s house to keep the chili warm for the Super Bowl party? I mean you did have to keep leftovers heated in case you needed a 2nd helping during “This is Us”.
One of the main differences is the Instant Pot operates at a lower temp & PSI (pounds per square inch) so it can take just a few minutes longer to cook in it vs. a pressure cooker. Thekicthn.com is also another great resource as the blogger has done multiple reviews on these lovable gadgets all aimed to make our lives easier. From reviewing those, it’s explained that a pressure cooker is regulated by a pressure sensor vs. a thermometer & temperature can change based on elevation. Pressure canning isn’t advised in an Instant Pot, although it’s commonly referred to as a programmable pressure cooker.
Pressure cooking/canning is referred to by Wikipedia as the process of cooking food with liquid in a sealed container. Pressure builds up by boiling the liquid & causing steam which increases the internal pressure and allow temperature to rise. Pressure cookers are great for high altitude living. Check out the USDA website for canning guidelines & tips on canning vs. pressure cooking foods according to their acidity.
We are all familiar with the basic Crock-Pot because come winter time, admit it- it’s just too easy not to let it be your best friend. Stew, chili, pot roast, lasagna, comfort food in general, it’s all simple in a Crock-Pot. You pour in a few ingredients & put the lid on & basically forget it. Thanks to technology, of course, you can now upgrade your model you got at your housewarming or bridal shower, to a remote function one you can control from your smartphone. So, if you get caught up at work or at the gym, you can reduce the temp or turn it off completely. The concept behind the Crock-Pot was to cook dishes that would otherwise be boiled. You add raw food & liquid & because little evaporation occurs it’s a long, moist cooking process. Crock-Pots are known for cooking tougher less expensive cuts of meat & producing a tasty end product. I must admit, learning to season food in a Crock -Pot can be tricky, but once you learn how to add these extra flavors, you can have a very tasty meal with minimal effort. Of course, it’s hard to bring it out now without having flashbacks to the after show on Super Bowl Sunday…I don’t think I will ever pull the Crock-Pot out again without shedding a few tears for Jack.