About a week or so ago Betty, (my 82 year old beer drinking, Orange Is The New Black watching mother) called me to ruminate about gum or cats or ISIS or something - I can't really remember. In the same conversation she told me she needed to borrow my Instant Pot. There was a recipe in the newspaper she wanted to try but it required an Instant Pot. The Instant Pot, if you don't know, is the new "miracle " small appliance that has taken the blogging world by storm. I have no idea if it's taken the world of regular home cooks by storm or not, but according to my nephew who works at Canada Post a plethora of them are being shipped to homes across Canada on a daily basis.
The Instant Pot, which looks like a large slow cooker, used to be a 6 in 1 machine, but the new and improved version is a 7 in 1 machine.
MY REVIEW OF THE INSTANT POT.
WHAT 7 GADGETS DOES THE INSTANT POT REPLACE?
- SLOW COOKER
- PRESSURE COOKER
- RICE COOKER
- YOGURT MAKER
- SAUTE PAN/OVEN
- WARMING POT
This one machine is capable of doing all of these things. Unfortunately for The Instant Pot, I'm capable of doing all of these things as well, usually without the aid of a special machine. As you may have guessed, this review isn't going to bode well for the Instant Pot.
By the way, it's the yogurt maker that they added to the latest edition of the Instant Pot that turned it from a 6 in 1 to a 7 in 1 machine. And it's a good thing they did because without the addition of that, my review of this thing would have gone from underwhelmed to abysmally underwhelmed. And guess what? They now make a 9 in 1 machine!
I'm Karen. And I'm the only blogger to hate The Instant Pot. Or so I thought but in truth ...
Nope. No, I was not the only person to hate The Instant Pot. I am joined by a long line of people who didn't like the Instant Pot but who aren't quite as vocal about their distain for this thing as the people who are obsessed with it. The obsessed people who will herein be referred to as The Cult of Instant Pot Lovers Who Maybe Don't Actually Love Cooking so Therefore Love That The Instant Pot Allows You to Lock Your Dinner Up And Out Of Sight Like a Kidnapped Baby.
Kaitlin from TheKitchn didn't like it.
And, and ... well I'm sure I could find more detractors out there if I could just figure out how to make it into the small kitchen appliance section of the dark web.
The Cult of the Instant Pot is the group of people who are willing to do or say anything to prove that this very useable, yet kind of unremarkable gadget is going to change your life. After owning the 7 in 1 Instant Pot for a few months my life has not changed any more than it changed after getting a teeth cleaning and WAY less than it changed after buying a Soda Stream.
But I like cooking. I like the process of cooking. I like stirring, and tasting and adding salt. You do not do these things with an Instant Pot. You put the food in, close it up and hope for the best. Which is my biggest beef with it. Cooking for me is something to be enjoyed and experienced and food is to be nurtured and tasted throughout the cooking process. There is none of that with an Instant Pot.
Imagine you're an artist and you have a blank canvas and all your oil paints and brushes in front of you. You take your time building the perfect painting, adding things and blending them and taking your time lovingly creating it. That's cooking.
Now imagine you whip off a kind of shitty paint by number in 13 minutes. That's cooking with an Instant Pot.
I know The Cult is currently looking for ways to poison me with some sort of Instant Pot concoction (that has gooey, rubbery chicken skin in it) but if that's the case I know I have at least 2 hours because even though the Instant Pot Cult claims they can make "Bone Broth" soup in 20 minutes, what they don't mention is you can't.
Why not? Because of reason #1 I didn't like the Instant Pot.
WHY I DIDN'T LIKE THE INSTANT POT
- The Instant Pot isn't as fast as its cooking time. Even though it works great and really did create the most delicious chili I've ever made in my life, the Instant Pot takes a really long time to come up to pressure before you can start cooking in it. At least 20 minutes. So you spend all your time prepping, doing whatever you need to do to make soup or chili (just like you would if you were doing it on the stove) and then you have to sit and wait for 20 minutes while it comes up to pressure. Once it does you really do have a reduced cooking time for a lot of things. My chili cooked in the Instant Pot in 10 minutes. You heard me. I pressure cooked it for TEN minutes. Normally I'd simmer that sucker for 3 hours. But then after it's insanely quick cooking time you need to let it depressurize. Another 20 minutes in most cases. For chili or other slow simmering dishes the Instant Pot excels. It really and truly does. The pressure cooking blends and melds all the flavours right into the meat (just like any pressure cooker would). But if that's all you want to do with the Instant Pot you'd be better off getting a better, stronger pressure cooker that comes up to pressure faster.
- The Instant Pot doesn't allow you to taste your food as you go. Or even check on it. Want to cook some chicken or duck or other meat that might dry out and get rubbery if it's overdone? You throw it in The Instant Pot and hope for the best. Ditto for seasoning which I always do at the beginning, middle and end of making almost any recipe. The good news is, because the Instant Pot does such a good job of bringing out the flavours of most ingredients, underseasoned food usually isn't an issue.
- The saute function isn't hot enough. I guess hot enough isn't maybe the right choice of words. The pot gets hot enough for sauteing but the second you add any food to it, the Instant Pot isn't strong enough to keep it hot so you have to wait for it to heat back up again before anything can brown. So it takes 3X as long to saute or brown meat in an Instant Pot as it would in a pan on the stove.
- You can't do big batches. I was really excited about making broth in The Instant Pot because everyone who has done so said it's fast and it's great. Sign me up. Then I started thinking ... that's not a lot of broth. When I do chicken or beef broth/stock I do a LOT of it, and then I can it all. I do this maybe 3 times a year. The Instant Pot comes in 3 sizes: 5, 6 or 8 quarts. By the time I got my ingredients into the Instant Pot and accounting for the fact that you can't fill it up completely because it's a pressure cooker, that wasn't going to leave me with very many quarts of broth. So in the end I didn't even try making broth in it.
- There's no temperature gauge. I mentioned the yogurt maker was the saving grace of this thing and as someone who makes homemade yogurt on a regular basis it really is a feature I liked. BUT ... there is not temperature gauge and with yogurt (as with a lot of other things) you need to know what temperature your food is at. To test the yogurt to make sure it's at 180 degrees you need to use a manual thermometer. The first time I made yogurt it didn't turn out at all. The second and third times it turned out perfectly. I attribute this to the fact that the later times I checked the temperature with a thermometer.
- Most things I did with it I could do better and easier without The Instant Pot. The Oatmeal I made with the Instant Pot was fine but using my method for Overnight Oatmeal is easier and faster. Plus there's something in me that thinks an old fashioned dish is better when cooked the old fashioned way. If I'm making a dinner that includes rice it's easier to just put some rice and water in a pot on the stove than to drag out the Instant Pot. If I'm cooking a whole chicken the only reason I'm doing that is so I can either stuff it or get a nice crispy skin. Neither of which is possible with the Instant Pot.
Over the course of my review I made Cherry Cheesecake, Yogurt, Oatmeal, Chili, Chicken and rice, Hard Boiled eggs and a bunch of other things in my Instant Pot. Some turned out great, some turned out terrible. Some cooked quicker than normal and some took longer to cook than my regular way of cooking them.
Believe it or not I do have some good things to say about the Instant Pot. Really I do. Although I still overwhelmingly hate it for my own cooking needs for the most part, I would say ...
WHY I LIKED THE INSTANT POT
- It's easy to clean. If you don't consider you can't get the stink out of the rubber gasket no matter what you do. I know this is going to get the other two Instant Pot haters riled up but I really didn't find cleaning this thing to be difficult at all. It's stainless steel which means it cleans really easily with just a sponge. The only issue is the rubber gasket which takes on the scent of each and every thing you cook in your Instant Pot. Mine currently smells like ground beef cheesecake. I haven't noticed that the smell of the gasket translates into flavour mingling in the dishes. The gasket itself just doesn't smell good and HOLDS the smells. True Instant Pot enthusiasts order extra gaskets online so they have one for sweet and one for savoury cooking.
- YOGURT! I know how to make yogurt with my eyes closed, my hands tied behind my back and a gag ball in my mouth. This is the method I have used for years and it's served me well, but the Instant Pot really does make it easier. And as long as you check your temperatures the results are perfect.
- Flavour enhancing qualities. Stews, chilis and other meat or bean based dishes will taste better because of the pressure cooking. Pressure cooking not only cooks meals faster because it raises the temperature inside the pot, but because it pulls liquid into the meats and beans making them softer and full of whatever flavour your sauce/liquid has. It took me years to perfect this chili recipe of mine and with God and all the Instant Pot nerds as witness, I will never cook it on the stove again. Instant Pot all the way.
So what about that newspaper recipe my mom wanted to borrow my Instant Pot for? After explaining the Syrian conflict in a nutshell to her and asking her if she had any white thread, I asked her to read me the recipe over the phone. Turns out the recipe said you needed an Instant Pot but ... you didn't. Not even a little bit. In fact, they were just using it to cook the chicken for a stir fry which would be 10 gazillion times faster to just cook in a pan.
And therein lies my true distain for The Instant Pot and it's gurgling cult of followers. They want you to think you can and should cook EVERYTHING in the Instant Pot. Just because you *can* do something doesn't mean you should.
I'll fully admit that I kind of had my back up about this whole Instant Pot craze right from the beginning but I truly kept an open mind throughout my review.
I do not recommend the Instant Pot to anyone who enjoys the art of cooking.
I don't even recommend it to people who want to be able to make cooking easier. It doesn't really do that.
It's not like The Instant Pot chops and measures out your ingredients for you. If you're looking for something to make cooking easier, I'd recommend Blue Apron or another food delivery service that pre-portions meals and ingredients and delivers them to your door before I recommended an Instant Pot. Yes, I've worked with Blue Apron before on posts and no they aren't paying me to mention them in this post. It just truly makes more sense to me.
But ... I like cooking. I like stirring and tasting and seasoning. I like the smell of something simmering on the stove all day long. I like the take my time with the painting.
If you don't by all means ... buy an Instant Pot this instant.
This post was paid for by Instant Pot.