Electric Pressure Cookers (aka Instant Pots) are all the rage right now. Are they really a miracle all in one cooking tool? Or another over-hyped gadget cluttering your kitchen?
I already have two slow cookers and a stove top pressure cooker, yet I still bought an electric pressure cooker. Affiliate links ahead, I may receive a commission for any purchases through these links.
Why so many? The big slow cooker has a temperature probe which I use often to ensure roasts and whole chickens are cooked to perfection. The smaller cooker sits in the back of the cabinet for when I only want to make a small batch of something. The stove top pressure cooker is now relegated to canning.
I waited a few months before writing about my Instant Pot to be able to make an honest pro and con review. I wanted to put it through its paces and try a variety of things before commenting.
Are they safe?
YES! Today's pressure cooker has so many safeguards that it would be pretty hard to make it explode in your kitchen. If you are worried, buy a high quality name brand and follow the instructions diligently.
Does it deserve the space on my counter?
Yup! I use it at least once a week, and often times I will wash out the pot immediately so I can reuse it for something else. I regularly use it to make rice and stock. Last week, I just tossed in some frozen chicken breasts and barbecue sauce when I forgot to defrost something for dinner. We even made yogurt in it.
Does it deserve the space on your counter?
If you are sitting in your kitchen looking at a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and saute pan then you may have too much going on in the kitchen. Electric Pressure Cookers can handle the tasks of all those appliances and give you a handy all-in-one cooking option for you and your family.
A few things to consider before buying
What do you use now?
First and foremost: Is this going to replace a gadget or two or just be another one? Do you have a small kitchen? These are not space saving appliances and if you aren't going to use it regularly, it will be more clutter on your counter or in your cabinet.
Consider the materials
I am going to let you in on a little secret. I received an electric pressure cooker for Christmas and returned it to get a different brand. Why? I am not a big fan of non-stick coating. No matter how careful you are that stuff comes off. Spend extra to get stainless steel which cleans just as easily without the worries of toxic bits ending up on your meal.
Pressure cooking time is not exact
Those pressure cooker recipes on Pinterest that say it cooks in "just 5 minutes" are misleading. There are 3 stages to pressure cooking:
Most recipes only tell you how long to cook at pressure. But there are a variety of factors that effect how long a recipe will take from pressing start to being able to open the cooker and serve.
Dry pasta on the stove cooks in about 10 minutes, but that time doesn't account for bringing the water to a boil. The concept is the same.
You cannot use them for pressure canning
I know someone out there is thinking, but mine has a "canning button"? Do NOT do it.
At best you could use it for water bath canning of high acid foods (pickles, jams, fruit). But, every expert out there will tell you not to use it for pressure canning low acid foods (vegetables, meats, soups).
Short version: the electric pressure cookers do not reliably produce enough pressure to heat the foods high enough to safely kill the bacteria. You can read a more detailed explanation here.
I usually make stock in my electric one, then pressure seal the jars in the stove top one.
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Tips for using an electric pressure cooker
The typical pressure cooker works at 15 psi while the Instant Pot works at 11. In simple terms that means the electric pressure cookers do not create as much pressure so the food does not get as hot or cook as fast. Most recipes created for stove top pressure cookers just need a little extra time in an electric cooker, usually 5 to 10 depending on if the recipe is meatless.
One Pot Cooking
One advantage to cooking in an electric pressure cooker versus a slow cooker is the ability to saute the vegetables or brown the meat in the same pan you are going to cook in. In most cases, you will not have to clean between adding ingredients either. This means you can start off sautéing your vegetables, add meat to brown, and then add the rice or pasta for final cooking. Everything has a setting so you don't even have to worry about standing over it and timing each step.
Many people use freezer cooking methods to cut down food costs and to make cooking easier. If you do this, you may wonder how you will convert that from slow cooker and pressure cooker options to the instant pot. This is also an easy adjustment. Freeze items individually instead of premixed like you would for a slow cooker. So freeze the meat, the sauce, the vegetables all in separate bags and then add them at the appropriate point in the cooking process. I have a guide to freezer cooking in my subscriber's only section along with other exclusive posts. You can sign up here for free.
What would this post be without some recipes to get you started?
Here are a few of our favorites:
And we have a Pinterest Board full of even more ideas from a variety of my favorite bloggers: