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What is an Instant Pot? How do they work? Is it safe to use a pressure cooker? Which one is right for me? I answer all of these questions and more in this in-depth article about the Instant Pot craze that has taken over the cooking world.
Ultimate Instant Pot Guide for Weight Watchers
If you like the idea of cooking a tender roast in a fraction of the time that it takes to cook in a slow cooker or in the oven, it's time to buy an Instant Pot.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Instant Pot by now, unless you've been living under a rock, of course. Facebook is buzzing, with everyone singing the praises of this new, updated version of a pressure cooker. Back in the day, pressure cookers were pretty terrifying. Now, the Instant Pot makes it easy to enjoy an electric pressure cooker without sitting on pins and needles waiting for it to explode. Have no fear, this is a self-contained, electrical pressure cooker with plenty of built-in safety features.
Now that you can add an air fryer lid to it, Instant Pots are once again flying off the shelves! Need recipes? You can find plenty of bloggers like myself who share their favorite recipes, tips, and adaptations on their sites and in popular Instant Pot Facebook groups.
What is an Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot is a self-contained unit that sits on your countertop and plugs into an outlet. It takes up about as much space as a rice cooker. The Instant Pot is a smart pressure cooker that’s controlled through a digital interface. The cooking is very hands-off, with all the advantages of a slow cooker – in a fraction of the time. You tell it how long you want to cook your meal, set the timer, and you’re good to go. It automatically pressurizes and holds the pressure at a safe level. It will not allow you to open the pot while it’s pressurized, making the Instant Pot as easy and safe to operate as a microwave!
Does The Instant Pot Really Cook That Fast?
The biggest appeal of the Instant Pot when you first start looking at it is how quickly it claims to cook food. I know it’s what drew me in! Being able to cook an entire Sunday dinner in 15 minutes or less sounded very appealing, but also a little too good to be true. Let’s take a closer look at how fast the Instant Pot actually cooks your food.
Truth be told, the claims that it can cook chicken breast in 5 minutes, or a roast in 20 minutes, are a little misleading. While that is accurate for the time the food needs to cook under pressure, the actual time before you can eat is a bit longer. These times do not account for the time it takes to pressurize; this process can take anywhere from ten minutes to half an hour.
You can put frozen meats in the Instant Pot and have a tender, fully cooked meal in the time it used to take to unthaw the meat. It does take a little longer to come up to pressure but it is still faster than cooking the traditional way on a stove, in an oven, or in a S L O W cooker. Who has time for slow these days? Not us!
How to Use Quick Release
After your delicious food has cooked for the amount of time you set it to, there are two options: Quick Release and Natural Release.
The first is the Quick Release; that is when you release the pressure through the vent in the lid. You do this by simply moving the lever on the lid from seal to vent. This causes hot steam to escape and the pressure to decrease inside the pot within a matter of minutes. Do this quickly and safely as it will release hot steam. I use a wooden slotted spoon to perform the task but you can use any utensil with a long handle. Instant Pot has made this process very easy to do without getting burned, on the newer models you just push a button and voila you are done no worry about getting your hands in the steam.
The second option is a process called Natural Pressure Release (NPR). Whenever a recipe calls for this, you shouldn’t turn the valve to release the pressure. Instead, you let the pot sit until the pressure releases on its own. This process can take anywhere between about 15 to 45 minutes and allows the food to continue cooking until the pressure valve drops down and you are able to open the pot. It’s important to allow for this additional time when a recipe calls for it.
All in all, you won’t be able to cook your meals as fast as microwaving them, but they'll also taste much better! Does this mean the Instant Pot isn’t fast? Not at all! The Instant Pot has truly cut down cooking times and allowed for more time to enjoy family activities. In short, it’s great for making tender, juicy roasts, as well as soups… and just about everything else you can think of. You can even make yogurt and wine in your Instant Pot! I'm not joking… go try it. 😉
How To Choose The Right Instant Pot
You’ve heard about the Instant Pot and are ready to buy one, but my oh my there are so many options! You head to the store and discover that there are quite a few different models of Instant Pot available, in different sizes, with different functionality. Let me quickly run you through the most popular models and sizes so you can make an informed decision on what to get.
Let’s start by talking about size. The size of meals you want to cook or the size of your family will determine which Instant Pot is the right size for you. The Instant Pot has 4 different sizes: 3, 5, 6 and 8-quart. There are also several different models, picking the right one for you and your family can get confusing. Let's chat about the options.
Who is the 6-Quart Instant Pot Best For?
The six-quart model is the most versatile and also the most popular size. It’s perfect for family cooking as well as apartment and dorm settings. The 6-quart Instant Pot will fit all your pressure cooking needs. In my opinion, this is the best size for most situations. We used the 6-quart and even with a family of 4 we sometimes have leftovers. Eventually we moved up to the 8-quart but mostly because we like to batch cook for the blog. 😉
Who is the 8-Quart Instant Pot Best For?
The 8-quart size is available in a few models and is a good fit for larger families, or if you know you’ll be cooking a lot of large meals for family gatherings, church dinners and such. This size is also great for cooking Thanksgiving dinner and all the holidays and birthdays where you will have to cook larger meals. My family isn't very large but I still opted for the 8-quart. I chose this size because I prefer to meal plan and cook all of the meals for the week at once. The Instant Pot makes this process so much easier.
The Instant Pot has been a big tool in my wife and I losing weight. Meal planning has been an essential factor in our success with Weight Watchers. We are short on time, so we joined Instant Pot for Weight Loss and it jump started our weight loss in a BIG WAY!
What Other Instant Pot Sizes are Available?
There are 2 other sizes currently available, a 3-Quart which is supposed to be better for college dorms and single meal cooking, and the 5-quart size. In my opinion, the smallest you should buy is the 6-quart. It is the most popular size and fitting for nearly every situation. The 6-quart does not take up more counter space than the 5-quart and only a tad bit more than the 3-quart. The 3-quart will make a great addition to your bigger Instant Pot as you can cook side dishes in the smaller one while the 6-quart cooks the main course.
With size decisions out of the way, let’s take a quick look at the different models available. There are three different main models with a couple of variations thrown in to keep you on your toes.
The Instant Pot Lux Review
The Instant Pot Lux is the basic Instant Pot model. You may also hear as this one as the 6-in-1 model. The LUX is the least expensive model. It is the simplest of the bunch, though that's far from an accurate description when considering the number of things it can do!
The LUX combines the functions of six appliances: It's a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan. It's one of the rare models that does not make yogurt, which cuts the price down and won't make you pay for a function you may not want or use. The Lux comes in a 3-Quart, 6-Quart, and an 8-Quart.
What accessories come with the Instant Pot Lux?
- Stainless Steel (18/8) Steam Rack without handles, keeps food out of the cooking liquid in the inner pot, easing steam generation and dispersal
- Condensation Collector to be placed at the rear of the cooker base (3 and 8 quart only)
- Rice Paddle for fluffing and scooping rice
- Soup Spoon for ladling liquids
- Rice Measuring Cup
What Colors Does The Instant Pot Lux Come In?
The Instant Pot Lux comes in a brushed metal finish with accents of black, red, or blue. It really is a great looking machine that will look just fine sitting pretty on your countertop. I never put mine away 🙂
The Instant Pot Duo Review
The Instant Pot Duo is also called the 7-in-1 and will do everything the Lux can, but is also a yogurt maker. If making your own yogurt at home is on your list of things you want to do regularly, spring for the duo. Otherwise, go with the basic LUX model and save a few bucks. The differences are few between the Lux and the Duo. I have compared the two and these are the major differences:
- The keep-warm function can be operated manually on the Duo to 99 hours and 50 minutes, but the LUX can do this for 10 hours only.
- The Lux has just the high setting whereas the Duo has both high and low.
- The Lux will not make yogurt for you like the Duo will.
- The lid of the Duo opens in such a way that it prevents condensation and food splatter. This function helps to keep your counters clean while you cook.
The 3 Variations of the Duo
There are 3 variations of the Instant Pot Duo. There is the Duo and the Duo Nova, both are 7 in 1 machine; then there is the Duo Plus 9 in 1.
The Duo is the machine that really put Instant Pot on the radar for many. It has every feature you could imagine or want up until the Duo Plus came out. The Duo set the standard for all of the other pressure cookers on the market. You can find the exact specs of the Duo and its counterparts on the Instant Pot website.
The Instant Pot Smart Review
The latest model in the Instant Pot lineup is the Instant Pot Smart. It will do everything the previous models do and more. The digital interface on the pot itself and the app that connects to your Instant Pot, allow you to control temperature and cooking durations for your meals as you see fit. On the Instant Pot website, it says: The Instant Pot APP provides you with 750+ pre-programmed recipes to get you cooking with your mobile device. Plus, with the Instant Pot APP, new recipes are added daily to provide you with the dishes you crave. That is an amazing number of recipes to get you going.
If you prefer the ease of being able to save your favorite recipes and Instant Pot settings on your smartphone and love full control over your pot, this is the model to get.
The Instant Pot Max
The Instant Pot Max is the flagship of the Instant Pot world. It does not have the WiFi capabilities of the IP Smart, but it does have some neat upgrades that may make it the Instant Pot you have been waiting for. According to the Instant Pot Website “With the Max, Instant Pot achieves its vision for a smart cooker, providing you the ability to cook in the full temperature spectrum – fermentation, sous vide, warming, simmering, slow cook, boiling, pressure cook and completing the circle with sautéing and searing.”
So which one should I choose?!
If you’re on a budget, go for the Lux model. If you’re a big fan of making yogurt, consider the Duo, and if your budget allows, check out the latest model with full smartphone app integration, or the max with canning capabilities. To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to go wrong no matter which model of Instant Pot you choose. I love ours and I know you will love yours, too.
Is An Instant Pot Worth The Money?
Let’s take a look at the Instant Pot and whether or not it’s worth spending the money on one. Depending on the time of year, and what kind of deal you can find, the average Instant Pot will set you back anywhere from $70 to $150+. While this doesn't make it the cheapest kitchen appliance on the market, it’s also nowhere near the highest (we paid nearly $300 for our Ninja Foodi). I recommend buying one during the Black Friday sales when they are discounted and you can opt for a newer model for the price of the base model. Check Amazon, as they are always having sales throughout the year that will save you some moolah.
My guess is the Instant Pot will quickly become one of your most valued and most often used appliances. You can cook everything in it! All of your slow cooker recipes just got faster but still retain that slow-cooked flavor and texture. It is truly an all in one kitchen device. The Instant Pot does come with a slow cook button so you can add everything to it in the morning and dinner will be done when you get home, if you want to take that extra time.
The expense of buying the Instant Pot will easily be worth it. It will keep you from going out to eat, or picking up food on your way home. When you know you can get dinner cooked in 45 minutes or less without having to wait on the meat to thaw, or worrying about the cleanup afterward, it becomes a lot easier to go home and start that pot of chili, or the pot roast, and relax while it cooks. After dinner, the cleanup is super easy: one-pot to wash and you are done.
Instant Pot vs. Slow Cooker
When you start to look into the benefits of using an Instant Pot, you may notice that there’s quite a bit of overlap with the benefits of using a slow cooker. Both are good for cooking large cuts of meat like pork and beef roasts. Both are great for cooking beans, soups, stews, chilies, and the like. Both are also great for busy home cooks since they allow you to put everything in, turn it on, and let the food cook itself. No standing over the stove required.
The biggest difference between the Instant Pot and the Slow Cooker is time. The slow cooker is designed to cook your meal low and slow. The average slow cooker dish takes six to ten hours to cook. The Instant Pot, on the other hand, will cook most meals in under an hour from start to finish.
The Instant Pot, unlike your slow cooker, can replace your rice cooker or steamer. You can even replace your yogurt maker with it. The Instant Pot can sear meats, saute veggies, and you can even bake in it. The Instant Pot now has a crisping lid accessory so you can crisp chicken and turkey as well as brown the tops of casseroles.
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner in The Instant Pot
One of my favorite things about the Instant Pot is how versatile it is. You can cook a wide variety of dishes in it. I have made everything from boiled eggs to chicken piccata without dirtying up my stove or oven. This means from breakfast to dinner and even some desserts can be made all in one pot, fewer dishes to clean up and it cooks quicker – a win-win.
Breakfast in The Instant Pot
Let’s start with the first meal of the day – breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I have made the fastest peeling boiled eggs you have ever seen. Another favorite is an Egg Casserole makes for a quick, delicious, filling meal, in the morning. A high protein, low point breakfast is the perfect way to get you off to a great start.
Where the Instant Pot really shines is with oatmeal. Some of the best tasting steel cut oats come from cooking them in the Instant Pot. No constant stirring required for creamy and nutritious oats.
Lunch in The Instant Pot
Since the Instant Pot does such a great job at fixing soups and stews, it’s perfect for lunchtime cooking. If you have a 6-Qt Instant Pot you could take it to work and have lunch made in a matter of moments. What a way to help you stay on track. Need to bring a meal for a pot luck to work? You could make it there and everyone will know what's in it and you will eat healthier – an easy way to stay on track at work during the holidays.
And let’s not forget about everyone’s favorite – Bacon Mac and Cheese. The Instant pot has really changed the game for eating healthier meals at home.
Dinner In The Instant Pot
Pressure cookers have always been the best way to deal with large roasts and tougher cuts of meat. Cook your pot roast or a big batch of homemade pulled pork in the Instant Pot for that slow-roasted smoky flavor in half the time. Add a little liquid smoke and you will have a masterpiece. Pot Roast happens to be my wife's favorite meal 🙂
Chicken has become one of our main staples for various reasons. It is 0 points on WW and with my wife surviving thyroid cancer we have to watch what we eat more closely now. The Instant Pot has made life so much easier and healthier for both of us. On those days where all she wants to eat is chicken, it doesn't take long to make a huge batch of it.
Side Dishes are now a snap and with the cooking rack, you can make a roast, potatoes, and carrots all at the same time. Your main course and side dishes will be done at the same time. some of the delicious side dishes I have created in the Instant Pot are a sweet potato bake, it came out amazing — and corn on the cob, so easy to husk using the Instant Pot.
Unusual Ways To Use Your InstantPot
So you have an Instant Pot and you’ve been using it regularly to cook all the typical pressure cooker dishes. You put it to good use for your Sunday roast, whip up a quick last-minute dinner during the week, and even cook oatmeal in it a few times per week for breakfast. The Instant Pot has become a staple appliance in your home.
Bake A Cheesecake in Your Instant Pot
The Instant Pot makes some of the yummiest and easiest cheesecakes. Yes, that’s right. You can bake in your Instant Pot. You’ll need a springform that fits inside your instant pot, a rack for the baking pan to sit on and of course a delicious cheesecake recipe.
Canning in Your Instant Pot
Traditional pressure cookers are great for canning all sorts of fruits and vegetables. While the Instant Pot wasn’t designed with canning and food preservation in mind, you can do small batch canning in it. Read the instruction booklet carefully before attempting to use the canning function of the Instant Pot. It does work but canning is more than just hitting a button on the Instant Pot.
Canning using the Instant Pot is perfect if you want to turn some of those ripe fruits from the local farmers market into some artisan jams. I don't personally own the Max so I have not tried the canning feature. From what I can gather online it is best to use with high acidity foods like fruits, making jams and the such. As I stated before, reading the instructions well before attempting will save you some trouble.
Make Homemade Vanilla Extract in Your Instant Pot
Do you use vanilla extract in your cooking and baking? I go through quite a bit, particularly during the holiday season. There’s nothing quite like real vanilla extract, but let’s be honest, it’s outrageously expensive. Why not make your own homemade vanilla extract in your Instant Pot? That’s right… you can make your own homemade version using real vanilla beans and vodka or other high spirits. Not only is it some of the best tasting extract you’ll ever taste, but it will also make your cookies and pancakes amazing.
The Instant Pot Saves Time And Money :)
Cook bigger batches of dinner and start taking leftovers for lunch instead of buying it. I have started freezer cooking, by planning my meals out and cooking on Sundays I save time throughout the week. I write the meal points on the bags so when I am ready to eat I already know the points for each serving.
Let's Get Creative
On their website, Instant Pot gives 10 amazing craft and crazy things you can do with your Instant Pot besides cooking with it. From melting crayons to making DIY projects you will find a ton of uses for you Instant Pot. Baby Food? check. Dog Food? check. Herbal Medicines and Soaps? check. You can do it all and more with this amazing appliance.
MUST BUY BOOKS:
- Instant Pot Magic: 50 Surprising Recipes for Beer, Jam, Bread, and More!
- DIY Crafts & Projects for Your Instant Pot: Lip Balm, Tie-Dye, Candles, and Dozens of Other Amazing Ideas!
Wine…Yes there will be Wine
A friend of mine has gotten creative with his Instant Pot. He made wine. Really, really good wine. It takes some patience, but if you have the time you will have wine. ) Cheers to you, David.
Where Do I Find More Instant Pot Recipes?
You bought an Instant Pot, brought it home, and got it set up. You did your water test, boiled some eggs in it, and maybe even made a handful of dishes from recipes on the from the included recipe guide. Now that you’re comfortable using your Instant Pot, you’re ready to branch out and start to look for some other fun recipes to try. Here are some of the best places both online and offline to find Instant Pot Recipes. Let's start with my blog. My favorites:
Go Old School With Cookbooks And Recipes Cards
Since the Instant Pot has been so popular for the past few years, there are plenty of traditional cookbooks (along with eBook versions) being published. Browse through your local bookstore, or head on over to Amazon.com and check out my friend, David's book: Instant Pot Magic: 50 Surprising Recipes for Beer, Jam, Bread, and More!
Here is a list of my favorite blogs for Weight Watchers recipes. These are where the best recipes come from. I hope you will find recipes that make you and your family smile.
Go Social With Pinterest And Facebook Groups
Pinterest is a great source of Instant Pot recipes. Follow me on Pinterest here 🙂
By far my favorite way to come across new recipes to try or get suggestions for recipe adaptations is Facebook groups. There are several good Instant Pot specific groups you can join and participate in. You’ll find a wealth of information in these groups along with all sorts of helpful tips and ideas.
With these suggestions, I’m sure you’ll find more Instant Pot recipes than you’d ever get a chance to try. Cook up the ones that look good or sound delicious and start to build up your very own library of family favorite Instant Pot recipes.