What is an Instant Pot? Here’s everything you need to know

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

At some point in your life, you have probably seen or heard of an Instant Pot. The small kitchen appliance is a versatile multi-cooker that can do the job of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and more. It also saves you counter space and money. If you’re only just now hearing about the Instant Pot, you may be a little skeptical. How can one appliance be a rice cooker and cake maker at the same time, you ask? That’s the magic of the appliance, which comes with preset programs that are specifically designed to cook your food to perfection, whether it be a cake, a stew, or porridge. Still not convinced? Here’s everything you need to know about the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker.

What does the Instant Pot do, exactly?

If this programmable countertop multi-cooker earns a spot in your kitchen, you’ll probably start relying on it more than any other cooking appliance. The specific functions of your Instant Pot will vary based on which model you purchase, but these are the basic programs that will be present in most models:

  • Slow Cooker
  • Pressure Cooker (you can cook on high or low pressure, or choose specific pressure setting like poultry or meat/stew)
  • Rice Cooker
  • Steamer
  • Sauté/Browning
  • Yogurt Maker
  • Warmer

Many models also come with additional programs, including egg maker, cake maker, and sterilizer. Depending on the size and type of your model, you can insert certain types of dishes directly into the appliance, including cupcake molds or springform pans. You can also use aluminum foil to separate certain ingredients in your instant pot. You can find lots of different Instant Pot recipes online.

The device also features a timer and various settings for whether you want to set to cook on low, medium, high, or keep warm.

Types of Instant Pots

You can choose from about 20 different Instant Pot models and sizes ranging from 3-quarts to 8-quarts. The 3-quart size is ideal for a small family of two to three people, the 6-quart is ideal for four to six, and the 8-quart is large enough for families with six or more. Some Instant Pots models, like the smart Bluetooth version, allow you to monitor and control your Instant Pot with your smart phone or tablet. Here are the different models you can choose from.

  • Instant Pot Max
  • Instant Pot Ultra
  • Instant Pot Duo
  • Instant Pot Duo Plus
  • Instant Pot Lux (comes in red and blue also)
  • Instant Pot Nova
  • Instant Pot Viva
  • Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth

Meat still frozen? No problem.

The Instant Pot is definitely as capable as you might have heard from enthusiastic owners of the powerful kitchen appliance. Not only can it handle all the methods of cooking listed above, but it also makes your life easier when it comes to preparing that special meal. Don’t worry about thawing vegetables or even meat — the Instant Pot is high-powered enough to defrost and then cook. Baked potatoes are soft within minutes, and your bone broth is ready to consume in just a couple hours as opposed to a couple days, if you’re using a traditional cooking method. You’ll get fluffy rice that isn’t burned, gummy, or boiled over. Eggs get hard-boiled to perfection, without the need to constantly monitor a stove. Meat stews come out tender and flavorful with just the right consistency. You can cook an entire meal in one pot and save yourself valuable time and effort during clean-up.

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

Will Food Lose Nutrients During Cooking?

While some people equate the high temperatures of pressure cooking with loss of nutrients, this is actually opposite of the truth. Pressure cooking allows heat to be distributed evenly and quickly, so you don’t need to immerse foods like frozen vegetables into water, only enough to generate sufficient steam will be adequate. Because food isn’t getting immersed in water, vitamins will not be dissolved away and will instead be retained for consumption. Furthermore, the steam that surrounds the food will prevent it from being oxidized by exposure to air. You’ll notice that your green vegetables will emerge from the Instant Pot looking just as green as they were when they went in, and retaining their natural flavors as well.

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

Is it Safe?

Stories about pressure cookers exploding, coating the walls with mashed potatoes, or hurting someone have certainly made their way into the news cycle before. Even a model of the Instant Pot was in the news recently due to instances of the device overheating and melting. But the Instant Pot is not the pressure cooker your grandmother cooked with back in the 1980s, and the pressure cooker versions of the device have had no such issues with melting or overheating. The Instant Pot has several safety features designed specifically to ensure that nothing except your taste buds will explode by using the appliance. Thanks to the automatic lid lock and lid detection features, it’s impossible for users to open the lid of the cooker until pressure has been released. An anti-blockage vent also ensures that food particles don’t block steam from being released during the cooking process. The Instant Pot comes with automatic temperature control, which keeps the inside temperature of the pot within a safe range at all times.

Instant Pot asparagus
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends
Jenny McGrath/Digital Trends

Once cooking is complete, users can release the pressure either naturally or manually. Both options are safe, but one is usually advisable over the other depending on the kind of food you’re cooking. For example, opt for the natural-release method when cooking liquids like soups and porridges, or choose the manual method for delicate foods like fresh vegetables and seafood.

Pressure cookers heat food to a temperature higher than the boiling point of water, which helps kill almost all harmful micro-organisms. For example, raw kidney beans contain phytohaemagglutinin, which is a harmful toxin that gets destroyed after being boiled at a high temperature for several minutes. This sterilizing function is why some people even use the Instant Pot to clean things like jam jars and baby bottles.

Buy one now from:

Amazon

Product Review

Putting on the grits with the Instant Pot pressure cooker

If you want to dip your toe into the low-temperature waters of sous vide, the Anova precision cooker is a good way to start. It has a robust app and an easy-to-use interface that just may convert you to a whole new way of cooking.
Deals

Today’s best Amazon deals: Instant Pot, Bissell, and Blendtec

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over, but for retail giants like Amazon, the savings are only getting started. We've scoured the depths of Amazon to find you the very best deals going on right now.
Smart Home

Instant Pots! Get your Instant Pot! 5 models are on sale now at Amazon

Consumers win big when Amazon pops deals on popular products like Instant Pots. Five Instant Pot models on sale range from $30 to $60 off. If you've been waiting to buy an Instant Pot for a holiday gift, this could be the time.
Smart Home

These are the best food processors to suit all your cooking needs

Whether you're an amateur chef just getting started or an experienced cook trying to speed up the cooking process, there are many top-notch food processors on the market. We've rounded up the best.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Deals

Best deals on home security cameras to save you from package thieves

Home security camera systems can help keep your home and your family safe. Amazon's deals on Blink security cameras and Ring Video Doorbells also help you save money on devices you can access regardless of your current location.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Google Store sale is on now through December 24!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 may be history, but fans of Google hardware including the popular Google Home Hub, Pixel 3 and 3XL mobile phones still have lots of deals in store -- the Google Store, that is.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

Porch pirate problems? Keep them away with these tips and tricks

The holiday season is fast approaching and the packages are arriving on our doorsteps. Are you worried about porch pirates stealing your gifts this holiday season? Here are some tips to help protect your purchases.
Deals

Walmart is offering Google Home starter kits for under $50

If you're hoping to save big on Google Home devices before all the holiday deals come to an end, there's no better time than right now. Walmart is slashing prices on smart home starter kits for a limited time.
Cars

This freewheeling Army truck-turned-tiny home is a labor of love

Most tiny homes are models of efficiency but one British metal worker has redefined the idea, converting an old Army truck into a mobile tiny home that comes with a bed, a sofa, a shower, and a beer garden.
Deals

Clean up with robot vac, upright vacuum, and spot and stain remover deals

Whether you're gift shopping or need to get your house ready for the holidays, deals on household cleaning appliances are always welcome. We found Walmart's best deals on robot vacs, upright vacuum cleaners, and spot and stain cleaners.
Smart Home

Amazon Alexa enhancements add geolocation, kids’ Routines, and more

Amazon's digital assistant Alexa continues to evolve and its newest features should appeal to busy people and parents on the go, including location-based routines and reminders as well as Routines aimed toward kids.