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Liquid being poured into soup mixture in Instant Pot

The Instant Pot: Miracle or Menace?

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Instant Pot®. It’s all the rage on social media. Moms are swapping recipes. Heck, they even have their own online community! Maybe you got one for Christmas. But what exactly is this thing? Could it really be that great? And is it safe? We’re here to answer some of those questions so you know whether to dive in or take cover.

What Is an Instant Pot?

Simply put, it’s a programmable, electric pressure cooker. The makers boast that it offers “delicious and affordable cooking, using smart technology.” The Instant Pot is a seven-in-one kitchen appliance. In theory, it should be able to replace your slow cooker, electric pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan and warming pot.

How Does It Work?

The Instant Pot consists of three main components — a stainless steel pot with a tight-fitting lid that sits inside an electric heating unit. The high temperature combined with the pressure in the pot forces hot steam into the food, causing it to cook quickly and evenly. A valve releases steam as needed to avoid too much pressure from building. For a more technical explanation, click here.

To use your Instant Pot:

  • Set it to the proper pressure level (low, medium or high).
  • Set the appropriate cooking time (the timer will not start counting down until the pressure is built up — approximately five to 20 minutes).
  • Make sure the steam valve is in the locked, sealed position … and that’s it!
  • When it’s done cooking, it will automatically switch to the “keep warm” function and begin to slowly release pressure — which takes up to 30 minutes.

Is It Safe?

If you’ve ever heard horror stories about stove-top pressure cookers exploding or causing steam burns, you may be hesitant to plug in the Instant Pot. But the good news is, they’ve gone to great lengths to ensure safety. In fact, Instant Pot offers multiple safety features that stove-top pressure cookers don’t.

Electric pressure cookers are fully automated. Much like with your trusted slow cooker, you can just turn it on and walk away. Once it reaches the right pressure and temperature, it stays there. And if the pressure or temperature start getting too high, it will automatically shut off — explosion averted.

You can also feel comfortable with the safety of your food. Unlike nonstick cooking surfaces, the stainless steel pot presents no threat of harmful chemicals. Instant Pot also switches to a “warm” setting when it’s done cooking, keeping food at a safe temperature for up to 10 hours.

Why Is It So Popular?

If it seems like people are strangely passionate about their Instant Pot, there’s a good reason why.

Benefits of cooking with an Instant Pot:

  • You’ll have a lot more kitchen space since it does the job of seven appliances.
  • Meals can be on the table up to 70 percent faster than with other cooking methods.
  • You can conserve energy. It’s the second most energy efficient kitchen appliance, after the microwave.
  • You aren’t chained to the kitchen! You can set it and forget it; just like a slow cooker — only faster.
  • Your whole house won’t smell like tonight’s dinner. Since it’s completely sealed, aromas stay with your food — where they belong!
  • Food will maintain its nutrients. Since you only use a small amount of water to create steam, nutrients will stay with your food instead of dissolving in water.
  • Your food will be safer. Since the food is cooked at such a high temperature, almost all harmful living micro-organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, are killed.

Bottom Line

The Instant Pot offers a lot of great benefits, including convenience, nutrition and safety. If you’re looking for an appliance that gets flavorful meals on the table fast, this is definitely one to try.

Just be sure to read the manual before you use your Instant Pot for the first time. It’s simple to use, but it’s important that you learn how to use it correctly. Follow all the instructions, and it should be smooth sailing.

Once you’re ready to dive in, try some of these recipes!


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