The Instant Pot: How to Use It and Why It's Worth All The Hype

Instant Pot How-to and Recipes

I was browsing the aisles of a store pre-Black Friday when I spotted the mountain of Instant Pots on sale. Taking full advantage of my rare ‘kid-free’ time, I wandered over to investigate further. A long-time skeptic of food trends and fad diets, I cautiously examined the Instant Pot. I started to think, “would I actually use this?” and “do I have the storage space?” It was, after all, significantly reduced in price. A follower of many food blogs, I have noticed how pressure cooking and the Instant Pot particularly has been gaining notoriety over the past year or so. I was definitely curious and decided to take the plunge right then and there, adding the Instant Pot to my cart rather unexpectedly. Why not jump on the band wagon of this pressure cooking renaissance?

I can be a sucker for trendy kitchen gizmos. I bought the Bullet, I gave in to the Vitamix and I was definitely curious about the Instant Pot (although, admittedly, I do have a stand-mixer that I got for my wedding that is still brand new in the box - oops). I absolutely love cooking, something that really took hold once I had kids. The aim to make them healthy, fresh, yet yummy and preservative-free meals was a daily challenge, as many busy families can attest to. Would the Instant Pot help me create healthy meals in a flash like it boasts?

The Instant Pot: How to Use It and Why It's Worth All The Hype

With my Instant Pot still in the box, I started researching Instant Pot blogs and websites and even found some great how-to You Tube videos to help me get started. Admittedly, I was nervous about pressure cooking. I had read about some pressure cooker lids attempting to blast off into outer space, only to take out the kitchen ceiling instead. I was nervous!  But I also really like the idea of one pot, dump-it-all in dinners, as it creates less dishes and easy week night meals.

Then I came across Taylor Stinson’s Eating Instantly website. Not only did the blog have loads of family-friendly, easy and healthy meals, but they were legit quick to make! A busy millennial entrepreneur, Taylor is known online as The Girl on Bloor and is famous for her blog which “aims to help other super busy people like (her) eat more wholesome, homemade foods on-the-go.” Between her two websites, Taylor has well over 1.5 million page views per month, almost 50,000 Instagram followers and 35,000 Facebook followers collectively. Clearly, Taylor Stinson knows her stuff and I was hoping she could lend me some Instant Pot wisdom!

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As I dug deeper into the Eating Instantly website, I discovered a complete online resource library, choc full of Instant pot recipes, a handy user guide and practical tips for meal prepping and utilizing a pressure cooker to its full potential. Feeling totally inspired, my Instant Pot adventure began!

Before fully diving in with my Instant Pot (yes, I did take it out of the box!), I decided to reach out to Taylor directly for some expert advice and to find out what all the fuss was about. Ultimately, I wanted to see how the Instant Pot could help my busy family of four eat healthy and fast! Taylor promptly responded with some great tips, information and inspirations that I wanted to share with you here:

The Instant Pot: How to Use It and Why It's Worth All The Hype

 

Q: What is the difference between pressure cooking and slow cooking?

A: Pressure cooking is when you cook foods under pressure, a process that cooks way faster than most other cooking methods. Using your Instant Pot, you can cook most foods within 30 minutes or less by the time the appliance preheats and depressurizes. Slow cooking on the other hand takes anywhere from 4-6 hours. Both methods often use a one-pot, dump-all-ingredients technique, but both have very different cooking times.

 

Q: Is the Instant Pot hard to use? I have heard pressure cookers can be dangerous!

A: The Instant Pot is super easy to use! You’ll cook most recipes using the manual button (labelled the high pressure button on certain newer models), where all you have to do is ensure the sealing ring is in place, place the lid on and make sure the pressure valve is set to seal. That’s all there really is to it! Because the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker, it eliminates many common errors that can cause harm and it automatically locks the lid to prevent it from opening while the cooker is pressurized. With the Instant Pot, there’s no hassle or worry during cook time.

 

 Q: Why is the Instant Pot a worthwhile investment for busy families?

A: The Instant Pot is a great way to batch cook a ton of food all at once, and it’s a multi-cooker so you can also cook rice, steam vegetables, sauté, slow cook and more in addition to pressure cooking. It saves so much time because it cooks most foods quickly, and most recipes are one pot meals, meaning there is very little clean up. And because everything cooks in one pot, it’s relatively hands off while everything is cooking, leaving you more time to run other errands around the house or just relax in the meantime.

The Instant Pot: How to Use It and Why It's Worth All The Hype

Q: Which Instant Pot is right for a typical busy family of four? 

A: The 6-quart Instant Pot Duo Plus is the perfect option for families of four, and you can also comfortably feed up to 6 to 8 people if need be. The 8-quart is a great option for larger families, and the 3-quart mini is perfect for couples.

 

Q: Can the Instant Pot help families who are on a budget?

A: The Instant Pot can definitely help families on a budget! One of the best ways to save money is to make big batch dump meals like pasta (check out this Chicken Fajita Pasta recipe ) or rice dishes (like this Sweet and Sour Chicken). If you have a really tight budget, you can make these types of recipes without meat or chicken too and just sub in canned black beans, lentils, chickpeas or other vegetarian sources of protein. Either way, having food on hand at home that’s cooked up in a hurry will help you save money in the long run.

 

Q: Is the Instant Pot good for ‘kid friendly’ yet healthy meals? HINT: I like to hide as many veggies as possible!

A: The Instant Pot is great for kid-friendly meals. You can easily sneak extra veggies into recipes like this Chili Mac & Cheese or this Greek Chicken & Rice. Most recipes also incorporate tasty sauces that kids will love while still remaining relatively healthy. It’s not all soups and stews!

 

Q: What are your 5 favourite things to make in the Instant Pot?

A: I love to make everything from rice to casseroles, soups, curries, pastas and more in the Instant Pot. It’s great for meal prep because you can batch cook one or two recipes for the week to enjoy as lunches or reheat as dinners, and if you aren’t able to prep ahead you can at least enjoy a short cook time that’s relatively hands-off if you’re making dinner last minute. You can even cook breakfast in it! Here are my top recipes for meal prep with the Instant Pot:

 

 

Q: What are your top 5 tips for using the Instant Pot effectively? 

A: The Instant Pot is super easy to use, but here are 5 quick tips to using it quickly and efficiently:

  • Make sure you always use at least ½ cup of liquid when cooking
  • Make sure the valve is always set to sealed to keep the pressure in while cooking
  • Press the manual button to cook on high pressure, and the cancel button once it’s done; I also use a spoon to flick the pressure valve to let the pressure out to keep my fingers clear from steam
  • Make sure you layer in olive oil and meat first, followed by sauces and seasonings, then add rice/pastas last so that nothing sticks to the bottom and you don’t get a burn message
  • You can use the rack that comes with the Instant Pot to cook things like chicken breasts and boiled eggs - this way you can use the least amount of liquid possible without anything burning

 

Q: Can the Instant Pot cater to all palates and diets like vegan and paleo?

A: The Instant Pot is great for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes but recipe options are more limited when it comes to paleo, low carb and Whole 30. Because these diets often restrict the intake of grains, veggies often need to be cooked separately from the Instant Pot or cooked using the steam function. Meat and grains can be cooked together for the same amount of time, but vegetables can get overcooked very easily under high pressure. Things like cauliflower rice and other veggies should be cooked separately if following a low carb/paleo diet.

The Instant Pot: How to Use It and Why It's Worth All The Hype

I found Taylor’s tips super helpful and I am happy to report, based on my personal opinion, that the Instant Pot is indeed a good investment for busy families. This is especially the case for families who want to eat healthy, eat on a budget and/or have little time to cook. We loved the Instant Pot Greek Chicken and Rice and the Spring Pea Risotto Instant Pot (my mouth is literally watering while I type this!).  One personal tip from me: use the exact type of rice the recipe calls for! I tried substituting brown rice for regular, white rice and it didn’t fully cook nor did it absorb all the fluids and I was left with a soupy stir fry! Just stick with what the recipe calls for an you will be good.

With a little advanced planning, the Instant Pot can provide healthy, satisfying meals in a flash. Prepping your veggies and meats ahead of time means you can literally toss everything into the Instant Pot, hit a button and in 15-30 minutes, you’ve got dinner. Voila! Looking for an easy, go-to guide for using or starting with the Instant Pot? Need some recipes ideas? Be sure to check out Taylor’s informative website Eating Instantly for more information.

 

Photos kindly provided by Taylor Stinson

Picture of Jill Campbell

Author: Jill Campbell

A mother and lover of all things practical, Jill is a 30-something, former educator, world traveler and self-proclaimed pragmatist trying to navigate this journey called life. She currently works as a freelance writer, part-time teacher/tutor and full-time mom to two fabulous daughters. Her blog www.pragmamamma.net features simple and family-friendly recipes, original photography and hot parenting topics. Jill loves getting creative in the kitchen, reading, spending time with her family and snapping photos around her neighbourhood in Burlington, Ontario.

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