Instant Pot did not sponsor this blog post. All opinions expressed are the author's alone.
Before I review the Instant Pot, I will provide a bit of context. So, if you want to jump straight to the nuts and bolts of my review please scroll down…
The Instant Pot has been on my radar for quite some time now. It first started showing up on my Instagram feed because Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo fame was cooking everything and anything in it – she still is. I’m a huge fan of Michelle and her husband and they usually offer exceptional advice in the Paleo cooking department – especially when it comes to quick and easy recipes. Case-in-point: their brand new cookbook Nom Nom Paleo Ready or Not. If you don’t already own a copy of this book, I recommend purchasing one (affiliate link to Amazon). It’s a great resource, especially if you have an Instant Pot or plan on getting one in the near future. They’ve included some great Instant Pot recipes – which I’m very excited to cook!
Despite Michelle’s ceaseless endorsements, I resisted the urge to purchase an Instant Pot. I won’t lie, I was tempted. But I held strong. Why? Because I just bought this affordable slow cooker at the tender, ripe age of 31 and have been very happy with it. So were my readers. In fact, the only reason I purchased the slow cooker to begin with was because many people asked me to write some crockpot recipes. So when I was scheduled to take over the Whole30 Recipes feed on Instagram earlier in 2017, I decided to finally bite the bullet. To this day, my Crockpot Ancho Pork and Crockpot Beef Barbacoa are some of my most popular recipes and for good reason. They’re full of flavour, very easy, require little effort and the slow cooker takes a lot of the guess work out of the cooking equation.
From my understanding, the Instant Pot is an electronic pressure cooker, and a pressure cooker is simply a faster version of a slow cooker, which I already have. Moreover, a slow cooker is essentially an electronic braiser and I’ve been braising things in Dutch Ovens since I was 14. So why exactly did I need to spend my hard-earned coin on a new small-appliance? The answer is that I didn’t!
Slowly, I started seeing other food bloggers singing the Instant Pot’s praises as well. Before I knew it, my feed was inundated with the Instant Pot. Everyone and their granny was declaring it the BEST kitchen gadget! People were claiming to have cooked an entire chuck roast in 30 minutes. To have made Minestrone Soup in 5 minutes! What? 5 minutes? Is this real life? The consensus seemed to be that it was a must-have for any home cook. This was especially true for food bloggers who were trying to cash in on the Amazon Affiliate links. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Blogging is fun and it’s a passion for most but we have to pay the same bills as everyone else. In fact, I include affiliate links in this blog post. Look, here’s one now –> (click to buy the Instant Pot!). Still, I was skeptical and resisted getting one for myself.
Then, one day, I had to make a trip to Walmart to pick up a shower curtain and hot plate – two things I just can’t live without. Lo and behold, there it was. An entire skid of Instant Pots. I stopped, did a double take, and went over for a closer look. I had absolutely no intention to purchase one. It was the last thing on my mind. But I had an idea. I would let my readers decide my fate in the same way they decided my slow cooker purchase (hey, hey, another affiliate link!), which I actually really love! After all, one of the reasons I started this blog was to provide healthy and delicious recipes that people want, and if the people wanted me to make Instant Pot recipes then maybe that’s what I should do? So, I decided to take a poll on my Instagram stories (not an affiliate link!). I can’t remember what the final split was, but the vast majority of readers not only voted that I should purchase an Instant Pot, but I received hundreds of direct messages from readers asking me to provide a review because they weren’t sure if it was something they should purchase!
So over the course of the past few weeks or so, I have been putting the Instant Pot through its paces. First, I made a Minestrone Soup, which was a textural failure but small success in terms of using up all of the vegetables in my fridge! Next, a Paleo Massaman Curry with butternut squash. Another textural failure but with very, very high potential if I get the measurements right. I made an Italian riff on Braised Short Ribs (see image below) – very similar in flavour and method to my Osso Bucco. Wow! It was good. But also needed some tweaking so I didn’t share the recipe. I even used the Instant Pot for a cheat meal and made Plov, an Uzbeki dish of stewed lamb with rice, carrots, spices and more garlic than you can ever imagine. OK, I confess, I made the Plov twice! The Instant Pot was performing very well, though there was a definite learning curve in terms of timing and measurements, which I will discuss below.
After all of the above hits and misses, I made a Lamb Ragu (recipe here). In my opinion, this is the perfect test for the Instant Pot because to properly execute a traditional ragu you have to follow certain steps. First, you must brown the meat, then you must sautée the sofrito, then braise everything low and slow so that the meat becomes tender and the flavours can develop, and finally you must allow the sauce to reduce and intensify. All of this should preferably be done in a single pot or cooking vessel so that you maximize and retain all of the precious flavours along the way. You can’t cheat this recipe or take any shortcuts – there’s no way to make it quicker or skimp on technique. Or so I thought!
When I tasted the Lamb Ragu, I damn near shed a tear of joy. It was very, very good. Just as good as my traditionally cooked one. In fact, I could hardly tell the difference. For me, this recipe was the one that finally convinced me of the Instant Pot’s value. I was able to brown the meat, sautée the sofrito, braise everything, and reduce the sauce all in a single pot. Also, perhaps what impressed me the most, was that while the Ragu was cooking, I left the house and took my dogs for a walk – something I would never do with the oven or stove on – especially not a gas range. The Instant Pot also cut down on the traditional 3-hour traditional braise time and took a mere 45 minutes under high pressure. However, there’s an important caveat to the timing part, which I will discuss below.
My Instant Pot Review:
1) There isn’t really any rhyme or reason to this review. I won’t be going over specifics of the device, like Psi or all of the available settings. Instead, I’m approaching this from the point of view of the average buyer and home cook. I discuss things that I think actually matter – like size, versatility, practicality, time, flavour development, and ease of use.
2) As you read the below review, please consider the type of cooking you do or plan to do. In other words, are you hell-bent on grilling, a soup diva or do you live off salad? It is very important to know that you should not cook everything in an Instant Pot. There are certain things that aren’t suited for intense pressure. Therefore, whether or not you should purchase an Instant Pot is entirely dependant upon the type of cooking and eating you do, or plan to do. I realize this isn’t very helpful if you’re looking for someone to just tell you what to do, but I have zero interest in recommending a product that will only collect dust in your basement.
I purchased this Instant Pot Lux60 V3 6Qt 6-in-1 from my local Walmart for $109.00 CAD plus tax. There are other models available: such as the Instant Pot Duo60, the Instant Pot Ultra and others (see entire list at the bottom of this review). Amazon constantly has sales on the Instant Pots so be sure to keep your eye out for deals – especially with Black Friday and Boxing Day fast approaching. If you decide that the Instant Pot is right for you and would like to help support this blog, you can purchase your model through any of the affiliate links in this article. The price stays the same for you – Amazon simply sends me a very, very small referral commission.
Depending on the model you choose, you’re looking at anywhere between $80.00 to $130.00 USD for a regularly-priced Instant Pot. The highest priced model seems to be the new Instant Pot Smart Bluetooth one, which, I believe, connects to your smart phone and has certain functionality capabilities.
As mentioned, I bought mine for $109.00 CAD (approx. $85USD). This is over double what I paid for my Crockpot. Nevertheless, I think that the price is relatively affordable and justifiable if you plan to use it as often as I have/do/will. Even if you only use this to make homemade bone broths (which are ridiculously expensive if purchased from a grocery store), you will likely end up saving money in the long run.
One of the things that first deterred me from purchasing an Instant Pot was the small diameter of the interior cooking vessel. My slow cooker is a 6qt model – equal in size to the Instant Pot – but it can easily fit three to four slabs of baby back ribs if I arrange them with the bones facing vertically. I can’t exactly do this with the Instant Pot because of the narrow diameter. Instead, I would have to cut the racks into thirds and place them one atop the other. Not exactly a deal breaker, but it does make for a difference in final presentation. Also, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to properly cook things like pork shoulders or briskets, which can be very wide and bulky if on the bone.
Nevertheless, I found that the 6qt model was big enough to accommodate just about anything I threw in it. It is also very tall -comparable in size to a medium-sized stock pot. So what it lacks in width, it makes up for in height. There are also 8qt Instant Pots available, but I don’t think this is necessary for small families or individuals.
The machine itself is fairly large and bulky. It’s not exactly the sexiest appliance either and I don’t want to keep it on my countertop. We have to store ours in the basement along with the slow cooker because our kitchen cabinets are filled with other things. So, if you are limited on counter space and storage, this might be something to consider.
4. Clean Up:
The Instant Pot’s interior cooking vessel is made of stainless steel and is very, very easy to clean. I browned meats, sautéed vegetables, reduced sauces, etc. Everything wiped away with a simple scrub from a soapy sponge and hot water.The interior cooking pot is also very lightweight, unlike the ceramic insert of my slow cooker and my enamelled cast-iron Dutch Ovens, which means my wife has no problem handling it while cleaning up. It’s also dishwasher safe – bonus!
These are important things to consider if you are the one responsible for the dishwashing in the household. My wife usually tackles the dishes but I’m always stuck cleaning my heavy cast-iron Staub Cocottes and cast iron skillets.
Also, I should mention that the interior cooking pot and lid are the only things you will likely have to clean. The rest of the machine might collect a bit of dust or the occasional grease schmear but aside from that it doesn’t need to be cleaned – same idea as a slow-cooker.
The Instant Pot comes equipped with a number of pre-programmed modes and settings. There is a Soup/Broth Mode, Meat/Stew Mode, Rice Mode, Cake Mode, Steam Mode, etc. I’ll be honest with you, I only ever used the Sautée function, the Manual mode, and the Meat/Stew mode. And, guess what, I will never use the Porridge Mode, the Rice Mode or the Multigrain model, which I’m totally fine with. I’m not sure if the machine functions differently depending on the selected mode, but I don’t cook multigrains so I have no intention to use that feature. Which brings me back to Caveat #2 – consider the type of cooking you do because it may just be that the Instant Pot will be your new best friend or the least used appliance you own.
For me, perhaps the most interesting function is the Sautée feature, which heats the interior cooking vessel over low, medium or high heat. This is an absolutely brilliant feature that puts the Instant Pot well ahead of slow cookers in terms of functionality, practicality and flavour development. Certain recipes like my Lamb Ragu call for browning meats and sautéeing veggies before braising. I would have to use a separate pot or pan to pull that off with my slow cooker, which kind of defeats the whole slow-cooker mentality of one-pot cooking. This could, of course, be avoided if I purchased a very expensive slow cooker model that has a stovetop-safe insert.
The sautée function was also surprisingly responsive and got hot enough to properly brown meats and quickly sautée vegetables. I was pleasantly impressed.
This is really the deciding factor for most people. After all, you’re buying a pressure cooker to reduce cooking times. As mentioned, I heard people claiming to have made soup in 5 minutes. While this is technically true, it is very, very misleading because the Instant Pot requires anywhere between 10 to 45 minutes (!!!!) to develop enough pressure to begin the seal the inner canister and commence cooking times.
For example, if you want to make bone broth using frozen bones, which takes a minimum of 3 hours under high pressure, it can take anywhere between 30-45 minutes (maybe longer?) before the Instant Pot reaches enough pressure to begin the actual countdown time. So, a recipe that calls for 3 hrs under high pressure just turned into something closer to 4 hrs. This may not seem significant when cooking things that take a long time, but remember that the same rules apply to everything you make. So if you see a Minestrone recipe that claims to have been cooked in 5 minutes, you are probably looking at something closer to 30-45 minutes when it’s all said and done. This is equivalent to the amount of time it takes to make Minestrone the old-fashioned way (i.e. on a stove in a regular pot!).
To go back to my Lamb Ragu recipe as an example, I call for 45min under high pressure. But it will take at least 15 minutes before the Instant Pot will begin the countdown. There are ways to reduce the initial pressure building time. The method that I found works best is to use the sautée function to heat the contents of the Instant Pot. If cooking a stew, for example, switch the sautée function on until the liquids start to bubble and then close the lid and set the correct program. This should help minimize the time it takes to seal the chamber and start the countdown.
7. Ease of Use
The Instant Pot is very easy to use. It’s entirely digital and after a quick read through the instruction manual, you should be all set to cook. The only thing that really threw me for a loop was manually depressurizing the machine (AKA flipping the pressure release valve by hand). So much steam came out that I nearly wet myself. Aside from that, its a piece of cake to use!
If you want to cook soups, stews, or bone broths, in relatively short periods of time with the added convenience of being able to leave your house while doing it, then I recommend getting an Instant Pot. If you have no intention to cook any of the above items, this is clearly not the machine for you. Essentially, an Instant Pot is like a fast slow cooker. It performs very similarly in a reduced amount of time. If you already have a slow cooker and use it regularly, maybe just continue to use it? But if you find yourself suffering from a lack of patience or would like to be able to sip on bone broth the same day you make it, then the Instant Pot is the way to go!
I hope you found this non-technical, practical review helpful! If you decide that you would like to purchase an Instant Pot and would like to support this blog in the process, please shop through one of the following Amazon links: