Instant Pot has millions of fans – literally!! Their Facebook group has tons of people just gushing about it. Initially, I was frankly overwhelmed by the Instant Pot community. Why are all these people so excited about the food they are making? Why are they so hyper? I didn’t get it.
In fact, buying the Instant Pot was not my idea. My husband, saw it on sale on Amazon, read all the reviews and was convinced that it is the next best thing since sliced bread. Myself, not so much…which was rather weird, because, you see – normally, I am an appliance junkie. I love shopping at kitchen stores. I enter these stores with the same level of intense excitement that some women go to Macy’s. I have feelings for appliances that range from crazy-love (Vitamix – I’ll die for you!!) to meh…too excited when I bought, but deflated later (I’m looking at you – panini maker, ice cream maker, etc etc) to OMG, what was I thinking back then (dehydrator..really?!!).
But the Instant Pot, did not initially excite me. The Instant Pot to me was a glorified pressure cooker after all. After all I, the great self-proclaimed foodie expert, do not need such hand-holding. The Instant Pot, is for those newbies – the foodie babies, who are afraid of things like steam and whistle. (muwahhh…(trying evil laughter!!))
That was me, on my high horse, a few months ago. I have gotten off it and joined the earthlings who have embraced this device to make their lives easier. It is a good device and I will explain why.
The first few months
The usage of Instant pot during the first few months of purchase was quite slow. When I unwrapped the package, it looked clunky and un-impressive. My husband, on the other hand, took an instant liking to it. He started looking up recipes and settled on khichdi. I kid you not, he has made atleast 15-20 khichdis until now. That is practically, the only recipe he makes:).
Over time, I started warming up to it. I started making our South Indian staples like kootu, sambar…some North Indian dishes like Saag, chana. Recently, I branched out to international cuisine as well – Thai noodle soup, Mediterranean soups etc. Now, I use it almost every day.
Advantages of Instant Pot
Here are the reasons, why I have reluctantly fallen for this device…
1) Saute + Pressure cook
Electric pressure cookers, until recently, only had a pressure-cook option. That’s is usually 1 part of the recipe. We also need caramelization (saute onions, veggies and spices) to add layers of flavor.
By having the saute option, the Instant Pot pretty much covers most of the steps in normal vegetarian recipes. Now we can saute onions and spices and then add the grains or the beans for a flavorful meal – all in 1 pot – thus less cleaning, less complexity. Yay!!
2) Set and leave
It look me a while to realize what a huge advantage this was.
Mornings – while I am busy using the stove and counter top area for packing lunch boxes, I can set any whole grain (Barley, steel cut oats, etc) in the Instant pot for a hot breakfast porridge. No need to babysit the cooker, counting whistles, while my daughter is frantic-calling me to find her socks or while rushing to use the restroom.
Evenings – You want to make hot dinner, but the kids have after-school classes at random times. Just saute vegetables, spices, grains etc, close lid and leave. You can come home to a nice hot dinner.
Weekend lunches – If you want to spend your weekend hiking or cleaning (basically not spend time cooking) just set up the cooker and leave.
3) Large pot
I initially thought this was a disadvantage until I realized I can stuff voluminous vegetables like greens, whole sweet potatoes, etc. I can also use the pot in pot technique to cook multiple ingredients at the same time.
4) Easy to clean
The stainless steel pot has a very non-stick like surface, so it is super easy to clean. (That’s always a plus in my book)
5) Quiet and no-smell:
Sometimes, It is not just about what the appliance does, it is also about what it does not do – It does not make loud sounds or emit too much aromas. In the mornings, when the kids are sleeping, it is nice to have some quiet time and not have the cooker whistling away loudly. Moms, you know what I am talking about!!
Indian food always has the tendency to spread all through your house, your coats, your clothes. But, the instant pot traps the steam inside unless you release the steam manually. So, the smell is contained inside the device a lot better.
6) Make healthy cooking easier
I love whole grains, I love beans. But, most of the whole vegan ingredients require soaking. Now, 80% of the time, I plan my meal just 10 minutes before making it – using my very scientific – “what do I feel like eating?” logic :). In those times, this device is fantastic. Unsoaked beans, hulled barley, kamut grains – you name it – you can cook it in less than an hour. How awesome is that?
Ok, having listed all the advantages – only makes sense to list the minuses for a complete overview….
There is a learning curve to this device (atleast it was – for me). It takes time to get the intuitive feel of this device and develop a level of comfort with it.
2) Not a sexy device
You can lower your raised eyebrows now, I will explain what I mean. I want to highlight a concept that I have noticed over and over again with this device. It was invented by an engineer and it shows. The outside of the cooker is not super-pretty. Their instructional booklet is blah. The company’s youtube videos put you to sleep.
So, you have to fall in love with the functional aspects of the device, not the way it looks. It is not a trophy cooker, godammitt!!
3) Steam release can cause moisture accumulation on cabinets
If we force the device to emit steam, the steam usually settles on cabinets or the roof above. Unless we extend the instant pot near the vents or divert the steam, we have to be careful when forcing the steam release.
4) Have to use external timer to make idlis
To make fluffy idlis (a south-Indian staple), we have to have steam, but have no pressure. But the current steam button needs build up of pressure for the timer to function. So, we have to use external timer. A minor inconvenience, but needs to be mentioned.
When I read about the invention and the back-story of the device, I was in awe. Most of my regular readers know that I am a sucker for a good entrepreneurship story. The founder Robert Wang, started this company in 2009 and after 18 months of research and development, put out the 1st product with advanced micro-processors.
Over time, they took feedback and kept iterating their product to please their customers. They are a small company (50 employees Inc article in Jan 2018) with no advertising budget. The product has done well entirely through word-of-mouth and social media. With over a million Facebook members, why bother with a sales marketing department – right? Too cool!! Hope they continue to do well.
They have used the power of influence well. That’s because, sometimes, it is the influencers who do the trick. Despite my husband, my friends all yammering at me about this device, it was Melissa Clark, my favorite NYT columnist who made me see its potential. A while back, I heard a podcast with her gushing about the Instant Pot. “Well, if Melissa Clark likes it, then there must be something to it”, I thought. And so the love affair began….
Recently, my very amused husband, who saw me use the Instant Pot almost every day in succession, asked playfully “So, should I get another one?” He was fully expecting me to roll my eyes and shoot back a snarky response, but was shocked instead when I replied in all seriousness, “Maybe, I’ll let you know.”
Looking for Indian vegetarian or vegan Instant Pot Recipes? Try these:
*This is not a paid review. All opinions are my own based on my experience with the device. However, this post contain affiliate links. These links add no cost to you, but help support this website. Thanks!!*