Instant Pots or electric pressure cookers have gained a lot of popularity. But what exactly is the hype about? How does it work and is it really worth investing in? I am going to answer all of these questions and more in this article! Let’s get started…
The #PressureCookerMarch series would be really incomplete without talking about this kitchen appliance - the Instant Pot aka the electric pressure cooker. Even though stovetop pressure cookers are more common in India with almost every household owning one (and rightly so), their electric counterpart, is slowly rising to fame.
As someone who has been using one for quite a few years now, I totally get what the hype is about! Instant Pots are convenient, offer a lot of different functions, and are lighter and are safer than traditional PCs. And just like the stovetop versions, can do just about everything, from soups, curries, lentils, one pot meals to veggies and meat. Plus, they are lighter, more versatile and are designed to cook food faster than their stovetop counterparts! So it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I am slightly obsessed with my electric pressure cooker.
Looking for recipes for your electric pressure cooker? Try my Instant Pot Garlic Mashed Potatoes (Pressure Cooker Recipe), Instant Pot Chicken Potato Corn Chowder with Bacon (Pressure Cooker Recipe), How to cook Basmati Rice 3 ways or Instant Pot Tibetan Chicken Thukpa
What is an Instant Pot or an Electric Pressure Cooker and how does it work?
Instant Pot is a popular brand of electric pressure cookers. Think of them like a multipurpose appliance that does more than just pressure cook. An Instant Pot has a tonne of different functions, so this one appliance can be used as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, food warmer as well as for sauteing, in addition to pressure cooking. Just like a stovetop pressure cooker, an electric cooker too uses steam and high pressure to cook food, which means the food is cooked very quickly. Liquid (water or broth) forms an important part of the cooking process in an Instant Pot.
The anatomy of an Instant Pot plays an important role in its functioning. Here’s a very simplified version of it all works -
- Base - The area under the pot, underneath the steel exterior, is called the base. It is basically the heart and brain of this appliance. The base houses the heating element, microprocessor, pressure and temperature control, as well as the control panel. When you put in a command into the Instant Pot, the microprocessor receives it with the help of inbuilt sensors. It then controls and regulates the cooking process according to the data received.
- Inner pot - This is the part that goes inside the pressure cooker, and where the food is put in to cook. The inner pot is detachable and is usually made with high-quality stainless steel, but can sometimes also be ceramic with a non-stick coating. It has an aluminium core that allows for equal distribution of heat to facilitate the food cooking quickly.
- Lid - The lid of an Instant Pot also plays an important role in the cooking process. It is also made from strong stainless steel and is designed with a locking mechanism, which is a great safety feature of the Instant Pot. This mechanism not only prevents the steam pressure from escaping, but also prevents the lid from opening while the pot still has pressure.
What does an Instant Pot or an Electric Pressure Cooker do?
Most electric pressure cookers have more or less the same features as an Instant Pot. When I first started using my Instant Pot, I was surprised at the number of things it could do. Just like a stovetop pressure cooker, it can cook just about anything and from stews, curries, one pot meals, lentils, meat, veggies, etc. But the range of things an Instant Pot can do doesn’t end here. You can steam veggies, cook frozen food without defrosting, make eggs and yogurt, keep food warm and even saute veggies. An Instant Pot truly lives up to its multifunctional name!
Benefits of using an Instant Pot Instant Pot or an Electric Pressure Cooker
- Multifunctional - From cooking one pot meals, steaming, boiling, sauteing, thawing out frozen foods, to making yogurt and slow cooking, an Instant Pot is super versatile and does virtually everything!
- Faster - Since it uses pressure and steam to cook food at high temperatures, everything gets made in a jiffy. Which means, cooking in an instant saves you so much time and energy.
- Nutrient preserving - An electric pressure cooker is a sealed pot that prevents moisture from escaping, and cooks food really quickly. This means that there is almost no nutrient loss, and the food stays healthier than a lot of other cooking methods.
- No need to defrost - If you are in a rush or have forgotten to take out your meat from the freezer, it’s no problem. An Instant Pot is designed to cook even frozen foods, making it really convenient.
- Keeps food warm - Most Instant Pots come with a ‘keep warm’ function that makes sure your food stays warm until you are ready to eat without cooking your food any further. This is really convenient for when you are making a lot of things and need everything to stay warm and fresh.
Richa’s top tips to make the most out of your cooker
- It is essential to add at least ½ a cup of liquid to the Instant Pot when cooking. This allows for enough pressure and steam to build up to facilitate proper cooking.
- Every electric pressure cooker has a ‘sealing’ and ‘venting’ modes. When cooking, make sure that it’s set on ‘sealing’ mode. This means that the pot is properly sealed and can build up pressure.
- Just like your regular pressure cooker, avoid overfilling the pot with liquid as that may lead to food and liquid coming out.
- An electric pressure cooker has a ‘quick release’ function that allows you to quickly release the pressure once it’s taken off the stove. If you are using this function, make sure to wear gloves when doing this as the cooker will release large quantities of hot steam, and can lead to accidents if you’re not careful.
Are they safe?
An Instant Pot is designed with safety in mind and has a lot of in-built safety features. For starters, it has a silicone gasket or ring to regulate pressure and prevent steam from escaping. Plus, it also features a floating valve, which is basically an indicator to warn you that the inner pot still has pressure and is not safe to open. This feature is common in most electric prsesure cookers.
Instant Pot recipes
I use my Instant Pot almost on a regular basis and have made just about everything in it. From rice, soups, meats, to yogurt and even dessert, I don’t think there’s anything that I haven’t tried making in my Instant Pot. Here are some of my favourite Instant Pot recipes that I highly recommend you try -
- Instant Pot chicken potato corn chowder with bacon
- Instant Pot garlic mashed potato
- Instant Pot chicken in mushroom sauce
- Instant Pot chicken thukpa
- Instant Pot lasagna
- Instant Pot chicken curry
- Instant Pot yogurt
- Instant Pot chipotle chilli
How to care for your Electric Pressure Cooker?
- Bits of food can collect in the base of the pot, so it’s important to clean it thoroughly. Start by unplugging the device and removing the inner pot. Then clean the base, heating element and the rim using a clean, damp cloth. You can even use a pastry brush to reach the hard-to-reach areas. Finally, go in again with a dry cloth to wipe everything as this will prevent rust from forming.
- As for the stainless steel inner pot, you can clean it as you would a normal pressure cooker. Use a mild dishwashing soap and water for regular cleaning. However, with regular use the insides may develop some blackish-blue stains. To remove those, you can either scrub it with a lemon + baking soda mixture or soak it in vinegar + baking soda + water mixture for an hour or two before rinsing it off with water.
- Remove the silicone gasket and wash it thoroughly with soap and water to remove any gunk and food debris that might have stuck there.
What should you buy?
While a pressure cooker is great at cooking foods quickly and can be versatile in the number of things you can cook, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of what an Instant Pot or an electric pressure cooker can do. Apart from having a lot of different functions, they are lightweight and offer so much ease of use. It is an intelligent device with a lot of preset functions that can automatically decide the amount of time it will take to complete the dish. In that sense, it offers a true hands-off cooking experience, which a stovetop pressure cooker cannot. Finally, with all the safety functions in place, an Instant Pot offers so much more peace of mind.
Still need convincing? I have an entire post dedicated to this topic - Instant Pot vs Stovetop Pressure Cooker - Which should you buy!
Instant Pot alternatives
RoboChef, Wonderchef, Mealthy, Prestige and Preethi, Geek Robocook are some brands I recommend you check out if you are planning to buy an electric pressure cooker.
Believe me when I say, once you try cooking in an Instant Pot there is no going back! I use it several times a week, especially on busy work days or when I need to cook for a large crowd, and my Instant Pot never fails to make my life easier. It’s a great investment, which with proper care and maintenance can cooking feel like a total breeze! Since I make so many things in my Instant Pot, a lot of recipes are up on the blog. You can simply search ‘Instant Pot’ in the search bar, and you’ll find everything there.