Cooking

How to Use an Instant Pot, and Why It's So Revolutionary

No one can resist a one-pot wonder
How to Use an Instant Pot, and Why It's So Revolutionary
Photo: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table

Unless you've been living under a culinary rock, you've definitely heard of the Instant Pot. It seems like everyone is talking about this revolutionary kitchen gadget, and most have even decided to purchase one for themselves. It's no wonder people love this thing—it can whip up complicated, time-consuming recipes in record time. For those of us who love cooking but don't always have the time to slow-braise pork shoulder, it's a dream come true.

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Truth is, though, diving head first into the Instant Pot craze can be a little intimidating. Is it a slow cooker, or is it a rice cooker? What can or can't we cook with it? Don't worry—we're here to ease your anxieties by providing these much-needed Insta-answers.

What is an Instant Pot?

The first Instant Pot was actually released in 2010 but didn't really take off until toward the end of 2016. It's essentially a multifunctional cooker, acting as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, electric pressure cooker, sauté pan and even a yogurt maker—all in one. The combination of steam and pressure cooks your food quicker and safer than other devices, making everything from slow-and-low barbecue dishes and tender stews to perfectly prepared rice pilaf and steamed veggies much more Monday-night friendly.

Which brand of the Instant Pot is the best?

There are lots of options on the market, including Instant Pots that are Bluetooth-Enabled. So far, a programmable Instant Pot is a crowd favorite and more are sure to sprout up. Check sites like Amazon to compare deals and get user reviews.

How do I use my Instant Pot?

It's important to note that this magical machine does take some getting used to. The different buttons and features can seem confusing, but after some practice, you'll be a pro. One function you'll want to be super familiar with is the pressure cooking feature, which uses pressure (surprise, surprise) to cook food faster. As the liquid and food heats up, steam increases the pressure inside, allowing dinner to make it to the table quicker. Essentially, a dish that takes five hours in a slow cooker could be done in one, thanks to the Instant Pot.


What are the best foods to make in an Instant Pot?

The short answer: pretty much everything. The Instant Pot is perfect for cooking breakfast items, such as hard-boiled eggs and oatmeal, as well as rice, stocks, stews and soups. This machine also excels at cooking meats like ribs, shredded chicken and brisket.

What is the sauté function used for?

Unlike the slow cooker, all of the recent Instant Pot models are equipped with a sauté function. Odds are you're probably wondering what in the world you'd need to sauté in an electric pot. This mode is actually perfect for sautéing onions or vegetables before adding meat or other ingredients for a simple, complete one-pot meal.

How do I clean my Instant Pot?

Since the Instant Pot is a one-pot wonder, the beauty is you aren't left with a sink full of dishes at the end of the night. First, unplug the machine and remove the inner pot and steamer rack. These can typically be put in the dishwasher. The silicone sealing ring and the lid, however, should both be hand-washed. Check out the great video below for an in-depth tutorial.

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