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Have you joined the masses in purchasing an Instant Pot, aka electric pressure cooker? I’m not one who easily follows trends, and if I do, it’s after a long time period of careful consideration. So when everyone was talking about the Instant Pot, I just tuned it all out. I was living just fine with my slow cooker (aka Crock-Pot) and stovetop, thank you very much. I didn’t need yet another small appliance taking up precious cabinet space in my kitchen. However, between gaining kitchen storage space in our new house this past year and a Christmas gift of an Instant Pot, I decided to take the plunge.

But you might be wondering, “What in the world is a pressure cooker?” Pressure cookers combine food and water, broth or other cooking liquid, just like a slow cooker. The difference is that when you seal the pressure cooker, it uses the steam to build internal pressure, which increases the temperature quickly. This is what, in theory, decreases the cooking time, providing similar results to slow cooking. Almost any food that can be cooked in steam or water-based liquids can be cooked in a pressure cooker, or thus, an Instant Pot.

I had about a 1 month standoff with my Instant Pot before I gave it a try. And when I did, boy did it turn out terrible! I’ve purchased other small kitchen appliances over the years, but this one truly got the better of me, at least for a while. I wish I could say that my relationship with the Instant Pot was love at first sight. Definitely not! I liken the experience to trying to ride a bike. There are often many falls with scrapes and bruises, but eventually you learn to master it. Or the alternative is it masters you!

So on the night I decided to use my Instant Pot, I came home to this message…

Burn! What appliance has that message built in? I guess an Instant Pot that knows people are going to mess it up.

Thankfully I was able to recover a bit of dinner and my Instant Pot that night (after a good overnight soaking). But the better news is that I do still use my Instant Pot today. On average, I actually use it about once a week, so I think it has earned its keep in my kitchen.

So what changed for me between my burned dinner and today? Time and experience. 4 months later I have been able to make better roasts and make meals quicker and easier. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing instant about the Instant Pot, but I have been able to shave time off of meals that would have taken hours longer in the slow cooker. Here are my top tips for you if you’re not an Instant Pot Pro:

  1. Make sure you start using recipes that are designed for the Instant Pot. Otherwise you might end up with your own “burn” message, not correctly calculating how much liquid is needed to cook the meal.
  2. When a recipe tells you to cook the food on high pressure for 30 minutes, it isn’t going to be 30 minutes until your food is done. It’s not like a microwave or oven timer. Because it is a pressure cooker, it will take time to get the pressure built up in the pot before the timer will start. I also learned this the hard way. On average, I add 30 minutes to every meal I make in the Instant Pot, and sometimes it takes 10 minutes, others it might take more than 20.
  3. Use the Sauté feature. This is one of the golden gems about the Instant Pot. You can brown your meat right in the pot and then deglaze your pan with broth or wine. And the best part is that it also decreases the amount of time it takes then for your pot to pressurize for cooking.

So if you haven’t taken the plunge yet and added an Instant Pot to your kitchen appliances, you might want to consider it. Just remember, an appliance is only as good as the cook that uses it—make something fabulous (and don’t throw out your slow cooker — you’ll still use it too)!