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What is an Insta Pot?

No time to cook: the biggest complaint most of us have about healthy eating! I am about to bust that excuse so watch out!

Weeknight dinners can really be a challenge when you're running around with kid's activities and you don't get home from work until 6pm. That's why I am SO EXCITED that I got an Instapot for Christmas! While I am admitting that I really don't know how to use it yet, I wanted to research it a bit and then share what I learned with everyone. Here's what I learned...

What the heck IS an Instant Pot?

It’s a trendy, multitasking cooking appliance that lets you make slow food fast. It’s perfect for people who like to cook things from scratch without always having the time necessary to do that. My foodie friends rave about it already but I keep thinking this really seems like it might be too good to be true.

I learned that there’s a whole Facebook Instant Pot group with 1.2 million members, and the Instant Pot was one of the top Black Friday sellers in 2017. The members are called “Potheads", LOL! Naturally, I joined.

Slow cookers require forethought. Instant Pots are a forgetful cook’s or procrastinator’s friend!! An Instapot is just like a pressure cooker and functions as a slow cooker, rice/oatmeal maker, steamer, yogurt maker, and warmer — and it has a sautéing/browning function, too. Like, for those nights when you forget to thaw chicken breasts for dinner, or you realize the soup you planned to make requires two hours to cook...like I do all the time.

WAIT!!! My most favorite part about the InstaPot is that you can cook frozen meats in it!!! It seals in moisture, so moist heat cooking methods work best (think: steaming, braising, sauteing, boiling, and simmering). ARE THEY SERIOUS???!

What Kind of Instant Pot Do I Need?

If your biggest obstacle to healthy eating is time, you’ll love how the Instant Pot simplifies your clean-eating routine. There are now several lines of Instant Pots — one of which is Bluetooth-enabled and programmable via an app. I'm not even sure which one I have but I hope it's this one! Imagine turning it on while you're at work? YASSSS!

The newer ones have 10 features, with added egg cooker, cake maker, and sterilizer functions. If you’re cooking for one, there are smaller, cheaper Duo models, and there’s an Ultra version designed for more advanced cooks.

What’s the Difference Between an Instant Pot and a Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker?

The difference between an Instant Pot and a slow cooker or pressure cooker is pretty simple:

An Instant Pot does the job of the other two appliances, while also taking the place of other kitchen gadgets. As with any appliance, you need to follow the directions and check to make sure you’re using the correct settings for your particular recipe. You can use slow-cooker recipes in an Instant Pot, but you need to make certain adjustments — check your user’s manual or pressure cooking time charts.

A general rule is that meat will cook in about a third of the time (20 minutes versus an hour), with beans and grains taking about one-fourth of the time.

Slow cooker recipes with meat or beans that call for 7–8 hours on low heat or 4 hours on high will work in the Instant Pot — and be ready in less than an hour.

The Worst Foods to Cook in an Instant Pot

Since the list of foods that do work in an Instant Pot is quite lengthy, let’s start with what you should avoid cooking in it instead:

– Creamy soups and milk- or cream-based sauces don’t work well because dairy tends to curdle when boiled. Most Instant Pot recipes call for adding cream or milk at the end after pressure is released.

– Tender vegetables like greens, bok choy, and asparagus cook too quickly to bother with the Instant Pot. You can stir them in at the end, but if they’re a standalone side dish, cook them on the stove.

The general rule is to avoid anything delicate or tender, fried, or crispy in your Instant Pot.

The Best Foods for the Instant Pot

Basically, if a food cooks using moist heat, you can make it in your Instant Pot:

– soups

– stews

– risotto

– steel-cut oats

– root vegetables

– stocks and broths

– whole chickens

– large or tough cuts of meat

– hard-cooked eggs

– whole grains and dried beans

10 Tips to Get the Best Results from Your Instant Pot

You can still royally mess things up, from what I've read. Yikes, that might be me the first few times.

To get the best results from your Instant Pot:

1. Read the manual

Get to know the various parts of your Instant Pot — the release valve, the condensation collector, the sealing ring, etc. — and how to take it apart, wash it, and reassemble it.

2. Do the math

Yes, it saves time, but when an Instant Pot recipe says it will take five minutes to steam potatoes, it doesn’t mean five minutes total — it’s five minutes after the pot reaches optimal pressure.

3. Learn the language

The Instant Pot hisses, clicks, and beeps. Don’t fear those noises, but learn the difference.

You’ll hear the pot click as it comes to pressure if you’re standing nearby, and if you choose quick release, be ready for the loud hiss of the steam.

The pot will beep when it reaches pressure and when it is ready.

4. Don’t skip the liquids

The Instant Pot boils liquid to create pressure. If you skip the liquid (or don’t add enough), you risk burning your food or not getting it up to pressure.

You need at least a cup, but make sure to follow your recipe precisely. If you’re cooking lean proteins, make sure there’s plenty of liquid so they don’t dry out.

5. Know its limits

If you’re new to the Instant Pot, start with simple dishes like the recipes in your user’s manual, soups, and stews.

Once you’re familiar with the quirks, you can try more advanced dishes like yogurt or whole chickens.

6. Know when to release

Use natural release (waiting for the pressure to naturally release) instead of quick release (turning the valve) when your pot is quite full or contains foamy food like grains, pasta, and beans.

This adds a few minutes but avoids a mess.

7. Thicken at the end

If your Instant Pot recipe calls for a thickener like cornstarch, add it at the end to avoid a sticky mess in your release valve.

8. Mind the valve

Close the valve before you start cooking. If you forget, steam will escape and you might have a foamy mess.

9. Put a ring on it

Don’t forget the sealing ring; otherwise, your Instant Pot will leak steam and not pressurize.

10. Leave room

Don’t overfill your Instant Pot: Fill it halfway for beans and grains, which tend to foam, and two-thirds of the way for most everything else.

The Bottom Line

The Instant Pot is a safe, easy-to-use time-saver that can replace your slow cooker and pressure cooker. (Yay, counter space!)

Read the directions, and you’ll be ready to convert almost any recipe to your Instant Pot.

Need some help with finding your groove with Clean Eating?

Check out my tips that save you money or see the method that I use every day to stay on track! You can even join my Emotional Eating Support Challenge!

xo,

Jen

A Healthy Hot Mess by Jennifer Stawarz

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