I first heard about the instant pot about two years ago, and I didn't have any experience with pressure cooking. My mom didn't do it, I wasn't into canning and I'd never encountered one before but I was intrigued by the quick cooking times. Then my work-wife got one and kept bringing delicious instant pot leftovers for lunch and I knew I needed one too. Now, I am totally in love with it!
If you are thinking about getting on the instant pot bandwagon, here are some tips for you!
We are a family of two but like leftovers, so we got a 6-quart. Since you can't fill the pot as full as say a crock pot, it's good to have some extra space, personally I wouldn't bother with a mini. If you have several children (especially teenagers!) you will probably want an 8-quart, or if you do a lot of big batch cooking. They have a 5-quart but if you are thinking about that size, you might as well get a 6. If you are on the fence about size, check out the post I wrote devoted to what size Instant Pot to buy!
Keep in mind it does take up a fair amount of space, our 6-quart is about the same size as our toaster oven and basically lives on our counter because we use it enough.
You definitely need to give a cursory read to the manual. I have never read a manual for a cooking appliance before that but I was really glad that my work-wife told me to do it when I got mine. Otherwise, you will not take it out of the box.
What can you make with the instant pot?
You can make the same kinds of things generally in an instant pot that you would make in a crock pot but much faster. If you generally like crock pot meals, you will probably like instant pot meals too. There are some additional things you can do in the instant pot too however.
It's great for soups, stews, pulled pork and shredded chicken that taste like they have been cooking all day but are ready in less than an hour. Often much less.
Some of the cook times you see for the instant pot are a little misleading because they only list the 5 or 10 minute cook time but you also need to wait for it to come to pressure, which can take a while if it's really full. However, for certain items I feel like it's still a huge time saver (ie baked potatoes, winter squashes).
You can speed up the amount of time it takes to build pressure by warming it up using the saute function while you are adding your ingredients. Also, keep in mind that your oven also needs to preheat. :-)
So where is the instant pot advantage?
There are 2 big areas where the instant pot kicks a crock pots ass!
1) Cook time: have you ever planned on having a crock meal for dinner but then you were too busy in the morning to get it ready or just plain forgot to do it? Well with an instant pot you can still have pulled pork in an hour and a half if you want.
2) Saute mode: You can braise or cook your meats or other items right in the same pot before you pressure cook everything else. Fewer dishes! I really love this feature also for melting cheese on things after it pressure cooks, it's really fast too because it's higher temp (there are multiple temp choices) than even a slow cooker on high.
And it kicks my oven's rear in area number 3:
3) Not watching it: In this area it's like a slow cooker. You turn it on and go about your business, then it will beep, you release the pressure and it's ready to go. This is really great for pasta for example that you'd watch on the stove to make sure it didn't cook over.
The one thing that was weird when I first got it was not only do you not have to watch it, you can't see what it's doing at all. You can't open it to check it while it's pressure cooking. Now I trust it to work but at the beginning I was like what is this? What's happening in there?
There is definitely a learning curve with the instant pot but I am really glad I got one, even though I didn't need it, I love it.
Check out my suggested recipes for new instant pot owners and which accessories are the most useful.