I Tried the Instant Pot and Didn’t Love It. What Am I Missing?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

When the Instant Pot went on sale for

Amazon Prime Day

But I was also busy. And despite the fact that this strange contraption had promised to save me time and change my life, I just didn’t have the focus to learn what I quickly discovered was a whole new way of cooking. I had questions and uncertainties, so it sat in its box in the basement for a week. And then I had guests over, so I hid it in the spare bedroom. And then I sort of forgot about it, only to be occasionally and sporadically struck with guilt when I came across another recipe suited for the device.

My First Foray into Cooking with the Instant Pot

Eventually, a friend of mine brought his Instant Pot to a Super Bowl party, and I took the opportunity to pick his brain. He had used his to make mac and cheese in just six minutes, he explained, which was, indeed, a wonder. He spoke so highly of the thing and how it had truly honest-to-goodness changed his life that I resolved to use it that very week.

First up was a corned beef recipe I found online. My standard procedure is to simmer corned beef anyway, so this seemed familiar enough. I acquainted myself with the manual and the recipe, then set my Instant Pot off on its maiden voyage. It beeped, then I waited.

And waited. And waited.

It took that sucker at least 20 minutes to come to pressure, which was a little frustrating considering the cook time itself was only 55 minutes. I walked away, underwhelmed, and waited for the pot to call me back.

The next step was to release the pressure naturally before removing the lid. Which, you know, was easy, but also time-consuming. Twenty minutes later, the lid was off and the veggies were ready to go in. I closed the lid and waited some more.

All told, the recipe took at least two hours to complete, which was a time savings of maybe a little more than an hour over if I’d just plain simmered the dang thing like I usually do. Sure, time saved is time saved, but this didn’t exactly make squashing a weeknight corned beef craving a reality. Nothing about this was revolutionary.

The Worst Part About Using the Instant Pot

Over the next few days, I tried two more recipes and found myself coming to the same conclusions. All told, the time savings for each recipe I tried were negligible, and just not impressive enough for the worst part of it all: cleaning the contraption.

At least with a slow cooker you have the liner and the lid. And if you cook with, you know, pots and pans, you just clean your pots and pans. But the Instant Pot? Oh buddy.

First there’s the pot. Then there’s the float valve with the little silicone bit on the end, just itching to take a trip down the garbage disposal. Then there’s the anti-block shield that’s just hard enough to remove that I feel I’m going to bend it. Then there’s the little plastic drip catcher on the back. And then, finally, there’s the damned silicone ring that still, after a trip through the dishwasher, smells — no — reeks of corned beef and cabbage to this very day. Yes, I could soak it in vinegar, but haven’t I done enough already I just want to put the thing away. Sure, you don’t have to clean the lid so thoroughly every time, but I can’t be the only one who gets the heebie jeebies over the thought of not washing it after every use. Oh, and let’s not forget the little container on the back that catches all the drips from the steam after you release the pressure. Oy vey.

My Final Straw with the Instant Pot

The last “recipe” I intended on trying was to fire off a big batch of sweet potatoes as part of meal prep for the week. But then I also had to make quinoa and turn on the oven to roast Brussels sprouts, so what was the point then of also turning on (and subsequently cleaning — the horror) the Instant Pot as well?

I hear the thing makes great rice, but if I’m already cooking a meal that could use a side of rice, what’s the trouble of just putting some water and rice in a pan and setting it to heat? I’d much rather do that than summon the behemoth from its resting place.

Which brings me to my final point: The Instant Pot is just not sexy. There’s no romance to cooking with it, and I don’t look forward to using it. Perhaps the thing I am most grateful for with this whole experience is that it’s made me realize just how much I love the act of cooking itself. When I’m instructed to just lock everything into the Instant Pot and “walk away,” cooking begins to feel somehow more like a chore than a pleasure.

A Cry for Help

Yes, the Instant pot does its job. Yes, it delivers on all of its promises. To be entirely fair, it’s a fine improvement on a standard slow cooker, if only for how light the liner is compared to the more common stoneware crocks. But do I love it? No. Has it changed my life? Absolutely not.

So help me: Is it my cooking style that makes us such a bad match? Am I trying the wrong recipes? Or is this thing just over-hyped and we’re all too scared to admit it?