I Was an Instant Pot Skeptic, But It Completely Rewrote How I Cook

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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I’ve purchased a lot of beautiful, useful, and/or remarkable things over the course of the past decade. At an antique market in Germany I picked up some copper baking pans, and just last week, I found a spectacular set of crystal Champagne flutes at an estate sale in Chicago. I even bought a super-science-y ice chest for freezing perfectly clear spheres of ice in my freezer for cocktails. But when I think of all the things I’ve bought and how often I use them in my daily life, there is one standout: The best thing I bought for my kitchen (er, my entire home) is clearly my Instant Pot.

I say “clearly” here because it’s obviously the winner. It completely re-wrote my way of cooking and, no hyperbole here, changed my life for better.

My Cooking Style, Before My Instant Pot

A decade ago, my style of cooking was to spend way too much time hand-grating nutmeg over a 40-ingredient recipe that took hours to prepare. My 26-year-old self’s food tasted very good, but 10 years later, I live in Indiana and have a small child, and by the time I get home from work it’s after dark and my timeline for the night feels very short.

For a long time, the prospect of making food under those circumstances completely stymied me. I knew how to cook, but I didn’t know how to cook quickly or with a minimal bit of attention and still have it taste good. Basically, I knew no middle ground between cassoulet and a microwave dinner. I didn’t have time for cassoulet, so I ate a lot of microwave dinners. “This is just my life now,” I figured.

How My Instant Pot Changed the Way I Cook

Then I got an Instant Pot. It was an Internet phenomenon long before I bought one, and I was deeply skeptical when it arrived. It was huge, and I had never used a slow-cooker or a pressure-cooker before. If I had never used either, what would I do with a thing that was both? I made rice in it a few times, and a couple sad soups.

But then one day, I used it to make one of my old favorite recipes — braised chicken with olives and preserved lemons — and I was stunned by how much faster it was. Thanks to the Instant Pot’s sauté function, I can brown chicken, beef, or some other protein or aromatics in the pot, then put the lid on and pressure cook the whole thing with the rest of the ingredients. What used to be a day-long braise can now be accomplished in about 15 or 20 minutes. I don’t need to babysit the pot for any of it and clean-up is easier, too.

These days, my food still tastes spectacular, but it takes a lot less of my attention. Now I can feed my whole family and still keep an eye on the baby, so she doesn’t use her tiny new teeth to gnaw a hole through the wall of the basement and escape while I’m stirring the pasta sauce. (That’s a thing that can happen, right?) I can feed a big group of friends for game night and still have time to actually play the game. And I can bake a cheesecake like gosh darn wizard. Everything about cooking is better now that I have my Instant Pot. 

Why the Instant Pot’s Popularity Is a Huge Selling Point

My old self was suspicious of anything that was very popular, but the popularity of the Instant Pot is one of its greatest selling points. About a fifth of American households now own one! (Although the Instant Pot founder says he wants one in every kitchen — a nod to Bill Gates’ goal of putting a computer in every home.) There are more than 2.3 million members in a single Instant Pot Facebook group. And the company (now merged with Corelle Brands LLC, which makes Corelle, Pyrex, CorningWare and SnapWare) is worth more than $2 billion.

Why does this popularity matter? The Instant Pot recipe-developing community has turned the entire internet into a crowd-sourced recipe book. If you need a sauce, or a quick guide to making sushi rice or a burrito bowl, an Instant Pot aficionado has probably already written a five-star blog post about it. If you need help trouble-shooting something, the internet can help you. If you need help figuring out how to store your IP, there’s a ready-made solution at Target of all places.

All of this tells me one thing: I’m certainly not alone in calling the Instant Pot my best purchase of the decade. I haven’t run an official poll, but I’d bet there’d be hundreds of thousands of people who say the same. My past self had all the time in the world and would have laughed at the idea of the Instant Pot. It’s easier? Faster? More convenient? Who would want that? But as a person of 2020, with a rather busy lifestyle, the Instant Pot has completely changed the way I cook, and I’m grateful for it every time I use it.

Do you agree? Is your Instant Pot the best thing you bought in the past decade?