Electric pressure cookers — like the Instant Pot — rose to cult status with their ability to cut conventional cooking times by as much as 75 percent. You no longer have to tend a pot of beans on the stovetop all day long, because the Instant Pot is here to cook them with just a few minutes of high pressure.
The Instant Pot does well with breakfast staples and speedy dinners, but where it really shines is during weekly meal prep. Sure, it cooks a pot of beans well, but it also cooks grains, whole chickens, large hunks of pork, and even whole spaghetti squash at great speed. Plus, cooking these things in the Instant Pot frees up the oven and stovetop for other cooking chores.
Here's how to utilize the Instant Pot for smarter big batch meal prep.
First, how can the Instant Pot help you meal prep?
Meal prep is the act of preparing some ingredients — in some cases just chopping and measuring, and others cooking recipes to completion — to eat later. Meal prep can be used to prepare planned meals or it can be used as a super-flexible alternative to meal planning. Big-batch meal prep is a component of that more flexible meal prepping style. If you make a big batch of beans or a bunch of chicken breasts, you can then use those prepped components in meals all week long.
Always start with a batch of eggs.
For me, hard-boiled eggs always go right into the Instant Pot before I start any other meal prep. They're super quick-cooking and I immediately get that little emotional lift of meal prep when they are done and stashed in the fridge. Plus, hard-boiled eggs can be served for just about any meal, in things like egg salad or simple sandwiches.
Get the recipe: How To Cook Eggs in an Electric Pressure Cooker
Make a batch of rice or grains.
Basic in the best way, a batch of rice or grains can do double duty as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner base. Bonus: You can reuse the water from steaming your hard-boiled eggs to make the grains or the chicken breasts below.
Get the recipe How To Cook Rice in the Electric Pressure Cooker
Cook up simple chicken breasts.
Steaming chicken breasts in the Instant Pot means you'll have space in the oven for roasting vegetables. You'll also have one less baking dish to scrub at the end of your meal prep session. (Pro tip: The water leftover from steaming the chicken is basic broth that you can use for cooking rice or other grains.)
Get the recipe: How To Cook Chicken Breast in the Instant Pot
Cook beans or lentils in minutes.
You know that cooking dry beans can mean hours of stovetop tending on Sunday, when you'd much rather get outside or binge Netflix. But you can cook either beans or lentils in the Instant Pot in just a few minutes flat.