Why I converted from a Crock-Pot to an Instant Pot (and why you should too )
10 benefits of the Instant Pot (and why it’s better than a Crock-Pot slow cooker). This is an honest look at the pros and cons of the Instant Pot from a devoted slow-cook user who converted to an Instant Pot because it’s THAT awesome! I have personally found the Instant Pot has a lot more advantages than disadvantages. My goal is to help you decide if the switch is good for you, too.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase, but you will not be charged a penny extra! And mama, I never recommend products I don’t love or believe in.
Minimal Kitchen Appliances
I used to be dead set on keeping my Crock-Pot slow cooker. I didn’t even want to talk about an Instant Pot because I simply had zero interest. It was just one more kitchen appliance.
I have a strict rule in my kitchen that helps me keep things simplistic, inexpensive, and frugal: kitchen appliances must earn their place.
If they only do one job, they usually don’t last long. Multi-purpose is the name of the stay around game. If I don’t use something every week, it’s in serious trouble of getting re-homed. If I don’t even use it every month? I question its existence altogether. I’m brutal.
But I actually love my kitchen and I love being in there. That’s because it’s not cluttered, even though it’s small. Everything has a home and a purpose (a multi-purpose ;)). This mentality helps me maintain a level of sanity while I make a lot of things from scratch: food, household cleaners, lotion, toothpowder…the kitchen is the hub of my gluten-free, frugal, natural-bent life.
Do you absolutely love your Crock-Pot, too?
Truly, I loved my Crock-Pot. I couldn’t even fathom a day when it would be useless. It was a well used kitchen appliance mere months ago. I used it every single week. I had many favorite, tried-and-true recipes that use the slow cooker. So when someone offered me a free Instant Pot after they received two for Christmas a couple years ago, I turned it down. In complete naivety.
But then for my birthday my family purchased an Instant Pot for me, even though it wasn’t on my wish list. And because they were so excited to give it to me, I decided to really give it a fair shot at earning its place in my kitchen. Within 3 days I quickly said goodbye to my Crock-Pot (the door almost hit it on it’s way out). And I haven’t missed it at all, which is really saying something.
So, now that we’ve established ad nauseum how big of a deal it is for an appliance to earn a permanent spot in my home, let’s talk about the Instant Pot.
The advantages of having an Instant Pot
The biggest pro of the Instant Pot is that it truly is a multi-purpose appliance, with a lot of different functions (and all of the Duo series Instant Pots have these features).
Here are my top favorite benefits of the Instant Pot versus the Crock-Pot:
1. Yogurt feature means I never overcook yogurt
If you have ever made homemade yogurt in a pot on the stove or in the Crock-Pot, you know how easy it is to overcook it (or how long it takes). You have to watch the milk like a hawk so that the bottom doesn’t burn or so it doesn’t over heat. It can take forever for milk to come to temp, but leave it for a minute and all of the sudden it’s burning. Oh so frustrating. I really almost quit making yogurt all together because I just kept ruining it. And that made me pretty upset when I was spending the money to buy local grass-fed milk…$$$$
The Instant Pot yogurt feature is my (current) favorite thing about it. Hands down. If you make yogurt at home, or want to, but don’t want a yogurt maker taking up non-multi-purpose space, you’ll love this. The Instant Pot brings the milk to perfect temperature every time, and then BINGS to let me know it’s ready for the cool-down bath. With four kids, I need things to sound an alarm when they’re done! Once you’ve added your yogurt starter, you pop it back into the Instant Pot and it keeps it at the perfect yogurt-making temperature until the yogurt is done (which for our sour-loving family is 14-16 hours).
2. Saute in the same pot
Not all of these benefits are in the order of my favorite, but this saute feature really is a close second to my favorite yogurt-making feature. The lack of the Saute feature is the biggest complaint I had about my Crockpot. I hated sauteeing or browning meat and then transferring it to my Crock-Pot, dirtying up extra pans. Generally, I refused to do it. So that limited what I could make in the Crock-Pot since my cup of tea was really the dump and go method.
With the Instant Pot, you can saute right in the pot first. This is beautiful when making Chicken Tikka Masala or something where the sauteed onion/veggies/meat really adds to the flavor of the whole dish.
3. It does cook many dishes way faster
Why have something slow cooking all day when you can have it ready in 30 minutes, anyway? 30 minute meals are the best, right? Instead of slow cooking something all day, though, you can prep everything early, just as you would with the Crock-Pot and, as soon as you get home, toss it all into the Instant Pot. Many dishes can be done in 30 minutes, including pressurization and depressurization times.
4. There’s a delayed start option
You can manually set the time for the Instant Pot to start cooking, as well as how long you want it to cook for. This is a pretty nifty option. It’s great for those times you’ll be out doing errands, but want to come home to a hot meal that isn’t mushy. Just prep everything, set your timer, and it will start cooking on it’s own when you want it to.
This is not something you could use with meat or eggs sitting out all day, though. So don’t think you can set dinner in the Instant Pot at 7am and come home at 5pm to a meaty-dinner all ready for you. According to the FDA, you don’t want meat sitting at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
What is the delay option good for?
- whole “baked” potatoes
- overnight soaked oatmeal
It’s also great for those days when I have an errand to run right before dinner. I can pop everything in at 3:30, and come home at 5 to a fully cooked meal.
5. You can still use your Crockpot recipes with the slow cooking feature
It can be hard to mentally shift from slow cooking to pressure cooking. I was very hesitant, since I know slow cooking. It’s familiar. Not to mention, I have a ton of slow-cooker recipes now after years of loving my Crockpot! The slow-cooking option on the Instant Pot feels like a safety net for me. I haven’t actually used it, since everything truly cooks so quickly I haven’t needed it. But it was comforting to see that it is an option if I need it. Or want it. Peace of mind is important, too. It’s good to know you can keep all those recipes and use the Instant Pot exactly as a Crockpot. I doubt you’ll need to.
6. The Instant Pot adds more flavor to food (it really isn’t bland!)
Are you skeptical about the Instant Pot cooking flavorful food? I totally was. I pictured boiling meat in plain water. Gross.
But this is more accurate: infused food
Everything is essentially concentrated when you cook in the Instant Pot. I use less herbs and get a more powerful flavor by pressure cooking. Don’t buy into the idea that pressure cooking is like boiling unsalted meat in water. It’s false. The flavor the Instant Pot creates is absolutely amazing. Promise.
7. Squash (including pumpkins) can be cooked whole
No more cutting really hard squash with a giant butcher knife. You can stick that whole spaghetti squash right in the Instant Pot (and everyone’s fingers everywhere just sighed in relief). I cook whole pumpkins in under 25 minutes, and they just cut in half like butter. The seeds and guts scoop out ridiculously easy, too.
8. The insert is stainless steel (it’s nontoxic, it can’t break, and it’s easy to clean)
Stainless steel means no toxic coating leaching into food. It also means no possibility of cracking if it’s dropped in the sink (which took the life of one of my Crock-Pots a few years ago). Because it’s stainless steel, if something does get burnt on the bottom of your Instant Pot, you can scrub it with salt and steel wool. This certainly is a bad idea if you’re trying to clean a scorched porcelain Crock-Pot insert.
9. Bone broth gels every time
Bone broth that gels is a sign that the gelatin from the bones has been drawn out, which is exactly what we want! Consuming that collagen is fantastic for so many reasons, but helping to heal a leaky-gut is one of them. I have been making bone broth for years in a regular pot and have had many batches not gel (still nutritious, but I really like it to gel). Every single time I have made broth in the Instant Pot, it gels. And it only takes half an hour to make the best tasting, nutrient dense broth you’ve ever had.
10. Bake a cake and eat it, too
I do need to throw this out there: you can bake a gluten free cake in the Instant Pot and it tastes delicious. Now, this isn’t always the best option, since it isn’t much faster in the Instant Pot than in the oven. It also will only fit up to a 6 inch cake pan, and can only do one at a time. However, it’s great for a smaller dessert without a bunch of left overs.
Also, if you avoid using a microwave (like we do), you can make “mug brownies” without heating up your kitchen by turning the oven on. For date night, my husband and I made a double batch of these mug brownies in a 4 inch ramekin, and they were absolutely delicious (I subbed the flour with gluten-free flour and the sugar for coconut sugar).
Some negatives of the Instant Pot
“Instant” isn’t actually true
Nothing is actually Instant here, so that’s slightly misleading. Which goes right into my next disadvantage here:
The cook time in Instant Pot recipes isn’t usually the actual time it takes to cook
The Instant Pot takes about 10 minutes to come to pressure (but check out my quick cheat to speed up pressurization time under the tips below), give or take. It also usually needs time to depressurize, which can take anywhere from 1-45 minutes. So if a recipe claims to take “5 minutes,” you must account for added pressurization and depressurization.
It can take some experimentation to get perfect
When learning how to cook with it, it can take a bit of experimentation to get recipes just right. I’ve made a few veggie dishes pretty mushy by adding a few minutes too many. A great trick here is to cook things that take significantly longer separately. You can also cook vegetables that tend to get too mushy in a sauce-y recipe by placing them in a steamer basket over the sauce. Then just dump them in at the end before serving.
Tips that will make your life easier
Here are a few things I learned in my first month of using the Instant Pot (that I wish I knew my first day)
Use the saute feature to help the Instant Pot heat up faster
Since it can take a while for the Instant Pot to come to pressure, you can actually set the saute feature to heat the elements as you prep dinner. You don’t need the lid on or anything for this part. Then add your water or liquid, and proceed as normal. When the liquid hits the hot pot, it immediately starts creating steam, helping the Instant Pot build pressure quicker.
The brilliant lid hack
This might be obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me. The lid fits into the handles of the Instant Pot, standing it upright. This. Changed. My. World. How many times have you tried to find a safe spot for a hot, steamy lid and felt the chaos of that moment?! I’ve had countless chaotic times. No more (at least not due to finding space for a hot lid). I want to high-five the designers of the Instant Pot for this brilliant idea.
Steam baskets (and other inserts) don’t have to be Instant Pot brand
Using a steam basket in the Instant Pot is my favorite way to make this great appliance…er…greater. A steam basket helps you cook veggies over a meat sauce so they don’t get mushy, allows you to cook hardboiled eggs to perfection, and makes it easy to lift food out (it also can make clean up that much easier!). The steam basket doesn’t have to be the one that is made for the Instant Pot, just any metal steam basket that will fit inside will work! The same goes for cake pans. I use my old, tried and true steam basket. You can find one like mine for less than $10 on Amazon: Vegetable steam basket
The seal ring needs to be cleaned…and it holds smells
The ring is what seals your Instant Pot and allows pressure to build. So it’s important to take care of that little gasket! I haven’t had this happen yet, but I read that they can actually wear out and break. Make sure that you keep an eye on your sealing ring and check it for signs of wear.
The ring also holds the smell of what you’ve cooked until you clean them. If you’re cooking something like rice, it is easy to get the “smell” out because there isn’t a strong one. A good scrub with soap and/or a run through the dishwasher is usually all it needs. But sometimes it needs a quick clean with vinegar, too (you can deep clean it in the Instant Pot itself! Check out this handy post by Cooking with Janica).
It’s not a bad idea to have two sealing rings incase you want to bake dessert after cooking dinner. You can purchase a back up ring from Amazon like these ones: 3 Pack Silicone Sealing Rings
What size Instant Pot should you get?
The Instant Pot comes in various sizes, but are usually 6-quart or 8-quart (I would not recommend any of the smaller ones). I have a 6 quart Duo Plus (this one here). The 8 quart Instant Pot tends to run about $50 more than the 6-quart. As a family of six, the smaller 6-quart one is still worth having, in my opinion. And you don’t need the Plus model. It’s handy, but the regular Duo model is less expensive, and really can do all the same things, just not with the shortcut buttons.
As our 4 kids start eating more, an 8-quart Instant Pot will definitely be worth investing in. If you are a large family or do a lot of hosting and are able to spend the extra money to get a bigger Instant Pot, I’d recommend getting the 8-quart. But if the 6-quart is what’s affordable now, I’d still recommend it. It can cook a whole 5 lb chicken, a double batch of sweet potato chili, and a half gallon of yogurt at a time. So far I haven’t needed it to do more than that.
My favorite things to make in the Instant Pot to save time and money
- Pumpkin puree
- Chicken Broth
- Sweet Potato Chili
- Marinara sauce