Author: Jessica L. Hale, Single mom of two
The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker has been the single, most exciting addition to my kitchen. As a single mother, I work hard to keep healthy food in the house and make a decent dinner each night. As many mothers are aware, making dinner every night, never mind a healthy one, is a constant challenge since we are usually fighting the clock. Between homework and after-school activities, I find that the time to prepare a good dinner becomes more and more limited. The Instant Pot has helped me make healthy meals with both budget and time constraints. To say that I love it is an understatement. So, without further ado, let me explain why I am so enamored of this very versatile kitchen appliance.
You have many options to choose from when purchasing an electric pressure cooker, so I do recommend doing research and finding the one that meets your needs. I chose the Instant Pot Duo 7-In-1 Multi-Use Programmable Cooker because I had seen it in action many times. This particular cooker has seven features: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté/sear, yogurt maker, and warmer. I also chose the 6-quart size since it is most suitable for my family, but there is a mini and an eight-quart option. The only feature I haven’t used is the yogurt maker. Yogurt making, although easy, is time consuming. But, a close friend uses it on a regular basis, so I know that it works well and produces amazing yogurt.
So how do pressure cookers work? They raise the boiling temperature in the pot. When the lid is sealed and locked into place, the rising pressure increases the temperature of the water and steam above the boiling point, which dramatically reduces cooking times. Once the pot comes to “pressure,” a small value pops up to seal the pot completely, and the cooking timer begins to count down.
Once cooking time has elapsed, you have two choices for releasing pressure. You can either let pressure release naturally, which takes around 15 minutes. Perfect when you’re cooking a roast. Or, you can do a quick release in which you open the release valve and let the pressure release immediately. Perfect when you’re cooking pasta. Once the pressure valve has dropped, it is safe to open the cooker. What I really like about the Instant Pot is that it will not open unless it is safe. The lid remains locked until the pressure has subsided and it is safe to open without being injured.
Although there are seven cooking options on the Instant Pot, I use the pressure cooking feature the most. I can cook hard boiled eggs, make “baked” potatoes, prepare homemade macaroni and cheese, cook pasta, or make a killer pot roast, all in under an hour, and all in one pot, which minimizes mess and clean up time. What I also like about pressure cooking is that, unlike a slow cooker, the food retains moisture and flavor. Meat is tender, not dried out.
It’s hard to find anything bad to say about the Instant Pot. That being said, it is important to understand the difference between the actual time for a meal to be prepared versus the cooking time at pressure. When a recipe mentions the cooking time; for instance, “10 minutes on manual setting,” this is the time it takes the food to cook at high pressure; it does not include the time it takes for the pot to reach pressure, which can take an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Time is also needed for natural release of pressure if the recipe calls for it. So, no, dinner will not be done in seven minutes. Read all recipes carefully and be sure to add extra time.
My favorite go-to recipe for a fast, last minute, weeknight dinner is a macaroni and cheese recipe by Dad Cooks Dinner. It is easy, and I can play with the flavors of the dish. I make it extra healthy by using high fiber pasta and organic evaporated milk. It’s very simple, and once the pot comes to pressure, cooking time for the pasta is only four minutes. It takes just about the same time to make as boxed macaroni and cheese, but I control the ingredients.
In today’s fast-paced world, we certainly need all the help we can get being efficient. Whether you are a single mom, stay-at-home dad, or simply someone who enjoys cooking good food, the Instant Pot is a perfect option to help you achieve this goal.