In essence, the Instant Pot is a multifunctional all-in-one cooker that replaces a bunch of other kitchen devices, including your rice cooker, steamer, pressure cooker, crockpot, and slow cooker.
Why? Well, this 7-in-1 multicooker is said to do it all, so you’ll no longer have cluttered and messy kitchen countertops. After all, more counter space is brilliant news.
With its diverse range of Instant pot models, the company has achieved monumental success and sold over a million units worldwide, and sales surge massively during Amazon Black Friday discounts.
Nonetheless, you may still bear some doubts about the Instant Pot’s practicality and ease of use. And that’s understandable. So we’ve done the work for you!
We put the Instant Pot Duo to the test for 45 days to help you ascertain whether this kitchen helper lives up to its hype.
The Instant Pot Duo
The Instant Pot Duo boasts exceptional versatility. This electric pressure cooker is equipped with seven different functions; Sautéing, pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice cooking, yoghurt making, steaming, and warming.
In addition to that, the Instant Pot Duo operates via quick one-touch cooking and offers 13 customisable smart programs for you to choose from.
According to the brand, one of the most impressive features of the Instant Pot is its ability to whip up delicious meals 70% faster than conventional cooking methods! This alone sets it apart from fellow kitchen appliances.
In addition to that, the Instant Pot is armed with an array of safety mechanisms, including a safe-locking lid, automatic temperature and pressure control, and high-temperature monitoring.
With all this said, the Instant Pot sounds incredibly impressive on paper. But we took it on a test drive and assessed its capabilities in various aspects, including capacity, cooking functionality, ease of use, and safety.
If you’re wondering how well the Instant Pot performed, you’re at the right place!
How Does The Instant Pot Work?
While the Instant Pot was developed upon a bedrock of technological intricacies, its unique cooking mechanism can be broken down into several simple stages.
Components and parts
This kitchen appliance comprises three individual units, including a stainless steel inner pot, the lid, and the main housing.
The inner pot works as the main vessel that houses your meal-in-progress. All your ingredients will go into this stainless steel inner pot. According to the brand, the bottom of the inner pot was designed to allow for uniform heating and cooking.
The inner pot is removable, but it’s important to note that you shouldn’t be cooking anything directly on the heating element. Since the cooking pot is detachable and dishwasher safe, cleanup is less of a hassle, but of course, you may opt to wash it by hand.
The package includes a silicone sealing ring, which works with the lid to form an airtight internal environment. We’ll explain the safety mechanisms integrated into this contraption further down the article.
The final compartment is the central housing unit, which consists of the heating element, and temperature and pressure sensors. On the exterior, you’ll also notice a control panel that enables one-touch operation. With just a push of a button, you can easily activate various pre-programmed cooking functions.
The cooking cycle
The Instant Pot ultimately operates on built-up pressure within the device.
After you lock the lid into place and select your preferred cooking program, this kitchen appliance begins heating the liquid inside, which eventually generates steam. The steam is unable to escape, and pressure gradually builds up within the pot.
As the pressure increases, the float valve pops up to lock the lid securely into place. Once the desired high pressure is attained, the temperature and pressure sensors will maintain these variables throughout the cooking cycle.
This pent-up pressure will then drive heated vapour into the food, allowing the ingredients inside the pot to cook at a much quicker pace—and this is the magic that essentially unfolds behind closed doors (or lids)!
Because water is needed to produce steam, which leads to pressure increment, pressure cooking will always require liquids. Whether you’re cooking rice, meat, pasta, dessert, or vegetables, the Instant Pot manual advises that at least 1 cup of liquid is required for the cooker to come to pressure. Of course, this liquid can be in various forms, such as stock, wine, or water.
Once the food is cooked and your set cooking time has elapsed, the depressurising phase commences.
How depressurisation occurs
Heating stops once the cooking time has elapsed. After that, there are two ways the pressure can be released from inside the cooker.
The first method is known as natural pressure release (NPR). For this method, you patiently sit back and allow the pressure to naturally escape, which can take 20-30 minutes, depending on the contents inside the cooker.
The second method, known as Quick Release, involves rapid steam emission all at once, and hence, the pressure inside the pot falls swiftly.
You need not worry about overcooking your food when utilising this method, as the speedy release of steam and heat will quickly halt the cooking process.
We noticed that some Instant Pot recipes call for a combination of both NPR and Quick Release. In this instance, after waiting around to allow for NPR, you would have to perform Quick Release to lower any remaining pressure before unsealing the pot.
Instant Pot Duo Review
Now that you’ve been acquainted with how the Instant Pot works from a technical perspective, we’d love to share our honest thoughts and experience with this kitchen gadget.
Before cashing in on this kitchen assistant, here’s what you should know about how well the Instant Pot fared.
Cooking functions and features
When we first took a good look at their control panel, our first thoughts were, “That’s a whole load of buttons.” But a whole load of buttons usually means a whole load of functions—and that’s true in this case.
The Instant Pot handles pretty much everything you can think of. You can cook soups, broths, stews, beans, chilli, vegetables, seafood, poultry, yoghurt, porridge, and rice, all using one device.
There are a bunch of preset cooking programs that do most of the thinking and planning for you. These pre-programmed functions require you to choose from three modes: Less, Normal, and More.
For instance, if you were to select the ‘Meat/Stew’ program, different results will be delivered based on the mode you choose as follows:-
- Less: Soft meat
- Normal: Even softer texture
- More: Fall-off-the-bone results
The different preset modes can also be selected based on the type of food you cook. For example, if you were to choose the ‘Steam’ program, each mode will cater to different groups of ingredients as follows:-
- Less: Vegetables
- Normal: Seafood, fish
- More: Meat
With so many different cooking programs, the options are limitless. We loved the versatility and the number of food items we could cook using a single kitchen appliance. More often than not, the results turned out as expected when we followed the instructions delivered via the manual and online recipes we found.
The only program that requires more thinking and planning is the Pressure Cook function, which allows you to manually set the pressure level and cooking duration based on your recipe.
Because the Instant Pot can essentially replace a host of other kitchen gadgets, we say it’s worth its price tag—but only if you know how to use it.
Unfortunately, in our opinion, using the Instant Pot didn’t feel intuitive. At least for us, there was a lot of prior familiarisation and reading of instructional materials performed before we felt confident operating this machine.
Plus, we were a little anxious while waiting for the meal to cook, mainly because the opaque housing and lid did not allow for any midway monitoring.
Once you get the hang of things, though, cooking becomes more of a breeze.
How about the app?
The Instant Pot app ultimately holds over 1000+ recipes for the Instant Pot and other company products. The app is rather user-friendly, and each recipe is accompanied by a complete ingredient list, scaled based on the serving size you select.
In our opinion, the instructions provided are neat and easy to follow, plus they even come with a timer to help you keep track of the cooking process.
These instructions will inform you of which buttons and settings to select and when to add certain ingredients to the pot. There is also information provided on the type of pressure release method to use based on the recipe.
But whether or not the recipes turn out fantastic is a whole different ball game. User comments reveal that the results aren’t the best for certain recipes in taste and texture. Hence, you may want to give the comments a read before deciding on which recipe to create.
But here’s the best part about using the Instant Pot for meal prep. You can literally cook up an entire meal with some meat, veggies, and rice, all in one pot. In our books, that’s an impressive convenience boost.
For instance, we tried whipping up a batch of sautéed chicken with basmati rice using just the Instant Pot.
What we did was sauté the chicken thighs first. Then, we deglazed the pot and added chicken stock and rice before placing the cooked chicken on top. We sealed the lid and selected the pressure cooking program.
It turned out beautifully, and the texture of the basmati rice was perfect. In short, yes, the Instant Pot can produce great results, as long as you know what you’re doing.
And what we like is having fewer pots, pans, and utensils to wash up. Seeing how the Instant Pot can whip up various one-pot meals, we’re sold (mostly)!
We recommend following recipes or guides online if you’re new to the Instant pot, because rustling up complete meals in a single pot (veggies, meat, etc.) will require some planning and detailed instructions on which cooking program to select throughout the preparation process.
For certain types of food, such as stew, soups, or rice, it’s a set-and-forget kind of device. Plus, the keep warm function will ensure your meal is hot and ready to consume, even if the cooking process ended hours ago.
We’ll say it upfront. The Instant Pot can drastically reduce cooking time.
Putting things into perspective, cooking rice using your basic rice cooker takes an average of 25-35 minutes, depending on how much you cook. In contrast, cooking rice using an Instant Pot only requires 8-15 minutes. That’s more than half the standard cooking time docked off.
But here’s the catch—while cooking time is reduced, this differs from the total time taken for the entire cooking cycle to elapse.
The Instant Pot is, in essence, a pressure cooker, meaning you’ll also have to take into account the time it takes for the cooker to come to pressure, in addition to the time it takes to release pressure so you can unseal the lid.
Ultimately, if you’d like your meal to be ready in minutes, this isn’t quite possible. The cooker takes an average of 5-15 minutes to come to pressure before the cooking timer begins. Once this cooking phase ends, you’ll need to wait for the pressure to decline, which could take 20-30 minutes if using the NPR method.
But, this doesn’t mean that the Instant Pot cannot save cooking time at all.
For example, cooking stew in a slow cooker may require 8-10 hours before you achieve a juicy, tender, and fall-of-the-bone texture. On the flip side, the total duration for the entire cooking cycle is just reduced to an hour plus to two using an Instant Pot, though this may vary based on the mode selected.
In a nutshell, the Instant Pot can save cooking time, though this depends on the type of meals you’re making.
The capacity of the Instant Pot gives it extra brownie points in terms of convenience, no questions asked. Truth be told, if you’re always batch cooking for meal prep, this may be an indispensable kitchen assistant.
Based on their Amazon page, the Instant Pot comes in three different sizes: 3, 6, and 8 quarts. The 3-quart pot cooks for up to 3 people, the 6-quart for 6, and the 8-quart for 8. Depending on how many people you meal prep for, the 6 or 8-quart Instant Pot should suffice.
What we got was the 6-quartz one. It’s already pretty huge and is large enough for batch cooking.
Unfortunately, a large capacity device is almost always bulky—and this is proven true again with this kitchen gadget.
Ease of use
Was the Instant Pot user-friendly? A beginner’s first time on the Instant Pot may not be a very smooth-sailing experience. The good news is that their company has developed comprehensive and detailed user manuals that cater specifically to different models, but this is only of great help if you actually read the manual.
As mentioned earlier, there are a whole bunch of buttons to press, a feature that can be likened to a double-edged sword. More buttons equals more functions. But unfortunately, more buttons also equals more confusion.
If you jump right into using the Instant Pot without reading up on any instructions, manuals, or guides beforehand, you may not get the final results you desire. Plus, taking safety into account, it’s best to read up on how you can operate this device carefully.
With great power comes great responsibility. Because the Instant Pot gives you the ability to cook just about anything utilising its phenomenal range of functions, it’s best to prep yourself beforehand. We don’t want disaster unfolding in the kitchen.
The cleanup process is relatively simple, especially since the inner pot is dishwasher safe. However, some users have reported instances of liquid or small food particles ejected from the release vent. If you’re relying solely on the NPR method, this won’t be an issue.
However, using the Quick Release method on foods such as porridge may cause viscous liquids to spurt out and block the steam release vent, which is an extra mess to handle. Hence, we don’t recommend using Quick Release on foods with high liquid or starch content.
When using the Instant Pot long-term, you may want to give it a thorough cleanup from time to time. You can remove the silicone sealing ring to give it a good clean and combat lingering smells. Additionally, you may also want to clean around the lip of the base and wipe both the exterior and interior down with a slightly damp cloth to remove crumbs and stains.
According to the company, the Instant Pot is equipped with over 10 safety features. One safety mechanism involves the float valve. When the pressure in the pot has reached a certain level, the float valve pops up, and the lid will be locked in place.
Once the pressure reduces after cooking has ended, the float valve drops back down, and only then will you be able to unseal the lid. This helps prevent inadvertent misuse and reduces the risk of harm, injury, or damage to the cooker.
But does this mean the Instant Pot is completely safe? Well, there’s a lot of instructions in the manual regarding safety assurance, and we recommend giving those a read before you operate the Instant Pot for the first time.
There’s a bunch of dos and don’ts. For instance, you cannot use the sauté function with the lid on, and even with the lid completely off, you can only use that program for a maximum limit of 30 minutes.
As a piece of practical advice, it’s best to use mittens when turning the steam venting knob as the sudden release of hot steam from the vent may lead to burns. Also, ensure that you place the Instant Pot in a suitable location while cooking, preferably with nothing hanging above it. This ensures the pressurised ejection of steam from the vent would not wet or damage furniture.
And yes, you might be startled by a sudden and loud hissing sound when opening the manual steam vent—we experienced it ourselves. The rapid release of hot steam emits this noise, and it is a normal part of the process, especially if you’re using the Quick Release method for depressurisation.
Overall, how did the Instant Pot fare?
We enjoyed the convenience the Instant Pot offers. If you were to familiarise yourself with using this kitchen appliance, you’d be able to rustle up various types of meals in large batches. The Instant Pot can save time if you utilise it for dishes with a longer-duration cooking cycle, such as stews and soups.
Nonetheless, we highly recommend reading the manual provided or searching up online guides on how you can safely and efficiently put this cooking gadget to good use. There is a truckload of recipes specifically crafted for Instant Pot meals, so you’re bound to find a recipe guide that caters well to your tastebuds!
Other Instant Pot Models
The Instant Pot Duo is the most basic model of the lot. Its counterparts are equipped with additional functions and features, though of course, these comes paired with a more extravagant price tag.
Upon landing on their Amazon store page, you’ll be greeted with a few other models. These include the Instant Pot Duo Crisp and Air Fryer and the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus 10-in-1. The Instant Pot Duo 60 (R2D2) Star Wars Multicooker shares similar features with the Instant Pot Duo, except that its exterior has been aesthetically elevated with a limited edition Star Wars design.
What’s the difference between the Instant Pot Duo and The Instant Pot Duo Nova?
Firstly, the Instant Pot Duo and Duo Nova do not come with the function for air frying, sterilisation, or sous vide.
The following are some major differences between the two:
- There is a 10-quart version for Duo Nova but not for Duo.
- The Duo Nova package includes two silicone sealing rings, while the Duo only includes one.
- The Duo Nova comes with an automatic-sealing lid function while the Duo doesn’t.
- The Duo Nova comes with a steam release button, while the Duo comes with a manual steam release valve. With the Duo Nova, pressure can be released with the push of a button.
- The Duo Nova is more expensive than the Duo, though the difference isn’t stark.
They both offer the same cooking functions and programs, but the added advantageous features of Duo Nova may render any extra cost worthwhile.