We finally moved into a house with enough counter space to experiment with a pressure cooker (Ninja brand that is a ripoff of the popular Instant Pot). Most of the recipes that I have tried called for a “quick release” of the pressure. If you don’t do this, it takes perhaps 30 minutes for the pressure to bleed off naturally and the food will be overcooked (also, it won’t save any time compared to using the stovetop or legacy oven).
If you do open the quick release valve, however, the kitchen gets filled with an aerosol spray of whatever was inside the pressure cooker. If the goal is mac and cheese on a plate, the result is aerosol milk and water filling the kitchen and settling on the surfaces.
The CDC says that anything aerosol can be defeated by wearing the simplest of cloth masks, but my experience is that Formula 409 and paper towels are required. At that point, how was any time or effort saved compared to stovetop cooking?
It seems possible that slow-cooker recipes, e.g., for stews, could be accelerated via pressure cooking even if we account for a natural dissipation of the pressure at the end.
- Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the successful asylum-seeker who waged jihad with pressure cooker bombs in Boston in 2013 (we can’t blame Putin because the Russians told us that his brother was going to wage jihad and our FBI decided that their judgment was superior)
32 thoughts on “Is Instant Pot cooking stupid or am I?”
I have the original Instant Pot, and I am really happy with the things I used it for. This is four things: cooking rice, oatmeals, stews, and stock. For everything else it is pointless. For example, if you want to cook potatoes, you a) don’t have fine control over how much they’re cooked, so it’s easy to overcook, b) it only draws 1000W, so the fact that pressure cooking phase is faster doesn’t mean much to me if it takes much longer to get the water to boil in the first place c) using natural release it takes way too long to bother.
For the things I mentioned above (rice, oats, stew, stock), it actually works quite great. I don’t mind the spray, as it’s mostly just water steam for rice and oats, and you can use natural release for stews and stock (they cook very long anyway). But for other things, it’s pointless. I used it once for yoghurt, and it actually worked out quite alright, too bad I don’t like yoghurt.
> ocooking … oatmeals
Easiest oatmeal (no cooking): mix 1 part slow-oats + 1 part water + 0.5 parts milk. Put in fridge overnight. Ready to eat in the morning.
You could put a kitchen towel over the quick release vent.
PhilH: That sounds like a good idea, but then the purportedly time-saving pressure cooking results in a time-wasting laundry task. (I actually have been trying to cover the vent with paper towels, but the intensity of the spray is too extreme.)
Sounds like you’re filling it too full when you do mac and cheese? I use mine for hard cooking eggs.
An explosion is generated with one package of pasta and four cups of water (the recipe). The device is supposed to hold 6.5 quarts. It spits dirty water out the relief valve even when one is following recipes that came with the device.
My grandmother used them regularly to make soups and stews including cabbage, rice dishes, and probably a few other things I don’t remember well. But she also had a completely separate kitchen in the basement where the pressure cooker lived most of the time, and I seem to remember her calling my grandfather so he could take the pressure cooker, open the basement door, and vent it. “Don’t drop the thing!”
I don’t remember whether she did lobsters with them, but lobsters and steamed clams were on the regular menu when we’d visit, so I’ll ask my Dad. My mother uses hers maybe three times a year.
Here’s one recipe for what purports to be Julia Child’s recipe for French Onion soup prepared in a pressure cooker (QUICK Vent method! So open the back door and get out there on the patio!) I see no reason for them to lie.
Thanks, Alex. It is Florida so we could take it outside to vent after every cooking experiment. That’s a lot of lugging what is supposedly a convenience device!
@philg: You’re welcome. I think the amount of time saved is probably proportional to the past experience of the chef and what they’re choosing to cook, and why – along with how they want the food to taste. I got the impression from my grandmother that pressure cookers are great for some things, but there’s a real learning curve and a skill factor involved.
I’m confident that with some time and experimentation, your results will improve. She definitely used hers for a good reason, because otherwise she never would have spent the money to buy them. “Find Thyself a Teacher” – I think there are some good ideas in this thread.
@philg: If that doesn’t work and the machine just can’t do what it promises, the appliance you bought will continue to disappoint you and wind up as a waste of space, money, effort and time. Then we’re back to “decluttering” with Marie Kondo. Lol ;).
I notice that professional chefs working in high-end restaurants featured in YouTube videos seem to be very, very selective and careful about the equipment they use, and that makes a lot of sense. They don’t cook with just anything – they carefully choose the equipment, probably after having been disappointed and getting better advice. “Use the right tool for the job” so to speak. It sounds like this one is pretty dubious.
Alex: Everyone else seems to love these devices, which leads me to believe that the problem is user error!
@philg: This video really “brought home” the importance of reliable, familiar and trustworthy cooking equipment, whether it’s haute cuisine or street food.
This is a Chinese street restaurant in Japan. The flesh and bones of the owner are a living testament to his 40+ years of labor, and their small kitchen works like a machine. Amazing. I would never – EVER! – disturb any of this man’s cooking implements. Near the end of the video, the elder man says that his doctors told him to retire, but he still works 12 hours a day.
There ain’t no quiet quitting or equipment marketing hype here.
@alex: this is exactly the kind of “uneducated” Phil works vigorously to keep out of his country.
Also Phil admitted a cloth barrier can prevent particles from splattering around? What a hypocrite of insane proportions!
Also takes the time to identify and re-label posters but is too cowardly too respond w/ substance. Typcial.
AA: Complaining from Australia about strict immigration policies takes a cognitive dissonance of monumental proportions.
Perhaps the Great Firewall of Australia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_censorship_in_Australia#Terminology) could protect you from this harmful content?
[Full disclosure: I’m posting this from Europe, which isn’t far behind with Internet censorship.]
Just catching up on this thread after a day of being out with the kids in Paris (a tremendous example of the negatives of human overpopulation! The line to get into the Louvre was about 3 hours long today… a MONDAY in OCTOBER. We cut the line by becoming Amis du Louvre members (120 euros), but once inside the kids hated the place due to the insane crowds. The museum really should be open 8 am to midnight daily so that people who don’t want to be in a Times Square-like environment can enjoy the art.)
Looking at AA’s comments… it is strange that he thinks using a kitchen towel to catch 85% of what is shooting out of the pressure cooker is an acceptable solution. As noted elsewhere, I don’t want to do laundry after each meal that I cook! The kitchen/paper towel approach doesn’t catch everything and there is always some boiling water that gets on your hands. But it is even stranger that he is passionate about open borders yet continues to live in Australia. Australia has an age limit for immigration of 44. People who apply must be skilled. Who don’t bother applying and show up in Australia are detained indefinitely (months or years for children, says https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/6-australias-immigration-detention-policy-and-practice ), sometimes pushed to offshore islands, etc. If AA thinks the only moral position to take regarding low-skill immigration is “tear down that wall”, he/she/ze/they should walk across the Rio Grande and claim asylum based on Australia’s intolerable immoral immigration policy that favors the young and skilled.
Also relevant is this article about the detention center where Djokovic (who introduced COVID-19 to Australia) was locked up:
We have original instant pot, and steam release doesn’t seem to spray content. It’s relatively mild and takes a bit to vent. (With this said, for mac and cheese I would let it settle for couple minutes, and then release, and with this said we make mac and cheese in microwave by putting cheese over pre-cooked pasta which we cook on the stove pot)
The InstaPot is a glorified slow cooker., which in general is a bad replacement for a Dutch oven. I have the InstaPot MAX that can hit higher temps and pressures similar to a stove top pressure cooker.
If you’re interested in what a real pressure cooker can do for you, I’d recommend the soup chapter in Modernist Cuisine at Home. Might have it at the library.
Chris: Our Ninja, which gets some high ratings, can supposedly draw up to 1460 watts, against only 1100 watts for the https://www.instanthome.com/product/instant-pot/max/6-quart-pressure-cooker (versus 1000 wats for https://www.instanthome.com/product/instant-pot/duo/6-quart-pressure-cooker-v5 )
Now that I am on the Instant Pot web site… https://www.instanthome.com/product/instant-pot/duo-plus/6-quart-pressure-cooker-v4 promises “whisper quiet steam release”. I wonder if that keeps the non-water-vapor components in the machine more so than the original one or our clone Ninja.
@PhilG – if your primary concern is food quality then the more relevant spec is the pressure (and consequently temp) that the device is operating at.
The Ninja Foodi has a max psi listed as 11.6 (boiling pt 240°F) and its low setting appears to be 7.2. Instapot Max gets to 15 (boiling pt 257°F). Stove top Kuhn Ricon can get up to 17psi.
There are sort of two goals when using a pressure cooker:
1. “Boil” things at a higher temp and consequently cook them faster. This is case for beans and grains or braising tough meat.
2. Create a Maillard reaction and enhance the flavor of the food your eating. This can be achieved in vegetables by making the solution a bit more alkaline. (By adding a touch of baking soda) Classic example is carrots. They become an entirely caramelized mass and make an amazing soup at higher temps.
It is hard to get #2 to happen at lower temps, which is why a Dutch oven works better. You can crack the lid slightly and the top of whatever is inside will brown over the 3hrs in the oven…
So basically, you have a machine that will function somewhere between a slow cooker and an actual pressure cooker, with trade offs in flavor creation. I think that anything that would fit into that category would either be better in a Dutch oven or an actual pressure cooker. There is a convenience factor to the set it and forget it controls, which is why I got the InstaPot MAX… I also have a stovetop pressure cooker.
Modernist Cuisine at Home does a good job of presenting this topic.
Regarding your steam release issue – I don’t have guidance on that. Kind of a pain. Annoys me too. Stove top pressure cooker with an induction burner is the best setup I’ve done. You just take it and run some warm water over the lid in the sink when you’re done.
@PhilG if you want things to try that would be decent… make curries, other soups, beef chuck roast, chicken thighs work, carnitas, tomato sauce (no meatballs), chicken stock if you’re into making that..
Things that boil or braise for a while. Remember the device bends the cooking curve by raising the temp that water boils at. If your food is submerged in water boiling at 100C then it will never get hotter that that until all of the water is boiled off… which isn’t going to happen for a soup. So the pressure allows you to raise that temp and speed things up.
Chicken breast and shrimp have no place in this device with the lid closed. That will be the driest/toughest meat you have eaten. Their done temps are much lower than 240F.
Indeed the quick release of the instant pot is more finicky than an old school pressure cooker. On my model, if you press the button lightly, the spraying happens less. If you want extremely fast quick release, you could get an old school pressure cooker. Under a minute in the sink and you are done.
Short ribs in about an hour instead of 3-4 via a braise in the stove. Same for chuck roast or corned beef.
You can use the sous vide function to make yogurt, the prep usually takes 3 hours as you bring the temp up slowly then let it cool.
Rice, grits, beans, green beans, and brassica veggies (cabbage, kale, cauliflower) cook much faster. under 10 minutes for the green veggies.
To stop the clean up damp a washcloth or paper towels and drape over the exhaust before you release.
As others have said, it’s ideal for faster cooking of tough proteins – so, stews, etc.
We usually just keep the IP on the stovetop and crank the vent hood when doing a quick-release. And/or put a dishtowel on top.
You should probably just learn to use a simple pressure cooker and bag the instant pot. I have used a pressure cooker for many years years and find it one of the most useful pieces of kitchen equipment. The natural release on mine takes 15 min from full pressure. Kuhn Rikon is generally considered the best though there is a Brazilian brand that is cheaper and supposed to be quite good too. I bought an instant pot during covid, probably because i was bored and thought it might make my life better — but I have never taken it out of its Amazon packaging because i dont know what I would use it for. One of the leading cooking writers, i forget who, said that the instant pot doesn’t do the slow cooking as well as the pressure cooker and is basically useless. That is my feeling too.
I think your knockoff is a bad one. I use the instant pot regularly (most often for beans), and have never once had anything come out the QR vent.
https://www.paintthekitchenred.com/instant-pot-natural-release-or-quick-release/ says “Doing an Instant Pot quick release when cooking foamy foods like grains or pasta can cause a big mess because the foam can spurt out of the pressure release valve.” So I don’t think it is a brand issue. The natural release idea sounds good, but if you must wait 10-15 minutes for the device to come up to pressure and then 15-30 minutes for an explosion-free “natural release”, how is any time being saved?
I’ve used an electric pressure cooker for 30 years, I always quick release, and only steam comes out. In the first year I tried to divert the steam, thinking it would form a spot of food pigmentation on the ceiling, but I stopped doing that and the ceiling looks fine. There is no strong odor from the stream either.
I don’t know much about the Instant Pot, but I’ve heard it isn’t a simple electric pressure cooker, but rather some sort of half-assed hybrid pressure cooker, rice cooker, crock pot, etc. Maybe you need to just buy a dedicated electric pressure cooker, or at least a branded Instant Pot.
Pressure cookers should be pretty big because you only fill them halfway up, and you need to have sufficient liquid in them. RTFM. When they stop cooking the food swimming in liquid is in the bottom half, and the top half is full of steam, which is made out of water, not milk. Food particles do not magically mix with the steam and come out of the top.
Your complaints fall into the category of what I call “You’d think they’d have solved that by now.” That’s what my brother-in-law always said when I would complain about something that revealed I didn’t know what I was talking about. He is a very polite Texan and would never tell me directly that I was an idiot. For instance, I got a motorcycle and was complaining that my hands and face were frozen in winter. He said gently wondered whether, if I went to a motorcycle shop, there might be gloves and face masks that would solve my problem, given that millions of people ride motorcycles in winter.
Instant Pot is a regular electric pressure cooker with some pre-programmed modes, so you don’t have to set time and power manually each time, although you can, if you want to.
The lion kingdom still can’t afford enough counter space for a toaster. Surely $5 million or whatever houses are this week includes an exhaust fan.
I’m sorry I’m late. We have a knock-off Insta-Pot-like device. I mainly use it for beans. The cookbooks I’ve read say that some foods can be quick release, and others should not. It sounds like macaroni may fall into that second category. But I don’t think macaroni takes that long to cook on the stove.
Truth be told, beans are another food that shouldn’t be quick release. But I never manage to wait for a complete natural release. I give it ten minutes or so, then open the valve. Stuff comes out, but it lands on the pot lid and doesn’t make much of a mess.
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