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Instant Pot Review: If You Buy One Kitchen Appliance, Buy This One

Everyone has that one friend who bought an Instant Pot and won’t shut up about how awesome it is and how you should get one—and they’re right. You should get one of these multi-function cookers and give it a permanent home in your kitchen.

If somehow you’ve missed the Instant Pot hype, here’s the run down: Instant Pot is a company that makes a series of multipurpose kitchen appliances that people rave about on account of their versatility. Today, we’re specifically looking at the DUO60 6 Quart model, which can function as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and more functions you’ll probably never use. But don’t worry—even if you just use your Instant Pot as a high tech pressure cooker you’ll get more than your money’s worth.

One Kitchen Gadget to Rule Them All

If you’ve only ever made food in the oven or on the stove, you’re missing out on a whole host of easy meals. One of the easiest ways to get a quality meal with minimal effort is to get a slow cooker. However, that’s a hefty gadget to devote to just one use case. And it’s not the only kind of single-use gadget that you can fill your kitchen with. Whether you want to save money or cabinet space, consolidating is a better option. Further, despite all the love slow cookers get from their fans, their detractors argue (rightfully so in many cases) that the slow cooker might be great for the lazy cook but it doesn’t do a perfect job with a lot of tasks people throw at it (and certainly not a fast job).

That’s where the Instant Pot comes in. You can use it as a slow cooker to make a juicy pot roast. You can also use it as a pressure cooker to make a some chicken and sausage paella. You can even use it as a rice cooker to make…well, rice. But it sure is handy to make a bunch of rice all at once to use in other recipes!

Even if there are other ways to make all of these things, having a single gadget that can do them all is immensely valuable. The Instant Pot can also be used to steam vegetables with the included steam rack, sauté vegetables, and even make yogurt. Okay, sure, you’re probably never going to make yogurt in the thing, but the fact that you can do so much with one device makes it worthwhile already.

If you have a small apartment or you’re just getting started buying stuff for your kitchen, it’s even better. Yeah, the $100 is an investment (though we’d recommend waiting for a deal as this gadget frequently goes on sale), but being able to sauté vegetables without needing a stove can be a godsend for anyone with limited living space.

The Holy Grail of Meal Prep: One-Pot Recipes

There are a bunch of presets to easily get started no matter what you’re cooking.

Getting one gadget that does several things is great, but it’s nothing new. The real value with an Instant Pot is in that most elegant of meal prep solutions: one-pot recipes. With these recipes, you can put all the ingredients in the Instant Pot, set the timer, and walk away. When you come back, you’ll have a meal all ready for you.

It’s hard to overstate how nice this is. In my house, for example, we like this super simple shrimp paella recipe. To make it, we throw some rice, chicken broth, shrimp, butter, parsley, and lemon juice, salt and pepper, and some garlic into the pot. I’ve obviously left off the proportions, but it really is that simple. It takes no more than a few minutes to prep. Then five minutes (plus the time it takes to build up pressure) later and I’ve got a meal.

You can choose between low and high pressure, and set the timer for your desired time. The Instant Pot comes with a guide for how long and what pressure to use to cook various types of food. There are presets for things like rice or poultry, but personally I rarely use them. Instead, I end up using manual mode, which defaults to high pressure and 30 minutes, then I adjust the timer from there. It’s also worth pointing out that in pressure cooker mode, the cook time starts as soon as the Instant Pot builds up pressure, so if you set it to cook for 10 minutes, it will take a little longer than that.

One-pot recipes are surprisingly versatile, too. The site Pressure Cooker Recipes has a whole section with recipes for everything from macaroni and cheese to chicken and rice, from chili to pork roast. Some require a little more effort than others, but they require a lot less active attention or prep than your typical meals.

The Maintenance Is Minimal, As Long As You Don’t Neglect It

This inner pot is a monster to clean. Soak it immediately.

Okay so you can buy one device that cooks all (or at least a lot) of your meals with minimal effort. There’s gotta be some downsides, right? Well, yeah. For starters, the Instant Pot uses an inner pot with zero non-stick coatings inside. The company touts this as a health benefit (which it sort of is, especially if you’re not actively watching your meal), but the result is that the inner pot is an absolute monster to clean if stuff gets burned on or you neglect to clean it up immediately.

If you leave the inner pot uncleaned after you cook a meal, there’s a very strong chance you’re going to spend an extra hour scraping tiny bits of food off the side. Sauce, rice, and especially cheese can get stuck on the sides extremely easily. The ideal way to deal with this is to start soaking the inner pot immediately after you’re done cooking.

The Instant Pot has a reputation for being one of the most versatile, useful devices you can put in your kitchen. After living with it for nearly two years, I can safely say it’s earned that reputation. Whether it’s making a one-pot meal in under an hour, or cooking a big batch of rice to use for the week, it adds a huge benefit to your cooking routine while taking up minimal counter space. If you’re going to purchase a single gadget for your kitchen counter this year, skip the single use gadgets and pick up an Instant Pot.

Eric Ravenscraft Eric Ravenscraft
Eric Ravenscraft has nearly a decade of writing experience in the technology industry. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, PCMag, The Daily Beast, Geek and Sundry, and The Inventory. Read Full Bio »