For all of the busy mums (and dads!) out there that find it a constant struggle to cook healthy meals from scratch whilst trying to juggle looking after the children, the instant pot might be the gadget you’ve been missing all along. I didn’t ever think that I would be the type of person to be writing rave reviews about kitchen gadgets but the instant pot has truly been a game-changer for me.
I have always been an advocate of quick meals I can stick in the oven and walk away from while they cook. And even more so now that I have two young children. I have a huge admiration for people that take pride in their cooking and love the idea of stirring and tweaking their favourite dish to perfection on a Saturday afternoon. But that’s never been me!
Lots of my friends have asked me about the instant pot so I thought I’d pull together a blog post explaining how the instant pot has turned me into a healthy, home cook whizz. Since buying the instant pot a few months ago, I’ve amazed myself (and my family!) by creating home-made soups, stews, risottos and curries. During the lockdown period, the instant pot has helped me make tasty meals out of whatever vegetables, meat or grains were available at the time. I wanted to share these superpowers with you all too.
This article contains affiliate links which means that if you click and add items to your basket, when you checkout a small percentage comes back to me. This helps me invest in the blog and means I don’t have to rely on adverts to keep the blog running. I mention two local nutrition experts in the post too – Jenny Tschiesche and Janet Padfield. I’m not working with them but wanted to give a genuine endorsement.
What is an instant pot and why do I need one?
The instant pot is a multi-function cooking device. You plug it in at the wall and it sits on your counter-top, just like a slow cooker or soup maker. The big difference is that it can do more than one thing. You can use it as a slow cooker, you can make soups and you can also cook things in an ‘instant’ by using the pressure cook function. You may have memories of pressure cookers from the 1970s or have read about how dangerous they were. These pressure cookers were used on the stove which made it much harder to regulate temperature and pressure.
The modern-day instant pots have pressure valves and digital sensors to cook things to perfection in a short amount of time. It was the promise of short cooking times, and also the rave reviews from local nutritionist Jenny Tschiesche that convinced me to give it a go.
Having owned one for a few months, I now have a much better understanding of why it has such a cult following America and why so many of us here in the UK are making it a part of our lives.
8 ways the instant pot will change the way you feel about cooking healthy family meals
- When you cook food under pressure it tastes fantastic. You’ll be able to taste the super sweet flavours of vegetables and meat will be beautifully tender without having to cook it for hours on end.
- You don’t need to splurge on lots of exotic ingredients to get great flavours. Pressure cooking the ingredients makes the magic happen and even after ten or fifteen minutes. You can create a curry or stew that tastes like it’s been cooked for hours.
- Many of the recipes for instant pot are ‘add and run’ – you put them in the pot, tell it how long to cook and then walk away. When it’s finished it will click onto the ‘keep warm’ function. This means that I can start cooking a meal and then go and read a book at bedtime with my kids safe in the knowledge that dinner is cooking and won’t burn or spoil if I get distracted by bedtime negotiations with the kids.
- As a dairy intolerant person, a huge win for me is that I can make so many tasty dishes that don’t need dairy. I use coconut oil or olive oil to saute and have found that the richness of flavours means that I don’t feel like I’m ‘missing something’ from the recipes.
- It doesn’t make the kitchen smell! If you’re making a curry, the action all takes place inside the sealed pot so you don’t get that kind of ‘kitchen takeover’ of smells that you get when you’re cooking something from scratch on the hob. When you release the pressure the flavours and smells are released at the end instead. Likewise, you won’t need your oven on all day so it’s quite energy-efficient too.
- I don’t waste as much food. If I spot that a pack of chicken breasts or mince is about to go off but we have already cooked something else for tea that night, I find a simple ‘add and run’ recipe and turn it into a curry or stew which I can freeze in batches.
- You don’t need to use multiple pots and pans. You can saute onions and spices in the instant pot, then add in your stock, meat and vegetables and then set to cook. All in one pot!
- It’s easy to keep clean. When you’ve finished cooking you can remove the stainless-steel inner pot and put it in the dishwasher. You can even remove the silicone sealing ring and wash that in the dishwasher too.
You can read more about the instant pot I use on Amazon here.
What can you cook in the instant pot?
With a mix of functions, you can use the instant pot to cook porridge, yoghurt, rice, meat joints, soups, curries, chilli, casseroles, stews and lots more. The top of the range version can also be used a steriliser for baby’s bottles.
I’m not an ambitious cook so I haven’t explored all the functions on the instant pot yet but there are a few tried and tested recipes that I love.
You can find thousands of recipes on the internet but many of them are on American websites which can mean slightly confusing measurements and ingredients.
My bible throughout my instant pot adventures has been Jenny’s ‘Modern multi-cooker cookbook’. I found that her recipes mostly used simple, readily available herbs and spices, and when there were new ingredients to add to my stock cupboard she used them in multiple recipes in the book so I don’t have lots of curious bottles languishing in my fridge. The image below was taken at an Instant Pot workshop with Jenny – she has lots of useful tips on her Facebook page too.
Not only am I dairy-free, but I have been reducing the amount of added sugar in my diet after visiting another local nutritionist at her clinic (Janet Padfield from Apples to Zinc is amazing!) and I was pleased to find that Jenny’s recipes supported the same principles that I had learned from Janet. Some recipe books (Jamie Oliver, I’m looking at you!) seem to have oodles of salt, sugar and fats in every recipe, but the recipes in Jenny’s book are all very well thought out in terms of nutrition and will help keep you fuller for longer. They are also suitable for gluten intolerants or coeliacs.
I downloaded the book onto my iPad with my Kindle app which means that I can see the recipes in the kitchen with my iPad, but also that I have the recipes with me when I am in the supermarket and can’t remember which ingredients I need! Having recently attended one of Jenny’s instant pot workshops, I now have the hard copy of the book too which is handy to flick through for inspiration.
You can buy a hardcopy of her book here.
You can get the kindle version here.
Here are my current favourite instant pot meals:
- Cauliflower, white sweet potato and chorizo soup – cook on High pressure for 5 minutes, super tasty with some sourdough toast on the side.
- Carrot and ginger soup with tomatoes – cook on high pressure for 6 minutes
- Beef Bolognese – cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. You can even do a version with the pasta cooking at the same time in the pot with the beef which you cook for 7 minutes on high pressure
- Chicken and bacon risotto – cook on rice for 12 minutes (no need to painstakingly add liquid bit by bit as you cook!)
- And my absolute favourite simple, speedy recipe – Chicken Tikka Masala. Simply add a chopped onion, spices, chicken breast and passata into the pot and cook on ‘Poultry’ for 15 minutes. You then add coconut milk in at the end to make it extra creamy.
Remember that you will need to allow some time for your instant pot to get to full pressure before it starts your allocated cooking time and that some recipes need you to let it release the pressure slowly after cooking which can take 15-20 minutes. But even so, this slow pressure release is something it will do automatically – you can be in another room getting on with something else while it slowly lets out steam.
Where to buy an instant pot
You can get an instant pot from some of the larger retailers like John Lewis or you can get it from Amazon. Amazon often have special offers and lightening deals available. There are lots of variants of instant pot with different sizes and some have more functions than others so I’ve shared a bit about the version I have to help you decide which one would work best for you.
I have the instant pot 5.7L l which I bought from Amazon. It often goes into lightning deals so perhaps add one to your basket and watch the price! Jenny will often share when it gets discounted on her ‘ Lunchbox Doctor’ Facebook page too.
You can buy it here on Amazon.
I find this size is large enough for us as a family of four. I can cook a big batch of soup and I have left-overs after most meals. If you’re a large family or have older kids that are more interested in trying out tasty dishes then you might need the larger size.
What do you need to know before buying an instant pot?
While I can honestly say it has changed the way I cook forever, here are a few things you might like to consider:
- The instant pot will need some counter-top space. It’s pretty heavy so you don’t really want to be lugging it in and out of cupboards every time you use it.
- When you cook with it, make sure that it isn’t tucked under a wall unit as when you release the pressure vent you will be sending plumes of hot steam in the air – not great near to electrical sockets or under wall units or shelves.
- Whilst the cooking times are amazing, you will need time for it to get to pressure point and time for it to release pressure after it has finished cooking.
- To reach pressure and not burn the food inside, the instant pot needs to have the exact balance of liquid inside. This is usually a minimum of 250ml of water, but you can use less if you have vegetables with a high-water content like mushrooms. To begin with, it is definitely easier to follow tried and tested recipes rather than invent your own.
- Once the machine is cooking at pressure, you can’t take the lid off to take a look at what’s happening so you need to have faith in the recipes that you are using as you won’t be able to see or taste what is cooking until it has cooked and you have released the pressure at the end.
So there you have it – I hope that you join me on an instant pot adventure and a world of fuss-free healthy meals begins!