The Secret To Saving A Ton Of Money & Making Healthy Dinners In Minutes
In the last two years, the Instant Pot has gone from a virtually unknown product to the center of a veritable cottage industry, with countless cookbooks, YouTube channels, and Instagram accounts devoted to the electric pressure cooker. First of all, let's note that that's all the Instant Pot is—a very well-designed, effective electric pressure cooker, a version of a product that's been around (albeit often problematically) for decades.
Why, then, has the Instant Pot inspired such fan fervor? According to best-selling author and chef J. Kenji Lopez Alt, the brand made a quality product, and "then [got it] into the hands of as many bloggers and professional food writers as possible and let the word spread from there."
But is it worth the money? What's the best way to use it? It's time to get to know your Instant Pot.
What is an Instant Pot?
As I noted above, an Instant Pot is simply an electric pressure cooker, meaning that many of the tips that follow will work with any programmable electric pressure cooker (or, with some fiddling, an old-fashioned stovetop pressure cooker—ask your grandma, she might have one lying around). The Instant Pot markets itself as a seven-in-one device, with the ability to slow cook, pressure cook, cook rice, steam, sauté, make yogurt, and keep food warm. The device features a hot plate on the bottom and a metal pot that fits in the machine. With the lid off, the hot plate can brown food; once the lid is locked in place and high or low pressure is applied, the rest of the functions come into play, with the remaining variations involving the time the food will spend in the machine.
What's the best Instant Pot model to buy?
There are roughly 20 different Instant Pot models, which largely differ in size and the amount of automatic cooking programs offered, with a few fancy tech upgrades. By and large, the 6-quart Instant Pot Duo is a great choice for most home cooks (larger families can upgrade to the 8-quart, while couples or small-apartment dwellers can go for the tiny 3-quart model). The Duo lacks a few of the more high-end offerings of more expensive models, but features like egg cooking, cake-making, and sterilization will be lost on most basic users. And unlike the cheaper Lux, the Duo can make yogurt (and trust: once you realize how easy it is to make homemade yogurt, you'll be hooked) and switch between high- and low-pressure setting, a must for many recipes.
What are the best ways to use an Instant Pot to enhance a healthy lifestyle?
mbg class instructor and podcast guest Steven Gundry, M.D., has made waves with his views on lectins, which he says are responsible for many people's gut issues. "Lectins are proteins that seek out specific sugar molecules and attach to the surface of cells. According to the CDC, 20 percent of all food-poisoning cases are caused by lectins in undercooked beans. They bind to the surface of our gut and actually force open the tight junctions between the cells, which leads to leaky gut," Gundry explained.
When you pressure-cook legumes, though, the lectins are destroyed. Making your chickpeas or beans in an Instant Pot, then, might be one of the best ways to protect your gut health. As a bonus, you don't need to pre-soak legumes before pressure-cooking them—and purchasing dried legumes in the bulk section of your local grocery store is significantly cheaper than buying the precooked, canned kind.
To make chickpeas or beans in a pressure cooker, just add 6 cups of water and 1 pound of dried legumes. Move the valve to "sealing," then cook on high pressure for 50 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally (rather than moving the valve). Drain any remaining cooking liquid. That's it! The cooked chickpeas can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Make frozen meat for dinner—tonight.
Here at mbg, we're all about choosing the highest quality meat possible, for the health of both your own body and the environment. The only problem? The easiest way to procure that meat is often through online delivery services like ButcherBox or Thrive Market. They both ship grass-fed and -finished beef, pastured chicken, and wild-caught salmon directly to your door, but the meat comes frozen, and it's often easiest to keep it that way, lest you risk your dinner going bad in the abyss of the fridge before you even have the chance to make it. The Instant Pot lets you cook meat directly from frozen in under an hour, meaning you can keep your mail-ordered goodies in the freezer until the day you're ready to eat it. You may need to add a little bit of time to what's specified in the recipe, but other than that, just chuck your meat into the pot and go! One note: All pressure and slow cookers are best for falling-apart meat (think short ribs, not a perfectly seared steak), so choose your recipes and set your expectations accordingly.
Make your own yogurt.
Dairy-free yogurt is surging in popularity these days—but the Instant Pot makes it super-easy to make your own version at home. You simply add coconut cream or coconut milk to the pot (cream makes for a thicker yogurt). Put the lid on the Instant Pot, then press the "Yogurt" button, adjusting until it reads "boil." After it boils, it'll beep; open the lid and let the temperature decrease to 115°F. Whisk in some powdered probiotics (you can crack open a supplement and pour the contents into the coconut cream or milk; in general, you'll want two capsules for every 13.5-ounce can). Secure the lid and press the "Yogurt" button again, adjusting the time to read 15 to 36 hours (15 will make yogurt, but the longer you let it ferment, the more probiotics your yogurt will have). If you'd like your yogurt to be a bit thicker, you can also whisk some grass-fed gelatin into the finished product, then let it chill completely—the gelatin will set and help the yogurt be more like the kind you're used to finding in stores.
Want more Instant Pot goodness? Here are a few of our favorite Instant Pot recipes.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.