Why you should purchase an instant pot multicooker
Multicookers make cooking so easy! Not only do they safe tons of space in your kitchen by combining up to 11 different appliciances into one, but they can also get your food on the table much faster with pressure cooking and make food prepping much easier.
What is an Instant Pot?
The short answer: The Instant Pot is a convenient multi-cooking machine that lets you cook fast or slow.
The longer answer: Because the Instant Pot is a countertop electric pressure cooker and slow cooker wrapped up in one (with a bonus sauté function, no less), it's designed to help you remove the guesswork of figuring out the ideal amount of heat, pressure, and time your food needs. It's great for beginner cooking and simple meals, like stews and oatmeal. But once you get more comfortable with the machine, it's excellent for tougher cuts of meat like baby back ribs or proteins that usually require a long cook time. With a willingness for some trial and error, many recipes can be adapted for the Instant Pot. Generally speaking, when adapting for pressure cooking, the liquid and cook time will need to be cut and adjusted from those of a manual pressure cooker. For slow-cooking, you'll need to adjust for less liquid and more time.
Instant Pots are a brand of electric pressure cookers or multicookers. Pressure cookers work by creating heat under a tight seal, so the temperature is much higher than the boiling point of water and the steam can't escape. The steam cooks food much more quickly than traditional stovetop or oven cooking.
“It's like a Crock Pot on steroids,” says Brittany Williams, founder and creator of Instant Loss and author of Instant Loss: Eat Real, Lose Weight . “You can put everything in there and walk away.”
What's the best size Instant Pot?
Note that throughout our testing, we evaluated models in the 6-quart size. We think the 6-quart Instant Pot is the most practical option because it's big enough for a decent-size batch of chicken soup or chili without hogging too much counter space. That being said, the 8-quart model is great for large families or for those who love to meal prep.
How to Choose Between an Instant Pot and a Crock-Pot?
Both kitchen appliances have a lot in common here's how to choose one.
If you've ever wondered what the difference is between an Instant Pot and Crock-Pot, then you're not alone. They're both crazy popular kitchen appliances that help make cooking more hands-off. Even though they technically have a lot in common, there are a few key differences that make them unique. Since no one wants to waste their valuable counter space.
Instant Pot is a popular multi-cooker brand known for its time- and space-saving appliances. In 2010, the brand launched its very first product in order to help people with busy lives get food on the table, fast. This made pressure cooking more accessible to the average person.
Now, the Instant Pot has a cult following of people who swear it changed their lives — and there are almost 30,000 5-star Amazon reviews to prove it. They're fast, efficient, and multi-functional, and have performed well in all of our lab tests (the Duo is our top pick for pressure cookers). Not only do our Kitchen Appliance experts love Instant Pots, but so does our audience: they're often one of the most popular multicookers in the world!
Instant Pots are multi-functional. While many people simply think of IPs as electric pressure cookers, but they can also slow cook, steam, warm, sauté, and work as a rice cooker in addition to pressure cooking. The main function, pressure cooking, cooks food by raising the boiling point of water and trapping steam in order to reduce cook time. Plus, they come with a stainless steel inner pot, which is a material designed to heat up quickly.
Is an Instant Pot good for slow cooking? Yes — technically an Instant Pot can replace a Crock-Pot. Just keep in mind that the results will be a bit different."Using the slow cooker function on an Instant Pot cooked food in the same amount of time as a Crock-Pot — but the results were a little drier," says Nicole Papantoniou, senior testing editor and producer in our Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab.
What can you make in an Instant Pot? our experts recommend using it for things like soups, rice, steel-cut oats, and soaking dried beans (all of which make the appliance great for meal prep!). And that's just the beginning — our Test Kitchen made recipes specifically for the Instant Pot, and GH even has an Instant Pot cookbook available on Amazon! Tons of food bloggers have also taken advantage of the rise in popularity by dedicating their time to creating Instant Pot recipes and videos. You'll never be short on meal ideas!
Time: While both appliances save time, they do so in two completely opposite ways. Crock-Pots are great for busy people, early birds, and those who like to plan ahead. Just throw ingredients together in the morning and come home to a finished meal that slow cooked all day. (That's why they're called "set it and forget it" appliances.) Instant Pots are great for last-minute people and night owls who can use the pressure cook function after work to get a hot meal on the table in a matter of minutes.
Size: Not everyone has the space for large countertop appliances. Instant Pots typically come in three sizes: 3-quart, 6-quart, and 8-quart. Our pros say 6-quart is best for most people, but 3-quart is a good option if you live alone, and 8-quart is perfect for larger families.
Ease of use: Instant Pots have more functions, which might seem confusing to someone with no multi-cooker experience. It takes a bit of getting used to, but there are plenty of online recipes and tutorials that help make the learning adjustment easier. Traditional Crock-Pots only have a high-medium-low dial, which is much more straightforward, but is also quite limiting.
Instant Pot vs. Crock-Pot Performance
Here's what we found when we reviewed the cooking modes these appliances have in common.
Pressure cooker: On pressure-cook mode, both appliances turned out tender baby back ribs in about 54 minutes much faster than the 2 hours the ribs took in the oven. “If you want ribs to have a crispy crust, you'll need to finish off the ribs after pressure-cooking with a coating of barbecue sauce and bake them in an oven for about 15 minutes,” says Bernie Deitrick, the CR test engineer who conducted our multi-cooker tests.
Slow cooker: The Instant Pot and Crock-Pot Express Crock both served up pulled pork that was tender and delicious after a day's cooking. In earlier tests, the Instant Pot took a bit longer than pork cooked in a traditional Crock-Pot slow cooker. (Check our “ Instant Pot vs. Big Green Egg: Ultimate Pulled Pork Face-Off Rice cooker: Both cookers did a fine job cooking 2 cups of brown rice in roughly 45 minutes.
Steamer: Our broccoli-and-carrot medleys turned out a bit mushy. “That's because these cookers use a pressure-steam process, and the lid is locked during cooking, making it difficult to check for your preferred tenderness,” Deitrick says.
Sautéing: Neither multi-cooker has the power to sear well, so our sauté test preparing Kung Pao chicken didn't show much browning compared with chicken cooked on a stovetop. Still, the results were tasty. The Crock-Pot's nonstick cooking surface made cleanup easier than the Instant Pot's uncoated stainless steel.
Yogurt: Here's where we saw a difference in the two cookers. Using the recipes recommended for each machine, we found that the Instant Pot made slightly thicker yogurt than the Crock-Pot in our tests.
Warming: You can cook pasta, for example, on your rangetop, then transfer the food to the multi-cooker and use its warming mode to keep the dish warm for dinner or a party. Both the Instant Pot and the Crock-Pot Express Crock stayed in the safe hot-food range during our test's 4-hour time period.
The Crock-Pot's keep-warm mode runs for up to 4 hours, though it's easy enough to restart when the time is up. The Instant Pot's warming function is claimed to allow you to keep food warm for up to 24 hours, though our food-safety experts say that after 4 hours of warming, food can begin to lose its flavor.
Safety: If you remember the tragic This Is Us episode, then you might be worried about potential dangers of these kitchen appliances. Just know that both Instant Pots and Crock-Pots are safe to be left alone when used as directed. People are sometimes scared of releasing the steam from an Instant Pot, but you shouldn't be! Just make sure to use tongs (not your bare hands) to move the nozzle. For both Instant Pots and Crock-Pots, Papantoniou recommends following these safety precautions:
- Always leave enough clearance from the wall
- Keep them away from water sources (like the sink)
- Place them on a heat-proof surface (avoid wood and cutting boards)
There’s still some overlap when comparing an Instant Pot vs a Crock-Pot, depending on which model you're talking about. Just remember that all Instant Pots are multi-cookers, which mean they slow cook and pressure cook, and Crock-Pots are usually only slow cookers.
Our verdict: If you only care about slow cooking, then go for a Crock-Pot. Want to choose between slow cooking and pressure cooking in one appliance? Then you're better off with an Instant Pot.
Which Model to Choose?
There are some small differences in the controls and the default settings, but these multi-cookers performed similarly in our tests.
If you want to save some money, prefer easier cleanup from a nonstick inner pot, and don't mind a thinner yogurt, the Crock-Pot Express might be the better choice.
There is one consideration that falls outside our testing: The massive Instant Pot community of users, including online and cookbook authors who share countless recipes that were developed specifically for the Instant Pot. These recipes can offer new users a lot of confidence.
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