Remember when the “must-have” present to receive for your birthday or the holidays was a stuffed animal of a fictitious species, like a Furby, or a Gameboy Color that took Tetris to a whole new level? In adulthood, things drastically change, as I learned this year. The buzziest gift all my friends were receiving—with glee beaming off their faces, I should add—was... a slow cooker.
But not just any crock-pot—in fact, the brand doesn’t categorize it as one. It’s called the Instant Pot, and it’s been dubbed as a “revolutionary cooking appliance.” With over 600,000 Facebook fans in multiple channels and fan-groups, this thing took over my feed in a way that only Young Living essential oils ever have, and after seeing it mentioned all over Instagram Stories in a way that I only saw engagement rings bragged about, I decided to put my hesitance for meal prepping aside and do some research.
Labeled as the best-selling device in Amazon’s small appliances section, it’s a multi-use electronic pressure cooker that prepares meals at shockingly fast speeds—and can cook almost anything you can imagine, depending on what version you buy. I mean, you can even make yogurt... The 7-in-1 mini series serves as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, sauté pan, steamer, and a warmer, but there’s also a 9-in-1 series, 10-in-1 series, and one that can be controlled by your phone, if that’s not enough for you. Depending on what size you purchase, they range in price from $63 to anywhere around to $150. Not too shabby in terms of price.
Created by founder and CEO Robert Wang, its inception is almost too relatable: He needed a solution for quickly and easily cooking healthy, delicious meals for his family, and dreamed of a fully automated machine that would conquer it. He did so by utilizing sensors and adding them to a slow cooker, making it smarter, simpler to control, and more ept to cook a variety of different foods.
The "Instant" in its name refers to time and ease. "We can cook it really fast because we are cooking under pressure," explains Wang. To give you an idea, you can make and peel a hard-boiled egg in five minutes, or cook potatoes to mash them in about 15 minutes. Rachel K., an Instant Pot owner and fan, says she can make a tender roast—the type that usually takes you all day in a traditional slow cooker—in about a half hour and risotto in only seven. Layne V., another Instant Pot owner who received it as a gift from her sister, said she made a hamburger soup in 30 minutes, but it tasted like it had been simmering all day long. Kristi M. claims she can make tender shredded chicken in 20 minutes, verses the 4-6 hours it usually takes her with her traditional slow cooker.
"If you look at all the cooking methods, Instant Pot really covered all what's categorized as wet heating," says Wang of its technology. "So basically if it's a stew, boiling, poaching, pressure cooking, they are actually cooking with liquid. We have been designing Instant Pot to be capable of all cooking methods in the wet heat category."
The "ease" applies because the cook can "set it and forget it" by throwing all their ingredients in the pot, closing the lid, pressing the button, and walking away until its done. Not to mention, your clean-up is drastically reduced. "It appeals to me because I can sauté veggies, brown meat, and cook a yummy soup all in the same pot," says Layne V. "Don’t know many people who wouldn’t high five less dishes, right?! Also with a full-time job and three littles, anything quick is appealing! And it just does so much."
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Rachel K. found the same benefit. Though she never struggled making challenging recipes, the clean-up was always a blaring negative after she was done cooking everything. "You can use it to saute ingredients for the recipes, so you don't have to use a separate pan or anything—you can do it all in the Instant Pot!" she says. "I think its great for both people who already enjoy cooking but are super busy, and also people who don't really know how to cook but want to start cooking more at home."
The popularity is catching on in more than just online followers. Starting in 2011, Wang says they've been more than doubling their sales year over year. It's also the top-gifted item in Amazon's Home and Kitchen section, as well as one of the
Intuitive, it is, but according to users interviewed, there's a slight learning curve at first with the amount of buttons and controls, but Layne V. says it was conquered in one evening.
And that brings us to the question—is it really worth the hype? You can chat with your FB feed and figure that out on your own, but as for me? One who notoriously hates meal-prepping to a point that I whine about it in articles for work? I don't know! My favorite food is a large bowl of mashed potatoes, and I don't hate the concept of having them in front of me in 15 minutes.