Why I’m ditching my stovetop pressure cooker

July 12, 2017 at 2:39 pm (Beans, Equipment reviews)


I have a nice Fissler pressure cooker that I use occasionally (mostly to cook beans). I like it, but I don’t love it. Recently I got an Instant Pot electronic pressure cooker. Even though I’ve only made four things in it so far (black beans, chana dal, sweet potatoes, and beets), I can already tell that I like it much better than my stovetop pressure cooker. Here’s why.

Pros and cons compared to other cooking methods

Compared to my stovetop pressure cooker:

Pros:

I don’t have to be around while it’s coming up to pressure, or to turn it off when it’s done. So I can put the food in and leave the house, like with a crock pot. This is a great advantage. I can put the food in while Alma’s napping, turn it on right before we leave for the park, and have the food done when we get back. It also has a timer feature. I haven’t tried it yet, but in theory I could put beans in when I leave in the morning, set the timer, and have them be ready when I come home without having the cooked beans sit out all day. With a stovetop pressure cooker I would have to stick around until it’s done cooking. I could still let the pressure come down when I was out, but I would have to be around for the rest of the process.

I only have to clean the stainless steel insert, which is much smaller than my pressure cooker. It fits better in my small sink, and it’s pure stainless steel so it can go in the dishwasher.

The lid rests in the handle, so I don’t have to figure out where to put the boiling hot lid when I take it off.

Quick release is easier. I just turn the valve to open once, than I can walk away. In comparison, with my stovetop pressure cooker I have to hold the valve open for several minutes while boiling hot steam pours out!

It’s supposedly more versatile, as not only can you saute and pressure cook in it, but it has functions for slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt etc. So far I’ve only used the pressure cooker function, but I’m hoping to try the others soon.

This is a bit minor, but it fits in my kitchen better. My stovetop pressure cooker had a long handle, which made it harder to store. The instant pot has two short handles, so it’s not as wide. The plug also comes unplugged, and you can store it in the pot. That’s a nice feature, as I hate trying to fight with the plug on my food processor when putting it away on a high shelf.

It seems to heat up the house less than my stovetop pressure cooker.

Cons:

It doesn’t cook quite as fast as a stovetop pressure cooker, since the pressure is lower, but it’s fast enough for me. Especially since I don’t have to be around while it’s cooking.

I suspect it won’t last as long, since it’s electronic. But it wasn’t that expensive, so I don’t mind replacing it eventually.

Compared to a slow cooker

Pros:

It’s more versatile. You can saute some veggies in the pot then add beans or grains and cook under pressure. You don’t have to dirty two pans. (But note that I haven’t actually tried the saute function yet!)

It cooks faster (since it’s a pressure cooker) and supposedly retains more nutrients.

It’s stainless steel not ceramic, so you don’t have to worry about lead.

It’s more versatile, as it has not only a slow cooker function but also saute, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt etc. functions. So far I’ve only used the pressure cooker function, but I’m hoping to try the others soon.

Cons:

I’ve read that the instant pot only cooks from below, whereas a crockpot cooks from the sides too. I’m not sure this is true, but if it is, then perhaps slow cooker recipes would have to be adapted slightly.

I’m guessing it’s also somewhat bulkier than a crockpot, especially since you can only fill it halfway when cooking beans and grains. So to get the same volume of food cooked you need a much larger volume pot.

Compared to stove top/oven

Pros:

It has all the advantages of a pressure cooker (e.g., cooks faster, retains more nutrients, uses less electricity, etc.), plus the advantages over a pressure cooker, which are listed above.

Cons:

It doesn’t brown, so if you want crispy potatoes for example you have to use the oven.

Figuring out how to alter stovetop recipes for the Instant Pot might require some research, or trial and error.

 

How to cook various foods in the Instant Pot

How to cook black beans in the Instant Pot

The first question is how much beans will fit. I have a 6 liter Instant Pot, which can fit a maximum of about 12.5 cups of beans or grains (since with foods that are prone to foaming, a pressure cooker can only be half full). So I think that means you can cook a maximum of 1.5 pounds of beans in it.

Yesterday I cooked 1.5 pounds of black beans. I added 1.5 tsp. of salt, a lot of garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, and about 10 cups of water. I did not presoak the beans. Most tables online say that unsoaked black beans will cook in 25 minutes with a natural release, but I wanted softer beans so I roughly followed this Serious Eats recipe. I set the timer for 40 minutes at high pressure and let the pressure release naturally. I think I could have probably gotten away with slightly less water. When I opened the pots the beans were nicely cooked, but the liquid hadn’t reduced at all. I wonder if I could use the Instant Pot’s saute function to get the liquid to reduce to a thick, creamy gravy (as done on the stovetop in this recipe)?

How to cook beets in the Instant Pot

Here are the instructions I used. My beets were just under 3 inches in diameter so I cooked them for 20 minutes on high pressure. They came out perfectly—super easy to peel and the texture and flavor were great. In the past when I’ve boiled, steamed, or baked my beets, I’ve always had trouble getting them cooked consistently and getting the peels to come off easily. So this was a nice change of pace.

Next I want to try hard-boiling eggs in the instant pot. Everyone says they come out super easy to peel. That would be amazing.

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