How does an Instant Pot compare to a stovetop pressure cooker? Pros and Cons

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

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 I’m ditching my stovetop pressure cooker and getting an Instant Pot instead.

Here are the pros and cons of the Instant Pot compared to other cooking methods

Compared to my stovetop pressure cooker:


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.


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


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. I particularly like that I can saute onions etc. and then add the other ingredients and cook under pressure. So far I’ve only used the pressure cooker and saute functions, but I’m hoping to try the others soon.


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


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.


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. This FAQ says you can cook a maximum of 1 pound (450g) of beans in a 6-quart pressure cooker, but I don’t understand where that number comes from. I regularly cook 800g (28 oz / 1.75 pounds) of black beans. I pour the unsoaked beans into the pot then fill the water up almost to the halfway line, which as I understand it is perfectly safe. I suspect I could even fit in a bit more beans, maybe 850g / 30 ounces, but a full two pounds of black beans would probably be too much.

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 8 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 30 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)?

I’ve since made refried pinto beans in the instant pot. They came out well. I’ll post a recipe when I get a chance.

How to cook lentils in the Instant Pot

I made my copycat Progresso lentil soup recipe in the Instant Pot, using 1 pound regular (brownish greenish) lentils + 1 tsp. salt + 1 bouillon cube + 6 cups of water. Also 125g celery + 1 small (40g) carrot sliced + 1 Tbs. olive oil + 1/4 cup tomato paste + spinach added after cooking. I cooked it on high pressure for 10 minutes + NR and it came out well. Next time I’d use more carrots and a bit more spinach, even though there are none in the actual Progresso lentil soup.

I’ve also successfully cooked beluga lentils al dente for a salad, but I’m still futzing with the timing and water amounts. I’ll update once I get it figured out.

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.

How to cook polenta in the Instant Pot

I made polenta in the instant pot and it was so easy and came out really well. No pre-soaking, no stirring, no burning, and no worrying about lumps!

The recipe I followed said to put 4 to 1 water to polenta. It said that to prevent burning to add the water first and then sprinkle the polenta on top, and not to stir. But I didn’t notice that instruction and put the polenta in first then the water, and stirred. But it didn’t burn at all. It ended up with less stuck on polenta than my normal polenta pan! I used 1.25 cups polenta, 5 cups of water, and 3/4 tsp. fine salt. I also threw in a small knob of butter. I pressure-cooked it on high for 5 minutes then released it after 11 minutes when the pressure came down (although my recipe said to release the pressure after 10 minutes). I thought it worked great! And Alma loved it too. We ate the polenta with sauteed spinach (with garlic) and boiled fava beans (from frozen). A nice easy toddler-friendly meal.

How to cook corn on the cob in the Instant Pot

Add 1 cup of water to the bottom, put the shucked corn in the instant pot on a trivet above the water. (You will probably have to break the corn cobs in half to fit them in.) Cook on high pressure for 2 minutes and quick release.

I’ve done 3 minutes and the corn was fine but could have been cooked less. I’ve also done 2 minute and forgotten to quick release it and left it on the heat for about 12 minutes. It was cooked similarly to 3 minutes + QR.

Other things: sweet potatoes, hardboiled eggs, brown rice, oatmeal, risotto, yogurt

I made sweet potatoes once, and they came out really well. Will report more details on my next attempt.

I’ve made short-grain brown rice once. It came out pretty well. I want to experiment a tad with water and timing, and using a pot-in-pot method, then I’ll report back.

I’ve made steel cut oatmeal several times, but I’m still trying to perfect my recipe.

I tried making saffron risotto but I forgot to do a quick release and it turned out way overcooked. On another attempt I made mushroom risotto and cooked it for only 3 minutes + QR and it turned out well. Next time I might actually try 2.5 minutes under pressure.

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.

I also want to try making yogurt. My first attempt turned into yogurt but didn’t have the greatest flavor or texture, despite using my favorite German yogurt as the starter. I guess it’s not sooo simple.

Update December 2017: I’m still struggling with making beans other than black beans or lentils or refries in my instant pot. I’ve followed suggested cooking times from the hip pressure cooking chart, but without much success.

For example, I cooked soaked black eyes for 5 minutes under high pressure. The recipe said to natural release, but after 20 minutes the pressure still wasn’t released, so I released pressure manually and they were very overcooked.

I cooked soaked large white beans (cannellini?) for 8 minutes, and they were both undercooked and overcooked at the same time. The beans at the bottom were mushy inside with hard skins, and the ones on top weren’t quite covered with water and were quite hard.

The Vegan Under Pressure cookbook says quite clearly that soaked beans do NOT have to be covered by water, but whenever I have tried it they always come out badly.

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