My boyfriend made the move to invest in an Instant Pot over Black Friday, and I’ve slowly become its biggest fan over the past couple months. This year alone, it’s helped me accomplish my mission of meal-prepping for work lunch so that I'm both eating healthier and cheaper. In fact, this week alone I made lunch for 2 people for 4 days for only $13! It was a delicious combination of sweet potatoes, chicken drumsticks, roasted broccoli and brown rice all prepared in the Instant Pot. 

Despite my great love for this device, there are a few things that we agree we wished we had known about the Pot itself before making the acquisition. A lot of it has to do with how the Pot actually works, but also a lot has to do with the abilities of the Pot. Overall it was definitely worth the buy, but here are a few things to know before you get your own.

The first thing to know is that the Instant Pot is different than a slow cooker, even though it seems similar. 

Instant Pots are pressure cookers which also happen to have a slow cooker function amongst its multiple other cooking options, while most slow cookers just cook on either a low or high temperature. Some find issue with the Pot’s slow cooker option as it cooks from the bottom, but for most people, the Instant Pot is a good substitute.

These devices are incredibly popular because they are able to cook things that slow cookers usually cook in much faster time frames thanks to the pressure cooking function. 

The buildup of pressure is what speeds things up. Additionally, they include a saute function, which means instead of having to transfer something from the stove-top for browning to the slow-cooker for actual cooking, the Instant Pot is kind of an all-in-one that takes care of everything without having extra dishes or pans to clean. 

The biggest thing I wish I had known was that the cooking times that are listed for recipes can be deceiving. 

All the food blogs and even all the Instant Pot advertisements claim almost unbelievable results like potatoes ready in 12 minutes and boiled eggs in 5 minutes. Although these numbers are correct, they don’t factor in the time it takes for pressure to build and decompress. Because this pressure is what is used to actually cook the food, it’s impossible to discount the build-up time. For me, this has usually taken around 15-20 minutes, depending on what setting I’m on. The decompression time is variable, as you do always have the option to manually immediately release all the pressure, though most recipes ask for you to let it release naturally slowly. This usually has taken around 20 minutes for me with the recipes I’ve used. 

Also, it was interesting to note that most recipes require some sort of addition of water or broth. 

This is because the pressure that is achieved comes from the build-up of steam. This means that when you’re cooking with the Pot, the results often end up very similar to stewed or steamed food. Therefore, if you want something to have a crispy or crunchy texture, you need to finish stuff in the oven on broil. For example, I made potatoes in the Instant Pot the oven the other day and I finished them all off in the oven for 10 minutes on broil just to give them the “roasted” texture and taste that I desired. 

The food that I’ve enjoyed making the most has been stuff that is best stewed in a ton of flavor, such as pot roasts and soups. It’s also been really great with stuff that usually takes a lot of time, such as pulled pork and potatoes. I’m really looking forward to some more experimentation with the Instant Pot, such as using it to cook bread or even yogurt.