There are things that I really despise about my Instant Pot. I’m not new to pressure cooking, so a lot of the complaints that people have about the Instant Pot don’t really bother me. I knew that pressure cookers take time to build up pressure which adds to the cooking time. I still have my old, stove top, model that I bought ages ago, and for Christmas 2015, Bus Boy gifted me with an electric pressure cooker. It wasn’t an Instant Pot. It was called a Power Cooker Express.
At the time, I didn’t think that I needed one. I was perfectly content with my stove top model. Bus Boy insisted that I use it on Christmas Day. We made hot wings and macaroni and cheese, and by the time we were finished, I was in love with my electric pressure cooker.
Over the next few months, I used my electric pressure cooker to prepare a variety of different meals.
- Dr Pepper Ribs
- “Baked” Potatoes
- Pinto Beans and Ham
- Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes
- Penne with Creamy Pesto Sauce
- Chicken Alfredo with Farfalle (Bow Ties)
- Collard Greens and Ham
I had also used it to make chili, various soups, bone broth, and homemade marinara sauce in a fraction of the time it took on the stove top. Unlike my stove top pressure cooker, the electric one didn’t require any babysitting. I was happy with my “no name” electric pressure cooker, but everywhere I looked, I saw other food bloggers were using an Instant Pot. Everyone was raving about the Instant Pot on social media and saying how wonderful it was. I began to wonder if I was missing out on something.
In June of 2018, I finally broke down and bought an Instant Pot. My other pressure cooker was working fine, so I didn’t really need one, but there were several reasons why I chose the Instant Pot.
- It had a stainless steel inner pot instead of a non-stick one.
- Peer pressure–all the other food bloggers were using them.
- Lots of cool accessories are made specifically for Instant Pot.
- I was able to buy it for 50% off during a sale.
As I became acquainted with my Instant Pot, I was initially euphoric as I contentedly prepared dishes for my family. This was the honeymoon period when I hadn’t yet discovered the Instant Pot’s dark side. All too soon, I discovered some serious issues with the Instant Pot that I really despise. I give you my top five things that I despise about my Instant Pot.
1. Spraying Food out of the Pressure Release
This is definitely my biggest complaint about the Instant Pot. I cooked and cooked with my first electric pressure cooker. Not once did anything but steam come out of the pressure release valve. Shortly after purchasing my Instant Pot, it spewed marinara sauce out of the valve, spattering my kitchen cabinets and counters. I assumed I had done something wrong, but I couldn’t figure it out what I had done to cause this eruption.
Over time, I noticed a trend. Whenever, a recipe had a high liquid content, like soup, chili, or marinara sauce, food spewed out along with the steam. I eventually learned to release the pressure from these foods in ten to twenty second increments, closing the pressure release for several seconds before proceeding. This makes the pressure release extremely tedious, but at least, I don’t have to wash food off of my cabinets and counters.
It turns out that this is a common problem with the Instant pot. Several YouTubers have reported the same issue. I wonder why this design problem hasn’t been resolved. I have a question for the manufacturer.
Why didn’t you design the pressure release valve so that the contents of the cooker stay inside of the cooker when the steam is released?
In the instruction manual, the only warning that this could happen is if you are preparing porridge using the preset button. It states that you should never use quick release because food could spray out of the steam release and cause it to plug up.
Wait! I stand corrected. (Thank you, Sue Chef.) On page 17, there is a warning about the dangers of hot steam. This is accompanied with the instructions that should something start “spattering” out of the pressure release, you should shut it immediately. Just one question: How am I supposed to stick my hand close enough to the spewing liquid to shut the valve without getting burned by the boiling liquid that’s raining down around it?
2. The BURN Notice
This has nothing to do with the burn you got on your hand while closing the spewing pressure release valve. This tells you that the food is burning inside the pot. I agree that it’s good for the Instant Pot to inform you that the food which is hermetically sealed inside is burning, or about to burn, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when this occurs.
The macaroni and cheese recipe that worked perfectly in my other pressure cooker consistently causes the BURN message to appear on my Instant Pot. I understand why this happens in this instance. The ingredients tend to dry out as it cooks and the liquid is absorbed by the pasta. I like a slighly crunchy edge, not burned, on my macaroni and cheese. That can’t happen in the Instant Pot without triggering the BURN warning, but it worked fine in my old pressure cooker.
Unfortunately, the BURN message isn’t consistent. I have also had the burn notice appear when I was cooking chili and when I was preparing beans. In both of those instances, there was a lot of liquid in the Instant Pot. With the beans, it was enough liquid that when I released the pressure, so I could stir the beans again, it spewed out all over my counters and cabinets. (See complaint #1)
3. The Slow Cooker Function
I love my slow cooker and use it often. I was eager to try the slow cooker function on the Instant Pot. I was starting a meal later in the day than I had originally planned, so I decided to cook it on “high” (more) using the Instant Pot’s slow cooker function. When I returned four hours later, the food wasn’t cooked. I was very disappointed. Fortunately, I was able to switch to pressure cooker mode, and finished cooking the food, but I had wanted to return to dinner ready to plate. I did some research, and I learned the following information.
The Instant Pot won’t be replacing my slow cooker.
When a slow cooker is cooking on the LOW setting, it cooks at a temperature of around 190 – 200 degrees F. On the HIGH setting, it cooks at a temperature of approximately 300 degrees F. The Instant Pot, however, never reaches anywhere close to 300 degrees. On the LESS setting, the temperature is between 180 and 190 degrees F. The NORMAL setting produces a temperature equivalent to the LOW setting on a pressure cooker and cooks at approximately 190 to 200 degrees F. The MORE setting achieves a temperature of only 200 to 210 degrees F which is nowhere near the HIGH setting on a slow cooker though the instruction manual indicates that MORE is the same as HIGH on the pressure cooker. This is why the slow cooker recipe I attempted in the Instant Pot failed.
4. The Rice Cooking Function
The Instant Pot instruction booklet indicates that in order to prepare white rice, you press the rice button and select LESS (8 minute cook time) for al dente rice, NORMAL (12 minute cook time) for regular rice, and MORE (15 minute cook time) for a softer rice.
Here are my issues.
- The instruction booklet doesn’t specify if this is supposed to be done with or without pressure.
- There are no instructions regarding the ratio of water to rice in the instruction manual.
- The cookbook that came with the Instant Pot indicates that rice should be cooked with a 1:1 ratio of water and rice, but lists the cooking time for white rice at 4 minutes.
- Ironically, underneath the table with these instructions is a recommendation to use the preset rice cooking button.
Which cooking time am I supposed to use?
Apparently, even the Instant Pot, itself, doesn’t know the answer to that question. When I have attempted to use the rice button on my Instant Pot to cook rice, it has never chosen an 8 minute cook time
I have made rice with the Instant Pot set to LESS and used the rice button. In the beginning, the Pot indicated the cook time would be 8 minutes.
Then, after 10 seconds, the screen read AUTO. Once pressure was achieved, and the screen changed to the countdown. it didn’t say 8 minutes.
Once, the default time was set for 10 minutes. The second time, the default time was set at 15 minutes. Since I wanted to see what 8 minute rice would be like, this was very frustrating. Perhaps, if I try this a third time, it will choose 8 minutes. (No. I just tried it, and it chose 10 minutes again. Frustrating.)
The Instant Pot won’t be replacing my rice cooker.
In 15 minutes, I can boil rice on the stove, and I don’t have to wait for pressure to build up in my saucepan after it comes to a boil. (After 15 minutes, I usually turn off the burner, leave the lid on the pot, and let it finish steaming off of the heat while I finish dinner. That saves energy.) Even my old garage sale rice cooker, that I paid a quarter for, cooks rice faster, and more consistently than the instant pot.
There’s quite a bit of difference between the pre-set time for regular cooked white rice at 12 minutes and the 4 minutes recommended by the cookbook. This requires the new Instant Pot owner to practice to learn what really works for their tastes. I have found that rice cooks perfectly between 4 and 6 minutes under pressure.
5. The Included Rack (Trivet)
I realize that this complaint may seem insignificant. I wouldn’t even rate this as something that I despise. It’s just a minor disappointment. My other pressure cooker had a rack that was positioned half way up the inner pot. This was convenient for cooking things like the Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes because the potatoes could cook in the bottom while the chicken cooked on top. The Instant Pot rack is designed to sit on the bottom of the pot. If you need to add more than 2 cups of liquid to the bottom of the pot, whatever food is placed on the rack is being boiled rather than steamed. I have, on occasion, balanced the rack on top of the food cooking in the bottom, but I always worry that it will tip during cooking and fall over, ruining my recipe.
I realize I can purchase another rack. There are a lot of accessories available for the Instant Pot, but I’m still disappointed that the rack, or trivet, that came with my Instant Pot sits so low in the pot.
Will I be getting rid of my Instant Pot?
My relationship with my Instant Pot is not idyllic. There are other things about it that irritate me besides the five listed above, but no relationship is perfect. I have resigned myself to the following facts.
- When I make macaroni and cheese, I will just push cancel when I get the burn notice and let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. By that time, the pasta should be done, and I can serve Food Critic’s favorite Macaroni and Cheese to him.
- When I make soup, sauces, or broth, I have to use the handle of a wooden spoon to partially open the steam valve, and do this repeatedly to prevent food from being spewed all over my kitchen.
- I will be not expect the Instant Pot to take the place of my slow cooker, especially for dishes that need to be cooked on HIGH.
In spite of these issues, I intend to keep my Instant Pot. I think of my relationship with the Instant Pot in the same way I think about my marriage. Baker’s Man isn’t perfect, but we make a good team. The Instant Pot isn’t perfect, but it still gets the job done, as long as I remember it’s abilities, limitations, and quirks. (That’s like Baker’s Man, too.) There’s one really important thing I want my readers to take away from this post.
Instant Pot is not the only electric pressure cooker.
On the day I purchased my Instant Pot, the cashier told me that she had purchased the same model a couple of months earlier. When I asked her why she chose the Instant Pot, her answer was that “all of the recipes are written for Instant Pot.” She was young, and possibly didn’t have a great deal of experience cooking, so she might not have realized that she could probably produce the same results with a different pressure cooker.
My friend, Angie, over at KitchenHospitality.com has a Farberware Electric Pressure Cooker, and she makes lots of delicious things with it, including some recipes that were written for Instant Pot. Her Rib Eye Steak with Mushrooms recipe is amazing.
Another friend has a Cosori Electric Pressure Cooker, and she loves it. She makes Instant Pot recipes from the internet all of the time. A third friend has a Power Pressure Cooker XL that she purchased from a TV infomercial, and she uses it to create a variety of recipes that were originally created for Instant Pot. Even my cheap inexpensive Power Cooker Express produced good results when I used Instant Pot recipes, though my cooker just had a dial that was turned to the required number of minutes instead of fancy buttons to push. In all honesty, I could prepare many of the Instant Pot recipes on the internet in my stove top pressure cooker, but I would have to babysit it during the cooking process. To me, the ability to walk away from your pressure cooker while it cooks is the best thing about electric pressure cookers.
The Instant Pot is more expensive than any of those other pressure cookers that I mentioned above. That’s a good reason to pause, and spend some time thinking, before you buy one, unless, of course, you find one on sale for 50% off. If you want to join the group of people who prepare meals using a pressure cooker, look around at all of the options available to you, read reviews, and pick one up that meets your needs and fits into your budget. You don’t need an Instant Pot.
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6 thoughts on “Five Things I Despise about the Instant Pot”
Ah-Ha! I knew it wasn’t my fault when the 5 hrs of slow cooking wasn’t enough to slow cook my roast and potatoes and carrots — my oldest electric slow cooker (recipe) I bought at a yard sale for $3.00 in 1978, Yes, 42 years ago — always finished in 5 hrs. I haven’t had the spewing issues yet and I was disappointed with some of the instructions, but I’m new to this type of pot. There’s a learning curve. Excellent and entertaining article by the way.
And I was so slow in choosing to buy one that I couldn’t bare to make the purchase of $189 “on sale”, waited until a secondary Cyber Monday special that reduced it down to $49 glorious dollars. Then I was ready to buy. My logic tells me that if I didn’t like it then I would only be “out” $50 bucks.
It wasn’t your fault. The Instant Pot people clearly didn’t fully research the temperature of a slow cooker on high. The instruction manual indicates that their MORE setting is equivalent to HIGH on a slow cooker, but it’s not even close to the right temperature.
I’m sharing an old recipe that I’ve changed over the years depending what I had on hand. I call it Calico Rice and Beans. You’ve probably got one of your own too. I begin cooking a pound of ground beef in a wok or large pot with sloped sides, add one grated carrot, add about 2 cups of water, then lid on it & let it cook about 10 mins. Next I start tossing in the grains: a cup of rice, a quarter cup of lentils, barley, millet. I allow the grains to cook 10 mins. and add more water. By 12 mins. more I can tell the water is absorbed enough for flavor. I squirt in about a half cup of ketchup, a few “glugs” of Worcestershire Sauce, a tablespoon of chili powder, garlic powder, some salt and pepper and mix well. Allow to simmer a bit before adding the last ingredient: a can of your favorite chili with beans.
Rusty, that sounds delicious. I’m working on something similar, but without lentils, barley, and millet. I will definitely have to try this, as I love a good one pot meal. (It means less dishes to wash)