An electric pressure cooker review: What I learned
Electric pressure cookers (like the Instant Pot, Power Cooker and others) are all over the place today. And people are raving about their speed and convenience. Well despite so many raving electric pressure cooker reviews in favor (pretty much the whole world), here’s what I discovered.
The trust factor
I can’t expect you all to trust me if I always say “This is so great! Eat it!” Don’t you get sick of that? That’s why I feel like it’s my job to tell you the truth even when I know it’s not going to go with the flow. You need an electric pressure cooker review that’s totally unbiased, and I’m going to give you mine.
I’m not much on gadgets–it’s true–but I borrowed my aunt’s Power Cooker because I was curious (and obviously cheap) so I could try it before I bought an electric pressure cooker for myself. Truthfully, it looked fabulous and I was excited to get started testing recipes and transforming fast dinners.
And it was fast. Like a lightning bolt. But that’s pretty much the last nice thing I have to say.
I had such high hopes of creating one-pot recipes you could use and love forever. I dreamt of recipe miracles I could pass down to you with pride. So I started studying all kinds of recipes, reading books, and joining Facebook groups dedicated to their love of these things. I asked a lot of questions. I studied some more. And I cooked in it. A lot.
And I hated every single thing that came out of it with the exception of some salmon fillets that I poached from frozen in 5 minutes. That was one of the seven wonders of the world right there.
And what’s worse? My family hated the food even more.
I started with mac and cheese (yes it’s safe to make pasta in an electric pressure cooker) and my family gave it a 3 out of 10. It went uneaten in the pot and I threw it out.
The trying again
So I kept thinking it was just me. Maybe I was doing something wrong. So I asked more questions. I read more, I studied more. I found a site that told me that the key to the perfect roast was 40 minutes on a roast no more than 2 inches thick. Any longer than that and all the flavor would force itself out of the meat and end up in your cooking liquid.
Roast, carrots and potatoes. That would be awesome.
I seared the meat first, I seasoned it, I added beef broth and sealed ‘er up. 40 minutes later, I could not have prepared myself for the disaster inside that hunk of metal and plastic.
Bone dry, hard as a brick, and absolutely no flavor. Dinner was ruined, but we ate it anyway. Actually my daughter did and the rest of us had peanut butter and jelly.
I say all that to say this: There will be some of you out there who will hate me for my opinion. And I’m sure that somewhere in this world, there are a few recipes that might turn out okay in the electric pressure cooker. If you can live off of hard boiled eggs and rice you’re a better man than I am.
What you’ll have to like to enjoy your electric pressure cooker
In order to like what it produces, you have to be okay with soft food. One texture, and mostly one flavor. You have to be okay with forcing food that was meant to be cooked differently (and maybe more slowly) to cook quickly–compromising what it could have been had you cooked it in a different way or saved that recipe for a day when you had time to make it differently.
It’s just been an all around disappointment for me.
I’m not your judge, but apparently I am a snob
In discussing my frustrations on my personal Facebook page, someone (gotta love your family) called me a “food snob” and “out of touch with the reality of what life is like for busy families”. But that’s not true. The truth is I KNOW 100% that slow cookers and electric pressure cookers are one of the few ways that lots of families make a meal.
I know that most people don’t have time to make food from scratch and have to choose between the drive through and convenience of one of these. And for you all, do whatever you have to do. I am totally for you. But you won’t find those recipes here. I’m committed to giving you easy meal ideas–but they won’t come out of an electric pressure cooker.
Is there anyone out there like me?
And for the rest of you, what I hope is that somewhere out there, some of you can say “Yes I want my food to taste good. I want my family to enjoy what I make and I’d rather have that over rushed convenience.” Even if you’re busy, instead of using an electric pressure cooker, make a fast pasta, a hot sandwich and salad, or a make-ahead casserole that was meant to be made quickly instead–and we can all save our money for something that’s really worth it.
I can not stand my IP. Meat has horrible flavor and texture. I have yet to make a satisfying recipe. I thought it would save me on days when I didn’t plan a meal, I can’t eat what come out of that pot! I definitely appreciate my crock pot more.
Well I know they work really well for a lot of other people…it’s just never been successful for me either. I’d probably have a lot more happy readers if I’d learn to use one but I think I’ll pass. 😉 –Rachel
My second slow cooker just suffered a horrible death due to a combination of a true klutz factor in the cooks of this family, a kitchen way too small for three people at the same time, and very hard and unforgiving tile floors. Quite often in this family, I have both slow cookers, the rice cooker AND the counter top oven, the main oven and stove going at the same time, especially around the holidays.
My daughter decided I needed an IP and presented me with an 8 quart monster a couple of days later.
Not into it very far at this point, but I doubt it will replicate my other appliances. So far, I’m pretty pleased with it pulling prep duty, from precooking potato slices for a casserole, re-hydrating dried beans for another dish and doing up a chicken stock (I only use home made stocks) The cake I tried was very moist, but did not rise well, so not sure about that. I will try a cheesecake soon, since that is such a utter pain in the neck to set up with the water bath and everything in the regular oven.
I’m also interested in vegetable cooking, since the nutrient density is better with pressure cooking. At least my grandmother always said this was so in very authoritarian terms. If it tastes good, we will eat it. If we do not like the veggies, I will happily return to roasting them, since I now have my very Southern husband no longer refusing to eat the “green” stuff. When we married, if it wasn’t fried, breaded and fried, or just plain fried, it wasn’t food unless it grilled, smoked or a nice cold potato salad. Corn on the cob and baked beans were also acceptable. He now happily eats spinach, arugula, kale and Brussels Sprouts.
I suspect it will be in the same state as my other appliances. Each has its strengths and good capacities. The rest takes experimenting and time. What my family likes we will do again. What they do not, we will not. I can certainly make chili or stew on the stove top. For that matter, I can make both dishes over a campfire:) The campfire version aside, there is no way I will change how I make the others at home. There would be mutiny!
However, I will say this. When the daughter leaves for college living next year, she will have one of the smaller versions of this, decked out with accessories AND a counter top oven. She might end up being one of the more nourished kids eating real food.
Oh, and the reason I use all these appliance type equipment? Florida. Florida in the summer. Past few years, Florida even in the winter, even with all the windows open. The smaller the footprint, the less the heat output, and every little bit counts!
Hey Glory, thanks for your thoughtful reply. I hope your experiments work out well! –Rachel
I ABSOLUTELY love my Electric Pressure Cooker. Absolutely, love it. Sorry ABOUT your luck, I’m happy I’m not you and without being disrespectful of course. It makes more than just rice and beans. It makes great corn on the cob…each and every kernel is full of flavour WITH every bite, smothered in butter, sprinkled with salt, oh, yeah, talk about fall of the bone ribs which really do fall of the bone, than are smothered in a flavourful BBQ sauce, than baked until sticky and gooey, fish which holds it shape, hence does not fall apart and actually becomes firmer because it’s steamed ever so slightly, a pressure cooker makes great pork chops that are so moist it’s crazy yummy, succulent chicken that’s crazy moist and definitely yummy, add a nice sauce to the pot while cooking and you’d never have a reason to bake them, but if you prefer, just broil them to give some extra love and care, (never mind that they are sometimes frozen from the get go, and done in minutes time) flavourful spaghetti sauces, crisp, not soggy vegetables, thick and creamy Mac n cheese, amazing potatoes whether it’s for mashed potatoes or potato salads, creamy warm oatmeal for breakfast. Soft poached eggs. Hamburger or sausage fillings for meat pies.
The list of possibilities are ENDLESS ~ just endless. Remember the pressure cookers, especially the Electric kind or other can be used to replace your stove pot. Who ever said that it was only meant for presure cooking? Use the pot as you would your regular stove pot, less hydro, and less muss and fuss. It’s a winner, winner, chicken dinner as the famous chef says……
Yeap, love, lovin my Electric Pressure Cooker, it’s the best invention, like, ever. Like, like, lovin it and I would be lost without it. Convenience in one pot! Yeap, Yeap, and Yeap, just love my electric pressure cooker……and not to mention the clean up, that’s another reason the unit is a big win for me, let alone being able to put together a full course meal in record breaking time. Easy Peassy…. Oh, yes, totally love it.
Well Becky, certainly all comments are welcome and I’m so glad you like yours. Obviously you love it. And that’s great. I’m all for whatever gets you fed well and works for your life. You’ll just never get me to use one! 🙂 Thanks for your comment. –Rachel
I’m just wondering if the directions were off for your pot roast. I set mine for high pressure for 55 minutes. (After searing it and adding broth, of course.) I unlock it, add the taters and carrots and relock it. Set it back to high for 35 more minutes, and let the pressure come down naturally. It’s the best pot roast I’ve ever made. I’m not a very good cook so I don’t make a whole lot of stuff with mine, honestly. I use it for pot roast and tater soup, mostly. My menfolk are pretty picky so the cookbooks I have are almost worthless. But for the pot roast alone, it’s worth the price I paid. Just my opinion.
Hey Amy, You know, I did some research before I started and the “experts” said if it cooked longer than 40 minutes, that it forces all the juice out of the meat and in to the water/broth that it’s cooking in and leaves you basically with a flavorless meat. So I stuck to their suggestions on how large the roast should be (no more than 2 inches thick and no more than a pound or two I think it was…) and it was just awful. I’m really glad it’s a tool that works for you in your kitchen. And it works for lots and lots of people. It just sure doesn’t work for me. 🙂 –Rachel
Hi Racheal I cook a 2.5kg (5lbs) in mine 55mins and perfect corned beef
So I loooove my IP. But I certainly won’t rip you apart! Here’s how I use mine: http://productivemama.com/instant-love-instant-pot/
I’m wondering if you should think of yours as a utility appliance? You could still use it for the components of your meals without affecting outcome, possibly? For instance if you need a good amount of potatoes cooked for use in another recipe or perhaps a bunch of hard boiled eggs (the IP is now my go-to for that)? Or if you want beans for another recipe? And for meals, maybe you could just stick to soups in the IP? Of course, as I’m re-reading, you borrowed one, so you’re fine without it. I was initially concerned you bought one! Maybe this will help someone else who bought one and doesn’t feel like they’re having success with it.
Yes Amylee those are very valuable ways to use a pressure cooker. 🙂 I think it depends a lot on the type of cook you are. In our house, we don’t eat a lot hard boiled eggs–certainly not enough to cook them in bulk–or brown rice and beans but for the cooks who do need those features, I’d say it would be a great time saver. I am happy to give my IP back to the person I borrowed it from but I know it’s a tool that lots and lots of cooks count on and love and if that means they get dinner on the table faster then there’s nothing wrong with that. Thanks for your comment! I’m always glad to host opinions other than my own. –Rachel
There have been a couple of things that I have not been able to perfect in my Instant Pot (hello, cheesy cauliflower rice…) but overall it’s been an AMAZING asset in my kitchen. I use it at least once a week! I think the reason it works so well for me is that I love the IDEA of a slow cooker but really, really hate trying to get something in the slow cooker before I leave for work. For me, it’s kind of like a slow cooker I can load up when I get home (I actually got rid of my slow cooker after having the Instant Pot for a year). Plus, pressure cooked food reminds me of my grandmother (except that mine doesn’t have the noisy little rocker thing on top). But…to each her own! If it doesn’t work for your family then it definitely isn’t worth having. And that’s okay!
Hey Mary, Yes I think your points drive home the fact that if you cook recipes that do well in an Instant Pot then they are a good tool.I think it just depends on what you like, don’t you?
Absolutely! I love the fact that I can cook meats that fall apart (like in the slow cooker) without having to think about it before I leave for work, and I do a lot of pasta dishes in mine. Plus I use the rice cooker function a ton…for some reason I find it less irritating than the simple act of cooking a pot of rice on the stovetop. That’s my own weird thing, obviously!
I was skeptical, and I’m so happy to hear from someone who’s not impressed with one of those things! I have a friend who raves about hers but she and her husband are vegans so she uses her Instant Pot for beans and rice, which of course makes up a major part of their diet. We’re omnivores! Both my husband and I have food blogs and we love to cook and I love to bake so even our crockpot seldom gets used.
I really wondered if we were missing the boat, but we have a very small kitchen so something that size is a purchase that takes long consideration.
Thanks again for your post.
I know MaryJo! I rarely use a slow cooker either for the very same reason. I think for the people who can get a lot of use out of it like your friend, then maybe they have a place in some kitchens. But here, for my family they do not work. I don’t think you’re missing the boat at all. P.S.–love those cakes on your blog! –Rachel
Yes! Someone who doesn’t like the instant pot! I thought I was all alone with my dislike of it! I bought one and used it a few times and didn’t feel it was that easy or helpful. I sent it back.
Not alone Kim! This is the new club for Instant Pot haters. 😉
Thank you, thank you and thank you! I was wondering about these pots and a friend was raving about this and I almost bought one but it would have sat on a shelf! My friend is not a “true” cook (meaning doesn’t like to cook and is happy with “food”). I am a busy parent but if it doesn’t taste good-it is a total waste. Tried a ceramic pot and the recipes that came with it (kids call it “oh the pot again”), after much trial and error it is good for chili and slow cooked roasts. So, from someone who enjoys cooking, trying recipes and food with taste-thanks for doing the legwork!
Keep those recipes coming! Cheri
(already a subscriber to your emails)
“Mom’s got the pot out!” I can hear my kids saying the same thing, cross my heart. I think that once you get used to what good food tastes like, it’s hard to shortcut it. I’m 100% with you…why make food no one will eat or like even if it is fast. That’s just “food”. You said it so well. My stance is: Take the time you have and make something that fits in that time slot. Even if it’s super simple. It’s still better than forcing food to do what it wasn’t meant to do and eating something sub-par because of it. I appreciate you following me here and your comment. That means so much! –Rachel
I bought one of those things a year or so ago thinking it would do all my cooking for me but, alas, I hated everything and it wasn’t that easy to control. I ended up sending it back and haven’t looked back since. I thought I was a moron or something because I just couldn’t like it, much less love it, but you’ve made me feel so much better about that whole episode. Thanks so much for exposing the thing for what it really is.
Oh Kris you’re not a moron! That’s so funny! 🙂 You’re not alone with your feelings. Based on all these comments, it sounds like we need to start a support group! Thank you for your response. –Rachel