I'm still slightly stunned by the response to a recent column in which I touched briefly on the subject of the Instant Pot.
As gifts go, the Instant Pot is one you will never regret giving. And should you be on the receiving end of one, for a brief moment or two, you may be able to identify with Taylor.
Dear Mary: I recently received an Instant Pot pressure cooker as a gift and have been scared to try it. Maybe it's my grandmother's tales of kitchen explosions and food on the ceiling. I'm hesitant because I really love my slow cooker and use it several times a week. But the idea of the Instant Pot being faster and a space-saver is starting to gin up my courage. Can you help me get started? — Taylor
Dear Taylor: It took me months and months to find the courage to pack up my beloved Kuhn Rikon Duromatic stovetop pressure cooker, my older Breville Fast Slow Cooker, my Zojirushi Rice Cooker and my very tired, old Cuisinart Slow Cooker and get them out of the kitchen. Why would I do that? Because within weeks of getting my Instant Pot, I stopped using them. They became dust collectors that did nothing but take up space. The Instant Pot is so revolutionary; it does everything those appliances could do but better, and it costs less than all of them (except the slow cooker).
As for your fears, all new pressure cookers, including the Instant Pot, come with built-in safety features that cannot be overridden, and you can absolutely rely on them.
Now, about your slow cooker. I was right there with you and probably twice as reluctant. While the Instant Pot does have a slow-cooker feature, I haven't it yet because pressure-cooking gives the same or better results but in a fraction of the time. High-pressure steam has two major effects:
—It raises the boiling point of the water in the pot. When cooking something in liquid, like a stew or steamed vegetables, the heat is limited to the boiling point of water (212 degrees F). But with the steam's pressure, the boiling point can get as high as 250 degrees F. Higher heat helps food cook faster.
—It raises the pressure, quickly forcing liquid and moisture into the food. This helps the food cook faster and certain foods, like tough meat, to get very tender very quickly.
Here's the biggest difference between a slow cooker and a pressure cooker: One is slow, and the other is fast. With a pressure cooker, I can be unprepared at 6:00 p.m., pull a nice cut of beef from the freezer and eat delicious, tender braised beef stew at 7:00 p.m. With a slow cooker, I'd be out of luck.
Consider joining the Instant Pot community page on Facebook. You can read what others members ask and how they answer, and post your own questions and successes. What a great community!
Need more help? Simple. Google the words "Instant Pot" plus anything you want to know, such as a recipe you'd like to find. With more than 50,000,000 Instant Pot owners out there, you're bound to find the answer almost instantaneously.
I can't wait to hear back from you once you get rolling with Instant Pot. Prepare to be amazed!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.