4 Ways The Instant Pot *Really* Does Save Time (+ 8 tips to account for & speed up pressurizing time)
If you’ve owned an Instant Pot for any length of time, you know there is (potentially) one downfall…
It often takes a LOOOOOOONG time to come to pressure!
Which means, you might be second-guessing your purchase or use of this handy appliance. After all, everyone said this thing was going to save you soooooo much time and simplify your life in ways you never thought possible! But… over an hour to cook a whole chicken??
Wouldn’t the oven or stove-top take just as long — or even less time?
During the time I’ve been part of the Instant Pot Community Facebook Group, I’ve seen some variation of this question at least once a day:
It takes ## minutes for the pot to come to pressure before it even starts cooking! And then, it takes SO long to release pressure! How is this thing saving me time? I could make (insert dish/meal here) in way less time using my oven/stove/slow cooker!
Can I be totally honest with you?
I said the same thing a few times after I first began using my Instant Pot, too. 🙂
However, it’s safe to say I got over it… I mean, lots and lots of IP recipes here!
Does The Instant Pot Really Save Time?
According to my research, pressure cooking can cook most foods in 1/3 less time than other cooking methods and even up to 10 times faster!
The steam pressure inside the pressure cooker cooks food much, much more rapidly than just boiling or baking food. Unlike microwave cooking, pressure-cooked foods become moist and succulent with an intense intermingling of flavours. Pressure-cooked foods retain much more of their vitamins and nutrients than boiled or commercially processed foods do. (Source.)
After using my Instant Pots (yes, I have 2!) for over 2 years now, I can safely and honestly say…
YES, the Instant Pot really does save time — despite the time it takes to come to pressure and/or release pressure.
#1 — My Hands Are Free For Other Things.
Maybe it does takes 20 minutes for that whole chicken to come to pressure, 45 minutes for it to actually cook, and another few minutes to release the pressure.
Yet, using my Instant Pot to cook a whole chicken is a completely hands-free experience. There’s no watching the pot to make sure it doesn’t boil over, no stirring, no adjusting burner temperature.
For this reason, I try to use my Instant Pot(s) for all meal components. I adore those complete meals (like Clam Chowder and Tikka Masala) that are made in only the IP. Once dinner is in and the lid is on, I can turn my attention to other kitchen or non-kitchen things — without having to stand over the stove.
I have found that the Instant Pot is truly a set-it-and-forget-it appliance, similar to a slow cooker, but BETTER! Which brings me to my next point…
#2 — When Compared To A Slow Cooker…
Pressure cooking is ALWAYS quicker!
I’ve made this Mexican Beef Stew in 53 minutes (from start to finish) in my Instant Pot — a recipe that would’ve taken hours in a slow cooker. Yet, the results were just as yummy, just as tender, and just as easy as if I had used a slow cooker! (Same experience with my Asian Fusion Short Ribs.)
It’s called a “slow cooker” for a reason — because it cooks things long, low, and slow. And the Instant Pot is definitely more “instant”!
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t used my slow cooker once since getting my second Instant Pot. 😉
Second, you can’t do last-minute anything in a slow cooker! If you’re one of those people who consistently remembers to put dinner in the slow cooker in the morning so it’s ready by supper time, you’re my hero. Truly.
I, however, am not one of those people. Typically, my mind starts kinda, sorta thinking about dinner around 2-3 p.m. By that time, the slow cooker doesn’t stand a chance. The Instant Pot really meets that time-crunch need.
#3 — Great Results
I’m a results-driven person. When I don’t see measurable, tangible results from anything I do or try, I stop doing/trying. And my Instant Pot has consistently given me great results.
But, what does this have to do with time?
Well, if the meal you’ve prepared in the oven or on the stove isn’t great or you forgot about it and burned it, what then? You’re probably left with a hungry family and no idea how you’re going to feed them! If you even have another idea of what to make, chances are that the meat’s not thawed or something needs to be chopped or diced or grated. All of those things take MORE time.
Or, you have to resort to scrambled eggs or eating out for dinner instead.
Sure, it’s possible to mess something up in the IP — I’ve done it, too. Yet, I’ve also burned more things on the stove and in the oven than I care to admit — or just not hit a home run with my flavors or textures.
Because I consistently get great, tasty, yummy, healthy food in my IP, I know it’s saving me both time and money. I’m not throwing out food from a failed/burned recipe or taking my family to a restaurant, I come out ahead!
#4 — Batch-Cooking Or Cooking For A Crowd
I have a standard-size, 4-burner stove top. If I’m batch-cooking or cooking for a crowd and need to pull out lots of pots and pans, I’m limited to 4 at a time. The Instant Pot’s Sauté feature, however, is kind of like having an extra burner or electric skillet. And since I have 2 Instant Pots, it’s like having 2 extra burners or electric skillets!
I can sauté veggies, brown meat, or render fat, freeing up my stove for whatever else needs cooking.
Either way, if you’re making a lot of food at once, the IP is an asset, even if it does take time to come to pressure or depressurize.
8 Tips To Account For & Speed Up Pressurizing Time
So, what can you do if you want to use your IP to make a quick dinner, but you’re on a time crunch?
Here are 8 tips to account for and/or speed up pressurizing.
#1 — Don’t Forget To Seal The Vent!
If it seems to be taking an extraordinarily long time to come to pressure, it’s possible you forgot to actually seal the vent. (I’m NOT speaking from experience, of course. ;))
Before you set the time and walk away, double-check that the vent is sealed so pressure can actually build. Furthermore, check the underside of the vent (the float valve and shield), too. Make sure they’re clean and that the block shield (the metal piece with holes in it) is in place.
#2 — Check Your Sealing Ring.
It’s also a good idea to check your sealing ring before every use…
First, is it actually in place? Is it damaged in any way or torn? Is it dirty or full of debris?
You save time later by checking these things before you begin cooking.
#3 — Always Thaw Your Meat.
If you don’t remember anything else in the morning (or the night before), remember to take your meat out of the freezer to thaw. Obviously, frozen anything takes longer to cook than thawed or fresh.
I like to take our meat for the week out of the freezer on Sunday mornings. Whatever is for dinner that night or Monday stays in the sink to thaw completely. The rest of the meat for later days goes in a bowl in the fridge to thaw more slowly.
Yes, you can cook frozen things in your IP… however, a time crunch is not the time to try it. 😉
#4 — Hit The Sauté Button.
To speed up the time it takes to pressurize your pot, hit the Sauté button before you start adding ingredients. It heats up the pot much more quickly, especially if you’re putting something cold, like broth or water, in the pot.
Once you have all the ingredients added, press Cancel, then use whatever function your recipe calls for and cook as directed.
#5 — Give Yourself A 30-Minute Head Start.
It takes time to build and release pressure. That’s just the way it is — no matter what sort of pressure cooker you’re using.
If you understand that before you start using your IP, you’re less likely to be shocked when it’s been 30 minutes and your chicken still hasn’t come to pressure.
So, account for that by giving yourself an extra 30 minutes… if you can.
If you feel like it’s been way too long, check your vent, per point #1. It may not be sealed. 😉
If you just can’t give yourself any extra time, remember that your IP is airtight and is programmable. You can always treat it like a slow cooker by adding in your ingredients and programming it to cook when you’re not at home!
#6 — Don’t Over-Fill The Pot.
The more you’ve got in your pot, the more time it takes to build pressure. Or, if it’s too full, it may not come to pressure at all.
The Instant Pot’s quantity guides are useful, however I advise against filling the pot to “Max” capacity. It might not come to pressure — and you’ll probably have a sputtering mess on your hands later, if it does pressurize.
#7 — Check Your Liquid.
You need a minimum of 1 cup of liquid — broth, water, wine (NOT liquid oil!) — for the Instant Pot to build pressure. If your pot’s not pressurizing, open it up and make sure you have the required liquid.
(Yes, I know many users say 1/2 cup of liquid is enough. However, better safe than sorry. You can always drain off excess liquid if you have too much. But you’ll never get the time back that you waited on a pressure cooker to come to pressure because you didn’t have enough liquid.)
Along with this point, make sure to add any thickeners/make a roux — corn starch or arrowroot, for example — AFTER your food is cooked, not before. Because the Instant Pot relies on the steam produced by liquid to come to pressure, thickeners impede this process.
Too much liquid is also a problem — ie. don’t over-fill the pot per #6.
When following these tips, your chances of experiencing pressurizing/depressurizing issues are significantly reduced.
#8 — Follow Tested Recipes That Work!
There’s nothing worse than finding a beautiful recipe on Pinterest, making it exactly as the instructions say, and having it be a total flop. 🙁 I’ve been there too, and it’s no fun.
I pinky promise that all of my Instant Pot recipes are tried-and-true.
I’m a SUPER BIG FAN of Traditional Cooking School’s Pressure Cooking eCourses. I’ve gone through them both and learned a TON about using my Instant Pots!
The Art Of Great Cooking With Your Instant Pot and Paleo Cooking With Your Instant Pot are my 2 favorite IP cookbooks. The recipes are beautiful, simple, and they WORK! (This Instant Pot Pumpkin Pie is from The Art Of Great Cooking With Your Instant Pot!)
What About Depressurizing?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to make a pressure cooker release pressure more quickly. Depressurizing takes as long as it takes. Some recipes take longer than others.
Just know that it WILL release all the pressure and you WILL be able to open the lid… eventually. 😉
Use the depressurizing time to set the table, light some candles, turn on some pretty music, and set the tone and atmosphere for a lovely, pressure cooked meal.
I hope you’re convinced that the Instant Pot really does save time and can consistently give you and your family delicious and nourishing meals, side dishes, and desserts with less effort!