Is the Instant Pot Worth Buying?
Find new ways to use the decade-old gadget.
I don’t own an Instant Pot. Ironically, I had one at my fingertips—my roommate’s—when I lived in a tiny Brooklyn apartment. The bulky appliance’s home was under our countertop and required heavy lifting to use it, but the resulting fish sauce-dashed chili, gingery jok, or chicken adobo made it worth the effort. I now live in a two-bedroom house in California with a kitchen that’s not luxuriously big, but definitely larger than what I had in New York. The question that keeps coming back to me is this: Is the Instant Pot still worth getting?
What is an Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot debuted over a decade ago to immediate success. There were rave reviews, word-of-mouth excitement, and recipe groups—including an official Instant Pot Facebook group that currently boasts over 3.1 million members—that championed the device. It’s said that one in three American households now own an Instant Pot.
If yours isn't among them, you might be wondering, what is an Instant Pot, exactly? It's a brand of countertop appliance that comes in several sizes and can perform many functions, including pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, steaming, and more. Some versions are also rice cookers and yogurt makers.
How to use an Instant Pot
Amy and Jacky, the husband and wife duo behind Pressure Cook Recipes, have been at the forefront of Instant Pot home cooking since the appliance's early days. “When we bought our first Instant Pot many years ago, there weren’t many resources available. So we got our hands dirty learning the ins and outs of the Instant Pot,” Amy explains. The first recipe they tested were ribs—which emerged from the Instant Pot tender, juicy, and easily assembled. The pair were wowed. “We thought, why not share our joy with others by sharing our tasty food experiments, tips and tricks, and recipes online?” That was how Pressure Cook Recipes was born.
Their own Facebook group, devoted entirely to Instant Pot recipes and a community of like-minded eaters and cooks, has over 200,000 members. Their YouTube following, which contains video tips for Instant Pots and visual recipes, has nearly 30,000 subscribers.
One of the most compelling things about their recipes are the range of flavors and cuisines—inspired both by childhoods spent in Hong Kong and influences from immigration. There’s an easy Instant pot bread, Chinese-style crispy pork belly complete with crackling skin, and even cheesecake. But aside from the wow-factor recipes, there are also helpful guides on the more common uses for Instant Pots: boiled eggs; over ten variations of rice; baked, mashed, and roasted potatoes; and soups from all corners of the world.
The next wave
For a brand that’s over a decade old, in a market that’s occupied with what’s new and trending, the Instant Pot still manages to reinvent itself. As air fryers grew in popularity, Instant Pot rolled out its own fryer attachment. You can steam, sous vide, and sautée in an Instant Pot and make homemade yogurt. “Instant Pot is more than just a trendy gadget because people find it extremely useful on a daily basis—even after the initial hype,” Amy says. “It’s a very handy kitchen tool for users with different lifestyles and cooking skills,” noting it’s an especially useful device for people limited on space—those living in RVs, students, and van lifers.
The company has even managed to attract collaborations with eye-catching new brands, like Omsom—the Asian-American cooking brand that creates “starters” of complex ingredients for easy homemade meals of larb, sisig, and more.
“We both have founding stories rooted in immigrant communities: Instant was founded by Chinese immigrant Robert Wang, who created the Instant Pot after being laid off,” explains Kim Pham, co-founder of Omsom. “His ingenuity and fortitude is really inspiring to us as first-gen Vietnamese Americans and daughters of refugees. It’s this shared love of making Asian home cooking easier and more delightful that is the cornerstone of this collab.”
The Omsom and Instant Pot collaboration features recipes for fiery Sichuan cod, lemongrass-infused braised chicken, and spicy pork shoulder bulgogi—all crafted exclusively using Instant products. “It’s probably one of my most used kitchen appliances—and it all started honestly with rice,” Pham says. “I don’t have much room in my small NYC apartment for multiple appliances, so I love that I can replace my rice cooker with a tool that can do so much more.” Aside from rice, Pham turns to her Instant Pot to craft beef bourguignon as well as bo kho—a Vietnamese riff on pot roast flavored with star anise, lemongrass, and cinnamon and featuring softened carrots.
“While the [Instant Pot] takes up counter space, it packs way more in flavor and versatility,” Pham says. “It takes a little bit of time to adjust to, but it’ll bring a lot of tools and techniques to your arsenal of cooking skills.”
Maybe it’s time for me to clear some counter space and make room in my life again for an Instant Pot.