Pressure cookers used to have a bad reputation. Everyone had a story about how Cousin Agnes had one and she somehow blew up her kitchen with it.
Old-style pressure cookers were intimidating appliances, especially for those of us raised on the ease and safety of microwaves. But then came the Instant Pot.
The new appliance combined pressure cooking, slow cooking, sauteing and — depending on the model — other techniques such as yogurt-making and cake-baking. Suddenly, pressure cooking felt safe — and hip — again.
There’s no question that the Instant Pot has captured the hearts and kitchens of many. Just try reading through some of the glowing reviews on Amazon or joining one or more of the Facebook groups devoted to the appliance.
Gluten-free groups love it. Those who’ve gone paleo or vegetarian sing its praises. Dieters and those with allergies have all found it an aid. Call it the equal-opportunity appliance.
If an Instant Pot is in your plans — or maybe on your shelf — the following are several ways it can save you enough money to quickly pay for itself.
1. Replace other appliances
First, the obvious: If you don’t already own a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker or even yogurt-maker, buying an Instant Pot saves you the expense of purchasing them.
And making more room in your kitchen is worth something too, right? Many Instant Pot buyers find themselves sending their old Crock-Pot or rice cooker to Goodwill, thus freeing up space in already-crowded cupboards or on countertops.
2. Throw away the takeout menus
It’s tough to pass up those quick takeout meals — orange chicken from Panda Express, butter chicken from your favorite Indian restaurant or Mongolian beef from the Asian restaurant down the street.
But just do a web search for your favorite takeout dish and add the phrase “Instant Pot.” You’ll find simple and quick recipes for all of them.
Better yet, search for the recipe you want along with the name of your Instant Pot model. Mine’s a Duo 60 Plus, and some recipes written for earlier models had me hunting for the “manual” button when mine had renamed it “pressure cook.”
3. Save on office lunches
The Instant Pot comes in a range of sizes. I own a 6-quart. Of course, it depends on the recipe, but so far, I’ve always ended up with leftovers.
The butter chicken recipe I mentioned even spells out how to make extra sauce — with the idea being that it’s so scrumptious you’ll want to have more on hand.
Make an Instant Pot recipe. Then, a day or so later, you can bring those boxed-up leftovers to work with you. The bagel or pizza shop in the office food court can do without your money for a day or two.
4. Find meaty deals
The wonder of a pressure cooker is that it can take even the toughest — and thus cheapest — cuts of meat and use its pressurizing to turn them into tender treats.
Haven’t had pot roast since Grandma’s Sunday dinners back in the 1970s? It’s an Instant Pot favorite, with the pressure-cooked beef falling apart on your fork.
5. Buy in bulk and freeze ingredients
Who doesn’t love the thrill of getting a great deal at Costco or other bulk-grocery stores? But now that you’ve brought those 10 pounds of frozen chicken breasts home, you need to actually use them — or the money is wasted.
One of the many miracles of the Instant Pot is you can cook with frozen meats. It’s best to do a web search for the specifics of your particular recipe and cut of meat. But the time change from fresh to frozen is usually negligible.
For example, frozen chicken pieces cooked in a single layer might need 15 minutes of pressure cooking as opposed to 10 minutes if they’re already thawed. That extra five-minute wait is well worth the freedom to “forget” to thaw your meat out before heading to the office for the day.
6. Replace your store-bought staples with homemade ones
Once you’ve delved into some of the Instant Pot Facebook groups and blogs, you’ll soon find that the appliance has as many fans for making kitchen staples as it does for meal recipes.
Save on buying that delicious Greek yogurt, for example, by simply buying a gallon of milk and a small container of yogurt to use as a starter, then making it yourself.
Vanilla extract, rotisserie chickens, bone broth and cheesecakes all can be made in an Instant Pot, too.
Sometimes the items you make in it serve double duty. I’ve whipped up a batch of Greek yogurt, drained it, saved the whey and used that to bake a crisp sourdough-style bread. Talk about saving bread while making some.