Instant Pot / Money Talks News
The hottest gift of Christmas 2017 wasn’t a fidget spinner, or a Hatchimal, or a set of Moscow Mule mugs. Instead, it was an appliance that helped reboot a method of cooking that was once as uncool as spiral perms or bell-bottom pants: the Instant Pot.
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 Canadian inventor Robert Wang and his partners, and in 2013 there was a new appliance that combined pressure-cooking, slow-cooking, sauteing and, depending on your 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.
“The Instant Pot is hardly the fanciest appliance on the market; several models sell for under $100,” noted the New York Times in December. “But it has upended the home-cooking industry.”
If an Instant Pot is in your plans — or maybe on your shelf — here are six ways it can save you money. (Note: I’m not on Instant Pot’s payroll in any way — just a devoted fan.)
1. Replace other appliances
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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 from the expense of purchasing them. And making more room in your kitchen is worth something too, right? Many IP buyers find themselves sending their old Crock-Pot or rice cooker to Goodwill, thus freeing up space in already-crowded cupboards or on countertops.
Tip: If you’re looking to buy an Instant Pot but don’t want to pay full price, your best bets are Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day or diligent haunting of the shelves of your local thrift store. Some recipients of the Instant Pot never even open the box (it’s that intimidating pressure-cooker factor again), so thrift stores can be a great place to score an unopened IP.
2. Throw away the takeout menus
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It’s tough to pass up those quick take-out meals — orange chicken from Panda Express, butter chicken from your favorite Indian restaurant, Mongolian beef from the Chinese restaurant down the street. But just search on your favorite takeout recipe name and add “Instant Pot” to the search — you’ll find simple and quick recipes for all of them. (The butter chicken recipe from Dallas food blogger Urvashi Pitre became so popular she was written up in the New Yorker.)
Here’s a recipe tip: Search for the recipe you want along with the name of your IP 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
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The Instant Pot comes in three sizes, the 3-quart pot, the 6-quart pot and the 8-quart pot. (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 mentioned above 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 IP recipe, then a day or so later, 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
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The wonder of a pressure cooker is that it can take even the toughest (and thus cheapest) cuts of meat and use that 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 simply falling apart on your fork.
While we’re on the subject, check out: “25 Ways to Spend Less on Food.”
5. Buy in bulk and freeze ingredients
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Who doesn’t love the thrill of getting a great deal at Costco or other bulk-grocery stores? But having enough freezer space for the food is one thing. 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 Google the specifics for your particular recipe and cut of meat (here’s a handy cheat sheet) 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 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.
Check out: “21 Tricks to Make Groceries Last Longer.”
6. Replace your store-bought staples with homemade
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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 for meal recipes. Save on buying that delicious Greek yogurt by simply buying a gallon of milk and a small container of yogurt to use as a starter, then making it yourself. (Note: Earlier IP models don’t have a yogurt-making function but can still make it.) Vanilla extract, rotisserie chickens, bone broth, cheesecakes, all can be made in an IP. And sometimes the items you make in it serve double duty. I recently 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 it.
Are you an Instant Pot convert? Share your experience with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.