Are Instant Pots all they are hyped up to be?

Do they really live up to the hype? Pros and cons

Instant Pots are one of the new, safe pressure cookers that act as a better slow cooker (more like a fast cooker), with multi-uses.

I got my first Instant Pot last year and fell in love with it immediately. But that doesn’t mean everything about it is positive. In fact, I have learned over the last nine months some drawbacks as well.

For those curious, this is the version we own: Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker.

While there are certainly many uses for the Instant Pot that I haven’t yet tried out, using it over time has allowed me to see both its uses and the disadvantages. I wanted to give you all an update on my thoughts on this kitchen tool.

Let’s start with the negatives.

By far the biggest negative surprise for me was that despite a lot of the hype around the Instant Pot regarding its speed, not everything actually cooks faster or better in it. For example, some favorite lentil soups of mine take longer in the Instant Pot. This is because it takes a significant amount of time to bring it to pressure when it’s at full capacity. And it also takes some minutes (or upwards of 30 minutes when doing a slow release) to get the pressure down again before you can take off the lid. For something like lentils which cook fairly quickly on the stove top, it’s far faster to simply make it on the stove top.

Some food bloggers have the habit of listing the time for cooking as “at pressure cooking time.” You need to understand that you need to add significantly to that time for the total amount of time it will take to cook because that number doesn’t include the time it takes to get to pressure and releasing pressure at the end of the cooking time.

The other more obvious negative is that when cooking for a large family, the Instant Pot is smaller than the large pots you can get for the stove. I’ve also occasionally had an issue with it malfunctioning when getting to pressure. When that happens, it will keep it warm instead of pressure cooking until you restart it.

The other drawback is that when pressure cooking you can’t check the progress of your dish until the cycle is complete, and the pressure is released. Sometimes this has meant meals not quite cooked enough, or meals over-cooked.

That said, here are the reasons I still love it.

For someone who often needs things to be as simple as possible during Lyme treatment, I adore that it is a dump and leave it machine. There is no babysitting here. That’s why sometimes even when I know that it will take a little longer in the Instant Pot, I use it anyway.

I love that it keeps it warm after it’s done cooking. This allows me to start something early in the day, when needed.

While some recipes may be better suited for stove-top, there are others that are well suited for the Instant Pot and cook faster, and end up more tender. Tough cuts of beef, for example, end up tender and moist when cooked in the Instant Pot. And we’ve made many times a simple shredded pork dish with pineapple that ends up flavorful and perfect – even when using lower quality meat. Beef stew, pot roast, and all those sorts of dishes are extremely well suited for the Instant Pot.

Oh, and for broth making it’s amazing! You end up with a rich broth in two hours that would take 24 hours to make on the stove.

For those with small kitchens, the fact that you can use it for so many different things (like making rice or other grains, yogurt, etc.) is a big advantage.

And finally, for those of us without air conditioning, I adore that it doesn’t heat my house up.

My conclusion is that while there are limitations to its use, I’m extremely thankful to own one and think it is well worth the cupboard space.

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The Best Kitchen Tool for Low Energy Cooks

Want to eat a healthy diet, but have low energy or are just busy? This is the tool for you.

Cooking is serious work, and it requires serious tools. Sharp knifes, large pots, heavy-duty pans – if you don’t have the right tools, cooking can be a practice in frustration. What I love about cooking is that with only a couple of good, but basic tools you can make a wealth of dishes.

But what I also appreciate about kitchen tools, is that there are some that substantially make your life easier. A slow cooker, food processor, or high powered blender, for example.

As many of you know, we are in the middle of treating for a chronic illness, which has been difficult to do with three young kids in the house. My husband and I have been keeping notes on our kitchen prep trying to streamline it where we could, keeping a list of simple, but healthy dinners we can throw together at the end of a long day, and buying things like pre-prepped vegetables.

But there was one kitchen tool that we didn’t have yet, that after thoroughly researching (and hearing the rave reviews of my extended family) I felt would be a tremendous help. The Instant Pot . This is a new kind of pressure cooker that is both safe, and extremely easy to use. The best part is I can make “24 hour broth” in 2 hours using it, or make a dinner with frozen meat on nights when I’ve forgot to defrost it.

My Instagram account is full of pictures from fellow mothers who are using theirs constantly as a way to bring nourishing food to the table in less time and less work. Nourishing soups, stews, broths, roasts, teriyaki chicken, and more seemed to populate my Instagram feed after being cooked in it.

My husband and I were trying to count our pennies to see if we could buy one this year, when my sweet sister and brother-in-law surprised us by buying one for us for my birthday! I was so surprised and so excited! After opening up the present, they served us a rich chicken soup that they had cooked in their own Instant Pot , and I couldn’t believe how fast they had cooked it! With only 30 minutes “at pressure” cooking, they had gotten a whole chicken to turn into a wonderful chicken soup that was as rich as my broths when cooked 18 to 24 hours.

You can bet your last dollar that I’m excited about this gift. I’m thankful because I know it will make my cooking so much easier and faster, and that is a true gift for us during this season.

This is the version we own: Instant Pot 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker.

(My one caution is that if you are really sensitive to even naturally produced glutamates, please be aware that pressure cooking increases them in certain dishes. )

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The Art of Simple Skillet Dinners

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.

Lack of time or energy for cooking can be the death knell for healthy eating. We’ve had a year like no other, and developing strategies for quick, healthy meals has been essential. (Read about my new series: The Low Energy Guide to Healthy Cooking)

Enter skillet dinners. Oh, how I love thee, skillet dinners.

7 Reasons I Love Skillet Meals

  • They are fast
  • They are frugal
  • They use up leftovers
  • They are easy to make
  • You don’t need a specific recipe to conquer them
  • They are healthy and vegetable-centered
  • You can use whatever you like to flavor them

This one-skillet dinner has been a true help. They are wildly adaptable to what you have in the fridge, and you can flavor them however you like. Ginger and garlic, dried herbs, fresh herbs, turmeric, curry powder, garam masala, green onions, regular onions, red onions, and more!

In my last post, I shared how we have been using pre-washed and cut vegetables on a consistent basis and how much time and how many dinners they have saved. Skillet dinners are one of the most common ways we use prepped vegetables.

Need dinner on the table fast? Make healthy and delicious meals using just a skillet! Read more about this method by reading this article at The Nourishing Gourmet.


Dinner can be as simple as this: Heating some oil in a large pan, and sautéing together a package or two of prepared vegetables with a pound of ground meat (any kind you like), or adding leftover shredded meat after the vegetables are cooked. Serve with roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes, or throw some leftover rice or quinoa into the pan as well, and dinner is served.

While the below options are meat-centric, I see no reason why you couldn’t use cooked beans or lentils instead. In fact, a lentil centered skillet dinner sounds fabulous.

What is essential to this dish is a very large skillet. I favor our largest cast iron pan. And when I say large, I mean large. I use a 12 inch cast iron pan which is adequate for our five member family, but I’d even like a bigger one eventually.

Some combinations we’ve liked:

  • Shredded cabbage with beef (add garlic and salt and pepper to flavor) served with rice or quinoa.
  • Vegetable Pork Skillet Dinner: Onions, Mushrooms, garlic, dried herbs, with pork and bacon.
  • Cauliflower Fried “Rice” with Chicken: Cauliflower “rice” with celery, green onions, ginger, garlic, grated carrots, and chicken.
  • Gingery Broccoli and Mushroom Stir Fry: Ground meat of choice, broccoli, mushrooms, ginger, and garlic.
  • Leftover Fried Rice: Onions, broccoli, and cauliflower mix, leftover shredded roast, leftover rice
  • Every day Skillet Dinner: Onions, Zucchini, mushrooms, meat of choice or eggs
  • Extra Greens Skillet: Onions, greens, meat of choice, seasoning of choice

Really, there are no limits to skillet dinners. One of my recent favorite combinations was one in which I used bits and pieces of leftover bags of vegetables which made a delicious and coherent dinner. Skillet dinners can be a great way to use leftovers and the odds and ends you have in your refrigerator!

Do you make similar dishes? I’d love to hear your favorite combination!

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6 Reasons I Love Owning a Toaster Oven

You've gotta love all of that cool things you can do with a toaster oven. Speaking of cool, they don't heat up your kitchen like the regular oven does! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

In my last post, I shared how I was able to find a toaster oven that was free of nonstick, large, and had great reviews on Amazon (I also love it!). So today, I wanted to share why I bothered to buy one, and why I love owning one. I use mine almost every day, and I appreciate it even more every day. This is the model that I own: Waring Pro Digital Convection Oven (Amazon partner link).

Toaster Ovens Don’t Heat Up Your Kitchen

It is seriously hot right now in Oregon, with heat warnings for the residents over the weekend. These are the times when you don’t want to be heating up your large oven if you can help it. While smaller and not suitable for all kitchen tasks, since I choose a larger sized toaster oven, I can fit a surprising amount of food in it. It doesn’t seem to add much heat to the house when I cook with my toaster oven. For that reason, some of my readers have told me that they solely use their toaster oven in the summer months.

It Gets to Temperature Quickly

In the amount of time it takes to heat the regular oven, I can heat and cook some items. For example, I wanted to reheat some chicken strips for my kids (they take 12 minutes when frozen). It would have taken 10 minutes to heat my regular oven. Instead, I practically had my chicken strips cooked before my regular oven would have even heated up. And this busy mom needs all the time-saving strategies I can get!

I Reheat Food in It

Are microwaves really that bad for you? Maybe not. But we have always had very small kitchens, and we have chosen a toaster oven instead of a microwave. We first made that decision years ago partly because of my concern surrounding the safety of microwaves (ones I no longer feel are necessarily true). However, we have remained with our choice of a toaster oven instead of a microwave because food just tastes better when reheated in a toaster oven. Microwaves tend to not heat evenly, make some foods rubbery as they cool, and lack a certain depth of flavor that more traditional methods of cooking/reheating produce. Microwaves are faster, but toaster ovens are pretty fast too, and I find them more versatile.

Toaster Ovens are Energy Efficient

According to a report put out by Energy Star, we could save energy (and save on our electricity bill) if we used our toaster oven instead of our regular oven when cooking smaller dishes. Regular sized ovens are not energy efficient if you are simply cooking a meatloaf or a single batch of muffins. You could save up to 50% of energy when baking by simply using your toaster oven! It’s one easy way to keep energy bills low, and to not be wasteful of our resources at the same time.

I Replace my Toaster with my Toaster Oven

Now be forewarned, ironically toaster ovens are famous for making poor toast. The model I got, however, makes great toast but does take maybe an extra 60 seconds in comparison to our toaster. However, that is a small price to pay for freeing up more counter space. If I am going to own a toaster oven, my goal is to not have a toaster, and this toaster oven made that possible. (Plus, I can fit four slices of bread in it at a time, which is great).

It Gives Me a Second Oven

I don’t have a fancy kitchen with two ovens, as much as I’d love that. But having a larger sized toaster oven gives me a second oven, and I find that useful. While sometimes I may choose to use it instead of the large oven, on big cooking days, I can have two ovens going at different temperatures. This is great for hospitality, holidays, or when you are preparing a lot of food for the week ahead.

Things I’ve Made in My Toaster Oven.

Finally, just to show the versatility of toaster ovens, here is a short list of foods I’ve baked or cooked in my toaster oven.

  • Scones
  • Gluten free biscuits
  • AIP biscuits
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
  • Toast
  • Bacon and Sausage
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Muffins
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
  • And a whole lot more!

As you can see, there is a lot you can do with a toaster oven. Just think of it as a mini oven.

Do you own a toaster oven? What do you love about them?

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