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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Easy Flattened Pan-Fried Chicken Thigh or Breast

Flattened, Pan fried chicken is tender with a crispy exterior. So easy and delicious! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

Moist in the middle, crispy on the outside, this easy protein main is something we make often. You only need a couple of kitchen items and about fifteen minutes of prep and cook time to get this dish on the table. Serve with rice and veggies, over a fresh green salad, or add to a pasta dish. This recipe is one of my Low Energy Recipes! 

I also love how easy it is to add variety to the dish by using different flavored salts! Now that summer is upon us, I plan on grilling this as well. Yum!

Flattened, Pan fried chicken is tender with a crispy exterior. So easy and delicious! -- The Nourishing Gourmet

Life is busy whether you are dealing with chronic health issues, young children, or a busy career. A fast way to prepare chicken is helpful to get a good protein source on the table on a regular basis. Plus, our kids love it when prepared this way.

There are a couple of secrets to making this delicious. First, you need to flatten the chicken thigh or breast so that it will cook all the way through. Secondly, you can’t beat cast iron for getting a lovely crispier exterior. It does make a huge difference. Third, a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper go a long way in making this flavorful, yet easy. Sometimes I use a little of flavored salt – smoked, for example – to add a more flavor without any extra work. Lovely!

True confession: I like pounding chicken as a way to release frustration. It’s therapy kitchen work!

Pastured chicken is best. We generally got second best with organic chicken thighs from Trader Jo’s as it’s more affordable and accessible.

Needed Kitchen Items:

I haven’t tried it yet, but my recipe for herbed garlic salt would also make a great seasoning on this! I need to replenish my stores so I can try it out.

Easy Flattened Pan-Fried  Chicken Breast or Thigh Method

Printable PDF 

This recipe is so basic, you don’t need exact ingredients, just the method!

Ingredients:

  • Chicken thighs or breasts (at least one per person)
  • Unrefined salt or flavored salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
  • Fat or oil of choice (I recommend coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, home rendered lard or tallow)

Method:

1.Trim chicken thigh or breast of extra fat with a small sharp knife. If using chicken breast, I prefer to cut them in half to make them a more manageable size. Place meat on a cutting board, and then place either a clean linen kitchen towel or a piece of parchment paper over the meat. Alternatively, place meat between two sheets of parchment paper or two clean kitchen towels.

2.Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently and evenly pound the thigh or breast until it’s about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon each per thigh or half breast), and set aside. Continue pounding all of the pieces of chicken, replacing parchment paper if needed, and seasoning them as you go.

3.Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat. Once you feel heat radiating to your hand when placed several inches above the surface of your pan, add enough fat to the pan to lightly cover the bottom of the pan (about two tablespoons), and then place several pieces of chicken thigh or breast into pan. Don’t crowd. Let cook undisturbed until you see the edges cooking. Check underneath the meat, and once it is lightly browned, turn over and cook until cooked through the middle.

4. To serve, cut into strips.

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. )

This post contains affiliate or partner links. Thanks for supporting my blog!

5 Tips for Holiday Meal Planning with Low Energy

Low energy going into the holiday season? No worries! Here's how to simplify.

I love the holiday season. It’s been a favorite time of year for me since my childhood. But thinking of my childhood, it’s good to realize that our holiday traditions were simple, yet still magical for me.

Holiday meal planning doesn’t necessarily have to be stressful and overly difficult either. Elaborate and fancy meals are so much fun to plan, but when you don’t have the time or energy, it’s good to remember how simple holiday fun can be.

Because of health issues this year, we are picking and choosing where my energy goes, and this is true for holiday meals too. Here are four ways we are planning our holidays, with (and despite) low energy.

Simplify

I know this is obvious, but it’s so important! One quick example: Originally I had hoped to have gingerbread, hot cocoa, and popcorn for our tree trimming tradition. But we realized that, as nice, and even as doable as that was most years, it wasn’t always feasible for me. So our tradition now is something like this: Get a tree, put on our favorite Christmas music, and make homemade (and super easy) hot cocoa to sip on during the tree trimming.

Sometimes Joel and I make ours into mochas by adding a shot of stovetop espresso.

Pumpkin Spice Hot Cocoa -www.thenourishinggourmet.com

And you know what? As simple as the tradition is, it’s a fun tradition that we love that builds memories with a homemade and real food beverage.

Some years we may have the bandwidth for a Christmas cookie extravaganza, Christmas baking efforts, and loads of handmade Christmas gifts. It’s wonderful to have those years. But other years, things may be trimmed back, whether because of finances, low energy, ill health, or because there is a new baby in the house. And even though those trimmed back years may be more simple, there is no reason to think they will be any less memorable and wonderful.

For Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day meals, simplifying is important too. I’ll be honest. We love having our holiday meals be feasts! But we’ve also found that doing a more streamlined holiday meal can be satisfying. By carefully selecting favorite dishes that complement each other well, we’ve had lovely feasts that may not have made the table groan but were satisfying and perfect.

Buy

Pumpkin Pie Stuffed Apples (GF/DF) - The Nourishing Gourmet

This is a food website. Obviously, we talk about homemade food a lot here and I believe fully in the beauty of making your own food. But there are years when it’s a lot harder to make everything from scratch. There is nothing wrong with buying some of your holiday food pre-made. If you are lucky enough to live in a place like Portland, you could even buy your entire Thanksgiving meal (made with real food ingredients) to re-heat. While this will never be my first choice, and because of our food restrictions, likely never feasible, there is no reason to kill yourself for a holiday meal if you have other options available.

Other ideas: Buy premade pies or desserts, premade cranberry salad, or trimmed vegetables ready to cook.

Collaborate

Cranberry Goat Cheese Ball

Holiday meals are meant to be shared. While it can be a lot of fun to prepare the whole meal, on years where this is daunting, sharing the workload is helpful too! One year where I made the majority of the dishes, a friend showed up early to help me finish up all of the cooking, and it was so much fun! This year our Thanksgiving is shaping up well, and all of us only have a two or so dishes we are in charge of bringing.

Pre-make

Spiced-Cranberry-Orange-Sauce

When possible, pre-make what you can. Cranberry sauce, salad dressing, chopped vegetables, pie crust or pies, can all be made one to three days before the holiday. By doing just one simple task every day, you can spread out the work and have that homemade feast you love.

Enjoy

How to make mashed potatoes in a slow cooker (including dairy free options)

Finally, don’t forget, no matter how simple or how store-bought your meal ends up being, to truly enjoy the meal. The people you enjoy the food with are far more important than what is on the table. I love showing my love for them by the food I make, but I also know that laughing with them, enjoying my time with them, and showing them that I can relax with them is far more important than stressing over food. Holiday meals are meant to be joyous. If you have low-energy or are just having a crazy year, do what you can, and then sit back and enjoy the holiday. Put some music on, and maybe celebrate with a favorite holiday movie later. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it should be full of joy.