It all began at the beginning of this year when Food52 MVP Sarah Jampel posed a question that would carry us across 2017: Is the Instant Pot about to change the way we cook? Since then, we’ve seen a proliferation of the appliance in our kitchens, recipes, and newsfeeds. People seem to be hungry for knowledge about the multi-cooker that’s taking over the market.
For starters, it’s important to specify what the Instant Pot is. It’s not just a slow cooker, or a rice cooker, or pressure cooker, but all of those devices, plus a yogurt maker, browning pan, steamer, and warming pot. It’s this compendium of uses that threw the Instant Pot onto the scene with such fervor, along with its easy-to-use interface and "fill, cover, and go" approach to easy weeknight cooking. People—and the internet—caught on quick. Melissa Clark of the New York Times wrote a cookbook devoted to the technology, on Black Friday, the Instant Pot was one of the top 5 highest-selling items on Amazon.
After a year saturated with talk of the Instant Pot, we decided to take a look back on the way it took over our site in 2017. We tried cooking with it at home, filling them with beans and proteins for hearty, warming meals, and commenting on the ways it began to affect consumers. We tasted, we tried, we talked! Here’s some of the ways we got to know the Instant Pot this year:
Only a month after her initial query, Sarah set out to give the Instant Pot a whirl. Over the course of a (very) well-documented day, she pushed the appliance to the edges of its ability. In it, she cooked potatoes, eggs, oats, chickpeas, and lentil soup. She settled on this concise, but nuanced review: “The Instant Pot might not handle all of your cooking, but it makes possible the dishes and kitchen tasks that seem otherwise inconceivable on a rushed weeknight.”
Over the summer, Daniel Shumski, author of How to Instant Pot, showed us how to use the device for quick and easy beans and salads. The Instant Pot cut soaking times for beans by an intensely large margin and made them easy to throw into light summer salads for a fortifying, filling effect. His white bean salad with cucumber and sumac was particularly refreshing.
In October, cookbook aficionado Paula Forbes took note of the Instant Pot’s indelible indent on the environment of cookbooks in 2017. While Melissa Clark’s was most notable of the bunch, she points to examples that approached the multi-cooker with a more pointed perspective, like Urvashi Pitre's Indian Instant Pot. Later that month, the Instant Pot circled back into consciousness as Crock-Pot, makers of the eponymous slow cooker, announced they were entering the multi-cooker game. It seemed everyone was scrambling to enter what was proving to be a high-demand market.
And as winter’s cool breeze rolled through, Daniel returned to grace our site with yet another Instant Pot recipe. This one was heartier, soupier, warmer: a full bodied beef stew laced with coconut milk and lime, sprinkled with salted peanuts.
I talked to Josh, our Test Kitchen Chef, about his thoughts on the tool everyone's talking about: "It’s like a pressure cooker that you can also sauté in. Honestly, instead of sautéing in a pressure cooker, I’d rather use a pressure cooker and sauté on the side, because I feel like I can make the pan or skillet on the stove do what I want more than a pressure cooker. But let’s say you wanted to not get as many dishes dirty, you could sear something in the Instant Pot and then add the liquid and continue to cook it how you wanted, so that’s convenient." His opinion is tempered. Essentially, while he recognizes the appeal, he wouldn't reach for the Instant Pot before other, more traditional kitchen tools.
As 2017 comes to a close, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of the Instant Pot on the way we talked about food. Can the product maintain its steady increase in popularity? Will it? Who knows. It’s evident that people like the hands-off—and speedy—approach to cooking that the Instant Pot allows, while others find it limiting, boring, and not worth the hype. Was 2017 the year of the Instant Pot? Or is the hype only beginning? I guess only time will tell.
How did the Instant Pot change the way you cook in 2017? Tell us in the comments section.