It sat in the box on the floor for weeks because it's enormous, and we were a little intimidated by it. I finally unboxed it, washed all the parts, put it together, and made white rice, and it was the best freaking rice I have ever had. All told it wasn't any faster than making it in a pot on the stove because it takes a little time to come up to pressure and then to come back down, but still the rice was amazing.
In the back of my mind I thought "maybe a rice cooker would be just as good" (and my husband thought it, too), but we made a few more things in it to see how versatile it really is. We cooked chicken breasts from frozen, and that was handy because we had forgotten to take them out of the freezer. BUT the pot took a long time to come up to pressure (because we filled it with giant chicken-shaped ice cubes), and we usually plan better, so needing to cook something frozen is unusual for us. They were good, but they were not a revelation.
My husband made a whole chicken in it once, and again the meat tasted good but the skin was yucky, like it would be in a slow cooker. I've read many recipes that say you can just pop it in a pan and under the broiler! But the whole point is supposed to be that this thing is autonomous, so that option annoyed me and we didn't do it. Mostly because a whole chicken is hard to handle and we didn't want to get more dishes dirty.
We made rice again and maybe one other thing that I forgot, but by the time we'd used it for a couple of weeks, my husband and I came to the conclusion that it is not the small appliance for us for several reasons:
- As I mentioned above, the thing is huge. We don't have space for it to live on the counter, and it's too big for all of our cabinets, so we have it on an open shelf. Even then we have to take the lid off and store it next to the pot, so it takes up the room of two smaller appliances in our tiny kitchen. Maybe if it had a dedicated counter spot it wouldn't seem like so much work to get it out and then clean all the parts and put it away again.
- The saute function appealed to me because it saves cleaning a pot. However, this function is awkward to use because the pot is so tall, and the insert doesn't have handles, so it kind of wiggles around while you are sauteing. Plus the final product is strictly OK. Yes, it does a lot of things, but it doesn't do most of them all that well in my opinion.
- It does cook things quickly, but the times are misleadingly short. It takes a few minutes to come up to pressure (sometimes more than a few), and it takes a while for the pressure to release naturally. You can hand-release the pressure, but that scares me a little and I haven't done it enough to know when it's a good idea and when it isn't. My point is that "You can cook frozen chicken breasts in 12 minutes" is technically true, but the whole thing takes longer than that and you can't really walk away.
- The keypad is not intuitive in any way.
- You can't mess around with your food while it's cooking. Drew and I both like to check in with things while they are on the stove or even in the slow cooker. We like to stir them, taste them, adjust seasonings, check for doneness, etc. You can't do any of those things with the Instant Pot, you just lock the lid and hope for the best. This cuts out a lot of what makes cooking worth it for us, and that just isn't the kind of cook we have in our kitchen.
- We plan out most of our meals each week and post them on the fridge, so it's incredibly rare for us to come home and wonder what is for dinner. This thing seems perfect for people who don't plan well and need something fast at the end of the day. Again, that's not us.
- We are not comfortable leaving it alone all day and programming it to come on while we are not around, which means every time we use it we have to be in the kitchen or nearby the entire time, and that doesn't work for us. I'm perfectly happy turning on the crock pot in the morning and coming home to something delicious that cooked all day. Plus the Instant Pot is so sealed that you don't really smell anything while it's working - I can see how that would be a plus for some people, but we love to smell dinner cooking all day.
- The whole process just seems sort of cold because you're closing everything up in this heavy-duty capsule, and you can't see or smell what's inside. The aesthetics just don't appeal to us.
Again, the rice is fantastic, and we will probably buy a much smaller rice cooker, but the Instant Pot is not for us.
UPDATE: Still not for us. Our dog has had a stomach bug or something for the last few days, and I made some rice for her last night at 8:30 because it seems to calm her digestion. I considered using the Instant Pot for .5 seconds, but the thought of hauling it out on the counter and taking all the parts and pieces out to wash didn't appeal to me at all. I just made it in a pot and that was that.