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Cooking things quickly and thoroughly has always been a priority for home cooks. There are enough other things taking up our days. Cooking doesn’t need to be one of them.
Today, we have plenty of options for cooking things more quickly. However, the pressure cooker was one of the first true kitchen time-savers. The Instant Pot is an evolution of a standard electric pressure cooker. Both are great counter top cooking options. The difference between the two is important when you’re deciding on which one you want to buy.
Which Is Better: Pressure Cookers or Instant Pots?
The appliance that’s best is the one that works for your cooking style. Since both pressure cookers and the Instant Pot have strengths and weaknesses, your choice will depend on what you need.
Here’s a breakdown of which is better for different types of cooking.
If you want to set something cooking and leave it running for hours, the Instant Pot is your best bet. Most standard electric pressure cookers only have one setting – pressure cooking. This typically takes less than an hour. However, the Instant Pot has several slow-cook settings.
Depending on what you want to cook, the Instant Pot vs electric pressure cookers come out about the same. The basic pressure cooking mechanism works similarly in both types of appliance.
Ease of Use
Both appliances are relatively easy to use. However, electric pressure cookers may be slightly simpler. Since they only have a single setting, all you need to do is put your food and some water into the cooker and turn it on.
Instant Pots, on the other hand, need to be programmed before you use them. Using the correct settings is key to getting the result you want for your meal. Failing to set the vent correctly can lead to burnt or underdone food.
Both Instant Pots and electric pressure cookers can make noise. The Instant Pot produces high-pitched beeps to signal when it’s on, when it’s reached pressure, and when the timer is done. When it releases steam, it produces a serious hissing noise.
Meanwhile, electrical pressure cookers also produce some noise. Some produce a gentle hiss while they’re cooking, as excess steam leaks out. They can also produce beeps if they have an on-board timer. In general, both electric pressure cookers and Instant Pots produce similar amounts of noise.
Instant Pots are far and away the more versatile cooking method. They have so many settings that they can cook almost anything. Electric pressure cookers only cook things in one way.
When it comes to cost, the Instant Pot tends to have a higher price tag. The amount of technology they include bumps the price higher than the simpler electrical pressure cookers.
Looking for a quick video comparison between Instant Pots vs Pressure Cookers? I’ve looked through a selection on YouTube, and this one is a great cover-all:
How Pressure Cookers Work
Pressure cookers work based on a simple principle: water boils at different temperatures when it’s under different amounts of pressure. Pressure cookers use this to your advantage.
Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at normal air pressure. It’s impossible to raise the temperature of water any higher with standard kitchen appliances. Instead, the water turns to steam and evaporates into the air. As a result, boiling food cannot be heated above 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
However, pressure cookers contain the steam. This increases the air pressure inside the pot, often significantly. The result is that water stops turning to steam, instead heating up in liquid form to temperatures warmer than 212 degrees. Basically, pressure cookers allow you to cook with water at significantly higher temperatures than other cooking methods.
Most electrical pressure cookers are relatively simple. They include a heating source, safety locks, and a timer that automatically releases pressure. Depending on the pressure cooker, they may be more or less complex when it comes to programming abilities. In general, they can only heat food to a single temperature and pressure.
Pros and Cons
- Quick way to cook foods with lots of water content
- Often inexpensive
- Easy to use (pre-set temperatures)
- Tons of recipes available online
- Only one cooking setting
- Minimal programming capabilities
How the Instant Pot Works
The Instant Pot is the next step in pressure cookers. The basic method behind its pressure cooking settings work the same as it does in basic pressure cookers. However, the Instant Pot includes additional settings to cook other foods.
In fact, the Instant Pot has settings for over a dozen foods:
- Slow Cook
You can do everything from sautéing onions to making yogurt at home in an Instant Pot. The primary selling point for the Instant Pot is how many different ways it can be programmed to work. Whether you want to set different temperatures, different times, or different pressure levels, the Instant Pot is prepared to help you.
This is because the Instant Pot can generate heat whether or not it’s closed or sealed. As long as you have the correct setting, you can cook almost anything with an Instant Pot.
Pros and Cons
- Vast variety of cooking methods
- Highly customizable programming
- Tons of accessories available
- More expensive than standard pressure cookers
Choosing between an electric pressure cooker and an Instant Pot can be simple.
If you’re looking for a versatile device, the Instant Pot is the way to go. However, if all you want to do is pressure cook your food, electrical pressure cookers are cheaper and simpler to use.
The biggest difference between the two is how much more the Instant Pot can do (and how much more it costs). An Instant Pot is a great investment, but only if you’ll actually use it.
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