You might be wondering about the difference between an Instant Pot and a pressure cooker? Or what is an Instant Pot? What you need to know is, yes, they are in a way the same…but, yes, they’re also heaps different. Here I cover what defines them and what sets them apart.
What this covers:
- Defining a pressure cooker
- How are Instant Pot and pressure cookers the same?
- How are they different?
- What is an Instant Pot?
- 5 essential differences between instant pots and pressure cookers
- How to use Instant Pot?
Defining a pressure cooker
A pressure cooker is a pot that cooks food quickly at higher temperatures under excessive pressure. It’s best for cooking and tenderizing meats and dense vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots.
People use pressure cookers to cook whole meats and vegetables, stews, casseroles, and even puddings. They’ve been a kitchen appliance for much longer than instant pots, and are still in use today.
Pressure cookers can cook food up to 70% faster than conventional means of a regular pot. They not only save time when needing to serve hearty meals to hungry tribe on hectic weekdays or busy weekends, but also the pressure method increases the tenderness and flavor of the foods being cooked.
How are Instant Pots and pressure cookers the same?
In a nutshell, Instant Pots match pressure cookers in these ways:
- Offering convenience of fast meal preparation
- Pressure method of cooking
- Stainless-steel/metal construction
- Cooking of one-pot meals
Instant Pots and pressure cookers both cook food quickly using steam under pressure.
Instant pots vs pressure cookers vs slow cookers
All of these appliance — instant pots, pressure cookers, and slow cookers — offer the convenience of a home-cooked meal after an outing or a busy day at work.
I wrote about how a crockpot offers this convenience of a slow cooked meal that’s been prepared and left to cook while you are away.
Pressure cookers and instant pots are about fast cooking of a meal, one that’s ready in a jiffy once you’re prepared it. (You wouldn’t leave these appliances on unattended all day as you would a slow cooker.)
instant pot vs pressure cooker difference
Instant Pots differ to pressure cookers in that Instant pots have multiple functions versus a pressure cooker, which has one. Instant Pots are a type of all-in-one cooking appliance and have many programmable settings, e.g., for cooking rice, soup, or yoghurt.
While an Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, and in this respect the two appliances are the same, it’s important to note that a pressure cooker is not an Instant Pot — It does not have the added functions of an Instant Pot.
Instant Pots have several different settings compared to the one function of a conventional pressure cooker.
What is an Instant Pot?
An Instant Pot is a multi-cooker with a number of cooking settings (6 to 11) depending on the version. It combines the functions of both stovetop pressure cookers and slow cookers, and more.
The new models even come with pre-programmed modes. Instant Pots can cook eggs and bake cakes with these set-and go functions that do all of the thinking for you.
Instant Pot (similar to Insta Pot) is a brand. It’s a registered trade name, put out by Instant Brands.
Who invented the Instant Pot? The inventor of the Instant Pot, Robert Wang (a computer scientist), was the first to develop a cooking appliance that combined pressure cooker and slow cooker features in one.
He released his first product in October 2010 – at Amazon and the following month his first sale for $140.
An Instant Pot has multiple functions…such as
- pressure cooker
- rice cooker
- yogurt maker
When are Instant Pots used? Instant pots are used for one-pot meals cooked conveniently fast. They have multiple cooking functions with settings for cooking rice, making yoghurt, and much more. They’re great for slow-cooking, and even browning meat before adding to a stew, as well as for sterilizing bottles, yoghurt making, and steaming vegetables.
But how are these features different to what we know of a pressure cooker?
5 essential differences between instant pots and pressure cookers
The main difference between an Instant Pot and a pressure cooker is the number of functions and adjustments offered by each.
- Number of functions/programs
- Simple vs complex
- Safety features
Instant Pot vs pressure cooker functions
The Instant Pot has a more advanced and modern design that includes additional functionality and features than your traditional stovetop or electric version of the pressure cooker.
The Instant Pot is a multi-cooker. It does the work of several different kitchen appliances, such as an electric pressure cooker and a slow cooker.
Instant Pots are great for slow-cooking and even browning meat before adding it to stews and soups.
Pressure Cooker vs slow cooker: Pressure cookers don’t incorporate digital controls. The adjustable features offered by Instant Pots allow you to cook your food just the way you like it. A pressure cooker is simple in design and operation, with one function only. I wrote how easy it is to know whether they’re working right or not.
Simple vs complex
On one hand, the Instant Pot has a wider range of cooking options than that of a pressure cooker. On the other hand, a pressure cooker is simple, straightforward to use, compared to having to get to know and decide upon the different digital settings in operating an Instant Pot.
The more digital controls involved the more chance of faults and needing replacements, although Instant Pots do have built in safety features to reduce this.
The Instant Pot has a timer
The Instant Pot has a timer that helps you avoid overcooking your food while the temperature is controlled automatically for you. It also offers intuitive programming, meaning it’s easier than ever before to choose from one of several pre-set cooking programs.
Instant pots will turn off automatically when programmed to.
Pressure cookers don’t have built-in timers and so you’ll need to use a separate timer or keep an eye on the clock.
Pressure cookers have an simple open vent (safety valve) at the top for steam to escape. Instant Pots have a similar set up to release pressure before opening, but also require other built-in safety features to deal with the digital controls.
I wrote about the things that can go wrong in my article covering the essential safety tips for using an Instant Pot.
Instant Pots are more expensive than your traditional stovetop version of pressure cooker. They cost about twice as much as a pressure cooker of comparable size.
Conventional stovetop pressure cookers whistle while Instant Pots are quiet cookers. Not all pressure cookers are the same though. I wrote about this in Do All Pressure Cookers Whistle?
How to use Instant Pot?
There are different settings on an Instant Pot, but the key modes to know are:
- low or high pressure with valve open
- low or high pressure with valve closed
- slow cooking with valve open
- searing with lid open
The saute setting is great for browning or searing meats before slow cooking (particularly in soups, sauces, and other dishes that require long slow simmering).
The slow cooker setting is perfect for cooking stews and other dishes that require long periods of low heat without supervision. It can also be set up overnight in order to have dinner ready when you get home from work.
- Choose the heat setting (low, medium or high) to control the speed at which the food cooks. Listen for the click.
How to use Instant Pot [youtube]
The final word
An Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, but a pressure cooker is not an Instant Pot, it does not have the added functions of an Instant Pot. At the end of the day, it’s about preference in regard to the differences I’ve set out above on whether you’d choose an Instant Pot or stick to a pressure cooker.
When deciding between an Instant Pot and a pressure cooker, consider whether you want an all-in-one cooking appliance or a simple go-to for fast tender and juicy meals.