You might be wondering about the difference between an Instant Pot and a pressure cooker? Or what is an Instant Pot? Or, are these appliances the same thing? 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.
Why is this important? It’s worth knowing this stuff to know whether to invest in an Instant Pot or not. Instant Pots are popping up everywhere. They’re a relatively new cooking device compared to the good old pressure cooker, which also offers the convenience of fast home-cooked meals in a pot.
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
Pressure cookers have been around for decades (centuries even) longer than instant pots and are still used today.
The inventor of the pressure cooker, Denis Papin, a French physicist, worked on his invention for many years before it finally creating, in 1679 — the ‘Steam Digester’ aka pressure cooker.
A pressure cooker is a pot with an airtight seal that cooks food quickly at higher temperatures and pressures. It can be used to cook meats as well as dense vegetables like potatoes and carrots, making them tender to eat.
When are pressure cookers used? Pressure cookers can cook food up to 70% faster than conventional means of a regular pot. Pressure cookers not only save time when you’re needing to serve up hearty meals to feed the hungry tribe on hectic weekdays or busy weekends, but also the pressure cooking increases the tenderness and flavor of the foods being prepared. People use pressure cookers to cook whole meats and vegetables, stews, casseroles, and even puddings.
How are Instant Pots and pressure cookers the same?
Instant Pots and pressure cookers both function to cook food quickly with steam under pressure.
Instant Pots and pressure cookers offer convenience after a busy day just like I mentioned as one of the benefits of using crockpots.
These two appliances offer fast cooking so your home-cooked meal is ready in a jiffy once you’ve prepared it, after that busy day.
(You wouldn’t leave these appliances on unattended all day as you would a good slow cooker.)
You could say that Instant Pots and pressure cookers are the same in these ways:
- Offer convenience of fast meal preparation
- Use pressure cooking
- Stainless-steel/metal construction
- Avail cooking of one-pot meals
How are they different or are pressure cookers and instant pots the same thing after all?
Pressure cookers and Instant Pots are not the same thing! Instant pots have multiple functions. They are a type of all-in-one cooking appliance. Compared to a single function with a pressure cooker, Instant Pots 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 come with pre-programmed cooking modes for eggs and cake, a set-and go function that will do all of the work for you while you’re away from home or just need some time alone, and more precise temperature control.
Instant 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]
Is an instant pot a pressure cooker?
Instant Pots are a modern-day version of the old pressure cooker.
Are all instant pots pressure cookers? When is an instant pot not a pressure cooker? An instant pot is a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a soup maker, a yoghurt maker, and more — but it’s still 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.
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.