I grew up with my mother using a heavy aluminum pressure cooker similar to one pictured on the left above. She used it for tough meat and beans. She always made us stay well clear of the thing, constantly scaring us about its ability to explode. (Maybe she just wanted some peace in the kitchen for a change.) It required careful monitoring and adjustment of the burner to keep it at the right pressure. I think its only safety feature was an ability to “blow its top” if the pressure went too high.
Needless to say I wasn’t interested in pressure cooking when I had my first home. But around then the slow cooker phase set in and I used it instead for the same foods. In fact I still have the same Rival Crock Pot that I first used in the early 1970’s and it still works just fine.
But after hearing friends rave endlessly about the Instant Pot, I finally succumbed and bought the one pictured on the right. So far I have only cooked chick peas in the dish Chana Masala. One feature that the slow cooker lacks is the Instant Pot’s ability to saute before it pressure cooks. For a browned exterior, I have had to use a separate pan to saute the meat had before using the slow cooker. In the case of the Chana Masala, I was able to saute the vegetables before pressure cooking the beans.
There really isn’t anything “instant” about the pot besides its name. It still requires time for the steam to reach full pressure, time to cook the food, and time for the pot to slowly release the pressure it has built up. Its main advantage, I think, is over the old and more finicky pressure cookers. The Instant Pot takes control of a constant pressure and doesn’t need watching as did the old style ones.
The jury is still out on whether I will convert from the slow cooker to the Instant Pot. Nothing can be quicker than dumping beans and water into the slow cooker, setting it and walking away until the evening. As for other recipes, we’ll see.