Why I Don’t Like the Instant Pot (+ Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew)

9 Reviews / 4.1 Average
Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine
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Okay, so after all the crazy hype, I caved and bought an Instant Pot (one brand of electric pressure cooker). I figured it must be one amazing machine with how much everyone seems to love it. And I have to say, I might be the minority here, but I don’t like the Instant Pot! Anyone want to buy a slightly used Instant Pot? (kidding! sort of, haha). I honestly went into this with an open mind and have used it several times for all different types of recipes to really get a good feel for what it can do.

Why I Don't Like the Instant Pot on 100 Days of Real Food

Recipes I Tried in the Instant Pot

First I made “baked” potatoes. I quickly learned that the way the potatoes turn out is fine if you’re using them in another recipe (similar to if you boiled them), but not exactly fine for eating as a side item. Which is what I was planning to do, LOL. Baking them in the oven would have been MUCH better for this application – lesson learned.

Next, I thought I’d try a more complex recipe, and what better place to start than the Instant Pot recipe booklet that came with my machine, right? Um, I quickly learned there must have been a language barrier or something when developing those recipes because steps and important info seemed to be missing at times. But I winged it anyway and made an okay butternut squash soup. I chose that recipe because normally I would roast the squash in the oven first, so I thought it would be a good test run that would allow me to skip a step. I suppose it was a decent time saver if you really want butternut squash soup when you happen to be short on time (I would normally plan that dish when I do have the time).

Next, I decided to make something I’ve made in my slow cooker dozens of times so I could really get a good idea of how the outcome compares – Pork Carnitas Tacos (with the addition of a cup of broth because you can never use the Instant Pot without liquid!). Normally I would start the pork shoulder in the slow cooker early in the morning. I even thought about starting it (since I’ve gotten into the habit of checking our menu board to see if I need to defrost or start anything for whatever dinner is planned), but then I remembered I was going to wait to do the pork later in the Instant Pot.

Well, as it turns out, it takes about 50+ minutes to make a pork shoulder in the Instant Pot, and I have to say that was not the best timing for me to start dinner on a weeknight. I usually do a quick 30 minute or so meal OR start it early in the morning and be done with it (kind of like I wanted to do!) on busy weeknights. But, I wanted to see how the meat would turn out this way, and while I personally thought the flavor was pretty good, it was apparent right away the meat was not as tender as it usually is from the slow cooker. And the rest of my family honestly didn’t like it as much as usual. They said thumbs up slow cooker, thumbs down Instant Pot on this one.

This also sealed the deal for me that I do not like NOT being able to open the lid at all to check on the food (or even take a little food out early). Maybe I could have cooked it a little longer for more tender meat, but I’d have to start the whole process of building up the pressure again to do that. And my poor daughter was already late to her evening gymnastics class because I was like, “Sorry, I can’t open the Instant Pot for 12 more minutes!” (#momfail – I know.) Normally I would have quickly given her a taco even if I planned to cook it a little longer (in the slow cooker) before the rest of the family ate. But no, not this time.

Lastly, I made the Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew below, which was a very tasty recipe, but I have to say it ended up being slightly overcooked. (I adjusted the timing in the recipe below so that doesn’t happen to you!)  You see, if I would have made this stew in the slow cooker or even on the stove top, I could have opened the lid and checked on it to prevent this from happening.

I will also add that I was a little impressed when I realized I could cook this soup in the Instant Pot in only 5 minutes. Wow, 5 minutes is fast for soup, right?! But, NO. I forgot it takes several minutes for the pressure to build before the 5 minutes even starts and then since you can’t use the “quick release” option for soup (because it would possibly splatter), you have to wait for the “natural release” method, which can take 10 – 15 minutes!!! I could have honestly made the soup faster than that in a darn pot on the stove. Not to mention the 10 minutes I wasted wondering if the regular pressure release had automatically started or if I was supposed to push a button to make it start (see reason #3 below!).

Instant Pot Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew on 100 Days of Real Food

So yes, I have not at all been impressed with the Instant Pot so far and putting all my thoughts together in one place like this is really driving home this conclusion for me!

Reasons I Do Not Like My Instant Pot (so far)

I might try a couple more things in my Instant Pot just to be sure I don’t change my mind (it was not a cheap appliance!), but after my experience so far, these are the things I do not like:

  1. It’s one of the more complicated kitchen appliances I’ve used.
    Maybe because it can do SO much, all the different settings can seem a little confusing. Even after using it four times so far, I would by no means say I “get it.” Maybe I would feel differently if I took one of those online courses to help (see below!).
  2. The recipes I’ve considered – both in the booklet and online – don’t seem to be very clear.
    This is probably because of all those settings and buttons I mentioned. The recipes will say things like “start the meat on high pressure” leaving me wondering if I hit the “meat” button or the “pressure” button. (The answer, I’ve learned, is the meat button!). I had a hard time finding recipes that tell me exactly what buttons to push and when, especially in the recipe booklet that comes with the machine.
  3. No confirmation the appliance is starting.
    Once you figure out the right button to use and push it, there is no start button, which each and every time left me wondering if it was good to go. I realize stovetop pressure cookers and even slow cookers don’t have a start button, but for whatever reason, it felt like something was missing with this machine. It does start a countdown timer after the pressure builds up, but nothing special happens before then. One time I guess my pressure valve wasn’t totally secure so the pressure never started counting down at all, and I was thinking, “This is taking forever to see the countdown timer, and I have no idea why.” As it turns out, it won’t ever start if any air is seeping out of the valve (more time wasted!). Long story short, I did not find the keypad to be very intuitive.
  4. Cannot (easily) open the lid.
    I really should have put this reason right at the top because it is a BIG downfall for me. As I mentioned above, I ended up with overcooked food, undercooked food, and food I couldn’t take out a little early all because I could not easily open the lid. Also, as I was cleaning up from making the soup, I realized there was still a little broth left in the jar. My instinct was to open the lid and add it in, but NO! Not with the instant pot. I guess I just have a hard time making mystery food I can’t check on or taste test as much as my heart desires along the way. And while I could do a “quick release” in the middle of a recipe if I really wanted to check or add something, I’d have to start with building up the pressure again (which adds more time) to start it over. Right or wrong, that’s a little bit of a deterrent for me and simply not as quick and easy as opening the lid of a pot on the stove (or slow cooker).
  5. Takes longer than you think.
    As I mentioned, I got a little excited about being able to cook soup in only 4 or 5 minutes, but that duration is very misleading. Each and every time you use the Instant Pot, it takes a couple minutes for the pressure to build (this is during the time I’m wondering if it’s even working because it doesn’t really indicate it’s started – see item #3 above!) before the countdown timer starts. Then at the end, you have to release the pressure one of two ways – “manual release” doesn’t take all that long, but “natural release” for soups can take 10 to 15 minutes. In the end, I did not find it saved me a whole lot of time once you add all this up together.
  6. I don’t like sautéing food in it.
    Don’t get me wrong, it’s totally convenient to sauté and then slow cook (or pressure cook) right in the same bowl. BUT, from a cooking tool standpoint, I don’t really like cooking in the Instant Pot insert all that much. The insert moves all around when you’re trying to stir the food, and you can’t really hold it to keep it in place because it’s hot! This is a minor downfall in the grand scheme of things, but worth being mentioned.

I am sorry if I am the bearer of bad news here, but I’m just wanting to share my honest opinion about the latest craze – especially before you decide to invest in this pricey appliance! But, as with anything, there are two sides to every story …

Why Others Like the Instant Pot

Now, I had a little chat with Kiran on my team to find out her opinion of the Instant Pot (she’s had one longer than I have), and as it turns out, she was never a huge slow cooker fan and LOVES her Instant Pot so much more. She said since she’s a vegetarian, she feels like most of the really good slow cooker recipes are meat based (which she’ll still make for her family), but since she personally relies more on foods like beans and lentils and homemade vegetarian soups, the Instant Pot has been really great for her.

Based on that feedback, I’m thinking of trying my refried bean recipe in the Instant Pot to see if it makes me like it any better. Dried beans do normally take a long time to cook, so I can see how that would be helpful. But at the same time, I kind of like to start the slow cooker in the morning because it’s such a nice feeling to have it all done for you at the end of the day! (I realize you can slow cook in the Instant Pot too – I know, it does SO much! LOL

But I suppose if you aren’t good at remembering to start your slow cooker, you might just be the biggest Instant Pot fan yet. I’ve also heard the Instant Pot is great if you forget to defrost your meat and want to start a dish with frozen meat. So, I guess this could be a really helpful appliance if planning ahead is not your strong point or you just prefer to be more spontaneous!

If you do own an Instant Pot (or want to get one, despite my opinion!), my friend Erin Chase – the $5 Dinner Mom – has put together some fabulous resources for people at all different stages of Instant Pot use. Check out her programs to help you get started or help you feel less confused! Oh, and I should mention Erin swears by boiled eggs in the Instant Pot. It takes 7 minutes (after the pressure builds, of course) and apparently the outcome is superior to stovetop with shells that are super easy to peel. I’ll think about trying that too – if I can figure out what button to push, LOL.

Here are the other foods Erin prefers in the Instant Pot:

  • Steel cut oatmeal
  • Steamed salmon
  • Steamed veggies
  • Brown rice
  • Roasts for slicing
  • Whole chicken
  • Dried beans

Maybe I should’ve taken her course before I started using the Instant Pot myself – plenty more options for me to try here!

Curried Lentil & Sweet Potato Stew – Instant Pot or Stove Top

Whether you have an Instant Pot or not, I’ve got a yummy new recipe to share with you today! My 9-year-old was especially excited about this one for some reason and was sure to tell me, “I really like lentils,” multiple times after we ate this stew. I did not know this about her and was glad to be informed because lentils are easy to make, good for you, and inexpensive – yay! She even asked if she could take the leftovers to school the next day – of course! So I hope your family enjoys this quick and easy recipe as much as we did – no matter how you make it!

Check out this Vegetable Stew as well!

Curried Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew on 100 Days of Real Food

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  1. Greetings! I’ve been following your site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Texas! Just wanted to tell you keep up the good job!

  2. I also do not like the Instant Pot and sold mine. So many things that I tried were not done in the time they suggested for cooking. And like you, I like to check things as I cook.

  3. We decided to go minimalist so when the IP came out we didn’t buy it….. then 2020 hit and I was talking regularly with my long distance grammar school bffs. They recommended it, and all the recipes too. Soups were especially popular. The most use my IP gets is to boil 18 or so eggs to prep lunches weekly. IT IS SO EASY! The shells fall off if you do a quick release and ice (or cold water) bath immediately. I set for 3 min cook, and ya, it does take a few minutes to get to the pressure cooking stage but it’s quick and easy. I also like making cheese cake…. yummy, and easy. I make bone broth, and other recipes that I find on the internet when I don’t know what to make for supper. I can’t wait to try yogurt!

    I hope you don’t get rid of it too soon, and do go back and give it a try when you are ready again. I love the simple recipes now that I know how to use it. – Maria

  4. Lisa, I feel the same way about my instant pot. It’s far more complicated looking, though, than I actually choose to use it. It does a great job for my brown rice, and I no longer need to babysit it on the stovetop to cook it to perfection. I also do like that I can cook dried beans, without soaking in less than an hour. Yogurt is another winner, in my book. Fresh, homemade yogurt in a day and it saves me $, and I know exactly what is in it. So, while it has all those presets, I don’t really use them. I use the pressure cook and the yogurt button. I’ve tried a lot of recipes, but those are the only three I make anymore using my IP.

  5. I bought the 3 qt mini IP, purely to make yogurt using the ‘cold start’ method (takes 2 minutes to set up). It was worth the purchase, just for that, and each batch I share some, and friends and neighbours are thrilled. However, I’ve found I use it a few times a week for a variety of things, and I’m only cooking for one. So far, I’ve done refried beens, chickpeas, black beans, boiled eggs, and beets (oh, so much easier for beets). I’m also now making my own broth – I’ve done vegetable & turkey so far. I continue to explore with it. I’m retired so I have time to learn more about it. Next will be pumpkin cheesecake, my first dessert with it. I hope it’s yummy :) I don’t have a slow cooker, but I do use my French oven (Le Crueset’s Dutch oven) when I want to take a peek at regular intervals and adjust as I go along. Different tools for different tasks, I think.

  6. Hi Lisa, I was wondering what you ended up doing with your instant pot. Did you sell it? I’m having the same issue. I want to sell mine! did you have luck selling yours?

  7. Am late to this, but – yeah, I got an InstantPot as a gift (which sat ~ 5 months before using). For some things it’s fine, but I have had times where things didn’t cook properly. Onions in chili: still semi-raw after several hours. Lentils in soup: after 10 hours slow cooking, cooked but still crunchy. I bought the lentils that day, and decided at home to use the instant pot recipe on the back of the lentil bag. *And* reran the pot another couple of hours (12 altogether) – still crunchy.

    Once I heated them up on the stove, they were fine.

    It was a gift, and it’s handy for having dinner done when I get home from work. But so far, not 100% impressed.

  8. Thank you! Mine has been sitting in the cabinet for 2 years after using it once and I failed. Tried swiss steak and it turned into swiss soup. But you have encouraged me to try it again. But I love my slow cooker!

  9. Glad to find someone else didn’t fall in love with this thing. I didn’t attempt to saute in it (I knew that would be a pain), but I DID expect it to work well on the slow cooker function and frankly it didn’t — and if you’re expecting it to, it could be dangerous.
    After 1 hr and 10 minutes on slow cooker, I wondered why my chili (precooked meat with sauce that was at room temp when I started) was barely warm. After poking at it with a meat thermometer, I saw that it was getting to a good temp deeper in, but at the top (about 2/3 of the way full on an 8qt) it was not even hot enough to cook beef to rare. So I don’t trust the ‘slow cooker’ mode at all.
    I think I’ll be using it mainly for broth and beans. Certainly the time to heat and to depressurize makes it pointless for vegetables (even if there was no risk of overcooking them), quinoa and rice.
    My regular slow cooker takes care of raw meat just fine, even on low.

  10. Hi Lisa, I wanted to let you know that I have made your pork carnitas recipe Many times in the IP and it has turned out amazing! I put the ingredients in just as you instruct for the slow cooker, with NO EXTRA LIQUID. I push the meat/stew button and cook for 35 min, allowing it to natural release for 10-15 min. It turns out perfectly every time.

  11. I absolutely love my Instant Pot. It makes everything taste much better to me. While it may take as long as the stove top, with the heating, etc. I can do other things (pack lunches, help with homework) and don’t need to monitor the kitchen. That in and of itself is gold for me. I also love the delay start setting and is the slow cooker feature on my IP regularly. Being gone for 9-10 hours a day many slow cooker recipes cook too long. This makes them perfect!

    1. I like my IP for the same reasons – once it is set, walk away. and the delay start is essential for any slow cooker recipes for this 8 – 5 worker. None of the newer slow cookers allow a delay. It has taken a few trial and errors when adapting some recipes, but in general I’ve had good success. Plus, I’ve found some great freezer meal plans to use with the IP.

  12. My sister gave me her IP after being underwhelmed by it. I’ve tried baked beans (underdone and watery) and something else I won’t do again, though I forget what it was. But it was worth the $100 (my sister) paid for it for the lesson in hard-boiled eggs. The IP does them beautifully, but it’s not magic; all it does is steam them. So I started steaming eggs on the stove in a steamer basket: 13 minutes steaming, 10 minutes off the heat, ice bath. They come out easy to peel and gorgeous, just like the IP.

    I intended to try a frozen pork roast in the IP, but the meat wouldn’t fit in the pot, and it was hard as a rock, so back to the big, oval crock pot I went.

  13. The only “dish” I like from the instant pot is rice! I have tried several things, but the meat ends up chewy or not as tender as usual. I need to work on cooking rice on the stove top and sell my instant pot!

  14. 5 stars
    Since there’s not much feedback/review on the actual dish for this post I will do just that.
    The stew is absolutely delicious and even better the next day. My picky 5 year old and carnivorous husband even gobbled it up! I found that letting it simmer on the stove for a good 45 minutes to an hour was the perfect amount of time for all the lentils/potatoes to soften and the flavors to blend. Highly recommend this dish. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I feel the same way about the instant pot. My Mother-in-law bought me one and for just about every recipe I have tried, I prefer my slow-cooker.

  16. Thank you for the in depth honest review. I was beginning to wonder if I was missing out.

    I think I will stick with my Fagor 3 in 1. It has a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and a browning feature to sear or saute right in the pot before using the slow or pressure feature. I don’t use the rice cooker selection, I prefer to do that in a pot on the stove and let it set while I make the rest of my meal.

  17. Help! My lentils were STILL crunchy after cooking in the crock pot on low with 64 oz of broth for 8 hours, then put it on high for 2 hours. Moved to stove afterward and brought to boil, then simmered for 15 minutes, and then superboiled for another 15 minutes, and they are STILL crunchy!!!

  18. Did you give up, Lisa? Being an older post, I’m curious of the update (but there are too many comments to look for one). All the things you mentioned were things I disliked my first two weeks as well. But now I love it. Wardee Harmon gives some tips to be success, such as use the sautee button to preheat your liquid and items you throw in as you are chopping, cutting, etc., then turn off the pot and restart with your recipe settings. Also, start it in the morning as you are used to with your slow cooker and take advantage of that 10-hour warm setting that automatically switches on at the end of the cooking time! Yes, hard-boiled eggs are great (“Manual and set time for 6 or 7 minutes) and raw milk yogurt are my two weekly items I love to do. With any slow cooker, I have found the cook time varies among brands and sizes. You’ll need to experiment using the low/med/high slow-cook options to know which one works most similar to your slow cooker. Skip the recipes and use the manual setting for pressure cooking, and I think you’ll get the hang of it!

  19. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the Instant Pot, in my opinion, is the key to success. Add to that cooking experience (50 years +) and learning what web sites to avoid for recipes.

    When my wife and I got the IP (mini) about 1 month ago, I looked at and discarded the IP cook book. I then looked at the HUGE Facebook users group and quickly did the same. Cute blog names and short cuts in recipes and directions don’t cut it.

    We use the iOS app Paprika. It allows us to do comprehensive web searches for recipes and quickly save and modify them as needed. We take recipes that we have cooked for years and look to see how IP recipes compare. Thus far we have found over 25 recipes that are every bit as good as old favorites and much quicker to prepare.

    Some of our favorites include, baby back ribs, authentic Boston baked beans, caramel custard, roast beef with vegetables, chicken with real drop dumplings, wild rice with clementines and pecans, creamy chicken gnocchi soup and coconut lime quinoa.

    My suggestion is to get the IP, do your homework and enjoy.

  20. I read it and have bought the Instant Pot 6 qt 2o days back. I am also on the fence about it as I have a pressure cooker (stove top, Fagor Elite DUO) but wanted an electric one. A want not a need. I don’t use my slow cooker much, unless there is a dinner then to save time I will do the lentils (or Haleem) in slow cooker and other food on the stove top and oven, and the Fagor for quick pressurizing tough meat and then sauteing again. But this large, intimidating gadget! I know the buttons are there and don’t have to use manual and all that but being a finicky cook and about the right taste, I have like to be able to look in and taste and see if the right amount of color, browning, thickening is taking place all while a curry or stew is being cooked. I see it useful for a lot of things like, beans, daal, yoghurt and tough meats to soften then to place under broil or oven to crisp for roasts etc. And waiting till its done and seeing after the wait of release if it’s done to my taste, and if not add more minutes and build up pressure is something I saw in it too, having used the Fagor stove top for the very same things as above. So, I don’t know if I should return and the books I bought for it and the extra lid (for slow cooking if i chose) and save my 107 for the pot and all the other extras. Apart from returning the pot to Target, the rest will be a bit of trouble.
    I don’t know. Suffering from some serious indecisiveness about it.

  21. Michelle K. Meehan

    Sorry, but you lost me here. My pressure cooker has changed the way I cook for the better. It’s my favorite appliance by a mile. I can put relatively few (and healthy!) ingredients into a pot, walk away, and in a short time come back to a nutritious, inexpensive meal that my whole family will eat. Not having to check on it constantly is one of my favorite things about it. Having to wait 10 minutes for it to come to pressure is nothing compared to having to cook something for 8 hours in a slow cooker. I made stock from our Thanksgiving turkey in under 2 hours as opposed to having to cook it overnight, which is also an energy saver. The learning curve wasn’t very steep and now it’s like second nature.

    I hope your experience changes! I am hoping to see a 100 Days pressure cooker cookbook soon.

  22. I’m new to the InstaPot and actually had my daughter-in-law come over to give me 1:1 instruction. I think the InstaPot is a great method to cook dry beans as it preserves the nutrients and really gets them cooked. You don’t even have to presoak. My DIL uses the InstaPot for much of her cooking, but I still like the slow cooker for fully developing flavors of stews and soups. The InstaPot really cooks those chick peas in a hurry for that marvelous hummus recipe.

  23. I read the dislike article and realized that one of the things we do that was not mentioned is that things that we know take a long time (getting meat tender for instance) we start early in the day (by lunchtime at the latest) and let it do the pressure cooking steps then let it sit on keep warm for several hours before dinner. That way, the pressure is already down well before dinner (if we need to check and adjust anything) and we’re not left waiting and waiting for the pressure release. Basically, use it as a pressure cooker to speed the cooking then a slow cooker to keep things bubbling along for the rest of the day

  24. Thank you for the thorough post! I keep hearing about the Instant Pot and I have been wondering if I’m missing out. My first thought when I heard about it was, “But why? I like my crock pot.” And I like coming home to dinner smelling like it’s almost done! :)” I have a pressure cooker that I use sometimes, but it’s not my go to tool like my slow cooker.

    I think I’m sitting in your camp, Lisa. Woohoo to crock pots!! :D

  25. This post was shared with me, and I just wanted to touch on your concerns. This is what I shared with that person.
    While an Instant Pot may not be on your list, don’t throw out the idea of a Pressure cooker completely. I have a stovetop model (Fagor Duo – it’s a pressure canner too).
    Addressing her (your) complaints:
    1. No complication to the stovetop model. There’s no panel, just put it on your stovetop, lock the lid, and start the heat.
    2. I don’t use Instant Pot recipes, just PC ones, and they are clear.
    3. See #1 above.
    4. Quick Release on the stovetop model with soup can be done by running water over the pot in the sink. Nope, not the easiest thing, but an option. This one is still a drawback for the reasoning.
    5. I just plan on the time. No different that planning on oven time, or slow cooking time.
    6. The stovetop model is 1 pot. Sauteeing is the same as in a pan on the stove, except it has higher sides.

  26. Karen Schouest

    This is the first comment or article I’ve seen anywhere expressing a dislike for the Instant Pot, and of course, I had to read it! I am in the camp with many others who said that many of the things you dislike most about the pot are among their favorite features. Above all else, I love being able to “set it and forget it.” If you are using the natural release method (which I do for most things), once you get the lid closed (and it really is easy to open and close it), you choose your settings, and that’s it until it’s done. You’ll hear a loud beep when the pressure cooking is done, and then 15-20 minutes later, the NR process is done, and you’re ready to eat.

    I don’t cook in it as much as most others do, because I don’t have time for all the food prep on most days. But I use it a LOT for the two main things I bought it for: bone broth (2 hours compared to 24 hours via stove or Crock pot!) and the most amazing, delicious, and consistently successful homemade yogurt … EVER (no hassles with all the other methods of trying to keep it at just the right temp for 9 hours).

    It’s worth the price, to me, for those two things alone. So even if I never used it for anything else, I would feel I got my money’s worth and then some. I also love that it not only has a slow-cooking feature, but you can set the start and stop times of the slow-cooking function. And the 99-hour keep-warm function comes in very handy, no matter what you’re cooking.

    So if you’re a fan of bone broth or homemade yogurt, learn to love and appreciate it it for that, and maybe “this marriage can be saved.” :)

    1. I also am not impressed with the instant pot. My rice i cook in a regular pot on the stove comes out much better. All the meat i have cooked in the instant pot comes out like rubber and it always takes twice as long to cook as the book says. J have had to cook and recook several cycles to finally get the meat cooked. When i finally give up and put it in the iven.