Hob Vs Instant Pot
An Instant Pot is a multi-cooker that cooks food quickly and easily. It works by creating steam and pressure inside the pot, which raises the temperature and speeds up the cooking process. Unlike old-fashioned pressure cookers, the Instant Pot has many safety features and smart settings that make it versatile and convenient. So, for example, you can use it to sauté, steam, slow cook, make yoghurt, and more. It’s a popular appliance across the world. With such a range of functions, it’s easy to see how it could trump the old-fashioned kitchen hob but is it all it’s cracked up to be and might there even be benefits you’re not aware of yet? Let’s find out on top: hob vs Instant pot.
Health benefits of pressure cooking
If you’re cooking vegetables, pressure cooking can help retain more nutrients than hob cooking. In Plant Foods for Human Nutrition[i], researchers found that pressure cooking was the best method for retaining both vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach and amaranth. A study published in The Journal of Food Science[ii] found that pressure-cooked broccoli retained 90% of its vitamin C content. Compare this to boiling (66% retention) or steaming (78%). Using a pressure cooker won’t just help boost the levels of nutrients you get from your food it can also help reduce lectins and phytic acid which are two anti-nutrients in grains, legumes and pseudo-grains like quinoa and buckwheat which can bind to minerals and make them indigestible. In fact, another study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition[iii] showed that when peas were soaked overnight and then boiled, their phytic acid content was reduced by 29%. On the other hand, when they were soaked overnight and then pressure-cooked, the reduction in this unhealthy anti-nutrient was almost double (54%). Similar results were found with lectins in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture[iv].
Due to the fact that pressure cookers are sealed shut, the steam produced inside them has nowhere to go. This increases the pressure which raises the boiling point of the water inside to 121°C (water boils at 100°C normally). Without the pressure, the water would not be able to reach temperatures as high as 121°C as it would evaporate. Instead, the heat is kept inside the container cooking the food within the pressure cooker faster than most other methods (except for microwave ovens). The increased pressure also forces the heat to enter the foods. These two factors combined can cut cooking times by up to 70% in the pressure cooker. This is a great advantage for people who are short on time or who want to cook their meals quickly. Making stocks and meats that can take hours on the hob can take a fraction of the time in a pressure cooker. A prime example is a chicken stock that could take up to 4 hours to cook on the hob, yet it is done in 45 minutes in a pressure cooker. Another great example is the cooking time of soaked beans, which you can even halve using a pressure cooker.
Cook your entire meal in one pot. The size of the pot means you can cook multiple elements of the same meal at the same time. A prime example of this is a chilli with rice. This means you only have one pot, and few utensils, to wash at the end of cooking. Most inner pots can go into the dishwasher. Lids are most easily washed in warm soapy water with a cloth thus producing very little mess and very little washing up. Pressure cooking contains all of the smells of your food within the pot as its an air tight and sealed appliance.
According to BBC research, using a pressure cooker saves 90% of the energy used to boil a pot on the hob[v]. Furthermore, the pressure cooker uses up to 75% less water than other methods when steaming. When there’s less water to heat, the pressure cooker can reach boiling point faster, saving both time and energy. As well as resulting in lower energy bills, which will save you money over time, this also makes them more environmentally friendly.
The great thing about pressure cooking is that it is like cooking by numbers. Once you’ve worked out the ratio of liquids to grains for example or cooking times for certain cuts of meat you can be assured of consistent results every time.
Reduced cooking time and reduced energy usage are not the only ways that having a pressure cooker can help save you money. Cheaper cuts of meat have more flavour, but traditionally they would need a long and slow cook to make them soft and delicious. A phrase you might hear associated with pressure cooking is “slow-cooked textures in pressure-cooked time”. That means that cheaper cuts of meat are now back on the menu. Ox cheek, for example, takes a really long time to cook, but a pressure cooker can do it in half an hour. The same goes for tougher cuts of lamb – it gives the result of a low and slow cook but without the energy costs associated.
The convenience and speed of the pressure cooking can help you fight food waste, too. Any bones or carcasses from roast meats can easily be made into stocks and bone broths which are both useful and health-giving.
Type of Cooking
Pressure cookers are often used to cook foods that require a moist cooking environment, such as meats and vegetables. However, perhaps less well known is that it can also be used to cook pulses, rice and other grains, as well as to steam vegetables remember, this way of cooking grains and pulses is a healthier way to prepare them for eating.
Some foods are perfect to cook under the hot and steamy conditions of a pressure cooker. A meat stock, for instance, takes advantage of all the pressure cooker’s benefits. The higher temperature breaks down the collagen in the bones and tissues quickly, creating the body. The flavour is extracted efficiently as it does not escape in steam. The pressurised atmosphere keeps gas from bubbling out of the stock, creating less agitation, and making for a clearer stock. The sealed pressure cooker helps preserve flavours more effectively than it would if the moisture and steam could escape.
This all sounds wonderful, but are there any downsides to using an Instant Pot in place of a hob? Yes, there are but not many:
It can be tricky to adapt recipes for the pressure cooker, because you must account for the change in cooking time and the reduction of liquid. A good rule of thumb for cooking beans and lentils in a pressure cooker is to just cover the ingredients with water (or stock) and halve the conventional cooking time.
Checking Whilst Cooking
You can’t just open the lid and check what’s happening with the meal whilst it is cooking. However, you can always adjust the taste or sauce thickness at the end of cooking once pressure is released.
Being Realistic About Timings
Many recipes specify the time at pressure, but don’t include the time it takes to come up to pressure or the time to release the pressure. A big pot of soup will take time to heat up enough to create steam, so can increase your cooking time significantly. You need to allow for the time it takes to release the pressure at the end of cooking if the recipe requires a “natural pressure release” (NPR) too.
Type of Cooking
Whilst the Instant Pot lends itself to the sorts of foods that cook well in a moist and hot environment, hobs are preferable for foods that require a dry cooking environment, such as pancakes and eggs.
You need to keep your pot clean and regularly remove and clean the sealing ring and replace when gets loose. So, you can see that the Instant Pot has many advantages over the hob in terms of taste, health and cost savings. However, a hob will still make sense for drier foods such as pancakes and eggs.