I admit it: I am a kitchen appliance junkie. I have been for more than a decade, since I fell in love with cooking. I want to buy nearly everything that comes on the market, but actually only buy the ones I know I will use on a regular basis. I make sure that the ones I do buy are the best value for the money no matter how inexpensive or expensive they may be. And then I love them to no end. I have a few high-speed blenders (because is one really enough?), one of the best food processors out there, two trusty slow cookers in different sizes, and I am never without a French press or a regular coffee maker.
So when I first heard about the Instant Pot three years ago, right before Christmas, you can bet I asked for one right away as a gift. After hearing how many people loved it (and watching countless videos and reading reviews online), I just knew I would get a lot of use out of it — especially considering I follow a plant-based diet. In fact, I was so sure I would love it that I bought my mom one, too.
When I first got the Instant Pot, I dove right into the instruction manual and bought three other cookbooks that were catered to Instant Pot users. I had an arsenal of helpful instructions, detailing how to use the machine. Unfortunately, after a few months of testing out the Instant Pot with more than 30 or so different dishes — ranging from soups to stews, rice to oatmeal, plus potatoes, lentils, quinoa, and even dairy-free yogurt — I was highly disappointed. These weren’t new recipes to me. As someone who already loved to cook, they were dishes I’ve made over and over again. I spent time figuring out how the recipes needed to be adjusted for the Instant Pot and was disappointed every single time. I could have just made these dishes my usual way without the Instant Pot.
And guess what? My mom (who doesn’t eat a plant-based diet and used her Instant Pot to cook meat stews and soups), was also incredibly disappointed with her Instant Pot. So after a year of trying our new Instant Pots out, I was highly disappointed and ready to sell mine. Then my mom generously said I could “have” hers to sell, too, which was her way of nicely saying she didn’t want it anymore. It frustrated me that we both hated a machine so many people loved. Being stubborn and determined, I kept both of them for another six months just hoping I’d fall in love with them. Finally, I gave up. I took to Craigslist and sold both of our Instant Pots pretty easily and quickly and never looked back.
While you can supposedly cook recipes such as potatoes, soup, stews, rice, and more in a shorter amount of time, there’s a major catch: For most recipes, you have to wait for the machine to properly release the pressure slowly. Some recipes can be released manually, of course, but not all of them can. I realized that by the time the pressure was released through a slow release, certain dishes didn’t take that much less time than an oven or stovetop method would have. I suppose if I was someone who worked away from the home, perhaps it would have been convenient, but I work from home so that wasn’t an issue, and in that case, I’d just as soon use my slow cooker.
No matter what I made, everything in the Instant Pot tasted bland or “off” compared to how the exact recipe tasted in my slow cooker. This makes sense, because the pot is stainless steel, and I personally don’t like drinking out of stainless steel cups of any kind for the very reason that it makes things taste a little off. I thought it might just be me, but members of my family said the same thing about all the Instant Pot meals I served them.
The Instant Pot also made my food taste too “watery” no matter how many times I adjusted the liquid and the seasonings. This problem doesn’t happen in my mini or large slow cooker at all. I’ve also heard many other people say the same thing about their Instant Pot, but they still use it for the convenience. Of course, I have heard other people say they love the flavor of their Instant Pot meals. To each her own on this, I suppose.
This was a big deal-breaker for me. All of my recipes seemed to burn on the bottom of the Instant Pot even when I used the right water-to-ingredient ratio. I realize I could use cooking spray or oil, but I eat an oil-free diet and don’t see the point in adding oil to recipes just because I want to use the Instant Pot. I have also never had this issue when using my slow cooker or stovetop methods.
The Instant Pot is safe and effective at cooking food thoroughly, but I found that the downfalls of the machine didn’t justify its space in the kitchen.
Here’s the biggest reason I sold both of my Instant Pots: The Vitaclay. It works better than the Instant Pot and does the same thing without the fuss, so it’s now the main cooking appliance I use more than any other. (Even more than my trusty slow cookers!) I love it so much, in fact, I have two different machines in different sizes.
It’s a multi-cooker that cooks food up to 75 percent faster than traditional slow cookers. It contains a clay pot instead of a stainless steel or ceramic pot. And it can make every single thing that the Instant Pot makes. The beauty of the Vitaclay is that it’s much easier to use and doesn’t have a complicated control system. It’s technically not a pressure cooker so there’s no worrying about release times and whether to do a manual or slow release. When a recipe is done, it’s done!
The Vitaclay can be used as a slow cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, rice cooker, and as a regular cooking appliance to make teas, broths, baby food, potatoes, hummus, and more. It can also be used to reheat food — a feature I use often after I make, say, a big batch of soup. Like the Instant Pot, the Vitaclay also comes in a few different sizes and models with many varieties to choose from.
The Vitaclay cooks dishes in very comparable amounts of time to the Instant Pot, with some recipes having shorter cooking times. Again, it’s not a pressure cooker, but the slow cooker setting can be set to as little as two hours even if the recipe normally takes up to eight hours to cook, or you can set it to stay on all day if you’re going to be out.
The real beauty of this machine, however, is the actual material it’s made of. Because the Vitaclay is made of non-toxic clay, which is natural and something I personally feel safest using. Plus the clay pot also makes a dramatic difference in the way the food tastes.
The Vitaclay makes the absolute best-tasting recipes I’ve ever made — even ones I’ve made over and over again in my slow cookers. I can taste the ingredients that I use in each recipe much better and have found I don’t have to use as many seasonings for this very reason. I’ve made soups, stews, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, dairy-free yogurt, broth, and a few other things in my Vitaclay and they all come out excellent no matter what. Vitaclay machines also last a long time and neither of mine have ever burned on the bottom — not even once.
You just have to be gentle and be sure you don’t submerge a hot pot in cold water (or it will crack!). I let my pot sit on the counter for 10 minutes or so after my recipe finishes cooking, then gently set it in an empty sink and run warm — not boiling water or ice cold — water inside and wash it clean with a warm wet cloth and a tiny bit of natural dish soap before drying it off.
All in all, I’m not knockin’ the Instant Pot or all the wonderful users out there who love it, so please don’t hate me for writing this article! In fact, as someone who values the benefits of healthy cooking, I can tell you that I just love seeing all the people who say the machine has helped them eat healthier. I think that’s great. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t love or use your Instant Pot as much as you wish you did or thought you would, I’m here to let you know you’re not alone.
What do you think? Have you ever been frustrated with your Instant Pot or heard of the Vitaclay?
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