Every healthy relationship is built on compromise. Which is why there probably isn’t room in my boyfriend’s apartment for both my slow cooker and Instant Pot. Before we met, I had been living in my studio for almost eight years – plenty of time to accumulate all manner of cooking gadgets, tools and appliances. I purchased the slow cooker first, with a clear sense of what I wanted to make: soups, chili, maybe some bolognese.
The Instant Pot, on the other hand, was an impulse buy. I didn’t actually know what I would do with this multipurpose cooker, marketed as a “7-in-1” device. But seemingly everyone else was buying one. And it was on sale for Black Friday, as it always is. I paid $67.99 for the six-quart Duo 60 and, according to my Amazon order history, threw in a 9-inch springform pan and reversible cast iron grill/griddle pan. I somehow doubt those will make the journey over to my boyfriend’s either.
So, of the Duo 60’s seven functions (pressure cooking, slow cooking, rice, yogurt, steaming, sautéing and warming), slow cooking was clearly my comfort zone. The problem is, the Instant Pot is not very good at that, at least not out of the box. The same sealed lid that makes the IP so adept at pressure cooking rice, beans and meat is poorly suited to the task of slow cooking, which requires a meaningful amount of evaporation to be successful. While there’s a steam tray latched to the back of the Instant Pot, a traditional slow cooker would have a glass lid with at least one hole for steam to escape. What’s more, the sealed design rules out the possibility of inserting a probe thermometer, something all conventional slow cookers offer.
Read any number of articles or Reddit threads and you’ll see two pieces of advice repeat themselves: adjust the amount of liquid, or increase the cooking time. My issue with that approach is that I’m not much of an improvisational cook to begin with, and I’d rather not learn after three-plus hours of cooking that my meal is a bust.
Eventually in my research I found this $18 tempered glass lid, made by Instant Pot itself. The company isn’t so cheeky as to acknowledge the lid improves a flawed slow cooking experience, but needless to say, it does recommend the accessory for that purpose, not to mention sautéing, serving and keeping food warm. Though I purchased the Duo 60 in 2017, Instant Pot claims the six-quart lid should fit, well, any six-quart Instant Pot model. As a bonus, it's dishwasher safe, though I definitely hesitated after seeing at least two Amazon reviewers report their wash cycles ended in glass shards. (Mine survived just fine.)
My first test of the new setup was my favorite slow-cooker chili recipe. (As a tip, if you’re new to slow cooking in the Instant Pot, treat the “Normal” setting as the equivalent of low, and “More” when the recipe calls for high. Like any slow cooker, the Instant Pot defaults to a warming mode after the cooking time is up.) After four hours of cooking on low, the chili tasted the way I remembered it: sweet, spicy and certainly not too soupy. And I was grateful to not have had to reduce the liquid by 15 to 20 percent, especially with so many different kinds of fluids required for this particular recipe. Another day, I cooked a vegetable-tortellini soup on high for five hours. (This recipe also gave me an excuse to try some sautéing too.)
Over the long hours each recipe was cooking, I noticed more and more condensation clinging to the underside of the lid. Though the Instant Pot itself got quite warm on low (and close to hot on high), the handle remained more tepid to the touch, which I was able to grab with bare hands without burning myself. As a tip, if you want to remove the lid without dripping all the condensation back into the dish, flip it toward you when removing it instead of lifting it straight up.
Another tip: the lid is also excellent for covering leftovers in the Instant Pot’s inner pot. Just stick the covered stainless steel bowl in the fridge and worry about cleaning it another day. (Yes, my “tip” here is really just punting on doing the dishes.)
In the end, I’m still not sure what will become of my standalone slow cooker. Will I sell it on the cheap? Donate it? Gift it to my mom, who has never used a crock pot? TBD. But now that my Instant Pot is actually the multipurpose cooker I originally wanted, I suspect I won’t be bringing that second appliance to the new apartment.