I thought the appliance would save me time, but mostly it gives me peace of mind.
It has been almost a year since I bought an Instant Pot. For years I'd resisted, doubting it lived up to its reputation and considering any multi-tasking device to be more gimmicky than practical. But when several friends who are also serious cooks told me it was a game-changer for them, I paid attention. As soon as the largest size went on sale at a nearby store, I bought it.
Since then, it's been a steady learning curve. I use it 2-3 times a week and have had a few minor obstacles, such as soups and dals that are far too watery (there's no evaporation to consider!), rice and chickpeas that are unevenly cooked, and various ingredients that are either undercooked or overcooked, but I'm slowly figuring it out.The Instant Pot doesn't save me as much time as I'd expected because it takes a surprisingly long time to reach pressure and then to de-pressurize (although you can speed this up by releasing it manually). Nor is the food any tastier than food I make on the stovetop. Where the Instant Pot does stand out, however, is in the fact that you can leave it unattended. This has been hugely helpful.
It is absolutely liberating not to have to hang around the kitchen to keep an eye on a pot. I can start dinner and then head out to pick up the kids from school, run errands, or go to the gym for an hour. I can put on a pot of broth, beans, or soup during the day and retreat to another room to work, without having to worry about it boiling over or burning.
This doesn't sound any different than a slow cooker, which I used to have, except that I struggled with getting food into the slow cooker in the morning to allow it to cook all day long. (In fact, I've never even used the Instant Pot's slow cooker setting because I haven't been organized enough.) Thanks to the Instant Pot's pressure setting, though, I can regain that lost time, starting dinner at the usual hour and having it ready on time, with minimal oversight.
I don't make the fancy one-dish meals in the Instant Pot, such as Ligurian Lemon Chicken, Coconut Fish Curry, and Pina Colada Rice Pudding, described in the accompanying recipe booklet. I prefer to use it for preparing staples, such as lentils, beans, chickpeas, rice, broth, whole chickens, and hard-to-cook vegetables like whole squashes and beets. The only one-pot meal I make consistently is bean chili, and it comes together beautifully under high pressure in a half-hour.
So is it worth buying? I'd say yes, especially for anyone who likes to prep and stock their kitchen with the above-mentioned staple ingredients. But you could get the same results with a regular pressure cooker (which I haven't used) or a slow cooker (if you have time on your hands, which I do not). In conclusion, I'm happy I bought it and will doubtless continue to use it steadily for many years to come.