Fall—that all-too-brief season that, at least in New York City, lasts for three days before transitioning into a miserable five-month-long reminder that the cycle of life inevitably ends in death—is upon us. For some, the arrival of fall conjours up mental images of hearty soups and rich stews, which, yes! These foods are good.
For many Americans this year, as in recent years, and for reasons that I understand but ultimately reject, those soups and stews will be made in an Instant Pot—a $90+ kitchen appliance that millions of Americans have somehow been convinced they need, and not only need, but LOVE.
But I’m here to tell y’all—Instant Pots are bad. Yes, bad. And guess what? You don’t need ’em. Get rid of your Instant Pot! Take it to your local Goodwill, put it on the curb, free yourself by any means necessary from this cult. (Don’t believe it’s a cult? Just read this opening graf from the New York Times and tell me you don’t see any cult-like tendencies: “People have fallen in love with their Instant Pots. They may like their blenders, cherish their slow cookers and need their food processors. But the Instant Pot—a device that combines an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker and yogurt maker in one handy unit—sends even mild-mannered cooks into fits of passion.” No one should love a kitchen appliance that much, in my opinion.)
Listen, I get the appeal, which as someone who doesn’t own an Instant Pot, I understand to be the convenience of cooking delicious, restaurant-quality meals in 30 minutes or less. Who doesn’t want to eat perfectly cooked mushroom risotto or tender short ribs? What you DON’T need to do is serve perfectly cooked mushroom risotto and tender short ribs every single evening to your ungrateful family. Undergirding the love that many (largely women) have for their Instant Pot, I suspect, is the desire to prove that woman can have it all—we can work a full-time job (or several jobs), raise a family, AND find the time to put a nice, tasty meal on the table, all without dying of exhaustion. I say, throw off the shackles of this constricting ideal! You know what is also a pretty decent meal that takes literally 10 minutes to put together? Microwaved sweet potatoes, some boiled green peas, and hardboiled eggs. Add some butter and seasoning and you’re good. If anyone complains, tell them to read about the second shift and then get back to you.
Speaking of eggs—you definitely do not need to use an Instant Pot to boil eggs of all things, which a quick scan of recipe websites and Facebook groups tells me is a highlight of owning an Instant Pot. Eggs are perfectly boiled in 10 minutes on the stove, in a pot that is not an Instant Pot. Resist also the impulse to make your own yogurt (unless making yogurt is your job). Buy some Chobani, if you must have yogurt! Rice? Get a rice cooker—the one kitchen appliance that I allow is absolutely necessary.
But—the convenience, you might say again. To which I ask you—has the Instant Pot truly saved you time and enriched your life? And more to the point, is convenience an all-encompassing value which we should use to make our life choices?
Last year, the law professor Tim Wu wrote a paean to the necessity of inconvenience. “Convenience,” he wrote, “has emerged as perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies. This is particularly true in America, where, despite all the paeans to freedom and individuality, one sometimes wonders whether convenience is in fact the supreme value.”
Yet he questioned whether our devotion to convenience, to smoothing out all of the rough edges in our lives until we live a frictionless existence, has ultimately benefited us. “Though understood and promoted as an instrument of liberation, convenience has a dark side,” Wu wrote, before going on to argue that we lose something—namely, the trite but true recognition that we often learn through overcoming obstacles—when we embrace the idea of “smooth, effortless efficiency.”
In his op-ed, Wu touched on the creation of labor-saving kitchen devices, from the microwave to instant cake mix, which were pitched as tools that could free women from the (supposed) necessity of housework. “By saving time and eliminating drudgery, it would create the possibility of leisure,” Wu noted of these creations. But have they? Has the dream of convenience truly served us? Again, no. Wu quoted Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, in which Friedan wrote that “even with all the new labor-saving appliances, the modern American housewife probably spends more time on housework than her grandmother.” They have, Wu concluded, just “created more demands,” a reality that is still true today.
In short—a rice cooker? Sure. You will always get a perfect, fluffy pot of rice, critical for a staple food that billions of people rely on and love. A pot, in which you can literally cook everything you would like to cook in an Instant Pot, which you likely already own? Yes. An Instant Pot? The worst pot.