There are more kitchen gadgets on the market now than perhaps ever before. Most of them could be politely described as unnecessary, and plenty of them have found themselves living underneath kitchen sinks, in drawers, and at the back of cupboards.
Now and again then though, something comes along that grabs the public’s attention, and is actually useful and practical. SodaStream was a revelation when it first appeared back in 1955 and amazingly is still going strong today after being purchased by PepsiCo.
Air fryers became one of the most in-vogue gadgets after their release, and for good reason. They take up little room in the kitchen, and they also promise to make tasty fried food without the need for any oil. In these more health-conscious times, it is perhaps not surprising that air fryers are flying off the shelf.
Perhaps the biggest success in the last decade, as far as kitchen appliances are concerned, is the Instant Pot. There is no doubting the popularity of this cooking appliance, but is the food cooked in it safe, and are there any dangers involved with its use?
Don’t know what an Instant Pot is? Then read on.
What is this cooking appliance all about?
It could be said that the Instant Pot has a cult following, and with the multitude of websites dedicated to it, that is perhaps true. There are bloggers, influencers, and cooking sites such as Corrie Cooks, and numerous others, that are there purely to help Instant Pot users.
However, the number of appliances sold – 21% of Americans own one according to one survey – points to more than just a minor cult or fad. The Instant Pot has broken more than one Amazon Prime Day sales record and has also spawned many imitators.
The Instant Pot could be described as a much more modern version of a pressure cooker that perhaps your mother or grandparents owned. They are usually described as a multi-cooker because they now have so many more options than just fast pressure cooking.
How do modern pressure cookers produce food so quickly?
Ignoring the other features of modern multi-cookers such as slow cooking and sauteing, the main attraction for many is the fast-food aspect that pressure cookers offer.
That isn’t to say that multi-cookers make fast food, more that they make food very fast. They trap steam and raise it to a very high temperature that then cooks the ingredients sealed within under pressure.
The fact that they cook at high temperatures though, could be one of the concerns. As Healthline points out, food that is cooked at high temperatures can be unhealthy and cause certain health problems, including cancer.
Many accidents have been linked to these appliances, and some believe pressure cookers to be dangerous. Is there any truth in this, or is it just a lot of hot air?
Is the food cooked in an Instant Pot bad for you?
There has been some talk that the high temperatures used in an Instant Pot or other pressure cookers could have some negative health effects.
Much of this focus has been on the loss of nutrients during various cooking processes. When food is cooked, it can change the chemical make-up of the ingredients, and this can be for both good, and bad.
Nutrients can actually become easier to digest through the cooking process, and they can also be lost. While there is some debate about which cooking method is best, many experts agree that pressure cooking can retain many nutrients. Perhaps as many nutrients, if not more, than steaming, which is generally accepted as a healthy cooking method.
The other concern is what happens to food when it is cooked at a high heat.
What happens if you cook meat and other ingredients at high temperatures?
High temperatures can form what is called AGEs. These can cause inflammation in the body and exacerbate conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Another chemical that is formed at high-temperature cooking is acrylamide. This compound often occurs in frying, roasting, and baking, and with plant-based food such as french fries.
Acrylamide has been linked with cancer and is a concern for anyone enjoying a lot of fried food especially if it has been coated.
There are a lot of food facts that could lead you to lose your appetite, including compounds such as acrylamide and carcinogens. Fortunately though, it is believed that pressure cookers are unable to make acrylamides due to the moisture in place during the cooking process. What is more, they can also turn bad starch into good.
But they can be dangerous though, right?
The idea that pressure cookers can be dangerous possibly comes from two different areas. Firstly, decades ago, pressure cookers were known to explode sometimes.
Why this happened was due to the high-temperature pressurized steam that would build up inside the cooker. If one of the vents got blocked they could potentially explode, and some did. However, the word explode may exaggerate what actually happened in many cases.
Modern pressure cookers are fitted with numerous safety devices, and of course, have to pass modern consumer laws.
The other reason that some people believe there are many accidents with pressure cookers is due to a number of ambulance chasers posting on the internet. The National Law Review reports that there are many ongoing cases of injuries from pressure cookers and calls for the products to be recalled.
Cooking with any appliance has risks because heat, gas, electricity, and oil may be used. When common sense and manufacturers’ instructions are followed, the risks are very minimal.
Does that mean that Instant Pots are healthy and safe then?
Well, if you have ever heard the term ‘what you put in is what you get out’ will understand that if you want healthy food, then you need healthy ingredients.
If you use an Instant Pot to make pizza and donuts every day then it won’t be the healthiest diet the world has ever seen. However, if you are making vegetable stews and soups, then it is likely you will have a very low-fat diet.
Sometimes you just want some simple tips to help you lose weight, and used properly, the Instant Pot could quite possibly help. The method of cooking is healthy, they are convenient, and they are fast. Cooking red meat in them every day, however, will not help your waistline.
A multi-cooker or Instant Pot can’t automatically make you healthy. Nor can it make you unhealthy.
As far as the dangers associated with pressure cooking go, these appliances are probably far safer than deep fat frying or using gas. Modern cookers, such as the Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi, turn themselves off at the end of their program, unlike most gas cookers.
The heat from a pressure cooker is released safely and in a controlled manner. The casing retains the heat which also makes them more eco-friendly than other cooking methods, and the nutrients are retained.
It would seem that while high-temperature cooking has some risks, pressure cookers might be the better option when compared to regular ovens, frying, and also barbecues. Pressure cookers cannot replicate crispy charred skin, but nor can they produce the carcinogens associated with that type of food.