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Recently, I have noticed a few scratches on the inner pot of my rice cooker. I purchased this a few years ago and didn’t research the material of the inner pot at the time. It turned out my rice cooker has a non stick Teflon coating in the inner pot like many rice cookers. Many rice cookers have aluminum inner pots which are coated with a nonstick Teflon coating. This non stick coating is used to prevent rice from sticking to the pot. However, if this non stick coating is scratched, it will leach harmful chemicals into food. So I wanted to find a rice cooker with uncoated inner pot made of stainless steel. While researching for a rice cooker, I came across a pressure cooker called Instant Pot which is not only a rice cooker but also a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a yogurt maker, a saute/ browner, a steamer, a warmer, egg maker and sterilizer. My previous rice cooker was a pressure rice cooker so I know pressure cooker makes delicious rice. However, I have never given pressure cooking a try other than making rice so finding out about pressure cooking was interesting. Apparently, pressure cooking is healthier than other conventional methods of cooking. It also significantly shortens the cooking time. This Instant Pot seemed perfect for me since I can make rice and explore pressure cooking as well. Therefore, I researched more about this amazing gadget, Instant Pot pressure cooker. Is it healthy and non toxic? Let’s find out!
What Is A Pressure Cooker?
Pressure cooker is a sealed pot which uses steam and high pressure to cook food. The lid is locked into an airtight seal and the pressure of the steam inside is raised to cook.
Is Pressure Cooker Healthy?
A pressure cooker cooks food faster than conventional cooking methods such as boiling, braising and steaming. It reduces the cooking time of food by up to 70 percent. Due to this shorter cooking times, it also uses 50 to 75 percent less energy. A pressure cooker cooks food at higher boiling point than water. The boiling point of water is 100 °C / 212 °F (at sea level), the temperature in pressure cooker is as high as 120 °C / 250 °F which makes cooking time faster. On the other hand, the pressure cooker uses lower temperature than conventional cooking methods such as cooking on the stovetop or in the oven utilizing pressure. For example, many recipes’ oven cooking temperature is around 400 °F where as pressure cooking temperature is around 225 -235°F. Although the temperature is lower than the oven, utilizing the pressure, a pressure cooker cooks faster. (The Science of Pressure Cookers)
(Effects of Pressure Cooking on Food: Nutrient Loss or Retention?)
With maximum lower temperature and shorter cooking times, a pressure cooker preserves more nutrients than other cooking methods. It not only retains more vitamins and minerals but also more antioxidant capacity of the food. According to one study done by North Dakota University, pressure boiling and pressure steaming resulted in a greater retention of nutrients and antioxidants compared to boiling method. In another study published in the Journal of Food Science, researchers found pressure cooked broccoli retained 92% of its vitamin C content compared to 78% and 66% for conventional steaming and boiling. Pressure cooked broccoli also retained most of its sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound found in broccoli. Another study suggests that the best cooking method for preserving the ascorbic acid and beta-carotene in spinach and amaranth is cooking with a pressure cooker. Pressured cooked food also contain little acrylamide. Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in certain foods during cooking at high temperature. It is known to cause cancer in animals. Also, according to a study published in the May 1996 issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, pressure cooking destroys lectins in some foods. Lectins block the absorption of nutrients in other foods and also act as an inflammatory toxin. A pressure cooking has all of these healthy benefits, therefore, it is one of the best ways to cook food.
Is Pressure Cooker Material Safe For Cooking?
There is an inner pot that goes into the pressure cooker and this is where food will be in direct contact. Therefore, this part should be a safe material that doesn’t leach toxic chemicals into food. Pressure cooker’s inner pot is usually made of aluminum, ceramic non-stick or stainless steel. Among these materials, uncoated stainless steel will be the best option. Aluminum leaches aluminum into food. It is a reactive material and will react especially to salty, acidic food. When aluminum is ingested, it will be accumulated in the body and can cause Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. Another material for the inner pot, ceramic coated non stick is usually made of hard anodized aluminum coated with a nonstick layer of ceramic. If the non stick layer of ceramic is scratched, aluminum can leach into the food. Therefore, I want to avoid ceramic coated non stick since pots can get scratched easier than my intentions in my experience.
Stainless steel, on the other hand is moderately reactive material. It is not as reactive as aluminum. It is pretty safe except when you cook acidic food or cook something for a long duration. Pressure cooker cooks much faster than the conventional methods so you won’t have to cook something for long duration. You can cook beef roast within 20-45 minutes depending on a recipe whereas oven takes about an 1hr. Compared to other methods of cooking, a pressure cooker significantly shortens cooking times which minimizes leaching. You can also choose not to use a pressure cooker when cooking acidic food. When you cook acidic food in a stainless steel pot, nickel, iron and chromium can leach from stainless steel. Our body needs iron and chromium so there is a little concern unless you have iron or chromium related health issues already. Nickel, on the other hand, can cause allergic reactions to some people. Overall, I find stainless steel the most safe material for the inner pot of a pressure cooker.
Is Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Non Toxic?
There are 27965 reviews (which are mostly positive reviews) on Instant Pot Duo 60 7-in-1 pressure cooker at Amazon.com. Instant Pot Pressure Cooker is the one of the most popular and well known pressure cooker in the market. It is a multi-functional cooker which is a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, a saute/ browner, a steamer and a warmer. Depending on a model, more functions are included.
Instant Pot pressure cooker’s lid, inner pot and steam rack are all made of food grade 304 (18/8) stainless steel. 18/8 means stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Stainless steel grade 304 is the most widely used stainless steel due to its excellent corrosion resistance and value. Instant Pot pressure cooker’s inner pot and lid are made of this stainless steel with no chemical coatings.
How about other parts of the cooker? Many rice cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers in the market contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and non stick coatings. Does Instant Pot contain heavy metals? Tamara Rubin, the producer and director of MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic tested an instant pot for heavy metals. Carissa at Creative Green Living wrote the results as follows.
- Stainless steel inner cooking pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Stainless steel lid (outside of lid): Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Inner portion of steam release valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Anti-Block shield: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Power Cable: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Float Valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Steam Release: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Steaming rack: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Plastic tools: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Exterior pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
- Heating unit disk: 1,400 PPM lead +/- 90 and 46 PPM cadmium +/- 11
- Safety button in base of unit: 303 PPM for Lead +/- 36, Non detect for Cadmium and Mercury
Instant Pot is free of heavy metals in almost all parts of the pot including where food come in contact directly. Since Instant Pot has no coatings or heavy metals, it is non toxic and safe.
Pressure cooking is healthier than conventional cooking methods since it cooks food in shorter time and kills less vitamins or minerals while cooking. Instant Pot, one of the most popular pressure cookers in the market has stainless steel lid, inner pot and steam racks. Its stainless steel has no coatings and almost all parts of the Instant Pot has no lead, cadmium and mercury. Although I bought this as a rice cooker, I am excited to try other cooking functions. I bought one that is one level higher than instant Pot Duo 60 7-in-1 pressure cooker which can also be used as a sterilizer or egg cooker. I am glad I won’t have to worry about inner pot getting scratched from now on. Happy cooking!
[Update May 1, 2018] I cooked rice in the Instant Pot and it made rice wonderfully. It only took 12 minutes to make rice! After exploring all of the functions, I will be writing a review on this pot in the future.
You can read my review on Instant Pot Duo Plus 60 9-in-1 pressure cooker in my post ‘Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Review – How Instant Pot Changed My Life.’
If you are interested in non toxic cookware, please read my previous post, ‘Non Toxic Cookware Guide – What Is The Healthiest And Safest Cookware?‘
If you are interested in non toxic bakeware, please read my next post, ‘Non Toxic Bakeware Guide – Which Bakeware Is Safe And Non Toxic?‘
If you are interested in non toxic rice cookers, please read my post ‘Non Toxic Rice Cookers – Rice Cookers With A Stainless Steel Inner Pot‘.