Instant Pot vs. Microwave – Which Is Best?

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Modern cooking appliances are a priority of every home, and the instant pot and the microwave are two of the best. These are necessary for cooking up quick and delicious meals on the fly. But what if your budget forces you to choose just one of the two?

The instant pot vs. microwave is a long-standing debate. While some say instant pots make cooking easier, others claim that microwave-cooked meals are more delicious. They both serve a beneficial purpose in all cooking adventures, but one is always better than the other in different aspects.

So, which would win this instant pot vs. microwave debate and claim the title of the best? In today’s article, I will discuss key points to look for in electronic cookware and which appliance excels in which field. Let’s begin!

What Is an Instant Pot?

An instant pot is an all-in-one electronic cooker for all your favorite dishes. You can use it to make pasta, one-pot rice meals, Arctic char, creamy chicken stew, succulent beef chili, and more!

As a helpful kitchen appliance, an instant pot can take up a variety of different roles and functions:

  • A pressure cooker
  • A rice cooker
  • A steamer
  • A food heater, and more!

Its multi-cooking functions have earned the instant pot a perfect spot in the household kitchen and college student dorms. I have seen many YouTube chefs and food influencers using instant pots to make fantastic meals at home!

You can use a pressure cooker to saute some tasty veggies or slow-cook rice to make Furikake rice balls. After a long day of work, an instant pot is perfect for warming up your leftovers for a hearty meal or cooking an excellent one-pot pork, veggies, and quinoa dish for a quick little treat!

The best part about instant pots is the ability to leave a meal to cook, heat, fry, or stew inside while doing your chores, chatting with your loved one, or cleaning out the trash cans! It does not need you to stand around all day, watching over to fix errors. 

An instant pot can save you the trouble of ordering food online and help you choose healthier meals through its fast cooking technology!

What Is a Microwave Oven?

A microwave oven is a common kitchen appliance that uses electromagnetic waves to heat food. They work well for those who love to instantly make versatile, creative, and delicious meals! They are compact, powerful, and enhance the dining experience. 

You can use the microwave for the following:

  • Bake delicious desserts.
  • Make some quick batch of meat quiches.
  • Cook your veggies.
  • Grill some meat and vegetables.
  • Make lasagna and more!

A microwave oven can help you reheat food in practically no time without using multiple utensils! Not to forget, you can get some microwave-safe ready-meals to heat up and eat on the spot!

They are particularly helpful when it comes to thawing or defrosting frozen foods. Microwaves are a go-to option for student dorm rooms, one-room apartments, bakeries, and home kitchens.

These electronic appliances do not take up much space and are pretty easy to clean. Microwave ovens have been helping prepare some tasty meals since the 1980s and since then have taken up an integral portion of kitchen tops around the world. 

The microwave oven also serves unconventional purposes like decrystallizing honey, roasting garlic, and roofing yeast, making it an all-rounder in the kitchen! Due to its popularity, you can find a microwave oven at pretty affordable rates and with some great features!

Instant Pot vs. Microwave: Which Would Win?

The microwave oven would win over an instant pot due to its overall heightened versatility and convenience. Still, the instant pot and the microwave oven are both kitchen staples in most households and are the best options for different purposes.

If this is your first electronic kitchen appliance purchase, then you might want to know which one fares best in terms of a few categories:

  • Cooking Versatility
  • Cooking speed
  • Reheating
  • Energy Consumption

Cooking Versatility

In terms of versatility, an instant pot is a rice maker, steamer, pressure cooker, and slow cooker in one appliance. It has various functions, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Steaming porridge and rice
  • Cooking eggs, chicken, and vegetables 
  • Making vegetable and meat broth
  • Stewing meat
  • Sauteing dishes
  • Setting yogurt

Many use a steamer to throw in different ingredients to cook a one-pot meal after returning from work. It does not need much prepping. It can cook you a meat and pasta dish, make some steamed dumplings, broth, and noodles from leftovers, or even cook rice with your takeout. 

An instant pot’s “Keep Warm” setting saves power while cooking and preheating the cooker. One consistency of the instant range here is, steaming. It can steam all types of meals. 

On the other hand, a microwave oven can complete the following tasks:

  • Roast marinated meats and vegetables
  • Bake pastries, cakes, quiches, Wellingtons, tarts, etc.
  • Cook bacon strips
  • Make mug cakes
  • Heat tea, coffee, and water
  • Dry-cook vegetables

Not to forget, it can also help you heat meals, re-cook them for more taste and freshness, and defrost frozen food products. It is a versatile electronic appliance that can reduce many prepping tasks. 

Final verdict: The microwave offers slightly more versatility than the instant pot in the kitchen.

Cooking Speed

The cooking speed of an instant pot depends on what meal you are making. For example, if you are steaming clams, rice, broccoli, and marinated pork belly, you will need sufficient time as each component has different cooking durations. 

An instant pot has around sixteen cooking settings, each with different time limits. For example, the porridge cook setting and the sous-vide setting’s timings and speed might differ. Of course, the instant pot comes with the “high pressure” setting to cook meals faster for your convenience!

The case of speed remains the same for a microwave oven. A mug cake will take lesser time than baking an actual cake. Similarly, roasting potatoes will take less time than roasting a type of meat dish. It all depends on how you want these dishes cooked. 

Final Verdict: Both the microwave oven and instant pot vary in cooking speed based on the dish being prepared.

Reheating

You can use an instant pot to reheat your leftover meals. You have to pour some water inside the insert pot to allow the steam to reheat your meals. 

Instant pots with “Slow Cooker” and “Keep Warm” Functions can help reheat your food for more extended periods. These functions are practical for heating meals where the meat might have dried out or become too chewy while frozen. 

The “Steamer” option on an instant pot comes in handy for faster reheating! However, always ensure that you use heatproof containers inside the pot for safety.

In such cases, the microwave makes reheating even faster and more efficient! I have reheated plenty of meals in the microwave to save time. At the end of the day, if I have no food prepping done and have some leftover takeouts, I have just one option for my dinner.

Final verdict: The microwave is a more convenient and effective option for reheating food.

Energy Consumption

An Instant pot’s and a microwave’s energy consumption depends on their wattage, capacity, and how long it takes to cook something. See the chart below for some information on the energy consumption of both the microwave and instant pot.

WattagekWh (for 15 min to 1-hour cooking)
700 Watt0.18 to 0.70 kWh
1000 Watt0.25 to 1 kWh
1200 Watt0.30 to 1.2 kWh

Figure 1: Instant Pot and Microwave Energy Consumption

Final verdict: Both the microwave and instant pot consume energy at similar rates.