For many of us, finding the right balance between a hectic work life and a scattered home life feels like an unattainable goal.

That's why I've always found it important to make the most of my time at home. The Instant Pot gives me more time for my family. It offers all of the convenience of a crockpot (in that you can simply dump ingredients in, and walk away), but cooking times are usually less than 30 minutes — as opposed to 6-8 hours.

An Instant Pot is a kitchen appliance that, like many of us, takes on the responsibility of doing a little bit of everything.

At its core, the Instant Pot is a pressure cooker. However, the Instant Pot is more than that. It can slow-cook meats, steam vegetables, prepare rice, and make sauces and yogurts, among other things.

But, most likely — if you're anything like me — you'll use it for those days after work when you want to cook something tasty, but don't have a surplus of energy to accomplish that feat.

Pressure cookers use air pressure to boil water at a higher temperature than its normal 100 degrees. This creates steam within the chamber, which — combined with the pressure — then forces heat into the food, cooking it with uniform intensity throughout.

This process also allows meats to become "fall off the bone" tender without cooking them for extended periods of time. Recent Instant Pot models have upped the pressure with which they cook, meaning they're optimized for quickly preparing after-work meals.

One of my favorite aspects of the Instant Pot: It's not as intimidating as traditional pressure cookers, which have had their reputations marred by horror stories of burning-hot food and shrapnel explosions.

The greatest advantage of owning an Instant Pot is the speed with which I can prepare a meal large enough for the entire family. Most meals using the pressure cooker function on an Instant Pot can be completed within an hour.

It also allows me to be a more dynamic chef because cooking complicated dishes is much easier when I can dump them in a pot for a half-hour and then eat.

Take note: The time necessary in recipes generally undershoots how long it takes to prepare the ingredients. And the Instant Pot requires time to come to pressure, so that will also add a few minutes. Though I've found that it may not have as many time-saving benefits as some sites would claim, it still can cut off a ton of time when I'm cooking something a little more intricate.

Finally, the Instant Pot is available in a number of different models, colors, and sizes, which makes it great for individuals as well as families of all sizes. Instant Pots are currently available in the following sizes:

3-quart — best for individuals or for side dishes. I'd consider this more of an accompanying tool to your larger Instant Pot.

6-quart — the most popular size. It feeds a couple with plenty of leftovers. But beware: If you have a large family, you might not be able to feed everyone solely using this machine.

8-quart — the largest size available. This is the unit you want to buy if you plan on meal planning or cooking for groups.

Based on price data tracked year-round (and aside from the occasional promotional rate elsewhere), the best prices are consistently available at Amazon.

Barbecue meals are a favorite of Instant Pot owners. Large, tough cuts of meat like beef brisket or pork shoulder are perfect in the Instant Pot. Simply create a rub using your own personal barbecue seasonings, then add it to the pot following a recipe's instructions.

This recipe takes some time to make it perfect, but if you love pulled pork, and don't want to wait 6-8 hours, we couldn't recommend this recipe.

Soups are great on chilly weeknights. They're sufficiently filling and delicious, and there's just something pleasant about a hot bowl of soup. Usually, it takes forever to get one to fully come together, but with an Instant Pot, the times are fractions of what you'd expect.

We tested this tortilla soup recipe last winter and can't wait to give it another shot. The most labor-intensive part of the process is cutting the onions — so it's a great recipe to try if you'd like to multitask while dinner is cooking.

Sides, like corn on the cob, steamed yams, or baked beans, are a breeze to make in an Instant Pot. Simply add the ingredients, add water (if needed), and let them steam or cook for 10-30 minutes.

Macaroni and cheese is already easy to make, but an Instant Pot can make it taste delicious. I love this recipe for when I'm really busy in the kitchen — like over the holidays — and I want everything to come together at the right time but lack space on the stove or in the oven.

The most irritating aspect of an Instant Pot is the burn sensors on the inside of the pot. Sometimes, if a dish doesn't have enough water in it (or if it features tomato paste), the sensors on the inside of the pot will indicate that it can't come to pressure because of something burnt to the pan. This requires you to scoop out all of the food cooking and to scrape the sides so they're clear. It's frustrating but can be avoided by only using high-quality recipes.

Another common complaint relates to capacity. Some electric multi-cookers or pressure cookers come in sizes as large as 10 or even 12 quarts, allowing for larger meal preparation. You'll want to be careful when buying to make sure you get a unit large enough to meet your needs.

Finally, when you're first using your Instant Pot, be careful when releasing the pressure as the steam can easily burn your arm if you aren't careful. The design can sometimes lend itself to your arm being over an outpouring of steam, so be aware of where the steam releases.

Categorically, yes. If you want to impress your family without spending hours and hours preparing and cooking food, this is the machine you need. I've used several models over the span of years and have always been pleased with what it's been able to produce.

Adam Reeder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds. BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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