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As a fan of kitchen gadgets, I have often coveted a new invention touted as "the best thing since sliced bread" only to find, after buying, that it was simply another item to take up limited space in a cupboard or drawer. Not so with the electric pressure cooker my spouse and I received as a Christmas gift about three years ago. An electric pressure cooker is similar to the older stove top pressure cookers, but with electronics to automate some functions and enhance safety.

The brand we have is Instant Pot, but other brands seem to vary only slightly. The main difference I've noticed is the Instant Pot liner is stainless steel with copper clad base, rather than the non-stick aluminum found in many competitive brands. Also, if you are interested in making your own yogurt (I was), the Instant Pot includes a yogurt setting.

One of my favorite uses for the electric pressure cooker is cooking dry pinto beans to make a bean soup. The advantage with the Instant Pot is the shorter cooking time and no need for soaking the beans. A pot of beans that would normally require between 4 and 5 hours to cook can be prepared in less than an hour.

With a price tag of less than a hundred U.S. dollars this is worth trying out. You might even talk one of your kids into getting you one for Christmas. That's what we did!