Well, there’s a new trend in the cooking world – the Instant Pot. I got sucked in because a good friend of mine uses hers all the time and there are just so many awesome stories about it online. That being said, I think people are overusing the Instant Pot – using it for things that really deserve to be braised or traditionally slow-cooked rather than pressure cooked. But, what can I say? I don’t live a high-paced life with kids in sports and I actually enjoy spending time in my kitchen cooking somewhat complicated recipes…
My version is a 7-in-1 – rice cooker, slower cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt maker, you can sauté in it and steam in it! It definitely has the potential to be a miracle worker, but to date I’ve only used it to sauté and pressure cook. A lot of people have great success making homemade yogurt (I don’t eat enough yogurt to warrant the effort in my mind), and I’ve heard a number of comments that it doesn’t work so good as a slow cooker. I had high hopes to be able to get rid of my rice cooker and slow cooker, but I don’t think that will happen. It really is another thing in my cupboard, but I will say that the pressure cooker is a great addition to my pile of kitchen gadgets, for specific purposes.
First off, the instruction/recipe book that came with it pretty much sucks. It is poorly written and isn’t specific enough for the new user. There are some general guidelines, but a lot of the recipes kind of say there are a number of reasons why the settings may vary for different foods. I was overwhelmed at the beginning, as are so many new users that share their stories in this awesome group on Facebook – the Instant Pot Community. People are really good at answering questions, although, I’ve really noticed a wide variety of experiences are shared. For example – there are a hundred different ways people successfully make hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot and yet those hundred different ways also don’t work for other people! So, what causes the variation in doneness, greying, and how easily the shells come off? Elevation, water hardness, freshness of eggs, what the chickens eat? I’m not sure… It just goes to show that the recipe book that came with the device may have been accurate to say ‘it depends’ and they really didn’t want to take on the liability to say ‘this is how you do it’. Kind of odd, but it’s starting to make sense!
There is some lingo you need to understand to start with – QR is quick release and NR is natural release – both used when you use the appliance on the pressure cook setting. You can either release the pressure right away, once the cook time is complete, or you can let it naturally vent for either a period of time (e.g. some recipes call for 10 or 15 minutes NR then quick release), or you can let it NR until the pressure is all gone and the little pin comes up on it’s own. You can’t open the lid of the Instant Pot until all the pressure is released – you’ll know all the pressure is gone once the little pin comes up and the lid easily opens. Don’t ever force it! The cook time starts once the appliance comes to pressure, and the time to come to pressure depends on how much stuff you have in there, how much liquid there is (and the temperature of it), and whether the meat was frozen or fresh. Yes – you can cook meat from frozen, making it a great appliance to have if you’re one of those people who doesn’t decide what’s for dinner until you get home from work!
I purchased the Great Food Fast cookbook from Amazon.ca and I’ve made a few things so far – all being excellent. I struggle a bit with all the requests for free recipes online; at least recipes in a cookbook are tried, tested and true. I totally recommend this book, since everything I’ve cooked from it so far has turned out well. And, at the back of the book are pages and pages of guidelines for cooking different foods from fresh and frozen – how long to cook it at what pressure, how much liquid to include, and how to release the pressure once it’s cooked. A pretty awesome resource!
I made the Cajun Crab Risotto from the Great Food Fast cookbook – super delicious! I totally recommend risotto being one of the things you consistently make in the Instant Pot. It was creamy and tasty and required no oversight! Just like restaurant quality with no effort.
I also took some guidance from another recipe in the Great Food Fast cookbook and made a Hamburger Helper style pasta dish. I sautéed the ground beef in the Instant Pot, added the seasonings, pasta, water and whatever else I added (sorry – I didn’t write it down!), and cooked it on high pressure for 6 minutes then did QR. I used the little bit of Velveeta I had left in the fridge and some cream cheese and shredded cheddar to make it gooey and cheesy. I would definitely do this again and experiment more with the flavours in the mix. The key is making sure you have enough liquid in the pot to ensure the appliance will come to pressure and your pasta will cook properly and your dish won’t be too soupy.
I’ve also learned that you should buy 2 (or more) silicone seal rings. They are available through Amazon. Some foods you’re going to cook in the Instant Pot will cause the silicone ring to stink something fierce! You don’t want to use that stinky silicone ring when cooking something subtle or sweet like cheesecake or yogurt. The silicone ring is removable and I wash it on the top shelf of my dishwasher. This helps, as does keeping the lid off or loose when the appliance isn’t in use. Just like your washing machine, there’s value in keeping it aired out when not in use.
I haven’t yet used the appliance for any big Pot-In-Pot recipes like lasagna or cheesecake (where you cook the food in another pot like a bowl or a spring form pan and place it on the rack with water below in the main pot). Personally, other than the benefit of not heating up your house during the summer, I don’t understand the value of using the Instant Pot for these things. I did however, make a wicked creme brûlée in the Instant Pot! Man, it was restaurant quality and so easy! Here’s the link to the recipe I found on another blogger’s website. I put the ramekins on the rack and stacked them on top of each other. I do have a torch, so I sprinkled them with sugar and burned the sugar that way.
I’ve also cooked corn on the cob in the Instant Pot. There are some recipes for cooking the corn in milk that apparently make it a bit tastier, but I just used water. 2 cobs on the rack, 1 cup of water, 3 minutes and QR. The silk came off really easy after the corn was cooked. Awesome!