Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Kitchen Armory: Instant Pot

In previous posts I’ve talked about crock pots, also called slow cookers, as well as mentioning pressure cookers in passing. Both have their places in the Kitchen Armory. However, they cost money and take up space. Wouldn’t it be helpful if there was a single appliance that could do the work of both?

We’re in luck because there is such a device. I’ve mentioned Instant Pots before, and Lokidude talked about his a couple years ago, but this versatile tool is important enough to deserve another post.

These appliances combine many features of crock pots along with those of pressure cookers, and have a number of additional options as well. For example, the sauté feature alone is almost worth the cost of admission; add in the ability to make low effort broth or stock, and perfect hard boiled eggs every time, and I’m sold. For those who stock up on dried beans, the savings in time and effort rehydrating them will amortize the expense quickly.

With an Instant Pot, it really is possible to make a more involved one-pot meal that’s not a soup or a stew. For example, see the Fried Rice in my Rice post or the Kung Pao Chicken in my Nuts post.

Of course, before trying any recipes, an Instant Pot has to be purchased. Prices have come down considerably since they were first introduced; it’s now possible to get an 8-Quart model for less than one hundred dollars, and the 6-Quart version costs even less.

The author's InstantPot and cookbooks

Other than size, these two models are pretty much identical. The product description for both is exactly the same:

“Easy to use, easy to clean, fast, versatile, and convenient, the Instant Pot® Duo™ is the one that started it all. It replaces 7 kitchen appliances: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker & warmer. With 13 built-in smart programs, cook your favorite dishes with the press of a button. The tri-ply, stainless steel inner pot offers quick, even heating performance. Redefine cooking and enjoy quick and easy meals anywhere, any time. The Instant Pot Duo offers the quality, convenience and versatility you’ve come to expect from Instant – discover amazing.”

One of the most important features of any pressure cooker is the release valve. On our Instant Pot, it’s a knob with a 90 rotation from sealed to vent. Recipes may call for quick release (opening the valve as soon as the cook time is done) or slow release (letting the unit sit for a time, then releasing residual pressure), depending on a number of variables. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance and cleaning instructions, especially regarding the seal and release valve.

While most Instant Pots come with a basic recipe book, there are many more available through Amazon as well as online. The two we prefer are The Instant Pot College Cookbook and The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook. It’s possible to convert many traditional crock pot recipes for use in an Instant Pot as well.

The ability to create a meal in a hands-off manner as introduced by the crock pot has been expanded considerably by the introduction of the Instant Pot. If forced to keep just one of them, I'd be hard pressed to choose between the two: the crock pot is simpler and basically foolproof, but the Instant Pot gives me far more versatility. Fortunately, I don't have to choose!

1 comment:

  1. The only pressure cooker I ever owned was a little *microwave* pressure cooker. I think it was by Presto, and it worked remarkably well. It worked like just about any other pressure cooker out there, with a little heavy cylinder that sat on the relief valve hole. The thing would barely rock while it was cooking, but if the pressure got too high, the steam would lift that weight and release the pressure. There may have been some metal in that weight, like tungsten or something, but there wasn't any metal anywhere else in the whole contraption. It was some of the densest, toughest plastic I've ever seen, though.

    My parents used it a few times, then the novelty wore off. That and the fact that it didn't help my mother cook any damn better. She *still* managed to turn anything cooked in the thing gray. I swear she could heat up jarred spaghetti sauce, and somehow it would turn gray by the time it reached the table. The poor woman was a dismal cook.

    I've been tempted to get an Instant Pot. I make enough rice and like getting good value out of cheaper, tougher cuts of meat, like hanger steak, pot roast, and flank steak. But when I saw that Instant Pot had a sous vide water oven, I bought that instead. It works great, and can work as a slow cooker as well, but the volume is rather small. I haven't used it nearly as much as I used to, mostly because I tend not to cook from scratch very much anymore. Too much standing chopping, shredding, slicing, or otherwise performing repetitive actions. So I'm thinking of getting the pressure cooker type of Instant Pot and seeing what trouble I can get into with that for a change.

    Great article, thanks for publishing it. It is good food for thought.


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