Under Pressure (I caved and bought an Instant Pot)

As I reached to vent the steam from my pressure cooker last night, my youngest daughter took two huge steps out of the kitchen. She looked at me with a very serious face and claimed, “I really don’t want to get hurt.” I totally get it. The Instant Pot is a mysterious wonder. What’s happening under that lid anyways? And why the hissing? And what are the odds that I will blow up my house?

I haven’t adopted a new kitchen appliance since the Vitamix four years ago. So, the fact that I opened the wallet and bought one is telling – mainly because I don’t want new appliances. No, I want new bikinis and hats and vacations. But, this multi-cooker promised me two things: ease and speed. It was too hard to resist.

I unpacked this sucker back in July expecting to hold off heavy usage until fall. After all, summer is for girls who grill, amen? But, even with the warm weather and dry skies, I’ve already used it several times. (And since donated my beloved slow cooker.) Thanks to the help of some experts as well as some some trial and error, I’m slowly getting the hang of the whole pressure cooking technique.

The Instant Pot has already proved itself to be worth the investment. Let’s talk product details for a moment. After looking at the options, I went with the 8-quart Duo from Instant Pot. It retails for $129, but I pulled the trigger on Amazon Prime day and got it for $89. As a multi-cooker, it combines 7 functions in one and has 14 different programs from soup to rice to slow cook. A talented little bugger for sure. If you’re looking for an appliance that can both slow cook AND pressure cook, I highly recommend getting an Instant Pot. I went with the 8-quart (as opposed to the 3-quart or 6-quart) because I rarely cook in small batches so the largest model is most suitable.

Now, some resources and tips that I’ve found helpful.

Resources to get up to speed…

Things I wish I knew before my maiden voyage…

  1. Pressure needs to build. This might be obvious to some, but it sure wasn’t for me. I stood there wondering, “It says ON, but why isn’t the timer starting? Depending on the quantity of liquid/food in the pressure cooker, it can take upwards of 20 minutes to build pressure. Once the pressure builds, the machine beeps and the timer starts.
  2. The steam does not release instantaneously. Again, the time it takes to release steam depends on the contents of the pressure cooker. There are a two methods of release – quick release and natural release. Quick pressure release is good when you’re looking to quickly stop the cooking process to prevent over cooking. Natural pressure release is best when you’re trying to slowly stop the cooking process… the cooking continues as the pressure is being released. In both methods, the steam will come from the vent on the top of the machine. Do not be alarmed! But feel free to stand back and use a cooking utensil to switch the nob, instead of your fingers. Or use a towel
  3. When releasing the steam, either position the Instant Pot under an exhaust fan before releasing the pressure, or place a towel over the valve to catch the steam. This will minimize the smell and steam that fill your kitchen area.

What I’ve cooked in my Instant Pot (and was it worth it)…

  • Brown Rice – My preferred method for making rice now. It cuts down the cooking time nearly by half and the consistency and texture of the rice is nearly perfect each time. I used a 1:1 ratio of water to rice, cooked on high pressure for 15 minutes and then did quick release.
  • Quinoa – I don’t see the benefit to using the Instant Pot with quinoa. The stovetop method takes about 15 minutes and results in a good texture. I will continue to do this on the stove.
  • Baked sweet potatoes – The cook time is not significantly less than the oven method. The major benefit I see is not heating your kitchen up (and overheating your pregnant body) by turning on the oven to 475 degrees. Isaac and I like our potatoes a little crispy on the outside, so even after cooking them in the Instant Pot, I stuck them under the broiler for a few minutes to hit the skin.
  • Black beans – Home run! No presoaking and delish results.
  • Salsa Chicken Tacos – easy and perfect. I’ve done this with frozen and thawed chicken. For thawed chicken, the cook time was about 8 minutes. For frozen chicken it was double that. Regardless, a very quick and easy option for tacos, bowls or salads.
  • Curry Chicken Stew from Danielle Walker’s blog. My kids did not like the flavor, but Isaac and I dug it.
  • Bean stew – again, no soaking! I used Bob’s Red Mill 13 bean soup mix and followed this recipe for direction. An hour later, I had a ton of hearty soup ready for scarfing.
  • My favorite slow cooker recipe, high pressure style. I’ll modify the cooking times and post soon.
  • Hard boiled eggs.

For cooks on the fence…

When I purchased the Instant Pot off Amazon (on Amazon Prime day), I also got the Ready or Not! cookbook. Since Michelle is such an Instant Pot devotee, I figured she would have lots of recipes for me to try in her new book. And she sure does! I’ve got quite a few in the queue. And if I run out of ideas there, I may spring for Melissa Clark’s new book Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for your Instant Pot

Raise your hand if you’ve be sucked into Instant Pot land. I’d love to hear what you’re making…

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  • Reply
    02/03/2018 at 11:30 pm

    Great tips here. Our Instant Pot has been sitting in the garage since Christmas, and I finally brought it inside and made something. For my “maiden voyage” I made sure Andrew was home and standing by from start to finish of the recipe, as I too, was nervous about blowing up the house. Like you, we both stared at the pot, not realizing pressure had to build, trying to figure out why the timer was not counting down. There was a learning curve, and we ate dinner super late tonight, but this Instant Pot no longer seems so intimidating, and I’m ready to try more recipes in it. Looking forward to more Instant Pot tricks and meals from you.

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