I usually post about birth-related things. I suppose this is birth-related too, since I’d be hard-pressed to do my job without having some time-saving ideas to keep my family fed. If we don’t eat good food, we can’t stay healthy. In this series, I’ll share some of my mom-to-mom survival tips.
Often, if we don’t plan, we’ll do the usual fall back of “well, let’s just get take out” and that is (1) expensive (2) often as time-consuming as cooking (3) and usually not very healthy. Enter the Instant Pot.
At the risk of sounding like an Instant Pot commercial, I’m going to tell you all about how I feel about my experience with the Instant Pot. Yes, there are links to the Instant Pot on Amazon.com so you can purchase one for yourself, and yes, if you use those links, I’m supposed to get some sort of kick back (although I have yet to see a penny from Amazon’s affiliate program) but other than that, I’m not being compensated for my endorsement of Instant Pot. This is all coming from my own personal experience with this wonderful kitchen gadget. Love this thing!
What is an Instant Pot?
The Instant Pot is a programmable electric pressure cooker. This video gives a good overview about how the Instant Pot works.
Why is the Instant Pot better than other electric pressure cookers?
I had another electric pressure cooker and I liked it quite a bit. It got a lot of use. But, I had two issues that Instant Pot solved for me. First, the interior pot in the other pressure cookers had a non-stick surface. I’m not big on non-stick; I much prefer stainless steel. I have concerns about the safety of non-stick coatings, plus they just don’t wear well over time. Before very long, my non-stick inner pot started showing signs of wear. My other issue with the other pressure cooker was that the inner pot’s capacity was small. The new Instant Pot is available in an 8 quart capacity (yay!), which makes me very happy. I could make do with a smaller one, but having the flexibility of the larger 8 quart size is really nice.
Other pressure cookers probably can do some of the things the Instant Pot can do, but the Instant Pot is marketed as being able to be used as a slow cooker (definitely replaced my crock pot, and my other pressure cooker did not have a slow-cooker function), yogurt maker, and rice maker. In my experience, I make better rice on the stove, so I’m sticking with that. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but the rice I made in the Instant Pot turned out sticky. I haven’t tried making yogurt yet, but I really want to!
It’s super easy to use. It’s so easy, in fact, that my 15 year old son said he wants one when he goes off to college. He’s been using it for about a year now. He knows that he pretty much just has to put frozen food in it, set the cooking function, and walk away, so he feels confident he’d be able to pull off home-cooked meals when he’s living away from home. He sees the Instant Pot as the indispensable kitchen tool.
Aren’t pressure cookers dangerous? I’m afraid it will blow up.
That’s what I usually hear when I tell people my favorite kitchen gadget is a pressure cooker. Modern pressure cookers are really quite safe. The Instant Pot has 10 different safety features to prevent the pressure cooker horror stories we’ve heard our grandmothers share. Quite literally you just put the food in the pot, set the cooking type, and walk away from it. The pot brings it up to the proper temperature and pressure, cooks it for the appropriate amount of time, depressurizes on its own, and then keeps the food warm until you’re ready to eat.
Why would I want to use a pressure cooker?
The ultimate fast food. Food cooks in a fraction of the time it would normally take. Pot roast that would normally cook all day in a slow cooker takes about 1-1/2 hours. Fall-off-the-bone BBQ Baby Back Ribs – 65 minutes. Best Carnitas evah – 50 minutes. Paleo Kalua Pig Pulled Pork that normally takes 16 hours in the slow cooker – 90 minutes.
You also don’t have to babysit the food. Once you put it in the Instant Pot and set the cooking function, you can walk away and go about doing other things. There is no stirring, minding the temperature, making sure things don’t burn, turning it off when things are done, etc. All of that happens without you.
Pressure cookers save you money, too. You can take the toughest cuts of meat and by cooking them in the pressure cooker, they become fall-apart-fork-tender.
So, what do you make in the Instant Pot?
At first, I just tried some very easy things. I made pot roast in record time. The pot has a saute function, so I was able to use that to sear the chuck roast first. Then, I added the onions, liquid (half wine, half water), salt and pepper, and some fresh rosemary. Covered the pot, turned it to the “Meat” function for about an hour, and when it was done, I added the potatoes and carrots and cooked for 10 more minutes. Yummy!
Then, I ventured out a bit. I tried just putting frozen chicken breasts with a jar of salsa in the Instant Pot. Yes, frozen. The Instant Pot will defrost the chicken for you. After the timer went off, I shredded the chicken with a couple of forks, added a can of black beans and some frozen corn, and then turned it to saute to warm up the corn and beans. Ta-da! Chicken and Black Bean Tacos!
Feeling more confident, I thought maybe I could convert some of my existing recipes to Instant Pot meals, and yes, that worked very well. Pulled pork, soups, and chili all worked great.
Then, I discovered there’s a whole community of over 100,000 Instant Pot lovers (“Potheads” as they call themselves!) on the Internet. They share countless recipes including cheesecake (seems to be an especially popular thing among Potheads), ribs, macaroni and cheese, Indian Butter Chicken, beef stew, and about a zillion other things. Pretty much, if you want to cook something in the Instant Pot, you can post it on Facebook, and some pothead will have a recipe for you.
My most recent Instant Pot win was cooking spaghetti and meatballs. Understand that spaghetti and meatballs is one of my specialties, so much so that my daughter asked for it for her 18th birthday dinner. It’s one of those things that my kids consider to be mom’s cooking at it’s best, and they consider the techniques used in making them to be sacred – nobody messes with mamas meatballs. I make marinara from scratch and normally, I’d make the meatballs and bake them in the oven while I prepare marinara sauce on the stove, then I’d simmer the meatballs in the sauce for about 30-60 minutes. Well, with the Instant Pot, I learned a whole new way to do it without compromising taste one bit. In fact, I hesitantly admit I think I like the recipe better. Now, with the Instant Pot, I prepare the marinara sauce in the pot on the saute function. place the raw meatballs in the sauce (it doesn’t even need to be simmering yet), and then cover and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. By the time the pasta is cooked, the sauce and meatballs are done, and the sauce tastes like it has been cooking all day. My daughter is grown and doesn’t live at home anymore, so I’ll have to try it on her sometime when she’s home visiting. She’s the ultimate meatball taste-tester.
We’ve made the Carnitas and Kalua Pig recipes. Mainly, we’ve converted a bunch of slow cooker freezer meal recipes to Instant Pot recipes. That’s been a huge time saver. More on Freezer cooking in another blog post in this series!