Instant Pot a hot holiday gift
Oh Instant Pot, Oh Instant Pot
How faithful are thy functions
Perfect risotto every time
And pork roast finer than fine
Oh Instant Pot, Oh Instant Pot
How faithful are thy functions
Instant Pot, we think we love you.
No-stir creamy risotto in half the time. Dried beans that cook up plump and quick — no pre-soaking required. Pork roast with perfectly cooked potatoes and carrots in silky sauce in an hour.
Say hello to your new best friend.
The Instant Pot, which made its debut in late 2010, has been steadily gaining popularity in the multi-cooker home appliance category because of its speed and ease-of-use. And this holiday season, it seems that the 7-in-1 appliance — slow cooker, pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, warmer, browner — is on everyone’s wish list.
The multi-cooker is not just hot — it’s smokin’ hot. It’s been called a game-changer for scores of busy cooks. And on Black Friday, many stores sold out of them.
Sales of multi-cookers for a 12-month period ending in September were $978 million, according to market research firm NPD Group, an increase of 29 percent. (NPD considers electric pressure cookers, food steamers, fryers, multi-cookers, other cookers, rice cookers, roaster ovens and slow cookers as multi-cookers.)
While multi-cooker sales, which includes the Instant Pot, grew 56 percent, NPD Group says the slow cooker sales declined 5 percent. So it seems that the Instant Pot might be stealing a little shine from a culinary favorite.
“Historically with multi-cookers, they’d talk about rice cooking, slow cooking and sautéing,” says Joe Derochowski, NPD’s home industry adviser.
“The Instant Pot brought the speed and pressure cooking and it hit well with consumer’s needs.”
Derochowski pegs the explosive popularity of the Instant Pot to growth in the home category overall.
“The home has become more important and the kitchen has become important,” he says. “ … .more people are trying to be healthier and entertaining more.” And the biggest thing is we are eating more at home, eating more homemade meals and healthier meals.
Instant Pot isn’t the only multi-cooker out on the market. The Crock-pot Express Cooker, Fagor LUX and NuWAve also have similar features.
The Instant Pot comes in several sizes ranging from a mini (3-quart) to 6- and 8-quart versions. The larger capacity Instant Pot’s have several models including one with Bluetooth capability.
Trying it out: We tried the Instant Pot out recently, here’s some of what we learned:
Pressure cooking is one of the Instant Pot’s highlights, which is where the speed comes in. Pressure cookers cook food under a good amount of pressure in less time than the oven or stove top. For example, a pot roast using 3 pounds of beef chuck takes about 4 hours in the oven. Under pressure, it cooks in just more than an hour. But cooking with pressure cookers of old made people wary and afraid of the pot exploding — which was common. Pressure cookers these days have better safety mechanisms, and the Instant Pot does too.
Browning meat is something a slow cooker can’t do. Our first attempt at browning a pork roast using the saute function turned out extremely well. And another try didn’t disappoint. So there was no need to dirty another pot or skillet just to brown meat.
The rice cooking function is basically set it and forget it. It also cooks brown rice in nearly half the time compared to cooking it on the stove top — about 30 minutes vs. 60 minutes. Our first attempt at making brown rice was a gummy flop because we used too much water; the second batch, using less water, was better. Like anything, you’ll need to experiment. And make sure you read the instruction manual carefully — it’s a must.
While testing the Instant Pot, we also tried a risotto dish. Those who’ve made risotto the traditional way know it can take time and constant stirring. The risotto we made in the Instant Pot required no stirring and half the time.
You can set the Instant Pot for multi-grain cooking for soups and stews. These are preset functions with most relying on pressure cooking.
What the Instant Pot doesn’t do is make things crisp. You can cook a whole chicken in it, but the skin won’t get crispy. It will be brown, but not crisp.
The only downside with pressure cooking is the time it takes for the inner pot to come up to pressure. Once it does, the actual cooking time begins.
Beef Barbacoa Tacos
Salty, spicy and slightly tangy, this dish delivers flavor on multiple levels. The tender shredded beef showcases the power of the pressure cooker to turn out in just an hour a meal that would ordinarily take hours of slow cooking.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
21/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of most fat and cut into large chunks
1/2 cup reduced-salt chicken broth or stock
2 bay leaves
Small (6-inch) corn tortillas (for serving)
Salsa or pico de gallo (for serving)
Cotija cheese (for serving)
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, chipotle, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper and cloves in a medium bowl.
Press Sauté and use the sauté or adjust button to select the highest temperature (“More”). Place the vegetable oil in the inner pot. Wait until the display reads “Hot,” about 5 minutes, then add the beef. Cook with the lid off, turning the beef every 2 minutes, until the beef is browned on most sides, about 8 minutes.
Add the vinegar sauce and the chicken broth (be careful — steam may whoosh up!), and then the bay leaves. Stir to combine.
Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Cancel, then press Manual or Pressure Cook and use the Pressure or Pressure Level button to select High Pressure. Use the – or + button to set the time to 30 minutes.
When the cooking cycle ends, press Cancel. Allow the appliance to cool and release pressure naturally, about 20 minutes. (The pressure is released when the small metal float valve next to the pressure-release valve sinks back into the lid and the lid is no longer locked.)
Remove the lid. Discard the bay leaves. Use tongs or a large spoon to remove the beef from the inner pot and place it on a cutting board. Shred the beef using two forks: Use one fork to pull off a chunk and then use two forks to shred that piece, holding down the meat with one fork and pulling at it with the other. Repeat with the remaining beef.
Serve the beef hot, piled into corn tortillas and topped with salsa and a sprinkling of Cotija cheese, if desired. Beef Barbacoa and its juices will keep, in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place the beef in a shallow baking dish with enough of the juices to reach a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 15 minutes.
From “How to Instant Pot: Mastering All the Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook” By Daniel Shumski (Workman, $16.95).
Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.