|If I could only own one pot, this Instant Pot would be it!|
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Boy, Have Pressure Cookers Changed
I have an old pressure cooker that's been in my closet for about 20 years. You know the kind - the one that has steam shooting out of it and makes constant clanging noises. The one that sounds like it's going to explode any minute and shower your kitchen ceiling with its entire contents! I've used it twice.
So when I went to an Instant Pot pressure cooker demonstration given by the Veggie Queen several years ago, I still was a little reluctant. After all, I kind of enjoy stirring, tasting, simmering, adjusting spices, and all the fun stuff that goes along with cooking. But recently my girlfriend Margarite bought one and raved so much about it that I caved in and got one. After all, I love trying new kitchen toys. (Although I'm talking mostly about the pressure cooker feature in this post, this electric pot also slow cooks, sautés, makes yogurt, and more.)
Control Freaks Beware
I must say this pressure cooker takes some getting used to. It has a big sturdy lid and once it turns to close, you can't open it while its at high pressure. And it's totally silent (no clanging) so you hardly know that it's cooking.
But here's the catch. Because you can't open it while it's under pressure, you give up total control. You have to trust that the pressure cooker gods are doing everything just right. It can be unnerving, especially when you don't read the instructions!
I hate reading instructions so I didn't know that once the pressure cooker tells you it's finished, and makes a cute little beep, you are supposed to turn it off and then wait for the pressure to release gradually.
My first attempt with using this pot was making black bean soup. I didn't turn it off when it beeped so the pot remained at pressure forever. I sat there and watched it as our dinner hour flew past. Panic set in. Why wasn't the pressure going down? When are we going to eat dinner? Have these beans turned to complete mush? Why can't I open my damn pot?
Doug finally read the directions and we turned off the pot. The pressure gradually released, we carefully opened the pot (with the steam pointed away from us) and there was our soup. I added too much water and the soup kind of looked like sewage. It's not that black bean soup looks that great anyway (especially when it's too watery). So my first test completely failed. Besides the failed soup, I learned something that I kind of already knew about myself - that I am a complete CONTROL FREAK and that I can't even turn over control to a pot!
Luckily I wasn't discouraged and tried again. Since then, almost everything I've cooked has come out amazing!
1. Read the instructions. It's not that the pot is too complicated, but there are a few critical things you need to know.
2. When you use a pressure cooker, you need to know how long it will take to make your recipe. Start with a good cook book for basic times and once you've got a few things down, experiment with your own recipes. I started out with Jill Nussinow's New Fast Food cookbook. It's an excellent reference for how long it takes to cook grains and beans and exactly how much liquid to use. It's got some great vegan recipes in it and it's helped me get started with this wonderful new pot.
3. Keep a notebook. If your oatmeal came out a bit too thick, make a note to add a bit more water next time. If your veggies came out too soft, make a note to cut down the cooking time. Figure out which recipes let you release the steam quickly and which ones have to release the pressure gradually. You'll find these notes will help you develop a set of instructions so that all of your favorite recipes will come out perfectly!
4. You have to experiment. Not everything will come out great at first but when you perfect a few recipes, you'll wonder how you ever cooked without this pot.
Things I Love to Make in my Instant Pot
In the future I will start blogging some of my pressure cooker recipes, but for now, I'd just like to tell you what dishes are great to make in this pot.
I bet every Italian who owns this pot uses it to make stuffed artichokes. Artichokes are so tough that you have to steam them for a long time. You have to keep adding water while they are cooking and by the time they are soft enough to eat, their leaves are falling off into the pot. This pot is nice and big and artichokes some out beautifully.
This pot makes the creamiest oatmeal I've ever eaten. I'm actually not as big a fan of oatmeal as my husband but since we started making it in this pot (with vanilla, cranberries, cinnamon, almond milk, and a pinch of salt), I want to eat it every morning!
Stuffed bell peppers are another dish that's hard to make because the peppers usually have to be pre-boiled so everything bakes uniformly. With the pressure cooker, you don't have to do that and in just a few minutes, you have beautifully cooked stuffed peppers.
I think pressure cookers were invented to cook beans. It not only cuts down the time dramatically, it seems to prevent the beans from splitting. The New Fast Food cookbook has helpful tables on how long different beans take to cook (as well as other foods.) Here are perfectly cooked garbanzo beans.
|Garbanzo beans - soft and creamy inside with skins intact.|
How would you like to make risotto without constantly stirring it? And how would you like to do that in just a fraction of the time? I roasted some chanterelles in the oven, made the risotto in the Instant Pot in 5 minutes, stirred in the chanterelles and had PERFECT risotto!
|Chanterelle mushroom risotto|
Stainless Steel Cooking Pot
Another big plus is that the cooking pot is stainless - not teflon like my rice maker. Now that I can make rice in this pot, I no longer need a separate rice cooker.
Great Pot for a College Student
If I could only have one pot, this would be the one. It's electric so you don't even need a stove - just an electric outlet. It would be a great pot for a college student since it does almost anything and you can make a lot of one-pot meals in it.
I guess you can tell that I'm excited about my new Instant Pot. I bought mine on Amazon for $135. I have a lot of experimenting to do to learn all of its capabilities and I'll be sharing my pressure cooker adventures with you soon!