InstantPotDuo60

Six Quart Instant Pot Duo © Instant Pot

My husband bought me a six quart Instant Pot Duo60 for my birthday about a year ago, when it went on sale on Amazon. I’d started to see comments on them from fellow foodies, and I thought – slow cooker and pressure cooker and rice cooker? Sounds great! (Current number of reviews on Amazon: 26,925 with a 4 1/2 out of 5 star rating). This appliance is REALLY trendy right now. Whenever I mention I have one, I get asked about it.

I waded my way through the not crystal clear directions for assembly. (While the pot was supposedly designed in Canada for a North American market, the directions definitely seem as if they have been translated from Chinese or some other Asian language, and the recipe book includes Turnip Cake and Purple Yam Barley Porridge – decidedly Asian fare. The pot itself is made in China). Once I got it up and running, I joined an Instant Pot group on Facebook and downloaded a couple of inexpensive or free recipe books from Amazon Kindle.

I quickly learned that, despite the 8 different pre-programmed settings (Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Rice, Multigrain, Porridge, Steam) PLUS Yogurt, Saute, Slow Cook and Manual/Pressure settings, 99% of the time, online and cook book recipes call for using the manual setting. (More about some of the pre-programmed buttons and how they differ from each other in time and temperature settings here. You can’t set the time on these settings, they are preprogrammed for only less, normal and more settings).

I also came to realize that a LOT of people are buying this appliance who have never really cooked before. They get SUPER excited about using this pot for EVERYTHING, including things that are just silly, like poaching an egg. But hey, if it gets them to eat at home and use the microwave less, I’m all for it. I DID have to drop out of the group on Facebook, as it flooded my feed, and I eventually could not handle the fact that people were forgetting they had other appliances. You know, like an oven. Not everything is better in an Instant Pot.

PressureCookerFearWhatIfScience

© what-if.xkcd.com/40/

I also learned that there are a lot of people terrified of pressure cookers. TERRIFIED! Some bought the Instant Pot and then never even plugged it in, sometimes for more than a year. But honestly, the real beauty of this appliance is that all the guesswork of using a pressure cooker is gone. The top goes on easily and you push a button. No need to regulate the temperature or worry about it overpressurizing and blowing soup all over the ceiling. No need to time how long it cooks for. It does all of that for you.

It should be noted that I also have both a regular pressure cooker and a pressure canner. I’ve been using both for at least 10 years. So I have no deep seated fear of them, and the Instant Pot was an easy transition for me.

InstantPotGrainTableIs this a huge time saver? Sometimes. It should be noted that it takes time for the appliance to come up to pressure. The timer starts AFTER that happens. And with lots of foods, most especially meats, its recommended that you allow the pot to “natural pressure release” NPR, (ie sit undisturbed after cooking has ceased) for at least 10 minutes before you release any remaining pressure using the “quick release” QR, and remove the lid. So for quick cooking items, your time savings are gonna be minimal. That said, that cook time is completely unattended. No turning your back to cut up an onion and having the food on the stove burn or boil over. There’s a lot to be said for that, if, like me, you are often multitasking while cooking.

Is it all it’s cracked up to be? For a new cook who is looking for convenience and hardy one pot meals? Probably. For an experienced cook? Also probably, but don’t expect it to replace every other appliance you own. Here are the things I like and have found useful, and a few I avoid.

InstantPotSteelCutOats

Steel Cut Oats © Instant Pot

Steel Cut Oats
We eat a lot of steel cut oats for breakfast. Several times a week, at least. And I don’t think, literally, there has ever been a time that I’ve made them on the stove that I haven’t boiled them over, no matter how big the pot or how low the heat. There is something about the length of cook time and the viscosity of the liquid as the oats release their starches that climbs up the sides of the pot and spooges my stove EVERY SINGLE STINKIN’ TIME. It was literally worth the purchase to me for this one dish alone.

Recipe: Ratio of 1:3 oats to water (ie 1 cup oats, 3 cups water), plus a pinch of salt. Stir well. (Milk can be substituted for some of the water if desired. I often use 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup milk.) Manual setting, 10 minutes on high, 10 minutes NPR (though I’m usually doing lots of other things, and so just ignore it for up to an hour after its done cooking). Serves 4. Store any leftovers in the fridge for a quick weekday microwave  breakfast.

YinYangBeans

Yin Yang Beans © Miles Away Farm

Beans
We eat a lot of dried beans as well. I could honestly eat beans every day and be quite happy. Inexpensive. Great source of protein and fiber. Easier on the planet. What’s not to love? Rather than soak my beans overnight, I quick soak my beans, because that greatly reduces gastrointestinal distress (details/research info on that posted with this recipe for Ham Hocks and Beans from 2017). To quick soak, place beans in a pot and add water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a hard boil for one minute, then turn heat off and let stand for an hour. Rinse, tossing soaking liquid, and proceed as normal for soaked beans.

The amount of time to pressure cook beans is going to vary depending on the bean. I just use the time suggested for soaked beans found in the chart that came with the pot. This varies from 10 to 25 minutes. This is still a big time savings from conventional cooking times. Chickpeas can take up to 2 hours on the stove. If the beans are soaked, you just need enough water to cover. No precise measurements necessary.  Add salt at the start. Don’t believe the myth that salting early makes beans tough. It doesn’t.  But leaving it out makes until the end makes them taste like cardboard. I use a minimum of 1 tsp per pound of beans.

This recipe for Refried Beans is a favorite gleaned from my short lived participation in the Instant Pot Facebook groups. It makes a LOT. You can easily cut the recipe in half (or just freeze the extra). Because I soak my beans ahead of time, I decrease the liquid by a couple of cups (you can always add more liquid at the end to loosen it up if necessary). And I DO add my salt at the beginning. Beans that don’t soften are due to using really old dried out beans – and a pressure cooker will overcome even that.

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Flour corn

Polenta
Ever since I discovered the wonders of home grown flour and flint corn, we’ve eaten a whole lot more polenta/grits (different names from different places, but for all intents and purposes, the exact same thing – but don’t tell an Italian or Southerner that unless you want to fight). I’m finally coming around to the whole eggs and grits for breakfast thing from the south. I GET it now! But cooking polenta by hand on the stove takes a loooong time, and it tends to bubble and splatter like a mud pot at Yellowstone, making a mess and putting you off of the whole process, even if you don’t scorch the bottom of the pot. It almost makes you want to buy that terrible premade stuff in the plastic tubes. Ugh. Instant Pot to the rescue.

There isn’t a recipe for polenta/grits in the book that comes with the Instant Pot. But somewhere along the way, I ran across an internet recipe, and now that’s what I use. The basic recipe is:

  • 1 quart (4 cups) low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup polenta (not an instant or quick-cooking variety)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or up to 1 teaspoon if your chicken broth is completely unsalted)

Using the saute button, bring broth, butter and salt to a boil. Whisk in polenta and stir well. Put on lid, close release valve, change setting to manual high pressure and set for 8 minutes. After cooking is finished, let NPR for 15 minutes before opening. Polenta will thicken as it cools. Note that different types of corn may require different amounts of liquid, or you may just like your polenta thicker. If so, decrease the amount of liquid accordingly.

I’ve also adapted the flavors from this tomato gratin recipe in Eating Well to a polenta recipe.

  • 3 2/3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Bring all ingredients except the polenta and Parmesan to a simmer using the saute function. Whisk in the polenta. Put on lid, close valve, change setting to manual and set for 8 minutes. After cooking is finished, let NPR for 15 minutes before opening. Once opened, stir in the Parmesan. Serve hot, or cool and use as a base for sliced heirloom tomatoes, broiling for a few minutes to roast tomatoes. Top with bread crumbs or more cheese. A perfect summer pot luck dish.

InstantPotHardBoiledEggPrairieHomestead

Hard Boiled Eggs © The Prairie Homestead

Hard Boiled Eggs
This is ALL the rage with the Instant Pot groups (along with cheese cake. OMG. SO many recipes for Instant Pot cheese cake. Weirdly, desserts are a really popular thing to make in an Instant Pot). As if making a hard boiled egg is fraught with drama and disaster when done on the stove. It’s not. (Though really fresh eggs are inherently harder to peel, and I often set aside eggs to age for a coupe of weeks if I know I’m gonna want to hard boil them). In fact, doing it on the stove might even be quicker. But it IS kind of a cool thing to do in a pressure cooker.

Place eggs on the rack that came with your pressure cooker (they should not be on the bottom of the pot). Place one cup of water in your pot. Put lid on pot and set to seal. Cook on high/manual pressure for 5 minutes. Let NPR for an additional 5 minutes. Cool eggs in ice water bath for an additional 5 minutes. Peel. They call these 5-5-5 eggs, and they do come out pretty much perfect.

MeatLoversChili

Meat Lovers Chili (recipe found in the “Recipe” tab above © Miles Away Farm

Saute/Slow Cooker – replacing your crock pot
If you’ve ever read slow cooker recipes that take flavor seriously (like most by Cooks Illustrated), you’ll find that they almost always involve sauteing your ingredients ahead of time in order to get more caramelization/flavor into the dish. This usually involves getting extra pots dirty, which kind of defeats the whole idea of the “dump and go” convenience of a slow cooker recipe.

The beauty of the Instant Pot is that the pot is stainless steel, which means you can actually saute directly in the pot, using the saute button. So ingredients go in with a bit of oil, get sauteed, then you switch to the slow cooker or pressure cooker setting to finish the meal. Tons more flavor and one less pot to wash. Beautiful. Any of your current slow cooker recipes can be made in your Instant Pot, in either exactly the same way, or using the saute feature first. If you are in a hurry, you can do the same slow cooker recipe using the pressure cooker setting instead (I just look for recipes for similar ingredients and then cook for the suggested time on the manual setting – slow cooker recipes are usually pretty forgiving of a bit of over cooking anyway).

Pressure cooker for stews and tougher/inexpensive cuts of meat
We occasionally butcher an older hen or rooster. While the flavor of this chicken is outstanding, depending on the age of the bird, the meat, no matter how long you cook it on the stove, is often akin to rubber bands. SERIOUSLY chewy. Pressure cooker to the rescue. This was the number one use for my existing stove top pressure cooker before I got the Instant Pot. I now use my Instant Pot to cook these birds. Usually on the manual/high pressure setting for around 45 minutes, with a 10-15 minute NPR.

Instant Pots are also outstanding for making stock/bone broth in record time (typically around an hour). All the cool kids are doing it!

If adapting a stew recipe for an Instant Pot keep in mind that there is NO evaporation of liquid with a pressure cooker. You may need to decrease the volume of liquid a bit to keep things from tasting watered down. You need a minimum of one cup of liquid for the Instant Pot to come up to pressure.

InstantPotYogurt

Yogurt © Instant Pot

Yogurt
I’ve been making yogurt from scratch for years, though I’ve never written about it for the blog (there are a TON of DIY yogurt instructions out there, and mine aren’t really any different). But I’ve never had a yogurt maker; an appliance that would hold the yogurt at the proper incubation temperature for 8 hours. I’ve always just filled a cooler with the correct temperature water, put the yogurt jars in the cooler, in the water, put the lid on, and came back 8 hours later. The cooler holds the heat well enough, because of the insulation, to work well without any added electricity.

But now I have an Instant Pot that can do the same thing. They don’t all come with this feature, so if you want to make yogurt, look for a pot that has it. The yogurt button has two settings. One will bring your milk to a high temperature, which causes some of the proteins to denature, making for a thicker product in the end (I FINALLY saw an explanation of this on this site – I’d always wondered what the point of heating the milk was if you weren’t using raw milk). The other then incubates the yogurt for the time you indicate at the correct temperature.

I boil my milk in the Pot, let cool to 110 degrees, then inoculate with the starter culture (usually, an older batch of yogurt – or a plain store bought brand I like). I then pour my inoculated milk into sterilized canning jars, clean out the Instant Pot pot, put the capped jars back into the pot, and set the incubation time for 8 hours. My pot can accommodate 2 quart jars (just barely) or 1 quart jar and 4 8-oz jars. I put about an ounce of jam in the bottom of the 8-oz jars, then top with inoculated milk mixture and incubate. Then my husband has homemade “fruit at the bottom” yogurt in reusable containers to take to work. AND it helps me use up odds and ends of jam from left over tasting jars at farmers market. You can also make homemade Greek yogurt using your instant pot by making yogurt and then straining it. Definitive recipe for making yogurt using your Pot here.

InstantPotBrownRice

Brown Rice © Instant Pot

What about rice?
Once upon a time, I lived in San Jose California while going to college, and had a Chinese roommate. She ate a LOT of rice. And she had a rice cooker. And used it every day. And as soon as I could afford one, I bought one (buy the one with the nonstick lining – trust me on this). That’s all I’ve used since. I suck at making rice on a stove top. Not enough water. Too much water. Too much heat and a scorched bottom. Yeah. I was never happy with how it came out. So I LOVE my rice cooker.

So I was excited to try my Instant Pot as a rice cooker. We mostly eat brown rice. The instructions that came with the pot suggest 1 part brown rice, 1.25 part water, manual setting, 22-28 minutes (the automatic Rice setting is for white rice, and only comes with the options for less, normal and more in terms of timing control – so its not recommended for brown rice). And I’ve tried that several times. And I’m never happy with the results. The rice somehow seems soggy yet undercooked at the same time. So I’ve gone back to using my rice cooker with a 1 part rice, 2 part water ratio.

However, this post on cooking rice, from the actual makers of the Instant Pot is interesting, regarding the science of rice cooking, and the fact that all the weird ratios of rice to water out there for different amounts and types of rice are more about evaporation and surface to volume issues than the rice itself. Theoretically, you should be able to cook ALL rice at a 1:1 ratio in an Instant Pot. I have yet to experiment. It WOULD be worth it to cook wild rice in one, though I haven’t tried it yet, as it seems to take forever. I have a recipe for a wild rice stuffing that sautés a bunch of herbs/veg first that would be a perfect experiment. Possible future blog post to come.

What about chicken breasts, or fish, or vegetables?
Yes, you can absolutely use your Instant Pot to cook chicken breasts. Or fish. Or vegetables. But in general, chicken breasts and fish are very lean, and are often pretty unforgiving if you overcook them, drying out easily and drastically decreasing in flavor. So they aren’t something I tend to do in my Instant Pot. However, this great experiment indicates that the ideal time for a 9 to 10.5 oz chicken breasts is 5 minutes, manual, high pressure, cooked ON A RACK, starting with 1 cup of cold tap water in the bottom, 7 – 8 minutes NPR.

I tend to like my vegetables sautéed or roasted, so unless its something that is going into a stew, I don’t tend to cook them in my Instant Pot. Most vegetable times in the Instant Pot are under 5 minutes using the steamer function, and are quick release, so that they don’t continue to cook as the pressure comes down. All of that actually sounds like MORE work to me, but I could see it being handy for beets and artichokes.

One last note
You may be tempted to use your instant pot for canning. DON’T. It’s not designed for this, and the pressure isn’t high enough to use for canning safely. Plus, you couldn’t get many jars into it even if you could safely use it for canning.

So, after a year of use, I’m happy with our Instant Pot purchase. And always looking for new ways to use it that make practical and tasty sense.

Miles Away Farm Blog © 2018, where we’re miles away from using our Instant Pot to bake a cake or poach and egg, but we DO love it for our steel cut oats in the morning!