Ready, set ... go Instant Pot!

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I love being wrong sometimes. First of all, everyone's wrong sometimes, and when you suck it up and admit it, it means you get to learn something new or grow a little. So here we go: I was wrong about the Instant Pot.

When I first heard about the Instant Pot craze, I thought it was silly — another way to make beige food for families with no taste. OK, so wrong. This boutique pressure cooker is a revelation. I've already given my slow cooker away to Goodwill — because the Instant Pot has a slow cooker function anyway, and who would wait eight hours for something that could be had in 25 minutes?

At $80 to $100, this thing is a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, a yogurt maker, a slow cooker — and it's got a saute function. If you have a tiny kitchen, you should get one. If you are a beginner cook, you should get one. If you are an experienced home cook, you probably already have one by now.

Pressure cookers work (roughly) by trapping steam inside, which means no liquid is lost and the steam (and flavor!) is infused into the food. It seems miraculous, but shredded chicken, beautiful melty short ribs and a whole world of other tender meats can be cooked in around 25 minutes — even from a fully frozen state. I've found that flavors seem to retain their character a bit better after pressure cooking — for example, a 10-minute chicken tikka masala retained the bright, citrusy lemon juice I used in the chicken marinade far better than if I had done this on the stovetop.

There are a few caveats to the Instant Pot — first of all, the cooking time seems insane and futuristic, but the pot first has to come to full pressure before the timer begins, which can take 10 to 20 minutes. Once finished, you can release the pressure manually, creating a geyser of hot steam (do not put your hands or face anywhere near it!), or you can wait for it to release naturally, which can take another 10 to 25 minutes. Because of this, my pressure cooker dinners have actually been served later than my traditional stovetop dinners, but I think once I get a nice flow going and get more experience, I can make up that time.

I've included a recipe for Korean-esque short ribs, because it's a great example of a slow-cooking result via a much faster method. Enjoy — and remember to experiment on your own!

Instant Pot Korean-esque short ribs

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Serves 2 to 4.

INGREDIENTS:

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Marinade:

  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, skinned and cut into strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional, but do it)
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 - 2 pounds standard short ribs (I used bone-in, but it doesn't really matter. There were four short ribs, total weight 1.29 pounds.)
  • 1 sliced onion
  • Jasmine rice and veggie sides, like chopped cucumbers marinated in sesame oil, shredded carrots or cabbage, etc.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients until homogenous. Add short ribs and marinate in fridge for at least six hours, up to 24 hours.
  2. When it's time to cook, start with Instant Pot on saute setting. Brown short ribs on all sides, then remove and saute onion until clear, around 5 minutes.
  3. Put short ribs back in Instant Pot with onion and all of your marinade. Close lid, making sure you have the pot set on sealing setting. Cook 35 minutes, then release pressure manually or wait for the natural way. Serve with rice and vegetables; enjoy!

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Instant Pot tips

- Always clean your pot thoroughly, including the rubber band on the lid, which seals in moisture and makes the magic happen.

- Don't forget the pot! Don't add food to the Instant Pot without the inner pot; otherwise you chance ruining the heating element.

- You always need at least two cups of liquid in your pot — this can be marinade, but you can't skip it because the pot will never come to full pressure without at least that much liquid.

- You'll cook most grains with a 1:1 ratio, because no liquid is lost in the pressure cooker. So one cup of rice, one cup of water.

- The steam release may seem scary, but as long as you keep your hands and face away while releasing steam, you'll be OK.


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