Last week I turned to use my microwave oven only to have it glare at me with a fatal error message in its little display screen. What?!
I googled “Whirlpool” plus the error code and learned that the cost to replace the electronics that had blown out would be far greater than replacing the whole thing. Great. But not this week. Surely, I could get along without a microwave until some more convenient time to replace it, right? Wrong!
Every time I turned around it seemed I was reaching for that microwave. Within a couple of hours I realized that a microwave oven has become a staple item that is quite necessary in my typical American kitchen. But it wasn’t always that way.
I remember in 1971 when roughly 1% of households in America had a microwave oven. Most everyone liked the idea but it was also terrifying. The fear was radiation and the danger of standing within five feet of the thing and getting nuked. In 2017 a microwave oven is a minimum requirement.
Here’s my take: Instant Pot is the future’s “microwave.” While the Instant Pot company can barely keep up with the demand having sold more than 50,000,000 units so far, many people are still fearful that a pressure cooker is going to blow a hole in the roof, set the house on fire or any other number of irrational fears. Sure, pressure cookers are nothing new, but Instant Pot has taken this fabulous way of cooking to new levels of technology and safety.
Soon, I predict, Instant Pot will become an ordinary basic kitchen appliance. New homes will come with Instant Pot built into the countertop. Top-of-the line cooktops will come complete with Instant Pot. And we’ll laugh about the days when people were afraid.
Instant Pot comes with an owner manual and recipe book. Both should be considered required reading but honestly, I found them to be unbearably boring while only marginally useful. What follows are the websites, tips, tricks and accessories that put me onto the fast track to falling in love with my Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. I was cooking dinner the very first day, that’s how doable it is to master Instant Pot.
Perform the Instant Pot Water Test. Do not skip this.
Start with eggs. The difference between hard boiled and steam pressured eggs is quite amazing. HERE is an excellent tutorial.
Join the Instant Pot Community page on Facebook. You can read what others ask, other members answer and post your own questions and successes. A great community.
The Instant Pot website contains a wealth of information and how-tos.
MISTAKE. HERE is a list of common mistakes new Instant Pot users make, that if you can avoid, you’ll be way ahead. Do not miss this.
CLEANING. Make sure you know how to clean your Instant Pot. HERE is a great tutorial.
SETTINGS. Unlike your circa-1993 dorm microwave with its mysterious “potato” and “casserole” buttons, Instant Pot function keys are actually, well, functional! For pressure cooking novices, the Instant Pot’s preprogrammed settings—including soup, poultry, rice, beans and chili, and stews—take most of the guesswork out of how long and how high to pressure-cook a meal.
STEAM IT. The steam function is meant to quickly and briefly cook vegetables. It turns Instant Pot on at full heat and full pressure, and is preset to cook for only a few minutes. However, I prefer using this setting as a nifty hack for reheating frozen meals—and is especially great at steaming those potstickers (about 3 minutes) we all stash in the freezer for emergency snacks. I am not immune to a little prepackaged help now and then.
SAUTÉ. All current Instant Pot models come with a sauté function in addition to the preprogrammed timed settings. It’s truly a one-pot wonder. Use it as you would a skillet to brown ground beef or onions on a stovetop before switching to pressure cooker mode for a seamless transition.
I’ve become an Instant Pot recipe hound—searching for and testing recipes that are specific to Instant Pot. So far, I have few misses but lot of hits. Here are ten favorites, complete with links:
INSTANT POT MAC N’ CHEESE. This is the first thing I made in my Instant Pot and I was stunned—10 minutes start to finish! It took longer to get all the ingredients out of the refrigerator and pantry than it did to get the best ever, creamy, from-scratch, awesome Mac n’ Cheese on the table. Hint: I added about 2 ounces Velveeta cheese to the recipe, which is (believe it or not) the secret even professional chefs use to keep the cheese smooth, never clumpy or stringy.
CHINESE BROCCOLI AND BEEF. Think of the best take-out Broccoli and Beef you’ve ever eaten then multiply by ten. That’s what you’ll have when you take 15 minutes to make it including fluffy white rice (all at the same time) following this detailed recipe with a photo tutorial.
INSTANT POT PORK CARNITAS. This recipe and tutorial for pulled pork carnitas is fantastic! So easy in Instant Pot and so fast. Hint: Don’t use a skillet to brown the meat as directed in the recipe. Use the Instant Pot sauté function! You’ll understand when you get there.
INSTANT POT SKINNY SLOPPY JOES. What’s more kid-friendly than a big ol’ sloppy joe! This fabulous low cal recipe is as delicious as it is fast to make!
THICK INSTANT POT GREEK YOGURT. Once you make it from scratch, you are not likely to ever buy those small, pricey containers of yogurt again. It’s cheaper and so much better! HERE is the recipe. (To make yogurt you need the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, which has the Yogurt function.)
WHOLE CHICKEN. Yes! And it comes out gorgeous, moist and amazingly better than anything you’ve eaten (bold statement, I know) and in just 40 minutes, or so depending on the size of the chicken. Seriously, this right here is worth the cost of an Instant Pot, in my book.
As you become familiar with all of the ways to cook with Instant Pot, you’ll soon realize you need a few accessories. Like stacking pans, racks, strainer baskets and so forth. Here are the best inexpensive options.
CLEANING TOOLS. There are critical areas on Instant Pot that need to be kept very clean. And they’re almost impossible to reach! That’s why you need OXO Good Grips Kitchen Appliance Cleaning Set. It is the only way I know to keep the valves and that area und the top rim nice and clean. The brush especially is just the perfect size and shape to get the job done!
SIX-INCH SQUARE PANS. These 6-inch Wilton Aluminum Performance Pans are just the perfect size to fit inside Instant Pot. They can be stacked in an X shape on top of each other in a 6-quart pressure cooker pot. I’ve used them for Teriyaki Salmon (another favorite!), lasagna, and cornbread.
MESH BASKET. This RSVP Endurance Stainless Steel 3-quart basket comes with handles that can be removed to fit inside Instant Pot, to cook or steam all kinds of vegetables, fruit or pasta. Simple lift out.
8-INCH SPRINGFORM PAN. This Gabkey 8-inch circular Springform pan. Yes you can make the best cheesecake in Instant Pot, but you’ll need a good springform pan that fits inside the inner pot. This one is perfect in the 6-quart size Instant Pot.
6-CUP BUNDT PAN. Adorable as it is useful inside Instant Pot because yes you can bake cakes! They turn out so moist and delicious. And so fast your head will spin. This Bundt comes in choice of colors.
OVEN SAFE BOWLS. Pyrex bowls that are tempered for high heat in oven and pressure cooker, like these Anchor Hocking 7-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Containers come in handy for pot-in-Instant Pot cooking. Think oatmeal, rice, jams, etc. Also great for cooking 2 things at once, for example, meat in the bottom of the pot, trivet, then Pyrex bowl with rice. (This is something you likely already have in your cupboards. Put it to good use!)
INSTANT POT. Not exactly an accessory, this is the main event! Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W is the model I own and love. I find it to be the best expensive option of Instant Pot choices. Price varies almost daily, but if you can find it for under $100, that’s a deal!
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