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Do you have an Instant Pot ? If not, you are missing OUT! The Instant Pot is the newest in the craze of electric pressure cookers, but it is not like the pressure cookers of old. This thing is so versatile. I still can’t quite figure out how it knows how to make both yogurt AND ribs. I had never used a pressure cooker before because horror stories from my mom about them exploding scared me off. So when a friend recommended I get an Instant Pot, I decided to give it a try. Anyone who knows me knows that I love any gadget for the kitchen and that I am a bit of a hoarder that way. 🙂 I’ve been known to buy things for the kitchen that only have one capability because sometimes you need just the right tool for the job. But to find a product like the Instant Pot that can do so many things is a big win. I was excited to try this thing out because even though I plan my full week’s menus out on Sunday nights, I don’t often decide what we’re having for dinner each night until an hour before dinner.
Once it arrived, I got busy experimenting with it. I was a little scared of it at first because I didn’t really understand the whole pressure thing. Once I got the hang of it I started using it nearly every day. Some things I made were not quite a success, like soft-boiled eggs and risotto, but others like ribs and ratatouille were fabulous. I think I’m most impressed with how you can make the most tender meat in a short amount of time. To be able to saute ingredients then cook them under pressure all in one pot is so convenient.
So let’s get right to it! First, let’s talk about a few of the benefits of using a pressure cooker.
- It allows you to cook food fast. According to information about pressure cookers, this method of cooking cuts cooking times by up to 70%. This allows you to serve things that normally take a long time to cook like beans, rice, and big pieces of meat in a much faster way. So those dishes normally reserved for weekends can now be added to your weeknight menus!
- One Pot Meals! Toss in your ingredients, turn on the pressure cooker, go do something else, then come back and enjoy a delicious meal, with only one pot to clean. Doesn’t get any better than that. 🙂
- Maintain the nutritional value of foods. Since you’re not boiling the life out of your food and are using less liquid, you are able to preserve more of the nutrients in your food.
- Variety! You can make so many different things with this one machine, perhaps allowing you to replace some of your other kitchen gadgets that take up room in your kitchen. It serves as a steamer, a slow-cooker, saute pan, soup pot, and even a yogurt maker!
How does it work?
Using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot can be intimidating, but it really could not be simpler. The hardest part is resisting the urge to peek once you’ve sealed the pot. Many foods you will prepare can benefit from browning them while using the Saute function. It adds flavor to vegetables and meats look much better if you brown them before beginning to pressurize them. Once you’ve browned everything to your satisfaction, you will usually add the remaining ingredients, if any, and the required liquid. Put the lid on, and put the steam release handle in the sealed position. Then you select your desired pressure level and cook time. The pressure cooker starts automatically, so off you go! Once the cooking is complete, the machine will beep, letting you know it is finished. Finally, you will need to release the pressure, and then serve up your lovely meal!
How do you release the pressure?
There are two ways to release the steam pressure on the Instant Pot . There is a natural release and a quick release. A natural release is best for meats, soups, or stews. To use a natural release, you don’t have to do anything yourself. You let the pot gradually release its own pressure. It normally takes about ten minutes and the little valve will pop down when it’s done. With a quick release, you will be releasing the pressure yourself. You have to be careful when doing this because steam is very hot and can burn you. Just carefully turn the handle on the top to release the pressure, and the steam will begin to come out. It can take a minute or two for the pressure to fully release, and again, the valve will pop down when the release is complete.
The Instant Pot has a lot of buttons. Let’s briefly go over what each of them does.
- Manual: This button allows you to enter the pressure level you want and the length of time you wish to cook your meal.
- Saute: This basically turns the inner pot into a sauce pan. You can put your oil in there and brown your meat or vegetables. You leave the lid off while performing this function.
- Slow Cook: This turns your pressure cooker into a crock pot.
- Steam: Allows you to steam vegetables using a steamer rack or basket.
- Bean/Chili: Allows you to cook dried beans much quicker than traditional methods.
- Meat/Stew: Just like it sounds. This is the function you choose when cooking cuts of meat or stews.
- Multigrain: This function is great for cooking grains like rice or risotto. With no babysitting involved! 🙂
- Porridge: Can be used for rice, other grains, beans, and oatmeal.
- Poultry: Cook your chickens, turkeys, and ducks with this function.
- Rice: This is the automated function for cooking rice when you don’t have your own time and pressure level preferences.
- Soup: Great for hearty soups and broths.
- Yogurt: Yes, you read that right. You can make your very own yogurt in the Instant Pot !
There is also a delayed cooking function that allows you to customize the timing of your meal. Additionally, there is a Keep Warm button that keeps your food nice and toasty until you’re ready to serve it.
I have personally used my Instant Pot to make a seafood stew, ribs, chicken, rice, ratatouille, chowder, quinoa, the MOST delicious sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, yogurt, and many other yummy dishes. I found the yogurt to be the most challenging. I had never made yogurt before using any method. I didn’t even know you COULD make your own yogurt at home.
My first attempt was runny, and no amount of straining did much to help that, so I used it to make smoothies. My second and third batches were a bit less runny, but still not what I considered acceptable yogurt consistency. So I strained it in small batches using coffee filters. You know that runny watery stuff on top of yogurt you get at the store? That is the whey. Straining yogurt separates the curds from the whey. Who knew Little Miss Muffett was eating yogurt on her tuffet? 🙂 Once I strained that second and subsequent batches, the consistency was LOVELY. It was creamy and the flavor was very mild and smooth. Not tart at all. It tastes delicious just plain, or you can add the flavors of your choice. I put the yogurt in little containers and flavor them with various fruits. I keep them stacked in the refrigerator so my husband can grab one each morning for breakfast. We also love to eat it plain as a dessert with walnuts mixed in and drizzled with honey. Just divine. Making yogurt is definitely a bit labor intensive, as you have to time the various stages, make sure the temperature is just right at each stage, cool it properly, and so it’s not something you want to undertake unless you have a few hours to devote to it. Definitely well worth the effort, though. There are many recipes for making yogurt in a pressure cooker online, so just check them out and choose the one you want to try.
If you decide to take the plunge into pressure cooking, I recommend getting a cookbook specifically for the Instant Pot. I like The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals. It has recipes for breakfast, vegetables, beans and grains, soups and stews, seafood, poultry, beef, lamb and pork, desserts, stocks, and sauces. Surprisingly, there are no yogurt recipes in this cookbook, but as I said earlier, there are many available on the internet.
Another cool cookbook is Hip Pressure Cooking: Fast, Fresh, and Flavorful. This cookbook has a lot of great recipes and some wonderfully adventurous food. It features over 200 recipes.
What do you think? Are you feeling like you want to try a different way of cooking? Don’t be scared! The Instant Pot is a wonderful addition to any kitchen. Once you get the hang of it, I think you’ll find yourself using it regularly to create delicious meals for yourself and your family.
Just as an extra little tip, if you struggle with weekly meal planning, you might want to check out The $5 Meal Plan. It’s a service that can help you plan out your weekly menus and shopping lists. They have a 14-day free trial, and after that, it’s just $5 a month to receive weekly meal plans. Every Friday by 11am EST, you will receive your meal plan for the following week. The meal plan includes five entrees plus sides, one lunch and one breakfast, and one other random bonus each week. They also include a 20-minute meal, a freezer friendly meal, and a slow cooker meal each week. They also offer specialty meal plans and coupons! So if you find yourself in a meal planning rut, check them out!
I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me if you have an Instant Pot, or if you plan on getting one. Feel free to share your experiences!
Also, check out my Pinterest board for more fun Instant Pot stuff and recipes!