Not Quite Instant

Maggie and I have succumbed.

Not to the lure of another cat. Please don’t tempt us with the thought.

No, what we’ve given in to is the latest kitchen fad. Maybe not the latest-latest, but at least the latest long-lived.

We held out against the sous vide apocalypse, but we’ve accepted the Instant Pot into our lives (and our kitchen).

Seriously, given how often we use our slow cooker, the Instant Pot was a no brainer. A six quart IP takes up about the same amount of counter space as our three quart crockpot–maybe even a bit less–and that’s important in our one-and-a-half-butt kitchen.

Is it going to revolutionize our existence? Not likely. But that extra elbow room from the doubled capacity will be very nice when we do a fauxtisserie chicken. Might even be able to do it faster. Must experiment one of these days.

Though it may be a while. We’re still learning its quirks. Heck, we’ve only used it three times so far.

Braising a hunk of cow big enough for two dinners in ninety minutes–including heat-up time and extra time for the potatoes–was nice. More work involved than in using the oven, but the savings in time and electricity make up for a lot.

The pasta dish turned out well. I’m not certain we’ll do that regularly–for one thing, it actually took longer than the traditional stovetop approach–but I’ll admit that not having to drain the pasta was nice.

The Instant Pot “one dish meal” method is not the way to go if you’re looking for a bowl of sauce with noodles swimming in it. The goal seems to be to balance the ingredients so the liquid from the sauce goes into the pasta, leaving the sauce solids bonded to the outside of the noodles. Tasty (though we’ll definitely tweak the recipe next time–more oregano at the very least) if a bit disconcerting at first.

And it does function well as a crockpot. We did chili as our first slow cook experiment. Yes, there are plenty of quick chili recipes for the Instant Pot out there and we’ll probably try some eventually. But for this test we wanted to see how it handled a known recipe.

It seems as though Low Heat is a bit lower than our crockpot’s “Lo” setting. The onions were a bit crunchier than we expected, and the meat not quite as soft was we’re used to. It’s probably as well that we used thin fajita-cut meat instead of cubes. Next time we’ll set the pot on Medium, and that should improve matters.

Our slow cooker let us set a timer–cook for some amount of time, then either turn off or, if it was on “Hi”, switch to “Lo”. We never used it. The thought of coming home to either room-temperature food or excessively-cooked food didn’t appeal. The Instant Pot, on the other hand, can be set to switch over to a “keep warm” setting after the cooking time runs out. That might just be worth a good chunk of the admission price right there.

Speaking of warming things, I hadn’t realized just how many people believe microwave ovens are tools of the Devil.

Okay, I exaggerate slightly. But only slightly. I started researching how to reheat the chili in the Instant Pot, instead of using the oven as we normally do. Nearly every site I read warned about the unspecified health hazards of microwaves–and especially reheating food in one–though none actually stated what the risks are. I conclude they’re the same risks one runs by not eating “organic” foods.

Several sites said–and I’m not paraphrasing–“Thank God for my Instant Pot!” I’m not sure how much Hephaestus had to do with the creation of the Instant Pot, but I’m sure he appreciates their gratitude. Or maybe they were addressing Hestia–a goddess of the hearth might be a more appropriate vessel for cooking-related thanks.

But I digress.

Are there Instant Pot recipes we’re not going to try? Absolutely.

As a typical example, consider lasagna. I admire the dedication and determination of all the people who’ve created Instant Pot lasagna recipes, there’s no way I’m going to try them. Every one I’ve seen requires even more effort than traditional oven-based recipes do, most of them take longer, and a significant percentage call for finishing the cooking in the oven. Why bother?

But our initial experiments with Instant Potting (Instant Pottery would be something else, I think) have been successful enough to encourage us. I don’t think this will be the sort of kitchen gadget that gets used once or twice, then shoved in a drawer, never to be seen again.

And, as soon as the weather cools off a bit further, I intend to see how the Instant Pot handles our favorite hot spiced cider recipe. I’ll report back if we figure out how to reduce the cooking time without compromising the flavor.

9 thoughts on “Not Quite Instant

    • Kate K: Hahahahaha!

      Casey: Scones. Now that is a project on which I have been working. Or biscuits. I am not precisely sure what the difference is between a scone and a biscuit. I am given to understand that they sell different flour in the southeastern US, and that the flour there makes better biscuits. Flour is kind of a heavy item to have shipped, but I’ve been thinking asking Denis to send me some.

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      • Do not confuse t3h scone wit’ t3h biscuit!

        (Despite what the author of that piece says, I might accept the addition of herbs and/or cheese to a biscuit. But in my mind, a biscuit is a savory object, as distinct from the slightly-to-very sweet scone as coffee is from chocolate.)

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        • Well, well. Thank you for the clarification. I had no idea. “A scone should not flake like a biscuit.” So, do not make your scone with frozen or nearly frozen butter, huh?

          I’m making pretzels for us tonight, and I will make my traditional holiday cutout cookies for us in December, but perhaps I will make scones with clotted cream for us in January. I kind of think of scones with clotted cream as a New Year’s thing, because I heard about making clotted cream in a slow cooker at a New Year’s Eve party and immediately set to experimenting the next day. So maybe I will experiment for myself and Eric around New Year’s, and then share with you later in the month.

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  1. My favorite thing about Instant Pots … the marketing. They are, basically, just glorified pressure cookers that have been around for eons. But, who wants to buy a pressure cooker, because, from the name alone, you are 95% certain that your pressure cooker will explode when you use it. Let’s make a couple little changes and, presto, we can call it an Instant Pot.

    I’m passing on the Instant Pot (for now), but I keep telling Randy I want a Blast Chiller for Christmas.

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    • No argument from me about the antecedents of the Instant Pot. Or the mental image that accompanies “pressure cooker” for that matter. (We should note, for those not aware, that the modern electric pressure cooker such as the Instant Pot works at a much lower pressure than the traditional top-of-the-stove cooker. Which increases safety at the cost of a similar increase in cooking time. Can’t win ’em all.)

      And thanks a lot. Now I’ve got “All I want for Christmas is a freezing box” running through my head.

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