If you didn’t already own an Instant Pot, you may well have unwrapped one over the holidays. Sold out in brick-and-mortar stores including Walmart and Kohl’s before Thanksgiving, the Canadian cooking sensation was one of Amazon’s top-five best-selling Black Friday items of 2017. Prices range from $119.95 to $389.95.
A team of seven inventors, several of whom have Ph.Ds in computer science, spent 18 months designing the first iteration of the miracle appliance, a combination pressure cooker/slow cooker, which quietly debuted in 2010. The big selling point of the early contraption was its safety guarantee. Multiple mechanisms ensured that the lid wouldn’t come off the pot until the pressure dropped to a nonexplosive level. Online rave reviews started appearing. Fan pages formed. Over the course of several years, the Instant Pot built up a cultlike following until it burst into the mainstream on Amazon Prime Day 2016, making headlines by racking up 215,000 sales. Today, the Instant Pot Community on Facebook has 930,000 members.
Newer and more improved
Every 12 to 18 months, Instant Pot has released a new model, adding functions including sautéing, yogurt-making, steaming and rice cooking. The newest and most expensive version features a Bluetooth function that allows you to cook remotely using your smartphone, but even the cheapest Instant Pot has a Delay Start function, so you can add ingredients to the pot, leave the house and come home to a warm dinner hours later (after cooking, the pot will automatically switch to the Keep Warm setting).
Now that you’re the proud owner of the kitchen gadget of the decade, you may be wondering how to start using it. If it’s morning when you are reading this, test the pressure cooker function by making a batch of steel-cut oats. Conventional recipes require overnight soaking or at least 30 minutes of cooking on top of the stove. And boy, is the pot a pain to clean after breakfast. The Instant Pot version is quick and neat: Combine water, oats and spices in the pot, secure the lid, close the pressure-release valve and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. The most amazing thing about the process, aside from the speed, is the way the stainless steel pot wipes clean with no soaking or effort.
The magic of browning
The next step would be a soup or stew. What really separates the Instant Pot from conventional pressure cookers and slow cookers is its sauté feature. Soups and stews made by throwing all of the raw ingredients into old-style cookers can be bland, the meat and vegetables gray and flabby from boiling. Getting good caramelized flavor out of vegetables or meat requires browning them on the stove before adding them to a pressure cooker or slow cooker, but that means washing another pan. With the Instant pot, you can brown the meat and saute the vegetables right in the pot before adding the rest of the ingredients. The result is full flavor without the fuss.
Bells and whistles
Your Instant Pot comes with everything necessary to cook myriad dishes. Read the included instruction manual carefully for best results, but if you are like many fans, you will want to purchase accessories to expand your repertoire to include advanced techniques. The most useful: A steaming rack and basket to cook vegetables above, rather than in, water; a cheesecake pan with removable bottom that is easy to lift in and out of the pot, and a sous vide immersion circulator that transforms the Instant Pot into restaurant-style low, slow vacuum cooker for precisely cooked meat, fish, poultry and vegetables.
The recipes that come with the machine will get you started, but some recent cookbooks will see to it that you’ll always have something good to cook. Instant Pot Miracle: From Gourmet to Everyday, 175 Must-have Recipes by the editors at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22.99) was written by the Instant Pot manufacturers and contains recipes that use every function. How to Instant Pot: Mastering all the functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, $16.95), organizes its crowd-pleasing recipes (maple-mustard pork shoulder, ziti and Italian sausage, chorizo and tortilla chip chili) by function, so you can easily choose a dish according to how you’d like to use your Instant Pot. Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot by Melissa Clark (Clarkson Potter, $22) is a collection of sophisticated, diverse dishes (shakshuka, coconut curry chicken, Korean-style brisket) that The New York Times food columnist adapted for the Instant Pot. Multicooker Perfection: Cook It Fast or Cook It Slow — You Decide by the Editors of America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $22.99, available for pre-order on Amazon) provides meticulously tested recipes that allow you to choose the pressure cooker or slow cooker function on your Instant Pot to maximize the appliance’s convenience.
ZITI WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE
From “How to Instant Pot” by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, $16.95)
Total time: 3 hours 30 minutes
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from its casings
2 small white or yellow onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
½ cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ pound ziti or rigatoni
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Press Sauté and use the Sauté or Adjust button to select the middle temperature (Normal). Place the olive oil in the inner pot, wait about 2 minutes for the oil to heat, then add the sausage. Cook with the lid off, stirring occasionally to break up any large pieces, until the sausage is browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and oregano, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, cream and black pepper, and use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer, about 3 minutes, then simmer until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes longer.
4. Add the ziti. Stir the pasta into the sauce, spreading the sauce evenly over the pasta and mixing with a large spoon to ensure the pasta doesn’t clump together. Avoid pushing the pasta to the bottom, where it might burn. Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Venting. Attach the condensation collector. Press Cancel, then press Slow Cook and use the Slow Cook or Adjust button to select the highest temperature (More). Use the - or + button to set the time to 3 hours.
5. When the cooking time is finished, press Cancel and remove the lid. Stir the pasta gently, then divide the pasta, sausage, and sauce among 6 bowls. Top with mozzarella before serving hot. Makes 6 servings.
SPANISH ARROZ CON POLLO
From “Instant Pot Miracle” by the Editors at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22.99)
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 5 minutes stand
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (optional)
3 tablespoons warm water (optional)
2 ½ pounds chicken breasts, thighs and/or drumsticks (bone-in, skin removed)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 medium red sweet pepper, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 ½ teaspoons paprika
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
¾ cup dry white wine or chicken broth
1 ½ cups water or chicken broth
1 cup short grain white rice
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
1. If using, in a small bowl combine the saffron and the warm water. Set aside.
2. Season the chicken with the salt and black pepper. Select Sauté on the Instant Pot and adjust to normal. Add oil to pot. When the oil is hot, working with half the chicken at a time, brown chicken pieces on all sides. Remove the chicken to a plate.
3. Add the onion, sweet pepper, and garlic to the pot. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Press Cancel.
4. Add the chicken, tomatoes, paprika, oregano, crushed red pepper, wine and the 1 ½ cups water rice, and, if using, saffron. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve.
5. Select Manual and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. When cooking is complete, use a natural release to depressurize.
6. Fluff the rice with a fork. Add the peas to the pot and let stand for 5 minutes to warm through. Sprinkle servings with the sliced olives. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
BEEF BARBACOA TACOS
From “How To Instant Pot” by Daniel Shumski (Workman Publishing, $16.95)
Total time: 1 hour
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of most fat and cut into large chunks
½ cup low-sodium canned chicken broth
2 bay leaves
Small (6-inch) corn tortillas, for serving
Salsa or pico de gallo, for serving
Cotija cheese, for serving
1. Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, garlic, chipotle, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, and cloves in a medium bowl. Set aside.
2. Press Sauté and use the Sauté or Adjust button to select the highest temperature (“More”). Place the vegetable oil in the inner pot. Wait until the display reads “Hot,” about 5 minutes, then add the beef. Cook with the lid off, turning the beef every 2 minutes, until the beef is browned on most sides, about 8 minutes.
3. Add the vinegar sauce and the chicken broth (be careful — steam may whoosh up!), and then the bay leaves. Stir to combine.
4. Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to Sealing. Press Cancel, then press Manual or Pressure Cook and use the Pressure or Pressure Level button to select High Pressure. Use the — or + button to set the time to 30 minutes.
5. When the cooking cycle ends, press Cancel. Allow the appliance to cool and release pressure naturally, about 20 minutes. (The pressure is released when the small metal float valve next to the pressure-release valve sinks back into the lid and the lid is no longer locked.)
6. Remove the lid. Discard the bay leaves. Use tongs or a large spoon to remove the beef from the inner pot and place it on a cutting board. Shred the beef using two forks: Use one fork to pull off a chunk and then use two forks to shred that piece, holding down the meat with one fork and pulling at it with the other. Repeat with the remaining beef.
7. Serve the beef hot, piled into corn tortillas and topped with salsa and a sprinkling of cotija cheese, if desired. Makes 6 servings.
From “Multicooker Perfection: Cook It Fast or Cook It Slow — You Decide” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $22.99)
Pressure cook total time: 2 hours (plus cooling and chilling time)
Slow cook total time: 4 hours (plus cooling and chilling time)
6 whole graham crackers, broken into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon plus 2/3 cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
18 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature.
1. Pulse cracker pieces in food processor to fine crumbs, about 20 pulses. Add melted butter, 1 tablespoon sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch salt and pulse to combine, about 4 pulses. Sprinkle crumbs into 6-inch springform pan and press into even layer using bottom of dry measuring cup. Wipe out processor bowl.
2. Process cream cheese, vanilla, ¼ teaspoon salt and remaining 2/3 cup sugar in now-empty processor until combined, about 15 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sour cream and eggs, and process until just incorporated, about 15 seconds; do not overmix. Pour filling over crust in pan, smooth top and cover with aluminum foil.
3. Add water to multicooker until it reaches about ½ inch up sides of insert (about 2 cups). Loosely roll 24-by-12-inch piece of foil widthwise into 1-inch cylinder, then bend cylinder to form 5-inch ring. Place foil rack in center of multicooker and set pan on top.
4A. To pressure cook: Lock lid in place and close pressure-release valve. Select Low Pressure cook function and cook for 30 minutes. (If using Instant Pot, decrease cooking time to 25 minutes.) Turn off multicooker and let pressure release naturally for 30 minutes. Quick-release any remaining pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
4B. To slow cook: Lock lid in place and open pressure release valve. Select High Slow cook function and cook until cheesecake registers 150 degrees, 1 to 2 hours. Turn off multicooker and let cheesecake sit, covered, for 1 hour.
5. Transfer cheesecake to wire rack and discard foil cover. Run small knife around edge of cake and gently blot away condensation using paper towels. Let cheesecake cool in pan to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or up to 3 days. Makes 8 servings.