Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas? The electric pressure cooker (which also serves as a slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker and more) was one of the hottest selling items this year, touted as a life- changing home appliance that sold out in many stores during early Christmas shopping.
My mom asked me at Thanksgiving if I would like one, and knowing she was going out for a little shopping on Black Friday and could probably get a pretty good deal on it, I told her I was interested. I have several friends who own them and regularly post on social media about the amazing meals they were making in such little time.
I love a good kitchen gadget, and liked the idea of saving time as the name “Instant” implies, so when I opened my present, I was using it within a week. But apparently a lot of people who received Instant Pots are intimidated by them and have yet to open their boxes, or if they have opened the box, have been frightened by the very generic manual (there are many better resources online to talk you through starting with your Instant Pot).
Well I am here to tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid. I’m also preparing you to not expect your life to be changed. I started off with some easy things, like making white rice, pressure cooking beets and sweet potatoes. Then I moved on to basic boneless chicken breasts, then bone-in split chicken breasts, and then the all-in-one one-pot meals that people really brag about, and I’ve had good and bad results.
One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of recipes are pretty generic about their directions. If you’re cooking “1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast,” that could be 2 8-ounce chicken breasts or 3 5-ounce chicken breasts, and cooking both a large chicken breast and a small chicken breast at 10 minutes of high pressure is going to yield very different results. The same is true for dense vegetables, like potatoes or beets. A pressure cooker is not as forgiving as a slow cooker.
Also, the amount of liquid you use in the pot is very important. And depending on what you’re cooking, you could end up with a lot of extra liquid in the bottom of your pot after cooking your recipe. This means you’re probably going to need to add a thickener to your sauce. That moist cooking also means you’ll never get a crispy skin or crust on meat, so many recipes tell you to broil the meat for an extra 5 to 10 minutes in the end.
Which leads me to the biggest issue — I don’t think the Instant Pot is that much quicker. Because when I have timed how long it takes the machine to build up pressure, it’s usually 12 to 15 minutes. So you add that to your 10 minutes of cooking for chicken. Plus a lot of recipes tell you to do a “natural release” at the end, which means to let the pressure cooker to release the pressure and steam on its own, and that takes another 10 to 20 minutes. So my boneless skinless chicken breasts took 40 minutes with build up and let down, and I can do it faster than that in my cast iron skillet, and get a nice crispy outside on the chicken.
But all that is to say that I still am glad I have one, because there are certain things it does do really well. Today I’m sharing two of my favorite recipes that I’ve tried so far. First, a beef pot roast that took a chuck roast I got on sale and made it taste like short ribs, a way pricier meat. The gravy didn’t set, but I also didn’t take the trouble to separate the fat first, which I totally should have done. Also, the recipe gives you directions for either including the carrots from the beginning, which I did and they tasted like carrot mush, or adding them near the end, which I will attempt to do next time. However, this step will cause you to add more time to rebuild the pressure up again. But the beef really was delicious, and that’s what matters.
Second, this is the famous butter chicken recipe that was featured in The New Yorker. I only discovered Indian butter chicken a few months ago and have made it using two jarred simmering sauces but this homemade sauce was to die for. As for the chicken, it was a little dry when I made it with chicken breasts, so next time I plan to try it with chicken thighs. I also added chickpeas at the end and it all went really well together.
If you have found some really good pressure cooker recipes, please let me know! And I hope I can share some more in the future.
3 to 4-pound chuck roast
1 large yellow onion, chopped small, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups
4 whole carrots, cut into 3-inch sections
1 tablespoon minced garlic, fresh
3 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley, dried
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 tablespoons water
Coat the chuck roast with 1 teaspoon of salt on all sides.
In your pressure cooker, set to sauté and add the oil.
Once the oil is shimmering carefully place the roast in the pot searing for 6 to 9 minutes on each side. Each side should have a dark caramelized crust. Once seared, remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
If using a gas pressure cooker, reduce the heat to low. If using an electric pressure cooker, shut the system off.
Next, in order, place the onions, carrots and garlic. If you like a more firm carrot, leave them out. See the note about cooking the carrots to have a more firm consistency.
On top of the vegetables, place the seared meat and any juices that were on the plate.
In a bowl whisk together the stock, Worcestershire sauce, remaining salt, pepper, thyme and parsley. Pour this over the meat.
Place the pressure cooker lid on the pot and seal. Set the pressure cooker to high pressure for 90 minutes, unless you are using a 3-pound roast, in which case only 70 minutes may be necessary. See note at end.
After 90 minutes, release the pressure using the natural release method.
Carefully remove the lid and using large slotted spoons gently remove the roast and set on a serving platter to rest. It should be fall-apart tender.
Next, remove the carrots and set aside.
To make gravy, strain any fat off and place the juice back into the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil using the sauté feature.
In a small bowl stir together the cornstarch and water until blended. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium and stir occasionally until desired consistency.
Taste the gravy for seasoning, add additional salt and or pepper if needed.
Notes: For a pound roast, go with a total cook time of 70 minutes. If, after 70 minutes, it's not fork tender, go with another 5 to 10 minutes under pressure.
For more firm carrots cook the meat for 65 minutes without the carrots in the pot. At the end of 65 minutes, do a quick release, add the carrots into the pot then cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Once done, follow the rest of the recipe for with a natural release.
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
5 or 6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken (breasts or thighs)
4 ounces butter, cut into cubes, or 1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream or full-fat coconut milk
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In the inner cooking pot of the Instant Pot, add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, one teaspoon of garam masala, cumin, and salt. Mix thoroughly, then place the chicken pieces on top of the sauce.
Lock the lid into place. Select Manual or Pressure Cook, and adjust the pressure to High. Cook for ten minutes.
When the cooking is complete, let the pressure release naturally. Unlock the lid. Carefully remove the chicken and set it aside.
Using an immersion blender in the pot, blend together all the ingredients into a smooth sauce. Let the sauce cool for several minutes.
Add the butter cubes, cream, remaining teaspoon of garam masala, and cilantro. Stir until well incorporated. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when you’re done.
Remove half of the sauce and freeze it for later, or refrigerate for as long as three days.
Add the chicken back to the sauce. Preheat the Instant Pot by selecting sauté́ and adjust to “less” for low heat. Let the chicken heat through. Break it up into smaller pieces, if you like, but don’t shred it.
Serve over rice or raw cucumber noodles.
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