INSTANT POT: GREAT EQUIPMENT (I THINK) WITH INCOMPREHENSIBLE INSTRUCTIONS

After the death of my slow cooker, I decided to go big. I ordered an Instant Pot Slow Cooker. Not a pressure cooker. A slow cooker. I have issues with pressure cookers. A legacy of my mother is the certaintly that a pressure cooker will explode. There are some pictures (Google? YouTube?) of what happens when one of them explodes for real. Impressive! The cooker lid  is actually embedded in the ceiling and the stove on which it was cooking is destroyed. I’m pretty sure that’s what Mom had in mind when she refused to use one.

The other thing is that pressure cooked food tastes boiled. Maybe if you are very careful with timing, it’s better, but my goal is not for extreme speed, but for slow cooking. Put the food in. Go take care of whatever you have planned. Have it done by dinner time. No worries in between. Also, no danger of blowing up the kitchen. I’m sure they’ve made big improvements to pressure cooking since last I examined them, but there are three things my mother told me so embedded in my brain they will never leave:

  1. Don’t waste food. Children are starving in (Asia, Europe, Africa). Asking if I could just pack up my mashed potatoes and send them to the starving children has failed every child who has ever used the line — and I’m pretty sure we all tried it at least once.
  2. Never destroy a book. Treat books with respect. You may not throw them away, write in them, burn them (God forbid!), or tear them up. Growing up, we had to build an extra room for the books my mother collected.
  3. Pressure cookers are the cookpots of the Devil. Beware!

Yesterday, my Instant Pot arrived. I had bought the “Instant Pot Aura Multi-Use Programmable Slow Cooker, 6 Quart, No Pressure Cooking Functionality.” Instant Pot also makes pressure cookers and a slow cooker that does something called “sous vide” which I do not understand. To get the “sous vide” functions, I would have had to buy the 8-quart model. I was pretty sure there was nowhere to put anything that large and anyway, what IS sous vide?

Along with my pot, I figured maybe I should get a cookbook because this was a different beast than anything I’d used before. I ordered a book that says it is specifically for this model of the Instant Pot. Sadly, Amazon has yet to deliver the cook book. It was supposed to show up yesterday (it was on the way). It didn’t arrive and now all I’ve got is a message saying they are sorry it’s late and if it isn’t here by the 12th, I can get a refund. I figured there would be at least some basic recipes with the pot. All we wanted to do was cook a chicken. A whole chicken.

The recipes included with it did not include any recipe I would eat, much less serve. For example, things like “beet humous.” Humous is made from chickpeas and tahina with some water, garlic, salt, lemon juice and ground to paste in a food processor. On the side, I like chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, and hot sauce. Served on warm fresh pita (which you can’t get here). Pita is pre-packaged and makes me yearn for the bakery down by Damascus gate in Jerusalem where, at four in the morning, you could eat it hot with fresh zaatar sprinkled on it.

We do the best we can, but I’m going to have to learn to bake pita.

BEET humous is not humous. I don’t know what it is. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know. There was no recipe for cooking a chicken. The weirdest set of recipes I’ve ever seen without a single “normal” food choice. I tried looking up recipes for this Instant Pot online, but they were all — every last one of them — intended for a pressure cooker. Which, as I previously noted, this unit is not.

I have a lot of cookbooks. I’ve got Italian, Caribbean, Northern Italian. I’ve got the Mafia cookbooks and a couple of cookbooks I bought in New Orleans (death by butter!), an Irish cookbook I bought in Sligo. I’ve got a Tex-Mex cookbook, antique cookbooks — a lot of them — including an original “Beard On Bread.” I don’t have a slow-cooker cookbook because my usual method of slow cooking was tossing stuff into the pot, turning it on, then coming back from work and serving dinner.

Nothing I found online, helped. All I could do was take my best guess. Owen and I set the pot up for roasting. We set the temperature to 350-degree F (175 C) for 3 hours. It was a nearly 7-pound whole chicken and that’s about what it would take in a regular oven. An hour and a half later, I lifted the lid and the chicken was done. Very done. It had probably been done at least half an hour earlier, but unlike an overcooked roasted chicken, it was not dry. It was great. The leftovers will become chicken soup tomorrow into which I will add matzah balls.

I still am not sure what this machine will do, but it isn’t a slow cooker or at least, it’s a lot more than a slow cooker. It’s a fast cooker, but not a pressure cooker. I’m pretty sure it will do things I’ve never done in any machine. Should the (now two) cookbooks (I ordered another one in case the first one vanishes) ever arrive, I might figure it out.

I should also mention that reading the directions for help in figuring out what each function does will not help you. Whoever wrote it did not speak (or write) English as a native language. You can read it, reread it and realize you still have no idea what it was trying to say. About the most information I gleaned was to not leave it plugged it and be sure to let it cool off before putting it away. It stays hot a long time.

I’m okay with the purchase, though I think I didn’t get what I wanted. It isn’t a slow cooker and its slow cooker function is its least effective function. It may turn out to be much better (and more) than I wanted — or not. It did fine with the chicken. I need to figure out what else it can do that I want to do. I got a good price — and it works, so far. I have a feeling it’ll do things I never tried in the past. It’ll also bake cakes and make yogurt, though I can’t imagine why I’d want to make my own yogurt. I’m glad I didn’t get the sous vide functionality because it would merely confuse me.

Meanwhile, beware of pressure cookers. They are the Devil’s tools!



Categories: Cooking, Food, Humor, Kitchen, kitchen gadgets, Recipes, Technology

Tags: , , , ,

20 replies

  1. My mother had a pressure cooker when I was a kid. It never exploded, but when I heard it doing its thing, I knew supper wasn’t going to be great–some sort of seriously boiled meat. At some point, the pressure cooker vanished from our kitchen (we moved a lot) and was not missed by me.
    It sounds like the instant pot is sort of like a small counter-top oven. I hope you figure out how to use it optimally. At least you don’t have to worry about explosions.

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    • I got the missing cookbook today and realized there was not a single recipe in it that was not some repeat of something I already cook, or something I would never eat. So I guess I’m on my own. I’ll figure it out. I hoped a cookbook would at least give me a general sense of what I could do with it, but it was just a slow cooker cookbook with a picture of the instant pot on the cover. Useless. And frustrating. Oh well. I’m a decent cook, so I’ll work it out. I think it really IS another variety of countertop oven.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My mother thought the same of pressure cookers. There was never one in her kitchen, and I’ve never had one myself.

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    • You should try to find the pictures of what really happens when they explode. It’s like a pipe bomb. The entire kitchen was completely trashed and the lid was lodged IN THE CIELING. Just like Mom said. i think I’ll live without a pressure cooker. Besides, pressure cooked food tastes boiled.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been using pressure cookers all my life and never had to repaint the kitchen! It’s as with everything: use it correctly and you’ll be fine. Nothing against your mother nor yourself…. A slow cooker generally just cooks everything really slowly on low temps and thus is more kind to the food. We also used to use a Römertopf (crockpot) made from clay. You submerge it in water, put your raw poultry or whatever in it, put it in the oven and I swear you couldn’t ask for a juicier, tender chicken…. it’s the slow process that does it. Don’t lose faith – I don’t know what your slow cooker does differently, I think of a ‘pot-au-feu’ meal in a slow cooker. One pot with everything in it and the longer you cook it the better it gets.

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    • Slow cooking is the busy cook’s finest resource. Also, to be fair, I don’t like the taste of pressure cooked food, unless it’s dried beans or something like fresh beets that take forever to cook otherwise. Of course, it doesn’t matter here. I don’t think I’ve seen a raw beet for sale in twenty years and I gave up trying to make dried beans suitable for humous. Turns out if you used canned cooked chickpeas, it comes out FINE. Better than fine. Best humous I ever ate!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great minds thing alike I am sure and we are two great minds. I am also going through a change in my cooking life style. I have two pressure cookers, although must admit I was never actually threatened by them but I have not used them for at least 5 years. I just found that the cooking results were not so good compared to slow cooking. I do not have a slow cooker, but according to what I am cooking I can easily turn down the temperature on my electric cooking range for a long process. My boiled beef turns out perfectly after 2-3 hours and my chicken is ready after 1-2 hours. My new project is baking my own bread. The first attempt was not so super, but it was a matter of timing. I have now ordered a bread baking glass container from my cookery club. I also now have a super spatzle making machine, although have not yet used it. I just like to know what I am eating and not buy already processed food.

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    • My father taught me to bake stews slowly in the oven. You just have to get the temperature right. Too bad no one makes those big heavy clay pots anymore. They were amazing for slow cooking and the food was great.

      I’ve OWNED two pressure cookers, but one I never used at all and the other, I used only to get dried chickpeas soft enough to make humous. Here, I buy canned chickpeas (hard to find the dry ones anyway) and the humous is perfect. Owen loathes beets, so even if the grocery sold them, I wouldn’t buy them. There are only three of us and I have a mental list of the likes/dislikes of both of the guys. I’m not picky, but they are.

      Bread baking is both timing AND having an oven you know well and trust to keep the temperature consistent. It’s hard to get the timing perfect. If you bake it a little too long, it’s too dry, but if you are five minutes too short, there’s a wet streak down the middle. The WHITE bread we made was perfect. The secret turned out to be using HONEY rather than sugar in the mixture. Not only does the honey taste better, but it preserves the bread almost as well as commercial bread! Who knew? I started not just looking at recipes, but recently began reading the information in the front of the book. I learned a lot. Honey keeps the bread fresh for days rather than hours.

      All my bread recipes (Beard on Bread — oldest and best bread recipes EVER) give you a choice of sugar, molasses (treacle), or honey. It’s straight substitution. Molasses is good for dark breads, but honey is much better in light or white bread.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That was interesting. I have a recipe with a spoonful of honey and now I know why. I like chick peas. I don’t make humous but like them as a vegetable. I lived with a half Indian family for two years and we would often cook it with a curry.. I only get the dry sort. I soak them all night and cook them the next day

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  5. Friends of mine in the Huon who are foodies have some kind of multi cooker with the sous vide function. i have to admit I didn’t really understand what it was supposed to do. I know there was one dish that the husband wanted to cook that he said would take several hours, something like 12 I think. I have a regular slow cooker and like you I like to toss something in and know it will be ready at dinner time but something that takes more than 12 hours to cook seems more trouble than it’s worth to me. I am definitely not a foodie.

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  6. I’ve been using a pressure cooker all my life and it’s never exploded on me. We use it to cook brown lentils, mutton and chickpeas.

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  7. There is ONE pressure cooker that won’t explode, I had one for years until I read something about the aluminum it was made of not being good for cooking. Seems it leaches into the food, Yeecchh! The company that made it was French.., the name SEB. It had a safety catch that prevented the top from coming off as you had to unscrew the whole thing to remove it. Even if you accidentally loosened it the pressurized contents would flow out the sides.., no BANG! I looked them up recently to see if there was a stainless steel model and the prices are now through the roof.., over $200+.

    https://www.groupeseb.com/en/node/506

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  8. My mother used her pressure cooker all the time — she cooked frozen veggies for 3 minutes in the pressure cooker — longer than I ever cooked them on the stove top when I learned to cook! No wonder all veggies tasted the same!

    Like

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