No, this has nothing to do with fast growing marijuana. (Is there such a thing?) This is a kitchen appliance that I avoided buying for quite a while. Why? Because it seemed like “just another gadget”.
My friend Jean-Pierre convinced me that it was worth purchasing. My “excuse” was that I hate my rice cooker (It’s a Black and Decker and it really says in the manual that the rice will burn on the bottom but just throw away the burned part.) and the Instant Pot can be used to cook rice so, why not.
So, what is it? The short definition is that it is a computerized electric pressure cooker. Having a 50+ year old Presto stainless steel stove-top pressure cooker I didn’t see why I would need another pressure cooker but, for $100 I figured it was worth a try.
Why Mine is Ugly
Before I get into why it is cool, let me explain why mine looks like it was run over by a truck. When I got it, it came double-boxed with styrofoam padding inside. The boxes were perfect but when I opened it up the control panel was hanging out, the base was broken and the stainless steel skin was closer to square than round. The only thing that makes sense is that customs took it out of the boxes and dropped it on the floor. On a very hard floor. I took some photos to make an insurance claim. They said they would credit me for the purchase price no questions asked. Cool. But, I really did want to see if it was worth the $100.
I took it apart and everything seemed to be in tact except the plastic base and the screw holes that held in the control panel. I bent the outside skin back into something closer to round and used silicon seal to stick the control panel on. The base was still broken but I decided I wanted to see if it worked before doing any more work. After some tests it seemed fine so a bit of time and a lot of epoxy and the base is now intact.
First, I just tried to boil some water. Things seemed to work so I went on to try “the excuse” — make rice. The enclosed recipe book has directions for jasmine rice, basmati rice and brown rice. I cooked a bag of brown rice and it came out perfect. While my teflon-lined $30 rice cooker burns the rice on the bottom this dude with its stainless steel inner pot did everything right and with a much shorter cooking time. OK, I’m impressed.
The next test was cooking black beans. I usually soak them overnight and cook for 22 minutes in my regular pressure cooker. The Instant Pot instructions said 10-15 minutes for black beans. I tried 15. If anything, they were a little bit overcooked. So, more energy saving.
My daughter loves seafood and one of the first recipes in the recipe book was New England style Clam Chowder. As she was going to Panajachel, I told her to get a couple of cans of clams. She did one better and came back with the two cans plus some frozen clams in the shell with interesting heritage. They came from Costa Rica but where package in Florida, initially caught in Vietnam. Interesting.
One of the few things my mother could cook correctly was clam chowder. Armed with the Instant Pot recipe and remembering that my mother would add chopped red bell pepper and sweet corn, I followed the directions (except for not using the bacon). It was a good recipe to understand what you could really do with the Instant pot. First, saute the onion (basically push the saute button), add the potatoes and pressure cook them (5 minutes) then release the pressure, add the remaining ingredients and saute them for five minutes and have a daughter that was all smiles.
While you could have done this in a stove-top pressure cooker you generally don’t think you could. With this unit it was all easy and logical. No external timer needed — it deals with times.
It’s a win. While electricity costs more than propane (until I get the 6kW solar system in place) the unit is more efficient (the outside barely gets warm) and cooking times are shorter than things like the rice cooker so energy usage should not be a real issue. It encourages one-pot cooking so cleanup is easier. And there are some interesting recipes (like a cheesecake) that I want to try.