That Damned Instant Pot Craze!

Posted by | February 11, 2018 | Cooking, Lifestyle, Reviews | No Comments

Moment of Truth – I am NOT an “early adopter”. Of anything. I wait it out. I listen to others’ commentary, successes and failures. I read reviews online. I read articles, and I research. So when this Instant Pot craze started a couple of years ago, I waited. One person I know sent theirs back. One person I know let it sit and gather dust before actually using it. And several people told me they couldn’t live without their Instant Pot. I was mainly interested in trying it out because I am curious about pressure cooking and I’d heard RAVES about how fast, efficient, safe, and easy pressure cooking was in the Instant Pot. And frankly, after listening to some wild stories about pressure cooker explosions I was scared to death to use my stove top model. Novice cooks and intermediate skilled cooks were getting awesome results and a few of my chef pals weighed in and said they loved theirs too. Needless to say, I didn’t want to BUY one just to find out if it lived up to the hype. In late October I borrowed Friend Kristie’s Instant Pot. She told me, “I suppose I can live without it for a week, but no longer,” those were her exact words. That comment intrigued me. How can one appliance become so indispensable to a household? I was about to find out.

Just to give it a quick run through, I decided to make some lamb stock (using the “soup” setting) because I had bones in the freezer. All kidding aside, it was fucking amazing! No worrying about the stock coming to a boil and ending up cloudy, no skimming and constantly watching the pot. And what normally took a couple of hours was reduced to about an hour including my prep time. A fluke perhaps? Next I made fish stock, again because I had the stuff on hand. Same damn results! Crystal clear stock in a fraction of the time, nearly completely hands off.

So…in early November I bought myself an Instant Pot 10 in 1 Ultra 6 quart model, on sale with additional percentage off (I paid $138 including tax and free shipping – at the time the retail on it was $179 plus tax). And I have put it through its paces. Soups, braises, hard boiled eggs, rice, all came out with varying degrees of success due to my learning curve.

The Good

• SUPER fast pressure delivery on recipes that usually take a long time.
o My Pot Roast (using a chuck roast) took less than half the time including prep, pressurization and depressurization of the device.
• The “Sauté” feature allows you to brown meat, sauté onions and garlic before the pressure cooking starts to build your flavor base. So when making a braise using the slow cook features you have one less pan to wash.
• Push button cooking that even a novice can master with great results.
• Easy clean up because its stainless steel interior pot can go in the dishwasher.
• There are TONS of blogs with recipes, a Facebook community with ideas, recipes and tips from fellow users, and the Instant Pot website is packed with info.
• I was able to give away my standard sized Crock-Pot, my rice cooker and my stove top pressure cooker.
• Comprehensive recipes on the Instant Pot website that are easy to riff on if you are an intermediate to highly skilled cook.

The Bad

• It takes up a LOT of space in a cabinet or you have to leave it on the counter. Friend Nancy says she intentionally leaves it on the counter so she KNOWS she’ll use it often. I have enough shit on my counters, so it’s taking up some real estate in a cabinet.
• If you have been following along, you know that The Hubs has a rule for me regarding the kitchen. I am not allowed to bring anything new in unless I have a space for it. So there was THAT challenge.
• The recipe book and owner’s manual that come with it are crappy, vague and not really helpful other than getting you started.

The Ugly

• It’s pretty pricey depending on what model you get.
• There are so many to choose from, knowing WHICH one is best for YOUR household can be tricky. I opted for less volume (6 qt over 8 because we are a small household) and lots of options for more flexibility.
• The inner silicone seal in the lid that allows for the pressure cooking takes on the odor of whatever you cooked last. It doesn’t matter how you clean it. I’ve tried baking soda soak, vinegar, hot water…nothing worked. The odor doesn’t transfer to what you are currently cooking, but it’s there when you start. I worry about cooking curry in the Instant Pot because we all know how that odor lingers in the air.
• It offers a “delay” feature to set up and start at a later time. I worry about use of this when cooking proteins because of food born bacteria that will cause food poisoning. I SUPPOSE they could be killed during the pressure cooking, but I don’t want to take that chance and frankly neither should you.

After several trials, I have come up with this recipe that is changeable to meet your needs. See the notes at the bottom for tips and changes noted with *. There are no pics because this really doesn’t photograph well, but trust me, it’s delish. Read through the recipe and notes before you start so you have a handle on timing, procedure and substitution options.

Chicken and Wild Rice Instant Pot Recipe

Serves 4 with leftover rice
About an hour total time – 30 minutes active
Gluten free and dairy free
Skill level – EASY!

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Bone in, skin on chicken thighs*
Kosher salt and pepper
½ C dry white wine*
1 small onion, diced finely
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 C brown and wild rice blend*
2 ½ C chicken or vegetable stock
4 – 6 oz button mushrooms – sliced if large, quartered if small
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh
2 tsp ground marjoram

1. Liberally salt & pepper the chicken. Using the sauté feature, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, brown the chicken (skin side down first). When they release easily from the pan, it’s time to flip or remove. If you WAIT (not my strong suit) they will be beautifully golden browned. If you don’t, the skin will stick to the pan and come off the chicken.

2. While the chicken is browning, prep your vegetables as indicated, keeping them separate from each other because they will be added to the pot in the order listed above.

3. When chicken is browned, remove from the Instant Pot and set aside on a plate.Deglaze the pot’s bottom with the wine, scraping up the fond (the little delicious browned bits sticking the bottom of the pan). Reduce the wine by half. Add the onion and cook until translucent, then add celery and carrots. Cook a minute or two and then add garlic, again cooking another minute. Salt your veg and stir.* DO NOT add the garlic with the other veg as it cooks a lot faster and you will end up with a bitter burned taste…Remember you are building a flavor ladder.

4. Stir in the rice so it is well incorporated to the veg mixture and coated with the oil and wine. Salt your rice and stir*.

5. Add the chicken stock and spices, stir well. Top with the mushrooms and finally with the chicken, skin side up. (The above procedure should take about 30 minutes. Coincidentally, that is the preset time for the sauté feature on the Instant Pot).

6. Select “Pressure Cook” and set the timer for 22 minutes on high. Once the device reaches proper temp, the timer will start to count down. Because the pot is already hot it will take less time than starting it cold. You can walk away at this point and do something else.

7. When the timer goes off, set a timer and wait 5 minutes. Hit your quick release button and vent the device avoiding the steam so you don’t get burned. When the pressure button drops, open your Instant Pot and serve.

• You can substitute boneless, skinless thighs or breasts, but it won’t have as much flavor and it will not be as moist. Bonus – the bone-in thighs are usually cheaper. If you do go with a skinless option, add another Tbsp. of oil to compensate for the moisture loss. Do not reduce the pressure cooking time because the rice takes 22 minutes.
• You may sub additional chicken or veg stock for the wine
• Find brown and wild rice blend in the bulk dept. of your grocery store. You CAN use regular brown rice, but the texture is better with the blend
• When I say “salt your veg” or “salt your rice” I mean add a HEALTHY pinch of salt – about 3 fingers worth (index, middle and ring finger with your thumb). Trust me. If you add salt AS you are cooking your food will not taste salty, it will just taste like you know what you are doing. Adding all the salt at the end of a recipe is what makes it taste salty.
• If using fresh thyme, pick out the stems before serving.

Do share your successes and questions here or on my FB page. And subscribe so you don’t miss a spoonful!