The Bomb In The Kitchen

I have been watching the rise of the Instant Pot with interest. I like the idea of being able to cook a whole meal with one pan. I really like the idea of being able to put the frozen-solid roast I completely forgot to thaw into the pot at 4:45PM, and having a completely-cooked result before everyone finally eats crackers 45 minutes past bedtime.

The words “pressure cooker”, however, gave me pause. I remember well my mom’s horror stories about pressure canners exploding and killing entire families with burning-hot green bean missiles. “Pressure cookers are dangerous!” She would tell me. And I’m sure they were, when it was just a ring of clamps and a hot pad between you and 15PSI of projectile steam. I would seriously hope that the technology has improved since Grandma’s stovetop canner.

Ultimately, the price tag was my real sticking point – those suckers ain’t cheap! So, I waited.

Then, my husband mentioned that he was thinking of getting his mother an Instant Pot for Mother’s Day. I said, “Ooh, cool. I’ve been wanting one of those for awhile.”

“Really?” He asked incredulously.

“Yeah, really. They look interesting, and maybe really handy.”

“Huh,” he said, and wandered away. Two business days later, there was an Instant Pot Duo Plus sitting on my front porch.

So exciting! I opened it up, looked through all the stuff, read all the warnings, and then…. It sat on my counter for six weeks. I removed the startup guide and user manual and put them somewhere to peruse at my convenience, and then promptly forgot where I put them. I searched high and low, but they were well and truly gone. I knew there was a “water test” that I absolutely had to do before I could try to use the thing, but my directions were AWOL, and I didn’t want to do it wrong! So there it sat.

Eventually, I got the courage to look up the “water test” online, went through the rigamarole of setting it up and figuring out the pressure release valve. (Terrifying: pulling that tiny handle and listening to my mother’s voice in the back of my head, warning me that it was dangerous!) The hardest part of getting the pot to work, for me, was finding the start button. I did not expect to select the time, and then just….. Walk away. I wanted a button to push to say definitively, “Yes, I am done fiddling with settings. Commence cooking.” So, I wasted lots of time fiddling with it and reading directions online, wondering if I was going blind or just stupid. Turns out there is no start button. You secure the lid, program the time, and it just goes.

I figured it out eventually, and decided to start with the simplest thing I could think of: hard boiled eggs. I happen to be lucky in that my kids love hard-boiled eggs. The girls won’t eat the yolks plain, but they love deviled eggs. So, a batch of hard-boiled eggs is not a hard sell around here.

I only had 7 left in the carton, and they fit very nicely on the trivet. I added a cup and a half of water, and set the thing for, I think, 7 minutes. I used the “Egg” button, and adjusted from there. Then, I walked away and completely forgot about it for about an hour.

When I came back, I let the steam out, pulled out the pot, and ran cold water over the eggs for a couple of minutes. They turned out perfectly.

They were easy to peel (thanks to my Negg, an incredibly handy kitchen gadget) and completely cooked inside, without getting that blue halo from overcooking. Frankly, that amazed me, since I had left them sit in the pot so long after they were technically done. I would not have been able to get away with that, cooking them on the stove.

I made deviled eggs, and the kids managed to have half the whites eaten before I could even fill them.

Score 1 for Mama.

The next time I used the Instant Pot, I made meatloaf. I read lots of recipes on the internet, but they were all for the kind of meatloaf that involves a sticky ketchup glaze. Ew. My meatloaf involves creamy mushroom and white wine gravy, and I was not going to give that up for convenience. I did have some doubts about whether or not the wine would cause some weird reaction under pressure, but tried it anyway. I essentially did the same thing I usually do to prepare it, just stuck it in the Instant Pot instead of a roaster.

It turned out well enough. I felt like it was missing some of the caramelizing flavor, but was overall pretty good. The kids were about as unimpressed as they usually are. The effect was the same, and the overall cooking time was improved by about 20 minutes.

After dinner, I encountered the Problem. The Problem is food that has cooked on so thoroughly that it becomes one with the stainless steel. I hated Crock Pots for the longest time because of this inevitable side effect. I will throw the whole pan out rather than stand there for the rest of my life, scrubbing black crusty bits.

Unacceptable.

My time is not saved in the effort of cooking on the front end, if I have to spend 20 minutes scrubbing the pot on the back end. This was the first time I’d used the thing, though, so I felt I ought to at least give it one more chance. I scrubbed it out very thoroughly with soap, hot water and steel wool, and then again with Barkeeper’s Friend, which finally got most of the residue and stain off.

There are lots of condescending comments out there about how “it isn’t all that bad”, but the real point was I didn’t want to have to scrub it at all!

In the case of the Crock Pot, some genius invented heat-resistant removable plastic liners. They are cheap, convenient, and make a previously tedious clean-up job completely non-existent. Once I discovered these, I fell in love with my crock pot. Unfortunately, you can’t use a liner with the Instant Pot.

Someone needs to invent this, stat.

In the meantime, I’ll give the thing a few more tries before I give up completely, but I am definitely on the fence about whether or not it’s worth the space it takes in my kitchen.

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