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Love in an Instant!

Questions, Answers, and Recipes for the Instant Pot

The rising popularity of the instant pot has many family cooks evaluating wants versus needs in the kitchen. I will be the first to say you don’t need an instant pot, but it has been my favorite tool for more than a year now, so you really might want one. 

First, everything you prepare in the instant pot, you can make on your stovetop or in the oven. But there are important perks to cooking with the instant pot! Beside the fact that meals taste amazing, the sheer quickness and ease of use frees me up to spend a little extra quality time with my boys. 

Keep reading for answers to some common instant pot questions. 

What is an instant pot? It’s a pressure cooker, which means the pressure builds from the steam that is trapped in the pot. There has to be some form of liquid in the pot in order for it to build pressure. 

Is it safe? Yes, these electric machines are tested thoroughly and have sensors that alert you if something isn’t going well. I know firsthand there is a burn alert. Always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. 

How do I know what buttons to use? I have the 8-quart Instant Pot Duo Plus. On all instant pots, there are cooking options with preset times and different pressure levels. Although this might vary slightly by instant pot brand, you will typically see three main buttons: pressure cook (or manual), sauté, and cancel. The pressure cook button is your go-to; it’s easy to adjust the time and works for everything you cook. Sauté is for heating up the bottom of the pan. This is for when you soften onions or sear meat. Cancel is used to stop the sauté function to change over to pressure-cooking. 

What is the steam valve? This knob on the back of the lid is how you close off the steam. Sealing is when the pot is closed off and will pressure cook. Venting is how you release pressure. The natural release function means you are allowing the pressure in the pot to unload without quick venting. When you use quick release, you move the knob to venting. The steam that has built up will come out very quickly and forcefully. Take extra care when quick releasing.

If you have an instant pot at home, it’s time to break it out. While I recommend starting with a family basic, like rice or mac and cheese, I use it a lot for batch cooking and meal prep throughout the week. These recipes for instant pot cooking can be on your table in thirty minutes or less (that’s factoring in prep time). Good luck with your new favorite kitchen tool!

Chicken Bog

1 tablespoon olive oil

5 boneless skinless chicken thighs (1 pound)

6 ounces smoked kielbasa, sliced into rounds

1 yellow onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups jasmine rice

2 cups chicken stock

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

Heat olive oil in the inner pot of the pressure cooker using the sauté feature. Rinse chicken, arrange on a plate, and dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and a few cracks of fresh pepper on each side. Add chicken to the hot instant pot in a single layer, then add kielbasa, onions, and garlic. Cook for 4 minutes to get a little color on the chicken. Stir in the rice, stock, bay leaves, and ½ teaspoon salt. Secure lid on pot and set the valve to sealing. Set on high pressure for 6 minutes. Quick release after 10 minutes or allow to natural release. Serves 4.

Hoppin’ John Stew 

1 16-ounce bag black eyed peas, soaked 8 hours, drained and rinsed

4 to 6 slices smoked bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces

1 medium onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon diced canned green chilies

6 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Turn the instant pot on sauté function and add bacon bits. Allow to fry until very crispy; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Carefully remove all but 2 tablespoons of the hot rendered grease. To the hot oil, add onion, celery, and bell pepper, cook for 4 minutes to soften, and sprinkle with salt. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and bay leaves, allowing spices to coat veggies until toasted. Add black eyed peas, tomatoes with juices, green chilies, and chicken stock. Lock the lid on the pot and turn the vent to sealing, press the pressure cook button, and set for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes, allow for natural release (or quick release after 10 minutes). Taste and adjust for additional seasoning. Serve with crumbled bacon on top. Serves 8.

Stewed Greens

2 pounds mixed greens (kale, collards, turnip greens, etc.)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon chili flakes

1 cup broth 

½ teaspoon kosher salt 

Remove greens from the stems and wash well. Drain and set aside. Heat olive oil in the inner pot of the instant pot, add onion, and sauté for 4 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes. Pack the greens into the pot; be careful not to go over the max fill line. Pour the broth over the greens and sprinkle with salt. Lock the lid on the pot and turn the vent to sealing. Using the pressure cook button, cook for 0 (zero) minutes. This will allow the instant pot to come to pressure and then allow for natural release for ten minutes. Taste and add additional seasonings if desired. Serves 6.

Caulifredo Sauce

¼ cup olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon chili flakes

½ teaspoon salt

1 medium head cauliflower, outer leaves removed, cut into florets

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary or thyme

1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

2 tablespoons butter 

Heat olive oil on sauté function in the inner pot of the instant pot. When hot, add onion, cook for 4 minutes. Add garlic and chili flakes. Add cauliflower, salt, rosemary or thyme, and the stock. Close the lid to the pot and turn the vent to sealing. Cook for 3 minutes on high pressure. Natural release for 10 minutes and remove lid. Add Parmesan and butter, and allow to melt. Using an immersion blender, purée until smooth. Alternately, use a blender, food processor, or mash by hand. Serve over your favorite pasta. Serves 6.

Photos: Jenny Tremblay West

Jenny Tremblay West began her career as a pastry chef and currently teaches cooking in Richmond. Jenny, her husband, and their two young boys live in Church Hill. She has worked in food for more than twenty years and is a kitchen coach and personal chef with Caper.
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