Multicooker Magic

Instant Pot adventures

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A few months after Christmas, my sister sent a message noting her gift to me was finally on its way. The following afternoon, a FedEx guy rang the doorbell and I was introduced to my latest gustatory gadget—the Instant Pot.

I’d heard rumors about the magical multicooker, with fans pointing out it could do just about anything in the kitchen—from acting as an electric pressure cooker that cooks meat and more in a fraction of the time that a stove would, to a slow cooker, rice maker, steamer and even a yogurt-maker.

Although I was eager to test out the Instant Pot’s powers, I was intimidated not only by the amount of buttons on the face of the machine, but also by the cautionary tales about the propensity of the steam valve on the top of the lid to scald people’s skin if they release it incorrectly.

After reading a New York Times article aptly titled “How to Use an Instant Pot”—something I would recommend to anybody starting out on a similar culinary adventure—I thought I had a better handle on how not to hurt myself, and whipped up my first recipe, a chicken breast and mushroom dish that didn’t quite go as planned. I got paranoid the pot wasn’t working correctly, and interrupted the process to double-check.

Apparently, for many recipes it takes a while for the machine to get up to pressure, and at least 15 minutes to de-pressurize. I hadn’t factored that in, and thus the chicken was slightly rubbery (although it still tasted pretty good).

Since then, I’ve only burned myself once, and have gotten a lot more confident using the Instant Pot. I’ve concocted everything from corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day to amazing chicken stock, chili, rice and various soups and stews. I’ve also queried friends about what they use the device for, and am looking forward to testing its abilities to make homemade hummus, pulled pork, taco meat, potatoes, Kalua pork, country-style ribs, beans, spaghetti squash, hard-boiled eggs, a variety of Indian dishes and more.

My sister—a hardworking ICU nurse who uses her own Instant Pot on the regular to help feed her family of six—recently forwarded a recipe for an easy weeknight pork stew, and the day I read it I happened to have most of the ingredients on hand. Unlike a lot of the other soup and stew recipes I’ve seen utilizing the Instant Pot, it didn’t require the meat to be sauteed in advance or for any of the ingredients to be cooked separately—meaning I could just put everything in the pot and walk away.

The finished product was ready in a little over an hour, and was savory and delicious. Best of all, I didn’t have to stand by the stove and keep and eye on the stew the whole time. I felt like I’d pulled off a magic trick, and vowed to keep using the Instant Pot until I completely harness its magical powers.


Instant Pot Pork Stew


3 pounds (approximately) pork shoulder or country-style ribs, lamb or beef, cut into 1- or 2-inch squares
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon salt
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 medium-sized bulbs of celeriac, peeled and chopped (or 6 sticks celery, chopped)
1 pound string beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 14-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (or regular tomatoes)
1 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups broth (chicken or pork works well)
Freshly chopped cilantro to garnish (a handful)
Sea salt and pepper to taste


In a large bowl, combine the meat cubes with the curry powder, ginger, cumin and salt. Mix well. Now place all the ingredients except the cilantro and salt and pepper (use to season at the end) into your Instant Pot.

Turn the pot on, be sure the steam valve is closed, and punch the “stew” button (which automatically sets the time to 35 minutes). When it’s done, turn the pot off and you can either turn the valve to release the pressure or allow it to come down on its own.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with cilantro. If you’d like it thicker, stir in some arrowroot starch. Feeds five.

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