Food & Drink

Instant Pots can help take some pressure off everyday cooks

Instant Pots are basically pressure cookers that have come into the digital age.
Instant Pots are basically pressure cookers that have come into the digital age. Detroit Free Press/TNS

Instant Pots are the rage in small kitchen appliances, which reminds me of the saying, “Whatever is old is new again.”

Remember the old-time pressure cookers? They were used on the stovetop and cooked meats, stews and soups quickly. A roast with carrots and potatoes could be done in about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

In the 1950s and 1960s, my grandmother would shoo me from the kitchen in case the pressure cooker blew up. Pressure cookers were first used in the 1940s.

Today, the Instant Pots multitask, from pressure cooker to slow cooker to rice cooker to yogurt maker to steamer and more. Different brands do more or less, but most promise at least six different tasks.

One of my daughter’s friends was touting how wonderful hers was. She has five children, so seven mouths to feed including her and her husband. With five kids, she also doesn’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. She likes that she can put a meal in the Instant Pot, program the digital setting and she’s done with dinner.

When she was telling us about it, I said, “Oh, it is like a pressure cooker.” I guess I sounded like the old dinosaur, so she said, “No, it does much more. I love mine.”

Well, after doing some research, bottom line, Instant Pots are still pressure cookers that have come into the digital age. Yes, this will probably be my next gadget purchase.

No, I don’t want to use it as a rice cooker; I think those are a total waste of money. Who can’t cook a pot of rice? Yes, I know some folks say they always mess up the rice. My daughter is one of them. She prefers instant rice to longer cooking rice. Me, I am a purist. I like the long-grain, brown and wild rices that require more cooking time. Enough of that rant.

Back in the ‘90s, I had a T-Fal stovetop pressure cooker. I loved it. I still have the recipe booklet, but the pressure cooker bit the dust when my late husband used the pressure cooker on high heat. Can we say charred? The pressure cooker met the garbage that night.

While I enjoyed the pressure cooker, I never replaced it, one less appliance taking up counter space. I turned back to my old, reliable slow cooker, even though I had to get up earlier to make a recipe in the that appliance.

An Instant Pot is definitely in my future. My only hesitation is do I really want to spend $80 to $200 for this appliance? They come in 8-quart, 6-quart and 3-quart sizes. I need the 6-quart since there only are three of us. I could make do with the 3 quart, but think that would be a waste of money if I wanted to cook for more folks.

If I still had my Valentine, I would hint like crazy for this appliance. I am one of those weird women who love to get kitchen stuff for presents. My late husband always did a double-take when I asked for kitchen gear for presents.

In a quick check on Amazon, more than 15 versions of the Instant Pot exist, and more than 100 cookbooks from Indian cooking to Weight Watchers to basic recipes and on and on. A wealth of reviews exists for the different Instant Pot brands.

How many readers own an Instant Pot? Readers, let me know how you like it and what recipes you make in it.

For those with the Instant Pot, here are some recipes that I would make if I had an Instant Pot or even an old-fashioned pressure cooker. If other readers still have a pressure cooker, I offer a favorite recipe of mine.

The website has an Instant Pot recipe of the week. I especially liked the one on braciola, which, if cooked conventionally, takes hours.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

Instant Pot Braciola

1/4 pound Italian sausage (about 2 links), casings removed

1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 large egg

3 to 4 flank steaks, thinly sliced, pounded (if necessary) to about 1/4-inch thickness

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 carrot, peeled and chopped

1 celery rib, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

In a medium-size bowl, stir together with a fork the sausage, bread crumbs, Parmesan, parsley, basil, and egg until well combined.

Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper.

Arrange 1 to 2 slices of prosciutto over each steak.

Using the fork, spread filling evenly over the prosciutto on each steak, leaving a border of about 1/4 -inch on all sides.

One steak at a time, starting at a short edge, roll each steak up.

Securely tie the roll with twine at intervals along the roll, and then again with one string lengthwise. Alternatively, secure the roll with toothpicks.

Turn the Instant Pot to sauté and heat the oil on more/high until shimmering.

Add the steak rolls and cook, turning them frequently, until browned on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, remove from the pot and set aside.

To the pot, add the onions, garlic, carrot, celery and cook until they start to become tender, about 4 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and stir until well blended.

Add the wine and bring to a boil.

Stir in tomatoes, oregano and bay leaves.

Nestle the rolls into the sauce.

Lock the lid into place and cook at meat/stew or pressure cook or manual on high pressure

When finished cooking, select cancel and let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes. Then carefully move the valve to steaming to allow for quick release.

Carefully remove the rolls and transfer to a cutting board.

Taste the sauce, and add more salt and pepper, if desired.

Using a sharp knife, cut the beef crosswise into slices about 1/2-inch thick, removing the twine as you cut.

Spoon some of the sauce onto a platter, and place the slices on top of the sauce, spooning more sauce over the top. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve at once and enjoy!

Instant Pot Southwest Chicken Soup

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

1 pound boneless chicken breasts

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 (14.5-ounce) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes or 2 cans of Ro-tel

1 (14.5-ounce) can of corn, drained

1 (14.5-ounce) can of black beans, rinsed

Water (enough to cover ingredients)

Set Instant Pot to sauté mode. Add oil to pot.

While waiting for oil to heat, sprinkle dry seasoning mixture (salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder) over chicken breasts.

Once oil is heated, brown both sides of each piece of chicken. Set browned chicken aside.

Add tomatoes, to pot, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Then add corn, beans and water to pot to cover ingredients. Stir and let simmer.

Meanwhile, cut chicken breasts into bite-sized cubes. Return chicken to pot. Add more water If needed.

Cancel sauté mode. Cover pot with lid. Set to high pressure for 8 minutes. Natural release.

Serve hot.

Recipe by Jessica McCoy, www.communitytable/

Greek Lamb with Potatoes and Olives

For the stovetop pressure cooker.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup thinly slice leeks or coarsely chopped onions

2 pounds boneless lamb shoulder or leg, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks, well-trimmed

1/2 cup red wine

2 large ribs celery, cut into 1-inch chunks

3/4 cup Greek olives (pitted)

2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more to taste

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes or plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with liquid

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, stirring frequently, until the lamb is no longer pink, about 3 minutes more. Stir in the wine and cook over high heat until the wine has reduced by half. About 2 minutes. Stir in the celery, olives, oregano and crushed red pepper. Pour on the tomatoes. Do not stir. Set the potatoes on top.

Lock the lid in place. Over high heat, bring to high pressure. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 16 minutes. Quick-release the pressure. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to allow any excess steam to escape. Remove the potatoes and divide them among 4 large bowls or deep plates. If the lamb is not sufficiently tender, return to high pressure for 4 minutes more.

Stir stew well. Add salt, pepper and additional crushed red pepper, if needed. Ladle the stew on top of the potatoes and garnish with parsley. Serves 4.

“The Pressured Cook” by Lorna Sass