It appears that my aptitude with a kitchen appliance is in direct proportion to my faith in its name.
For instance, my Crock-Pot truly is a paleo appliance, no pretense, just a piece of crockery atop a hotplate. Easy peasy. Same with my Smart Stick immersion blender. I’m still surprised how it knows precisely how to purée slop into silk when all I do is stick it into the mess I am a-blending.
But sometimes an appliance’s name or instructions seem extreme to me, in true marketing “too-good-to-be-true” way. For instance, in 1980, on a babysitting job, the mother told me that “17 minutes” in the Amana Touchmatic Radarange would cook the chicken thighs through. “Yeah,” I said to myself, “right.”
After she left, I set the High Power button for 70 (yes, seventy) minutes because, obviously, that’s the number she meant, not “17.” Toward the end of the nuking, the chicken’s bones blackened from the inside out and exploded.
For one recent Christmas, my son, Colin, and his mom gave me an Instant Pot. “Instant, my frijoles,” I said. Not to myself. Perhaps you received an Instant Pot for this season’s holiday and have been saying the same to yourself.
That Christmas morning, I looked at this little R2-D2 with a plug and put it away. I couldn’t believe that this thing could improve on Ye Olde Crock Pot.
I was wrong. So wrong.
Colin made a shoulder of pulled pork with his Instant Pot, in an hour and a half, that was in every way — especially tenderness — that of a six-hour slow cook. I’ve now made jasmine and basmati and Louisiana Long with the Instant Pot’s pressure cooker function and they are all three far better — and far less stressful — made that way than anything I’ve ever done with raw rice atop the stove or in the oven.
And yogurt, don’t get me rhapsodic about Instant Pot yogurt. I’ll cry. I adore yogurt and eat at least a cup or two a day. The Instant Pot lets me batch up a gallon at a time. Its great asset, in this area of the lactic arts, is how it holds a perfect incubation temperature of exactly 110 degrees Fahrenheit for as long as you desire it. (I pull a 12-hour all-nighter.)
Colin’s father no longer uses his Ye Olde Crock-Pot. Well, it is good to keep things warm for a buffet item at a large dinner.
Moreover, the Instant Pot has taught me several important things about itself, which lessons I transfer to you here.
- Use at least 1/2 cup of liquid when cooking anything on the mode called Pressure Cook.
- If using a standard recipe (say, from a non-Instant Pot cookbook), add ten to 15 minutes to the overall cooking time stipulated in the recipe. The Instant Pot needs those extra minutes to do its initial pressurizing warm-up. Once it gets started, though, it’s Speed Central.
- Set the venting lever before you set any cooking buttons.
- Learn the difference between what’s called Natural Release (leaving the machine to drop the pressure slowly on its own after its cooking) and Quick Release (when you manually turn the venting knob to finish to stop the pressure cooking).
- Do not use your fingers to move the venting lever from Sealing to Venting; use a spoon handle or some other implement. And keep your face away from looking at the valve as you turn it.
Instant Pot Yogurt
After you make yogurt in the Instant Pot way, you may take the further step to “Greek” it, if you wish. You may also make “labni” (sometimes spelled “labneh”), a sort of yogurt cheese popular in the Levant made by draining yogurt of its whey for more than merely a few hours.
This main recipe makes 1 gallon yogurt, or 2 quarts of Greek-style, or less of labni. BSJ does not use the Instant Pot for the initial heating of milk (and, in this recipe, cream), but rather Ye Olde Stovetop. It’s quicker, less messy and, for making yogurt, safer and more reliable.
1 gallon whole milk
1 quart half-and-half
3-4 tablespoons plain yogurt with active live cultures (store-bought or from previous homemade batch), in a cup or bowl, at room temperature
On stovetop, in a large pot, heat milk and half-and-half over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until temperature reads 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer at a few places in the hot liquid. Heat the inner pot of the Instant Pot halfway with hot water from the tap and set aside to warm it.
Cool the milk, either off the heat or in a water and ice bath, until the heat lowers to 108 degrees measured on an instant-read thermometer at a few places in the hot liquid. Empty and dry the inner pot and place inside the Instant Pot. Quickly temper the 2 tablespoons of yogurt with some of the heated milk and stir back into the heated milk. Transfer the milk and half-and-half to the Instant Pot, close the lid, press the Yogurt button and adjust the time to your taste, from 8 hours (slightly tart yogurt) to up to 12 hours (appreciably tart yogurt).
To make Greek-style yogurt: Place the finished yogurt in a sieve or colander, lined with rinsed and squeezed muslin or several layers of open-weave cheesecloth, set over a bowl sufficiently large to catch 1/2 the volume of the yogurt of its whey. Place in very cold or refrigerated spot for between 4 hours (moderately firm Greek style) to up to 8 hours (very firm Greek or labni/labneh style).
Instant Pot White Rice
An electric rice cooker is a foolproof way to prepare white rice. The Instant Pot becomes one in this instance. See notes for cooking other forms of rice (for example, basmati rice or brown rice).
1 cup raw jasmine rice
1 cup cool water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
In a large bowl and under running water, rinse the rice, rubbing the grains together under the water with your fingers, draining it after each time (in a “gold-panning” way), until the water runs fairly clear, 5-6 rinses.
Add the rice, the water and the salt to the Instant Pot. Close the lid, turning the venting knob to the “Sealing” position. Push “Pressure Cook” and set (with the minus or plus signs) for 3 minutes, also pushing the “Pressure Level” button for “High.” After the face indicates the 3 minutes of cooking are up, leave the lid on for 10 minutes (called “Natural Release”).
Using a spoon or wooden handle (not your fingers), turn the venting knob to the “Venting” position and release the remaining pressure. When the pressure knob drops, remove the lid carefully. Fluff the rice with a spatula or the tines of a large fork.
Notes: Use these same directions for basmati rice, but Pressure Cook for 6 minutes instead of 3. For brown rices, use these same directions but Pressure Cook for 15 minutes instead of 3.
Reach Bill St John at [email protected]