Why I Bought an Instant Pot
After a few recommendations from friends, I decided to splurge on an Instant Pot. I went with the six quart version of Instant Pot Duo Nova 7-in-1 One-Touch Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker. While I ultimately bought mine from Target, I had been eyeing it on Amazon for a little while. Six quarts is a good size, a bit bigger than I need but the size down seemed a bit small. The model I purchased cost $99, so I did pause before buying it. We have a crock pot, which I don’t use much anymore, which theoretically does a lot of the same things that I would use an Instant Pot for. Plus, we don’t have a ton of free space in the kitchen, either for storage or food preparation, so that made me pause, as well. I decided to go for it, though, and I think it was a good choice.
Initial Thoughts on the Instant Pot
I was more than a little intimidated to just jump into using a pressure cooker. The instructions were a little overwhelming, as the Pot came with a number of individually bagged pieces and it was not immediately clear what was an extra or spare piece and what was a necessary one.
Running the five-minute water test cycle at first was helpful, as a low-risk way to test the whole system out. However, the instructions were lacking on how to clear the steam from the Pot. There is a button at the back of the locking lid that you press to release the steam. I’m not sure what I expected, but the jutting stream of warm water vapor wasn’t it. I’ve never used a pressure cooker, and intuitively I knew there had to be a valve like this, but I kind of wish I knew about that more explicitly from the instructions than I did at the time.
Either way, the steam clears out relatively quickly. I did have to maneuver the pot closer to the edge of the counter so it wouldn’t all blow into the cabinets. It would probably be easier to use the Instant Pot with a larger kitchen. Both in the set up and then when I was actually working on meal preparations, I felt like it took up a lot of space on the counter.
My First Attempt: A Modified White Wine Risotto
For my first meal with the Instant Pot, I decided to try something simple and searched around for a cheesy rice recipe. Brown rice is one of my go-to bases for meals, but it can be a bit of a beast to cook on the stove. One of the most exciting things about the Instant Pot for me was the prospect of using it as a rice cooker.
I found a recipe from Delish that seemed like a good start. I substituted brown rice for risotto and then used a variety of cheeses, including gouda and Swiss, as opposed to just the parmesan the recipe calls for.
Thoughts on the Sauté Function
The first part of the recipe called for using the sauté function on the Instant Pot. I added butter, which melted rapidly, and then diced onion and garlic, which cooked up quickly. After that, I added about 1/2 a cup of white wine and let it cook for a minute or so before adding the brown rice to toast.
Overall, I found the sauté function to be very useful. It would be especially handy if you were making caramelized onions or fajita vegetables. While I wish I could control the temperature more than I could, I found this setting to be handy and straight forward.
Pressure Cooker Impressions
Per the recipe, after the rice and wine sautéed for a little while, I added four cups of broth (the recipe calls for chicken, but I used vegetable broth) and incorporated the ingredients. Then, I set the Instant Pot to the “manual” high setting for five minutes. I assumed this meant the “pressure cook” setting on the bottom right of the front of my Instant Pot. Next time, I think I will try the dedicated rice setting.
Either way, five minutes on the high pressure cook setting was not enough to cook the brown rice. When the cycle ended and I checked the rice, about a cup or two of the broth had been absorbed, but a lot was left to cook down.
Next, I did a seven minute pressure cook setting at a lower heat because I was concerned it might overcook at the higher setting. After the seven minute cycle, about a cup of liquid was left in the Instant Pot. Since I realized another short cycle would be required, I decided to add the cheese and some herbs to the mix at this point.
After I mixed in the cheese and herbs, I set the Instant Pot on a 4 minute high pressure cook setting. This last cycle finished the rice off. There was some liquid still at the top of the rice but once I stirred the whole mixture, the rice seemed to absorb the remaining broth. I think this has to do with the whole Instant Pot bowl being so hot at the time.
How the Rice Turned Out
In the process, I was frustrated that I had to do multiple cycles to actually cook the rice. However, looking back, I think that had more to do with the recipe I kind of attempted to follow than the Instant Pot itself. Perhaps if I had actually used proper risotto instead of brown rice, the five minutes would have been enough (although I kind of doubt it).
Overall, I think using the Instant Pot is going to take practice. Unlike a crock pot, you can’t see into the Instant Pot while the food is cooking. I miss having the ability to easily open and mix things up while it is cooking, but I think this will matter less to me once I get a better feel for timing.
I ultimately served the rice with tilapia and roasted broccoli and was very happy with how it turned out.