You’ve probably heard of the Instant Pot, and maybe wondered what on earth it is! Well, the Instant Pot is a cooking device, whose primary function is to cook food under pressure, thereby reducing the cook times. So, is it a pressure cooker? Yes, and no. It does everything a pressure cooker does, and a whole lot more.
Just think of it as a highly sophisticated pressure cooker that runs on electricity. Read on to understand more about how the Instant Pot is different, the advantages of using it, and how you can adapt your favorite Caribbean recipes to cook in it to perfection.
What Exactly Can an Instant Pot do?
The Instant Pot can saute, slow cook, sous vide, as well as pressure cook. And that’s just the start. It also has a keep-warm function, that keeps the food at a nice, comforting temperature until you’re ready to serve. In addition, there’s the yogurt setting, which maintains milk at the optimum temperature for the bacteria that convert milk into curd to thrive. This feature is especially useful when it’s very cold because the bacteria operate best between a temperature range of 42℃ to 45℃ (108°F to 112°F).
Another great feature of the Instant Pot is that it comes with a timer. So you can fill it, shut it, and forget all about it, after of course setting the cooking time. So, you don’t need to hang around the kitchen to count the whistles. (And wonder if you’ve missed counting one because you were lost in thought about the ton of other things you could be doing!)
You also don’t need to periodically sniff the steam that escapes, to check if something is burning. The Instant Pot burn message will flash when the temperature gets too high, and there’s a possibility that your food will burn. Here’s how it works. When the temperature sensors detect an unusually high temperature, 140°C (284°F) at the inner pot’s base, the burn indicator flashes, and the device then stops heating. It restarts cooking only after the temperature has reduced. And that’s just one of the 13 safety mechanisms on the Instant Pot.
Why You Should Use an Instant Pot
The Instant Pot comes with a whole lot of advantages that make it a welcome addition to your kitchen. It includes those of the pressure cooker and then some. Here they are:
- Saves time, as much as 70%
- Saves additional energy over pressure cookers, as the inner cooking chamber is insulated
- Retains more nutrients and vitamins than any other cooking method
- The food is tastier, juicier and retains its colors
- Multiple cooking presets available
- Remembers your preferences
- Fully automated cooking, right from pre-heating to cooking to keeping warm
- Delayed cooking helps you plan meals ahead
- Meat is more tender and evenly cooked
- Insulation allows you to touch the outer surface while cooking
How to Cook Almost Any Dish in the Instant Pot
It’s important to remember that not every dish is suited to be cooked in the Instant Pot. That said, most dishes can be adapted to be cooked to perfection in it. When wondering which of your recipes will work under pressure (pun unintended!), there are a few broad factors to consider.
Here’s what will work:
- Recipes that call for a good amount of liquid, like soup and rice
- Dishes that take a long time to cook, like meat and lentils
Here’s what’s unlikely to work:
- Recipes that are bread-based
- Cooking meat of tender cuts
When you decide to convert a recipe, there are four things you need to figure out.
- Cook Time
The Instant Pot takes way less time to cook. The general thumb rule is to reduce the cooking time to ⅓ of that of the original recipe. This applies to meat, vegetables, and soups. The time required for pasta dishes can be cut in half. Remember, that this is not a precise rule. Cook in the Instant Pot for a little less time than stated above, and then cook for a little longer if required. Slow-cooked dishes are much harder to figure out. It all depends on the texture and flavor profile you require. Better yet, you can even use the device as a slow cooker.
One way to get to the time you need is to take a look at this chart, which contains the cook times for nearly every ingredient out there. The time specified is that required for it to be just cooked. If you want the ingredient softer, or its flavor more integrated into the dish, simply cook for longer.
What do you do if the recipe calls for ingredients with multiple cook times? Simply add in the ingredients at different times. Say you’re cooking small, whole potatoes (4 minutes) and tomato quarters (1 minute). Cook the potatoes for 3 minutes, do a quick pressure release, add in the tomatoes, and cook for a further minute. Now, if you wanted the tomatoes to be super squishy, you could add in the tomatoes at say 2 minutes, and cook for another 2.
- Pressure Setting
Should you cook on high pressure or low? Well, the Instant Pot means high pressure, so the only exceptions would be low pressure for tender cuts of seafood/meat, or to steam veggies just a little.
- Pressure Release
You can let the pressure ease out slowly, or release it quickly (and safely). In general, allow for a natural pressure release for harder, tougher food like meat, rice, and beans. For softer veggies, pasta, and tender cuts of meat, let the pressure go quick.
- Amount of liquid
The liquid you’d need will always be less than that in traditional cooking. Generally, you must reduce it by ½ to 1 cup for dishes that take longer times or are liquid heavy, like soups. That said, if the water is too little, the pressure will not build up, and your food will be undercooked or burnt.
One thing to watch out for is recipes that call for the addition of heavy sauces or flour. These can stick to the bottom of the pan, get burnt, and trigger the Burn warning. Always remember that you need thin, water-based fluids. So it’s best to add thick sauces and flour after the pressure cooking is done.
Trinidadian Recipes You Can Cook With An Instant Pot
There are a ton of Trini dishes that you can adapt to the Instant Pot. Just apply the principles described above, and you’ve got that calypso flavor in a healthier, speedier new avatar. Of course, any recipe that includes cooking on a pressure cooker is already ready to go!
Here are some dishes that you can start experimenting with:
Cook in the Instant Pot after adding all the ingredients.
Cook the rice in the Instant Pot, and keep aside. Then cook the meat in the pot. Stop when nearly done, do a quick pressure release, and the beans. Continue cooking.
Pressure cook the pigtail on the Instant Pot. Finish it on the grill.
Using an instant pot to pressure cook your meats is just scratching the surface when it comes to this multifaceted tool. So go on and use the Instant Pot to lead a healthier, happier life. Make it a new year’s resolution maybe?
As we move towards a more technologically advanced culture lets upgrade our kitchen tools and reap the many benefits starting with an instant pot. There's no need to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen anymore. There's so much more to explore when it comes to adapting our Caribbean recipes to an instant pot. Let's explore shall we?
As I end here I would like to wish each and everyone a Merry Christmas 2020 and a bright and prosperous New Year 2021. Stay safe.
Ah gone 🙂