The battle of the kitchen appliances—at least in terms of counter space in my kitchen and impact on my wallet—is real! Every season there seems to be a new high-tech contraption promising to solve all my woes as I aim to provide healthful meals to my family that are both practical (easy to make and affordable) and appetizing (familiar and comforting but also creative and, as my kids might say, “not boring”).
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
As a test cook at America’s Test Kitchen (with a cookbook team that has produced countless appliance cookbooks filled with inventive and useful recipes, including: Healthy Air Fryer, The Complete Slow Cooker, Healthy and Delicious Instant Pot, and Toaster Oven Perfection), I’ve had the opportunity to become very familiar with many game-changing appliances. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all device that rings the bell in every scenario, but as a full-time working mom with two insatiable teenagers, time and time again, it’s the Instant Pot I turn to when the pressure is on to get dinner on the table.
The Best MulticookersAfter cooking more than 68 pounds of meat and 26 pounds of beans over two months, here's what we learned.
A few qualities of the Instant Pot stand out in making it my go-to kitchen appliance:
- First, the Instant Pot is primarily a pressure cooker (though it has several other useful functions). Pressure cookers are tightly sealed cooking environments, which means that as liquid boils, it can’t escape. As a result, more energy is needed to boil the liquid, so the temperature inside the pot can get as much as 35 degrees higher than the boiling point of water (212 degrees Fahrenheit) at standard atmospheric pressure, so foods cook very quickly, at very high temperatures, without drying out.
- Second, the pot enables both sauté and pressure-cooking functions within the same easy-to-clean, stainless-steel cooking insert, which means I don’t have to use multiple cooking vessels or other kitchen equipment to get various stages of the job done. For example, I can use the sauté function to brown meat or sweat vegetables to build fond and flavor before using the pressure-cooking function.
- Finally, the range of things you can cook in your Instant Pot is nothing short of staggering, from the obvious braised meats, complex soups and stews, and hearty grains and beans to the more surprising fish and shellfish dishes (such as this Instant Pot Clams with Brothy Rice), vegetable dishes (such as Instant Pot Braised Whole Cauliflower with North African Spices), pastas (check out Sam Block’s reflections on this rich topic), and even homemade yogurt!
Cooking under pressure isn’t new. My Greek grandmother had a stove-top pressure cooker that she used to make the most incredible chicken and potatoes in tomato sauce; I’ll never forget the intoxicating smell of stewed tomatoes, wine, and oregano that beckoned us up the stairwell of her building, like magical aroma-fingers calling to a Looney Toons character.
But certain features of modern electric (rather than stove-top) pressure cookers—namely built-in timers and automatic pressure regulators—take the guesswork (and the potential fear that high-pressure cooking can provoke) out of the equation.
Healthy and Delicious Instant PotThe Instant Pot Is Your One-Stop Shop for Fast, Filling, and Fresh Meals
This recipe for Instant Pot Chicken and Potato Stew was inspired by my grandmother’s stew. The chicken and potatoes cook in just 10 minutes under pressure, and the whole dish comes together in less than an hour. Also, it’s endlessly customizable. Sometimes I switch out some of the tomato sauce for jarred curry simmer sauce, or I incorporate some warm spices when I add the oregano and pepper flakes. I might add some broccoli, green beans, or other tender vegetables along with the peas. My kids often add a dollop of pesto or a drizzle of hot sauce to their bowls.
Instant Pot Chicken and Potato StewThis crowd-pleasing family dinner needs just 10 minutes under pressure.
Give it a try, and have fun improvising; just be sure to maintain the 1:1 ratio of sauces (like the Rao’s called for in the recipe) or thick condiments to broth so that you get perfectly cooked chicken and potatoes in a jiffy, every time.