There was a thunderous crash inside the house. I was in the study. Ed was in the living room. We both left our posts to make sure the other was okay. We were. But our decade-old crock pot was not. For some unexplainable reason, it had heaved itself off the cabinet shelf and crashed down onto the kitchen floor, shattering its ceramic insert.
We tried to find a replacement insert, but the pot was so old that even the replacements had been discontinued. I thought about not replacing it; I don't like a bunch of specialty appliances sitting around, taking up space. But, I’m a huge fan of using a crockpot for a few things: overnight chicken broth, apple sauce, pumpkin butter -- once I even rendered lard in it.
After much internal debate and consultation with Maggie and Mary, I ended up ordering an Instant Pot, a programmable pressure and multi-cooker. The one I chose is a 10-in-1 pot that supposedly is a sauté/searing pan, pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, cake maker, sous vide cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer and sterilizer. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of kitchen appliances. In reality, it feels a bit like buying a fancy car with so many bells and whistles that you never figure them all out. Oh well, the Instant Pot arrived this week and I set to experimenting with it.
So far, I've made rice, ham and bean soup, dried lima beans which I turned into this amazing hummus, beets, new potatoes, boiled eggs, and steel-cut oatmeal. Do I love it? Not yet. But I can see where it might earn its place in my kitchen.
Here's the thing about an Instant Pot: You load it up with ingredients, seal the lid with a little twist, and press a button. The contraption then warms up, cooks the food with pressure and then decompresses the contents. Only then can you unseal the lid and peek inside at your cooked food.
This process doesn't really mesh with how I like to cook. I don't usually follow a recipe, but rather cook intuitively, watching for the magical transformation of ingredients. What's going on in that pot on my stove? Does it need a lower flame, a handful of herbs or spices, or more salt? What does it sound and smell like? How does it taste? Adjust. Adjust. Adjust.
So I don't think an Instant Pot will be my method of choice for my day-to-day cooking. Rather, I think I will grow to like it for dried beans and lentils, for rice and grains, for boiled eggs, for broths.
Do you have one? How do you use it? Do tell. I'm all ears...