instant pot enlightenment

April 23rd, 2018

I didn’t want it. I didn’t ask for it. What I asked for was a slow cooker. When I said “slow cooker” I envisioned the brown ceramic Crock-Pot my mother filled with pork chops and a can of condensed mushroom soup in the morning before work. I’m good with slow.

I usually scale down what I ask for because gifts for me tend to get scaled up. Once I asked for a juicer and got a stainless steel “citrus press” that stands 14 inches high. I asked for a 10-inch fry pan and got a 15-inch skillet. I asked for a soup ladle and got a professional grade combination ladle and strainer with a handle so long that it won’t fit in a drawer. I use all these things, but I have a small house and kitchen that gets teenier every Christmas.

So when I saw the two-foot tall box under the tree I held my breath. It was the last gift I unwrapped. It wasn’t a slow cooker. It was my worst fear: an instant pot. I needed it like I needed another ladle.

A week later I still hadn’t opened the box. When I did, I was wary. It had a lot of packing material and instructions in several languages. My husband reassured me it wasn’t that complicated. And it was the highest rated model he could find. I might have asked for what I wanted, but I hadn’t wanted nearly enough.

I waited until he cleared one of our three gourmet coffeemakers from the counter before I installed it. And then I trolled Facebook looking for real people who had used the thing successfully. The first weeks of the year were full of postings from first-time instant pot users, posts of the “live to tell” variety. I found one from a friend and went right to the recipe she had used: butter chicken.

I tried it. I loved it. Everyone loved it. And that’s all I needed to keep going. I’ve attained instant pot enlightenment, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s not complicated. Never mind the 14 function buttons lined up on the front of my Instant Pot Duo Plus. I don’t want to make cake or porridge or yogurt. I want to make dinner, and to do that I have only ever used two functions: sautĂ© and pressure cook.

2. It’s not that big, not as tall as a citrus press, for instance.

3. It saves time to cook, but not necessarily the time for cooking. You still have to prep the ingredients, and you might have to shop for specific ingredients more often.

4. It’s fun. I’ve been the cook for at least four nights a week for the last 21 years. So I needed a jolt to my system.

5. There are a lot of recipes out there. Some of them are faster ways to make old favorites like pot roast, chili or tomato soup; others are things you never thought you’d make, like Indian food. The Instant Pot has revolutionized traditional at-home Indian cooking with its time bound methods to achieve complex flavors. (I read that in a magazine article.) I usually start looking for a recipe using things I have on hand and want to use up, like too many sweet potatoes, carrots, or tomatoes.

6. Season it up. The pressure cooker nukes your seasonings. My favorite recipe is for a quick pot roast that sounds like something my mom would have made: it uses a packet of old-fashioned onion soup mix for flavoring.

By now you might have an instant pot sitting on top of your refrigerator. Time to haul it down and fire it up. People ask where I get my instant pot recipes. I get them instantly, but I can still save you a second or two of trouble. These are some the recipes that I have or definitely would make twice.

Beef Stew
Butter Chicken
Chicken and Pea Risotto
Chicken Biryani
Curried Carrot Red Lentil Soup
Curried Sweet Potato Lentils
Ground Beef Chili
Kale with Garlic and Lemon
Lemon Vegetable Risotto
Mongolian Chicken
Mulligatawny Soup
Palak Paneer
Spicy Cauliflower Soup
Pot Roast
Sweet Potato Chicken Curry
Tomato Soup



  1. Well, my guess is that you are not a vegetarian ;-D
    How sweet that the people who love you go above and beyond what you ask for in the gifts they give you. They obviously really want to make an effort for you.

    Comment by Simone — April 23, 2018 @ 11:27 pm

  2. There is something “Sam-I-Am” about this tale. It makes me smile with delight.

    Comment by MJ — April 24, 2018 @ 4:53 am

  3. Is there an AirBnB near you so I can invite myself over for dinner? Since I was a very small girl I have loved eating at other people’s homes. I am sure I would love a meal or two with you!

    Comment by Jennie — April 24, 2018 @ 6:02 am

  4. You have such a touch with telling a story about the mundaneness of life that has life lessons for us all. “Recipes for a Slow Cooked Life in an Instant Pot World” might be a working title for your next book! One that includes recipes, too!!! Thank you.

    Comment by Katharine — April 24, 2018 @ 6:41 am

  5. I serve others. I eat what I am offered. I judge no one.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 24, 2018 @ 7:26 am

  6. Funny and useful article. Sounds delicious. You squeeze a mean glass of OJ too.

    Comment by Jane — April 24, 2018 @ 1:40 pm

  7. In my ignorance I had no idea what an Instant Pot was. (I was comfortable with Crock Pot – advance technology fazes me). I looked it up on the net. It looks to me like R2D2 – all chubby, compact and fun.

    Comment by Debbie — April 26, 2018 @ 8:28 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

archives by month