How Instant Pots Cut Down on Cooking Time and Ramp Up Flavor
Yup, they really can be that magical.
The Instant Pot almost seems mythical to those who don’t yet have one of these appliances on their counters. With capabilities that tout poaching chicken in under ten minutes, yogurt-making, and a host of other tricks, it seems the only thing a multicooker can’t do is clean the kitchen. And while Instant Pot may be the most recognizable name on the market, there are other multicooker brands that have similar capabilities. Knowing how they work will help you pick the perfect pot for you.
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To familiarize yourself with Instant Pot and its competitors, peruse a few Instant Pot social media groups or watch some YouTube demos. They can help you see how to use the product and also give you a sense of how timing works with recipes. In multicooker recipes, the time it takes to cook food usually doesn’t take into account the time it takes the machine to pressurize and depressurize. Think of pressurizing like pre-heating—it’ll add minutes to your process. But unlike preheating, you can’t do it while you’re prepping. For the pot to pressurize,all your ingredients need to be sealed in the pot. Depressurizing may also be essential for some recipes, which makes the food more tender. Add in pressurizing and depressurizing time, and something that usually takes 10 minutes to cook may take more like 25.
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While many multicookers have multiple functions, the core one is that of a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker uses the steam trapped in the pot to cook food faster than it would on the stove, where steam dissipates (think about how you put a lid on a pot when you want something to cook more quickly, then turbocharge it) The high pressure has an added benefit of forcing liquid back inside your ingredients, which can make food tastes more tender or juicy. Foods that would regularly be cooked in liquid are no-brainers to pop in a pressure cooker, but you can also make cakes, yogurt and more with your appliance.
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The high pressure and steam of a pressure cooker can make some people nervous. But pressure cookers today have a lot of safety mechanisms in place. Some have specific slow-cook settings or program mechanisms to let you set it and forget it (read the manual though—don’t leave your pot unattended if it doesn’t have those functions). One huge advantage of cooking in a multicooker is the “keep warm” function many have. This will keep food warm enough to stave off bacteria and can be used while you’re serving food at a party or when people keep sneaking back to the kitchen for leftovers.
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