My wife gifted me an Instant Pot a year ago after I’d gotten excited via the hype, but I initially found using it to be a pretty off-putting experience. The device was well made and easily maintained (virtually every component is dishwasher safe) but the problem was that most of the food I made in it came out pretty mediocre. There were tons of Instant Pot recipes all over the web and in cookbooks, but I found that quite a few of them didn’t generate results any better than just using a nice stovetop skillet.
Eventually I read this NYTimes piece by Melissa Clark and it really helped me to put the device in perspective:
After using the machine consistently for nearly a year, I can say that if you stick to what it does best — stewing, braising, simmering, steaming — you’ll be amply rewarded. Just don’t attempt to cook anything crunchy or golden, because it probably won’t end well. No matter how many multicooker roast chicken recipes you may stumble across on the internet, don’t believe them. I’ve tried it several times: The skin ends up soft and flabby instead of crisp and salty, and the meat turns stringy.
If you play to the multicooker’s many strengths and remain aware of its weaknesses, you won’t be disappointed.
Essentially, if you use the Instant Pot for a rather narrow, specific set of tasks, you’ll find it excels.
The following are recipes that I think make particularly good use of the Instant Pot. My condition for listing these here are they use the Instant Pot to achieve a result that would be much more difficult or impossible to achieve with any other cooking implement. I will continue to update this list and may bring it to the top of this blog on occasion.
Japanese Chicken Curry – This recipe from Just One Cookbook does a great job of incorporating the instant pot into a standard curry recipe. The use of the instant pot results in chicken that’s fairly tender and onions that basically liquefy, leading to a rich flavor.
Suggested modifications: I use store-bought curry for convenience, and I also use water instead of chicken broth, as the broth makes it a bit too rich for me.
Navy bean, bacon, and spinach soup – A vegetable-heavy soup that’s loaded with flavor. The bacon is essential and gives the soup some great texture. The navy beans become suitably soft, while still retaining a lovely chewiness.
Suggested modifications: I’d use a little bit less broth to give soup a bit more thickness. Plus, more bacon. You can always use more bacon.
Turkey cheeseburger soup – The concept of a “turkey cheeseburger soup” sounded pretty unappealing to me out of context, but something drew me to this recipe and I’m really grateful I tried it. This recipe is straight up delicious and fairly healthy to boot. The pureed cauliflower really gives the soup a richness that I couldn’t have predicted. One of my favorite recipes, and a regular go-to for me.
Suggested modifications: I don’t really alter this recipe in any major way, but I do play around with the ratio of carrots/potatoes, depending on how I’m feeling on the day.
Chicken chili verde – A flavorful and hearty green chili recipe that really shows what’s possible with the power of the Instant Pot (plus an immersion blender). The addition of fish sauce is a particularly brilliant touch.
Suggested modifications: None, although fair warning that eating solely this for a main course might be a bit intense. (Potentially better as an appetizer or side dish)
Beef stew – I tried numerous beef stew recipes in the Instant Pot but few of them had the heartiness that I desired. Additionally, it was difficult to find a recipe that would cook the meat to the point where it would be tender, as I knew the Pot was capable of doing. This recipe hits all those requirements. The stew is suitably thick and the beef chunks become soft and easy to chew after being pressurized for 35 minutes.
Suggested modifications: Depending on your love of peas, you may want to take it down a notch from what this recipe recommends.