I first heard about the Instant Pot about 18 months ago, when a colleague posted something about getting one to his Twitter account. Intrigued, I checked-out their web site, the Amazon pages, etc. Unbeknownst to me, Instant Pot in its various incarnations has collectively been one of Amazon’s top sellers for awhile now, it’s been the topic of countless blogs, cookbooks, social media pages and groups, etc., and it feels almost as if you’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard of it (or own one already). Whether late to the party or not, I finally broke down and bought one last week. In short, I now “get” the excitement.
One of the first things I made was plain old grits. Cooking old-fashioned, slow-cook grits is a messy affair, time-consuming, and sort of a pain to get them just right. I crafted my own technique for it based on things I’d found online, and in roughly 30 minutes or so start-to-finish, I had perfectly prepared, creamy, smooth and delicious grits for breakfast. That’s not fast enough to get them onto the breakfast table during the week given typical schedules, but it’s easy and fast enough to make them a part of any weekend breakfast.
But the real reason I bought the thing was to prepare Kālua Pig, a Hawaiian dish that I’ve been craving since getting home from Hawai’i after a recent visit to Oahu. Real Kālua Pig is made by wrapping a whole animal in banana leaves and roasting it in a pit in the ground, and I’m sure it’s delicious. But an easier version that many Hawaiians ostensibly use as well is nothing more than a shoulder “butt” pork roast, seasoned with liquid smoke and salt, and slow cooked until it’s tender and falling apart — about 20 hours. The Instant Pot version requires 90 minutes of cook time, making it a roughly-two-hours proposition.
I modified the referenced recipe a little bit; I used a bay leaf and a couple of garlic cloves in addition to the salt and liquid smoke. I also poured off all the cooking juices, allowed the fat to separate so it could be skimmed away, and then added all the collagen-rich juices back into the pork.
For this household of two, we’ve had four meals from the effort so far, and there are at least four or five more meals’ worth of pork left. If you add-up the cost of the roast and the Instant Pot itself, and compare that the price of four comparable meals eaten out, I’m fairly certain that we’ve already paid for the Instant Pot; we could throw it away today and be no worse-off.
Of course, we’re not doing that. I’ve already amassed a few dozen recipes I want to try making in it, and no doubt, I’ll be talking more about it here. There are plenty of Instant Pot-focused blogs out there, and I have no interest in turning this into one. But I am finding it pretty hard not to be overly excited about this appliance — and as I basically said at the start, I find it very easy to understand why the members of an entire Internet subculture are so worked-up about this marvel of Chinese manufacturing. It’s affordable, it’s easy to use, it just works, and it allows you to turn-out some pretty amazing homemade meals with comparatively little effort or time.
Let the cooking begin…