InstaPot Experiment

by | Jan 26, 2018

NOTE: This post has absolutely nothing to do with reading, books, publishing, author assistants, or anything else remotely related to the book industry. It is a food post, nothing more. Normally, I would make a food post on G+ or FB, but I needed extra room and lots of in-line photo capabilities in order to do justice to my gift from someone who loves me very much.

I was gifted an InstaPot for Christmas. A newer one that has about a bajillion settings. My first thoughts ran along the lines of, “But I love my CrockPot and use it every day. Why would I want this?” By the end of Christmas Day, I’d decided that I would use the rice function (since I do like my mom’s rice cooker) and the slow-cooker function (since having two CrockPots can’t be a bad thing). But I didn’t expect to use any of the other options. And then I started actually looking at the things it could do, and started applying them to MY life and the way I cook. Typically, if I’m home, I’ll use my beloved Pampered Chef Stoneware baking dish. If I won’t be home to cook, I’ll use my CrockPot. How exactly would an InstaPot compare to those two beloved pieces?

This post is a summary of the testing I did the first couple weeks of InstaPot ownership, using some of my favorite and most-oft used recipes (with a tweak or two specifically for the InstaPot).

Recipe 1: Italian Sausage and Three Cheese Tortellini Soup

Normal method of cooking: Brown the sausage in a fry pan, or if I’m feeling lazy in the bottom of my soup pot. Add in the other ingredients  (except for the cream) and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add in the cream and serve. Not difficult, not long, just not always what I want to do when I get home after working 8-10 hours. If I’m going to be gone all day (likely), then I would brown the meat in my fry pan, then put it and all ingredients except the cream in my crockpot and cook on low all day long. But sometimes the tortellini fell apart when this was done.

What I did with the InstaPot: I turned the InstaPot on the saute setting and browned the sausage. I layered all the other ingredients (except cream) in the pot, with the tortellini on the top so that it would just get steamed, rather than cook in the broth. I set the timer so that it would begin the Soup setting a half hour before dinner. When the Soup setting finished, I released the steam, opened the top, and stirred in the cream.

Results: This method was as easy as setting my CrockPot, but without the tortellini falling apart and without the extra fry pan for the sausage. It was a tad greasier than I normally serve it simply because I didn’t drain the sausage after sauteing it. The InstaPot wins this round.

Recipe: 
1 lb. italian sausage (or breakfast sausage with sage), browned
1 can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 bag fresh baby spinach
1 qt. box chicken or veggie broth
1 cup water
1 pint heavy whipping cream (smoother texture and shorter cooking time) OR 2 bricks cream cheese (richer taste)
salt and pepper to taste. Don’t use italian seasoning, though you’l be tempted to; there’s enough flavoring in the sausage and tomatoes.

Recipe 2: Barbecue Hens

Note: During testing week, our deep freezer stopped working and thawed the dozen rock cornish hens we had (and some other stuff, but I thought this would be a good time to cook up all 12 hens). So this particular recipe, I did side-by-side on the same day.

Normal method of cooking: Put 3-4 cornish hens in CrockPot OR Pampered Chef Stoneware baker. Dump 1-2 cups of preferred barbecue sauce over hens. Cook. (About an hour at 350F in the Stoneware or on High for four hours in the CrockPot).

CrockPot

What I did with the InstaPot: I basically did the same thing as I did with the CrockPot and Stoneware, except that I set the delay timer so that it would end the Meat setting when the CrockPot and Stoneware finished.

InstaPot

Results: The skin on the hens was crispiest in the Stoneware; the meat was falling off the bones in the CrockPot; and there were pockets of juice under the skin in the InstaPot. So…how do you like your cornish hens done? Since this was for barbecue sandwiches, the CrockPot wins this round. But the hens were nice and moist in the InstaPot, so that might be better with a drier meat.

Stoneware baker

Recipe 3: Meatloaf

Normal method of cooking: Mix up ingredients, pack down into the baker, cook for an hour at 350F. OR, pack down in CrockPot and cook on High for four hours. Saute onions before mixing into meat if I’m feeling ambitious.

What I did with the InstaPot: I packed all the mixed ingredients into the InstaPot, set the timer, and cooked it on the normal Meat setting.

Results: The InstaPot turned off after about fifteen minutes and informed me it was burned. So I scraped the bottom (the meat hadn’t set up into a “loaf” yet), and reset it, turning the Meat setting to low. It announced its burned state after another ten minutes. But, at least after the second time, there was no pink meat left. The meat never really set up properly; it fell apart. My kids put theirs on some leftover hard taco shells and enjoyed it so much, they each had three meatloaf flavored tacos. I’ll probably stick with my Stoneware in the future on this one simply because it browns and crisps the loaf nicely. The Stoneware wins this round.

Recipe:
3 lbs lean beef (I prefer 93/7%)
1 lb lean turkey
1 medium golden onion (caramelized if you’re fancy and have the time)
1.5 cups oats (steel cut are best, but I’ve been known to use the Original Flavor packet out of the instant oatmeal variety pack when desperate)
1 cup ketchup
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp each)
Mixing by hand is best. I promise. You can wash when you’re done.

Recipe 4: Roast

Normal method of cooking: Layer the vegetables in the bottom of the baker, lay a roast over them. Mix up one package of roast seasoning. Bake. If gone, do the same with the CrockPot, but put on low for eight hours.

What I did with the InstaPot: I seared the roast on the saute setting, then layered the vegetables in the bottom, and put the roast and sauce on top. I set it on the Meat High setting, since I wanted my roast to be extra tender.

Results: To be honest, I didn’t notice any difference in the flavoring of the meat (by adding the sear) or the tenderness. To me, the Stoneware baker, CrockPot, and InstaPot are all equal. That’s the wonderful thing about roast.

Recipe:
1 bag each of yellow and red yukon potatoes
1 large purple onion
2 lbs baby carrots
1 roast
1 pkg McCormick roast seasoning mix

Recipe 5: Chili

Normal method of cooking: Brown meat in soup pot. Add canned beans and other ingredients. Simmer for at least an hour. Or, brown meat in fry pan, then add canned beans and other ingredients into the CrockPot.

What I did with the InstaPot: Since I’d heard so much about how awesome the InstaPot is with dried beans, I browned the meat in the saute setting, then added dry beans and the other ingredients and set it to the Beans/Chili setting.

Results: This was my first attempt to do anything with dry beans, and I’m very, very happy. This is much cheaper than using canned beans (since I already buy dried beans in bulk), but isn’t a “cook the beans one day and then use the leftovers to make chili the next” situation. The InstaPot definitely wins this round.

Recipe:
2 lbs ground beef
2 cans “chili ready” diced tomatoes
1 pkg McCormick chili seasoning, mild because my kids don’t like spicy

old method:
1 can black beans
2 cans kidney beans

new method:
2 cups mixed dried beans

Recipe 6: Meatball Marinara

Normal method of cooking: In one pot, boil water and then cook pasta. In another pot, cook the meatballs in the marinara sauce. If I’m going to do the CrockPot, I choose tortellini, ravioli, or some other pasta that is thicker and stuffed and can handle long cooking. I layer the meatballs and sauce on the bottom, and then put the pasta on the top so that it’ll steam. They often fall apart anyway simply due to the extended cooking time.

What I did with the InstaPot: I put the meatballs and sauce in the bottom, then piled the ravioli and tortellini over them. I set it to the slow cooker option, but only put it on two hours, instead of a longer period like four or eight.

Results: I was super happy with the pasta only being steamed, rather than cooking down. The two hours was long enough to warm everything up. Since the InstaPot can be set and then left all day (delay timer + set cooking time) like the crockpot, and only take one pot, unlike when I cook this when I get home, but the pasta turns out better than either the CrockPot or the soup pan, the InstaPot wins this round. I might try this with macaroni but I probably won’t do it with spaghetti any time soon.

Recipe:
1 bag frozen pre-cooked Italian meatballs
1 large jar of sauce (or two smaller jars that are different flavors)
1 package of pasta
Note: If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m super lazy about cooking. I do not make my own meatballs or sauce from scratch because I can buy them with flavors I like just fine and much less effort. Feel free to try all of this with your own handmade meatballs and sauce and pasta. 🙂

Recipe 7: Dirty Rice

Normal method of cooking: Cook beans (with some sort of pork or other fatty meat). The next day, cook a meal with rice as a side and make extra. The third day, combine the leftover beans, rice, and some salsa.

What I did with the InstaPot: I put dry mixed beans in on the Beans/Chili setting, but set it to Low, and told it NOT to keep it warm. When the InstaPot informed me that the beans were done, I released the steam valve and opened it up. I added in the raw rice and salsa, then set it on the Rice High setting.

Results: This would require that I’m home, since I add that second step and cooking cycle in. However, it all happened in one day, instead of three (not including the day of soaking the beans before that). And since I was able to cook dry beans(!!!), the InstaPot definitely, definitely wins this round.

Recipe:
2 cups dry mixed beans
2 cups dry rice
1 cup salsa

Overall Conclusion:

While the InstaPot will not be completely replacing my CrockPot or my Stoneware Baker, or even my soup pot any time soon, it is definitely a great addition to my kitchen that will be used often. I especially love the ability to dump dry beans in it and have them completely cooked that day, verses their soaking for at least a day, and then cooking overnight and all the next day (like I normally cook beans in the CrockPot). That is the biggest game changer for me.

Adriel Wiggins

Adriel Wiggins

Continuity Editor & Virtual Assistant

Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, fur mom, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.

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