Okay, Instant Pot Recipe Bloggers…let’s talk

Alternately titled: No, Instant Pot recipe writers and bloggers, it is NOT “just 20 minutes and done!” and you need to stop saying that.

(Second alternative title: this post is in no way about parenting, but this has been bothering me for months now and has to be said.) 

For those who don’t know, the Instant Pot has recently become the generic trademark (aka, when a brand becomes synonymous with the item, such as “Kleenex” for “tissues”) in the world of electric pressure/multi-cookers. Whereas traditional pressure cookers heat up on the stove and give me massive amounts of fear of exploding and killing us all, electric pressure cookers (supposedly) have multiple failsafes that supposedly don’t allow the whole “exploding pressure cooker” thing to happen. So basically: the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker that has taken the world by storm in the past year.

I’ve had my 8-quart Instant Pot for about 8 months now, which is long enough to have gotten used to the machine, tested it with multiple recipes and types of foods, and have cooked enough in it to finally need to call shenanigans on pretty much every Instant Pot recipe blogger out there.

Shenanigans, I say.

Shenanigans!

And here is where they go wrong: they never, ever, ever include the time it actually takes to come to and off of pressure in their recipes. And that, my friends, is a grotesquely misleading oversight.

Now, technically, while under pressure, the food cooks about twice as fast as it would on the stove or in the oven, which is supposed to save time and make it possible to do things like 3-hour sauces in a fraction of the time. On a weeknight, say. This is the claim.   

The thing is, though, the Instant Pot needs a lot of time to actually get to pressure. Often it’s more time than the actual cook time. Then once it finishes cooking and you need it to come out of pressure in order to, you know, access the food, it takes a long time to do that, too, whether you let it “naturally” come down, or “manually release” it, which means switching the vent open and kickstarting the depressurization all at once. (It would be physically impossible to open a pressurized lid before it has come off pressure. And also that would potentially do something bad like kill you, even if you could.) However, in almost every single Instant Pot recipe I’ve ever read, there is not one estimate of extra time around the pressurized cook time.

So this is my plea to every single blogger out there: you have to adjust your time estimates in recipes to include the pressurization and depressurization times.

Currently Instant Pot recipe writers tend to say something like, “…select manual pressure for 35 minutes, and then allow to naturally release for 10 minutes and then manually release the rest, and then enjoy!”

That’s not how that actually works, though. When I put everything into the Instant Pot to pressure cook, at minimum it takes about 10 minutes to come to pressure with the minimum amount of liquid necessary to make it work (1 cup of water, say). If it’s a big stew or soup or something, that process can take 20-30 more minutes! Then depressurization takes at a minimum 5 minutes with a natural release, or 20 minutes with a full natural release of a big soup or stew. So that “cook time” of 35 minutes doesn’t include: 20 minutes of pressurization or 10-15 minutes of depressurization. That means that “35 minute meal” actually is cooking for about an hour.

Time saver? Ehhh…maybe.

And yes, once the food is all in the Instant Pot, it’s in. It’s hands-off. But oftentimes you have to pre-cook some things, sear some others, or do general prep that you’d do with a non-Instant Pot recipe. So really, I’m not sure the time saving is great when you actually break it down. Here are a few examples of recipes I’ve actually made.

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IP Time Fail Ex 2.png

IP Time Fail Ex 3.png

My point isn’t that Instant Pot recipe bloggers aren’t doing a very cool thing. My point isn’t that they aren’t working hard to help others put food on the table. My point isn’t that their food is bad – quite the opposite, in fact. My point is that recipe writers have to start including the amount of time it takes to come to pressure and depressurize while writing these recipes to give an accurate account of how much time these recipes will take. And I’ve heard, “well it takes time to boil water if you’re cooking on the stove, and recipes never take that into account!” Which is true. Except…you can still do other prep things while you’re boiling water on the stove. With the Instant Pot, there is no other option than just wait. So it’s really not the same thing at all.

Now, you might think I hate my Instant Pot, and the truth is I don’t. I’m just not as wild about it as other people are. But to be fair, here’s where the Instant Pot really excels and can’t be beat:

  • Hard-boiled eggs. My 1-year-old can devour hard-boiled eggs and cooking them in a pressure cooker actually separates the shells from the egg in a way that boiling does not, which leads to perfectly peel-able eggs every time.. The time isn’t that different than the old-fashioned way, but the peeling of the eggs and their absolute perfection every time is fantastic.
  • Baby back bibs. These were the first things I made in the Instant Pot and I will never achieve fall-off-the-bone ribs like this in my oven. They finish in the oven with the barbecue sauce, yes, but since there’s only a cup of water to pressurize this one’s timing does make sense.
  • Frozen chicken breasts. I don’t know any other method that allows me to safely cook frozen chicken breasts straight from the freezer, which I can then put into my mixer/use my hand mixer to shred in a matter of 1 minute once they’re cooked. 

Look, I can see where I’m coming off as harsh on the Instant Pot and its hardworking food blogger devotees, and I don’t mean to. I think it’s a cool machine, and I really do appreciate all the hard work recipe writers are putting into making its complicated buttons and gizmos accessible to all of us with delicious food. I just think we need to be honest about the timing of this machine. We’ve been too busy trying to convince ourselves that we can pressure cook anything that we aren’t asking ourselves if, maybe, a lot of these things would be better off the old fashioned way. 

It’s a simple solution, recipe writers. Instead of listing just “prep” and “cook” times, include another line called “Pressure/Depressure” and add that number to the total amount of time needed for a recipe. You’ve done your job on selling us on the Instant Pot, and now it’s time to be honest about how long these things take. 

End scene. 

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I made a pancake cake in a rice cooker and now there’s no going back

The Pancake Cake

The greatest thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

(Pssst, here’s a jump to the actual recipe at the bottom)

You guys.

You guys.

You guys.

I need to tell you about this thing I just did. What did I do? I revolutionized the pancake breakfast/brunch/brinner.

Okay, well, I didn’t revolutionize it, but I followed directions from the internet and did the thing and now feel all empowered. So, yeah, vive la revolution! (Or whatever the appropriate phrase for “did the thing on the internet and succeeded” is.)

What is this magical pancake brunch revolution I’m talking about? Glad you asked, homeskillet. Repeat after me.

Pancake. Cake.

Now stay with me, because here’s where it gets crazy.

Pancake cake. Made in a rice cooker.

“Pancake cake?” You ask. “Isn’t that just like…a cake?”

But it’s not! It’s so not!

“In a rice cooker? Huh?”

I know, right?

Allow me to explain how this all came to be. After literal years of being a rice cooker snob (e.g., “Why buy a rice cooker when I have a perfectly good stove and pot?”) I broke down and bought a rice cooker after reading a few articles about the ease of cooking rice in the rice cooker, other cool things you can cook in a rice cooker, and the fact you can set a timer and have perfectly-cooked rice without babysitting a stove. We’ve recently switched to brown rice, which meant even longer cooking/stove babysitting times, and if we wanted rice with dinner it meant almost 0 chances of post-nap park playing. And that, my friends, was really the straw (or, dare I say it, grain of rice?) that broke the camel’s back.

I used some Amazon credits we had left over and bought the mack-daddy of rice cookers: a 5.5-cup Zojirushi. As I understand it, Zojirushi is to rice cookers what Kitchen Aid is to stand mixers. It has a bunch of different settings for whatever you’re cooking: white rice, brown rice, porridge, cake, and also has a steamer function, which if we ever have another kiddo might come in handy when I need to make bigger batches of baby food than our Beaba can do. You can set a timer for the food to be done at a certain time, and it also has sensors that adjust the temperature and cooking time based on the consistency of the food (a feature, I now understand is called “fuzzy logic”). I went all in on this rice cooker.

Once I got the rice cooker I made some brown rice immediately to try it. It took a long time but was completely hands off and came out perfectly. I was still sort of wary, though. Another appliance/space-taker-upper? In my kitchen? And then, breakthrough.

Pancake Cake SlicedI read about the famous (“famous” meaning “famous among people who read and write about rice cookers on the internet”) pancake cake phenomenon and decided I had to try it. It’s so simple it’s mystifying. You simply mix up your favorite pancake batter, pour it in the rice cooker (or, something I’ll do next time, mix it in the actual rice cooker itself), and turn it on for 45 minutes. When the rice cooker is done, you’re left with what is essentially a very large, thick pancake you can cut into slices. This appealed to me for a few reasons: first, #pancakecake. Second, no slaving over the stove fretting about the temperature and silently resenting everyone else enjoying their pancakes while you’re still attempting to use up all the batter. Third, #pancakecake. It had to be said again.

The pancake cake was a smashing success. I used the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe for pancakes because I basically think Bisquick is the devil* and pancakes have literally 5 ingredients. I then decided to use chocolate chips because I’m also apparently 5 years old and there is a limit to how sanctimonious I can be regarding processed food (Bisquick? No. Chocolate chips? Obviously yes). I set the Zojirushi to the “cake” setting, which is the equivalent to “on for 45 minutes” on other rice cookers (I am not sure of how other rice cookers function, so don’t quote me on that), and then came back to my beautiful pancake cake.

Connor couldn’t stop eating it. Chris couldn’t stop eating it. I am probably still eating it as the other two normal people in the house are in a brunchy pancake cake-induced coma. Seriously guys, it’s the best thing to happen to brunch since the mimosa.

Pancake Cake Connor EnjoyingIf you have a rice cooker, try this, guys.

You’ll feel like a mad scientist.

You’ll feel revolutionary.

You’ll feel like your brunch life has meaning again.

Pancake cake.

You’re welcome.

(And now, the actual recipe.)

(Also, you should probably consider getting a rice cooker. I’m officially a convert.)

Rice Cooker Pancake Cake Recipe/How-To

(Adapted from the New York Times Everyday Pancakes recipe)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ to 2 cups milk 
  • ~½-1 cup pancake fillings such as chocolate chips, fruit, etc., as desired

Instructions

  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) together in the rice cooker
  • Beat eggs into 1 ½ cups of milk, then add to the dry ingredients
  • Mix all ingredients, and if the batter seems too dry, add more milk as necessary
  • Add mix-ins as desired
  • Close rice cooker and cook for 45 minutes (set to “Cake” setting on Zojirushi)

Recipe Notes

You can use ANY pancake recipe you love and it will work in the rice cooker. Just be sure not to fill it too high as the pancake cake will expand as it cooks. The recipe above fit perfectly in a 5.5-cup Zojirushi rice cooker.

 

Bisquick ingredients list


*Flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, and a pinch of salt are what go into pancakes. Take a look at the ingredient list for Bisquick. DATEM? Distilled monoglycerides? Blargh. I’ll take the extra step of mixing 5 ingredients I can pronounce any day over willfully ingesting an additive of diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides (that’s what DATEM is, by the way) as an “ingredient”. [Steps off soapbox, probably falls into own glass house.]

Be warned: poop’s about to get real.

Warning: this post is about poop. Feel free to move along if this makes you uncomfortable. However, if you’d like a natural remedy for some, er, “clogged plumbing”, aka, constipation, then read on.

I have no doubt that pregnancy is one of the “most magical, best times of your life”, but sometimes in the first trimester you get some of the…how do I say it…not so “best time of your life” symptoms before the awesome feelings come through. To add insult to injury, you can’t tell anyone why you’re exhausted because it’s too early yet to tell anyone. Overall it’s a poopy situation. Except that it’s not. (Ha! See what I did there?) And so I needed a solution to unclog my pipes, STAT.

Quick back story: I switched to a prenatal vitamin without iron (with the doc’s okay, of course, since I eat a lot of leafy greens and get a ton of iron in my diet on a normal basis) because iron can clog things up even more. My OB warned that I might get clogged up even so, and she was right.

With my “OMG YOU’RE HAVING A BABY HERE ARE THE 3483847 THINGS NOT TO EAT” package you get on your first appointment (paraphrase) there was a hidden nugget of information with a secret “magic mixture”. It’s so simple I figured there was no way it would work, but the beautiful thing is that it did.

Three ingredients: unsweetened applesauce, prune juice, wheat bran. (Do not confuse wheat bran with wheat germ, by the way. After much googling I learned they are VERY different things. I had to go to Whole Foods to get my wheat bran, where I could get it in the free-for-all section where it was $0.69/pound, and the amount I got was probably a cup’s worth for $0.22. I was getting more excited by the minute!

Here are the full instructions:

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup prune juice
  • 2 tbsp. wheat bran

Instructions: 

Mix all three ingredients together. Take two tablespoons (spoonfuls) at night. I keep mine in the fridge, and once I remember to get them at the store, will store in a mason jar.

Everyone, it couldn’t be easier. Put down the Metamucil and go for the natural remedies. Sometimes they just flat out work.

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