Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a new series about all the ways we rely on our slow cookers, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.
Skim a bunch of Instant Pot-y cookbook covers and you’ll notice a pattern pretty quickly. Melissa Clark's Dinner in an Instant has saucy glazed ribs and its follow-up Comfort in an Instant, chicken Parmesan. Instantly Southern shows a pulled pork sandwich (appropriate). Archana Mundhe's Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook brings creamy butter chicken. All of which to say, the Instant Pot excels at a lot of things, but they all boil down to: comfort food.
As my co–recipe developer Ella Quittner puts it, “My Instant Pot and I can't wait to have many cozy nights in together all fall and winter.” For many reasons, she tells me, but especially: “Deeply flavored ragu, in under an hour! Mac and cheese in 6 minutes! Beans, broth, and none of the guesswork.”
Yes, please, and thank you.
"It’s like a pressure cooker you can also sauté in," Test Kitchen Director Josh Cohen says. "Let’s say you wanted not to get as many dishes dirty; you could sear something in the Instant Pot and then add the liquid. So that's convenient."
Earlier this month, my editor Eric Kim wondered whether or not America would ever stop using their slow cookers in favor of the Instant Pot:
It took a year for America to catch up, but since Melissa Clark said it in The New York Times in 2017, sales have skyrocketed (the Instant Pot is the 2018 bestseller in America on Amazon). Google searches for "Instant Pot recipes" are now as voluminous as those for "slow cooker recipes" and "Crock-Pot recipes."
Responding to the times (as well as to the Times), our test kitchen this fall is busy, busy, busy developing and testing Instant Pot recipes—so expect more coming your way. In the meantime, here are a few staple recipes we think anyone with a pressure cooker should have under their belt.
"This dish is inspired by the classic braised beef recipes that appear in almost all vintage community cookbooks in the South," recipe author Sheri Castle writes. "The classic relied on a packet of dry onion soup mix for seasoning and a bottle of cola to help tenderize the beef. This recipe updates those flavors a bit. Instead of dry soup mix, the gravy includes fresh onions and herbs. Pressure-cooking ensures tender beef, but the cola is still here for flavor."
"What would happen if Marcella Hazan had an Instant Pot?" Ella Quittner's answer to this question is her weeknight ragu, which is ready in under an hour thanks to the electric pressure cooker.
"Making macaroni and cheese in an Instant Pot seemed, to me, counterintuitive at first thought," Quittner says. "Wouldn't the noodles get all mushy, instead of remaining beautifully al dente? No, it turns out—not if you cook them for the perfect amount of time. Plus, after some testing, I realized I could infuse the actual pasta with way more flavor by cooking it directly in broth, cream, and Pecorino. Seriously: way more."
"Rich homemade stock that actually tastes like chicken is the bedrock of this stew," Castle writes. "Twice-cooking the stock with meat and then with only the carcass deepens its flavor and doesn’t take long in a multicooker. You can purchase a whole chicken and cut it into pieces (or ask the butcher to do it) or purchase packaged chicken that is already cut into serving pieces."
Ease into a bowl of Martha Stewart's Instant Pot beef stew, which is fortified with canned whole tomatoes and Dijon mustard for tang.
"This heavenly, creamy curry highlights the robust flavors of Kashmiri chile, dried fenugreek leaves, and garam masala," recipe author Archana Mundhe says. "Served with classic basmati rice and naan, this dish evokes excitement on any menu."
A vegetarian option for the Instant Pot, palak paneer is a welcome addition to any dinner spread.
"Simple yellow daal with a smoky, nutty tadka of generous amounts of ghee and whole spices served with jeera rice is comfort food at its best," Mundhe claims.
The Instant Pot is ideal for cooking down meat and beans super fast, so it makes sense to harness its power for chili con carne.
Another bean-y favorite, red beans and rice, gets the Instant Pot treatment.
Yep, that's a chocolate lava cake. Turns out the Instant Pot is an ideal environment for ramekins of gooey chocolate batter, and thanks to Melissa Clark's recipe, you're only 9 minutes away from dessert.
"Homemade cottage cheese is less creamy and has smaller curds than most store-bought varieties, and its incomparable flavor is a real treat," Castle writes. "Many Southerners serve cottage cheese as a side dish, either solo or as part of a fruit or vegetable plate, or with a salad alongside, as I do here. I remember my grandmother making cottage cheese—she would have been awestruck to see a multicooker turn out a perfect version with little more than the press of a button. This recipe requires a multicooker with a yogurt setting."
Members of the Instant Pot Community on Facebook have done the math: You can serve money by making your own yogurt at home. Here's how.
If you can make your own yogurt and cottage cheese in the Instant Pot, then why not ricotta as well?
"Let’s talk beans," Daniel Shumski says. "Can you just open a can? Of course. But dried beans are more economical and emerge from the Instant Pot with a satisfying al dente texture. In the Instant Pot, they cook without pre-soaking and without heating up the kitchen, springing from the back of your pantry to center stage."
Make homemade jam in the Instant Pot! All you need are three ingredients. Can you guess them?
Just as the Instant Pot is an ideal environment to bake up chocolate lava cakes, so too is it perfect for cheesecakes (yes, really!).
"At first I thought, how can a mixture of mint, water, sugar, vinegar, and salt become a sauce?" one reviewer writes in. "I was skeptical, but when I tasted it, I was blown away. It was a perfect sauce for the short ribs. The jalapeño, garlic, and beer flavored the beef really well. This recipe is a winner! I love the simple ingredients. It’s almost unbelievable that such a simple dish can be so delicious!"
"This dal is made with a mixture of red kidney beans—an early import from the Americas—and an ancient Indian bean known as whole urad or ma," Madhur Jaffrey writes. "The dish is called Dal Makkhani, or Buttery Dal, because of all the white butter that is used to enrich it. You can use as much 'enrichment' as you choose."
This Instant Pot tomato soup is one of blogger and cookbook author Urvashi Pitre's most popular recipes. "Canned coconut milk and tomatoes make this an easy pantry meal that comes together in minutes," she says.
Quittner calls these “the world's easiest mashed potatoes. Seriously—you don't even have to drain the pot after boiling.”
“While this old-fashioned country recipe traditionally uses an entire chicken—preferably a tough old bird,” Ann Mah writes, “here I use chicken thighs, which braise beautifully in the pressure cooker. For the braising liquid, I like to use an inexpensive (don’t spend more than $10), medium-bodied red wine like a Beaujolais Villages. Buttered broad noodles are a traditional accompaniment.”
“I ask you to put the spinach in with the rest of the ingredients to add more flavor to the dish,” Pitre advises. “The spinach will cook down and blend in with everything else, and you’ll have a vegetable and chicken dish done in one shot.”
"This Thai-style soup is brothy, fragrant, and delicately flavored," Pitre writes. "While tom kha is typically made with chicken (in which case it’s known as tom kha gai), I like making it with shrimp as a change of pace. This soup reheats very well, and I find the flavors deepen over time. If you plan to serve it a day later, don’t add the shrimp until you’re just about ready to serve the soup. Instead, reheat the soup and add them for the last few minutes of cooking."
“Welcome to the ‘best bread pudding’ my husband has ever had,” Pitre claims. “Roger is a bit of a bread pudding fanatic. We also love tres leches cake. So I decided to try mixing the two and ended up with a great bread pudding that was especially light and airy from the croissants, and moist from steaming in the Instant Pot. That meant Roger still had to go get me my cake, but I think he felt quite well rewarded for the effort.”
According to 10 out of 10 scientists, an extra-creamy, extra-cheesy bowl of fettuccine Alfredo full of butternut squash and crispy mushrooms is the only known antidote to winter weeknights.
This spicy, fragrant kimchi stew couldn't be more perfect (or more efficient) for combatting the blustery-evening blues.
Meltingly tender shredded pork in under an hour sounds too good to be true, but trust me on this one. Wrap it in charred tortillas and top it with salsa verde, or drape it over a warm grain bowl. It'd even make a salad cozy.
For the heartiest, most deliciously broth-y Italian soup, look no further. Do not skip the crusty bread, for sopping.
If you're pressed for time but want that slow-cooked risotto comfort without all the stirring, turn to the Instant Pot. According to Manning, “This light, creamy risotto, packed with asparagus, fresh fava beans, spinach, and lemon, is just the thing to celebrate the arrival of spring.”
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now