Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.
When I bought my 3-quart mini Instant Pot on a whim one Friday afternoon, I didn't know then how much it would utterly change the way I cook. I hate to admit it, but my beloved 10-year-old mustard-yellow Dutch oven, Alfred, is gathering dust now on top of my fridge. Even my mother's heirloom rice cooker, a housewarming gift I stole from our Atlanta home, has a permanent spot on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.
The truth of the matter is this: The Instant Pot just does certain things better than its analogue counterparts. Counterparts, plural, because it's a slow cooker, pressure cooker, yogurt and ricotta and cheesecake maker, and Maillard-producing dynamo all in one.
Which is why I decided to spend my Friday paycheck on an Instant Pot. I picked the smallest model because I figured: It's just me most nights, right?
The thing is, people underestimate the 3-quart Instant Pot. They see the word "mini" and think, "Aw, how cute" or "That won't make enough food for my family." But one look at the reviews on Amazon and you'll find that the smaller Instant Pot is actually the solution to everyone's worries about adding another bulky appliance to the counter.
Here's what a few reviewers had to say:
- "It’s just two adults in our household and I like to prep a week's worth of meals, so this size is just fine. I toyed with getting the 6-quart, but I just love the compact size of the 3-quart. I cooked two pounds of pork shoulder into orange juice and spices for several meals of carnitas; I am cooking my own beans and skipping the canned, and once again, the Instant Pot makes tons. And quinoa and steel cut oats for the week is a snap. If I get into bigger-batch cooking, I’ll move up to the 6-quart, but so far, so good!"
- "I have both the 6-quart and 3-quart Instant Pot models. We found the 6-quart to take up too much room on the counter, and make way more than we need (two adults, with the occasional invasion of two grown kids and three small grandkids), so we happily downsized to the 3-quart. It makes plenty for everyone with leftovers. And, it doesn't take up as much counter space."
- "I bought the 3-quart for several reasons: It helps me cook the right amount of food, it takes up less storage space, and we can take it camping and use it in our giant all-electric tent to cook a wide variety of things. My favorite recipe to cook in it is pork neck bones and rice, chicken and rice or beef tips and rice. I cook the meat in the pressure cooker with onions and spices and then add the rice and use the rice cooker function to finish it off."
I love my 3-quart Instant Pot for a thousand and one reasons, but reason number one might have to be: Things that ordinarily take forever to cook, don't. Did you know, for instance, that you can cook a whole, raw potato in the Instant Pot in about 30 minutes?
Before the Instant Pot, I never made baked potatoes for myself because it always seemed wasteful to leave the oven on for an hour or more just for a single spud. It takes forever.
There is, of course, the option of baking whole potatoes alongside something that's already taking up oven space and energy, like a stew. But this means you're only allowing yourself the wonders of a baked potato as an afterthought, a side dish, when in reality the best baked potatoes are the ones you load up with all your favorite things and enjoy as meals on their own.
A properly loaded potato can be, in and of itself, one of the simplest, most satisfying dinners for one.
When making baked potatoes in the Instant Pot, I prefer to use russet, aka Idaho, potatoes due to their starch content (they fluff up nicely), versus a waxier potato like Yukon Gold. Russets also happen to be the BIGGEST and cheapest at the grocery store—more bang for your buck.
The 3-quart Instant Pot is ideal for a single baked potato not just because it fits so snugly on its trivet (see photo below), but also because the pot will come up to pressure a little faster than larger models. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't make potatoes in the 6-, 8-, or 10-quart Instant Pots; if you have more mouths to feed or want to meal prep for the week, please be my guest.
This particular Instant Pot baked potato recipe, and namely these particular toppings, work especially well together: the kimchi, once caramelized in some nutty sesame oil, is sweet but still punchy and addictively savory; the comforting blanket of sour cream and cheese offers some relief from the kimchi; and the chives add a slight oniony bite.
But you could go any route you wish with the toppings: Add bacon for salty heft, or mozzarella, tomato, and oregano for pizza vibes; switch out the kimchi for sauerkraut or curtido if those are more your speed; maybe your creamy element isn't sour cream, but tahini.
However you decide to dress it up (or dress it down), an Instant Pot baked potato can be the ultimate base for any supper.
- 1 russet potato
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup kimchi, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese, plus more as needed
- 2 tablespoons sour cream, plus more as needed
- Chopped chives, for garnish
- Cut a lengthwise slit right down the center of the potato, going about halfway through (without cutting all the way through, of course); this will ensure even cooking.
- Pour 1/2 cup water into a 3-quart Instant Pot. Place metal trivet into the bottom of the pot and set potato on top of it. Pressure-cook on high for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of your potato, then let pressure release naturally about 10 minutes (i.e., leave it alone). Flick the valve to release any remaining pressure, then open the pot and take out the potato. Let cool slightly before handling, which is to say: Where you made the slit in your potato, open it up a little more if needed, then carefully squeeze from both ends to fluff up the interior.
- This next step is optional, but I do sometimes like to finish my potato in the oven for those crispy, craggy bits (yum). For this, drizzle the fluffed-up potato with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 400°F oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the toppings: In a small skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the chopped kimchi in the sesame oil, about 3 to 5 minutes or until caramelized. Top the Instant Pot baked potato with cheese first (so it melts), followed by dollops of sour cream, then the caramelized kimchi, and finally the chives.
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