Dinner

This Warm, Cheesy Instant Pot Baked Potato Is My Dream Dinner

This week, our Table for One columnist waxes lyrical about the mini Instant Pot and its many rewards—including this comfort-food staple.

by:
October  4, 2019
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

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!"
Photo by Amazon
  • "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?

The Instant Pot doesn't have to be another eyesore taking up space on your counter. It can change the way you think about certain foods. Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

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.


How to Make Instant Pot Baked Potatoes

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.

Caramelized kimchi adds savory depth to a classic baked potato. Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Amanda Widis.

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.

Ingredients

For the potato:

  • 1 russet potato
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the toppings:

  • 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
The 3-quart Instant Pot is perfect when cooking for one. Photo by Eric Kim

Directions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

What's your favorite thing to cook in the Instant Pot? Let us know in the comments below.

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Eric Kim is a Senior Editor at Food52, where his weekly solo dining column, Table for One, runs every Friday morning. Formerly the Digital Manager at Food Network, he writes about food, travel, and culture and lives in a tiny shoebox in Manhattan with his dog, Quentin "Q" Compson. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can follow him on Twitter @ericjoonho.

11 Comments

sf-dre October 14, 2019
Have you tested the IP slow cooker function with your chicken breast in milk recipe?
 
Author Comment
Eric K. October 19, 2019
I have! It works well.
 
1SrGal October 5, 2019
I love my Instant Pot (6 quart for almost 4 years) and I have loved all of your other recipes Eric (the sheet pan shrimp scampi!!!) … but I'm with Marjorie W. … IP = steamed. Every time I see an IP baked potato recipe that seems a bit different I try it. But no ... not a fluffy baked potato even with the oven time. I'm with the microwave and then oven gang. I have a double oven and the top is small, easy heat up and that works great for me to get a great baked potato in 20-30 min max. As for 6 vs 3 quart … everyone is different in terms of volume to be cooked and storage. As a 1 human household, I like the 6. I have room to store it and even though I sometimes use it multiple times per day, I just don't like it on the counter. I often do a whole chicken or a 5-6.5 pound turkey breast and I don't think the 3 would do that … I recently saw a 3 in person. And this time of year, I'm using my IP for pie pumpkins which I puree and freeze (15 minutes natural release with 1 cup water … no peeling! after release, the skin practically falls off and seeds are easy to scoop out … the works for any of the fall squash that you can fit in the IP). I'm off topic. Cheers!
 
Annabelle October 5, 2019
Hi or low pressure for the squash?
 
1SrGal October 6, 2019
High. You do not need to puncture or cut. You do need at least 1 cup water. Just like with potatoes, the IP is "steaming" them albeit under pressure.
 
Marjorie W. October 4, 2019
Hold on a second. You talk about not wanting to waste the energy of heating up an oven for one potato. Then, in the recipe you finish the potato in THE OVEN! Also, this isn't a baked potato, it's a steamed potato. Not bad, just....not callled the correct thing. Love, a girl from southern Idaho
 
Author Comment
Eric K. October 4, 2019
Hi Marjorie, true, it’s an optional 10-minute use of the oven at the end (versus an hour or more cooking the whole thing). Maybe we should all follow M’s lead below with the toaster oven!
 
Marjorie W. October 4, 2019
excellent compromise!
 
Kelly October 19, 2019
Or use the broiler before you "fluff" the potato.
 
M October 4, 2019
"In just 15 minutes." Except it's not? Your potato takes 25-30 min, not 15. I don't understand why pressure cooker recipes always list just the selected time, not overall time. If the cooker is still sealed, and you have to wait, that's part of the time it takes. I'd also bet the overall time is more like 35-40, because Instant Pots also take a little while to heat up before the 15-min timer starts. Which makes it 50 minutes with the oven-finishing, or an hour when adding handling time between cooking steps -- just about the length of time the just-the-oven takes.

Anyhow.. Quickest way to get a baked potato with a crunchy outside: Pierce and nuke the potato in the microwave until soft (maybe 8 minutes). Cover with oil & seasoning, and put it in a 425 toaster oven until the rest of your dinner comes together. The longer it's in, the crunchier the outside, but 10 minutes is usually good.
 
Author Comment
Eric K. October 4, 2019
Oh, I totally agree with you. You're right; it is important to mention that it takes about 5 minutes to come up to pressure and 10 to release. I've tweaked that line. :) Thanks, M.