Underneath my yellow skin

Adventures in instapot land

ha, no.
Mashing these should be eeeeeasy!

I got my instapot, which is a story in and of itself. It was supposed to come on Wednesday. I was puttering around the kitchen on Tuesday, and I got an email saying my instapot had been delivered, but they didn’t want to leave it unattended, so they would try again. They tried to deliver it without ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door, apparently. I was in the fucking kitchen. I would have heard someone walking up to my front door. I can give them absolution on the doorbell because one is broken and the other is wonky. However, I definitely would hear a knock.

They came right before noon, so the next day, I brought my laptop to the dining room to work while I watched like a hawk for the Amazon driver. That was another problem–they said I could give delivery specifics, but when I clicked on the link in order to do so, it was just a long list of all the companies they employed to deliver things. I didn’t know which one they were  using, so I couldn’t contact anyone specifically. Anyway, I saw a FedEx driver, a UPS driver, and a USPS driver in the span of an hour. None of them were for me, however. Noon came and went, and I was getting antsy. The message hadn’t said they would try the next day, but that would be the natural assumption, right? I worked as best as I could, but I couldn’t help staring out the window. The minute I glanced away, there was a car in my driveway. It was snowing lightly that day so I saw the tracks.

I blinked. A car? A plain ol’ car? Apparently, Amazon is moving towards the Uberification of delivery, which I do not approve. Who the hell am I supposed to contact with my delivery concerns? I mean, I’m sure they have a way, but they make it really difficult to discover. Anyway, I was just glad to get my instapot, but my god, the box was huge. I wasn’t quite expecting how big it was. Was I going to have room for it?

I found room, got it set up, then ran the steam test (to make sure it worked). Everything seemed fine, so I pulled out the mashed potato recipe. First, cube the two pounds of potatoes (roughly three medium-sized Yukons), which is a LOT of potatoes. Toss those in the instapot, plus the veggie broth, then hit Manual….um, my instapot doesn’t have a Manual button. I quickly Googled and found out it’s now called the Pressure Cook button. Okaaaaay. I got one of those. I pressed the button and set it for four minutes. That should do it. After four minutes, I manually released the steam and opened the lid. The potatoes were barely cooked. I frowned and set it for another four minutes. Still barely cooked. I was befuddled. Four more minutes, and the potatoes were mostly soft. I added the cashew milk and–I didn’t have a potato masher (that’s on me, not the recipe). I used one of the ladles included with the instapot to roughly mash the potatoes leaving plenty of lumps (which I didn’t mind), and poured in more cashew milk because I like my potatoes creamy. I tossed in a lot of pepper and a sprinkle of salt, and, you know what? It was pretty damn tasty. However, it didn’t really seem to save any time, and the recipe was very off. I’m not naming the recipe because I’m pretty sure there was something I was missing, but it was disheartening.

So, did the instapot live up to the hype? Short answer, no. Long answer, continue reading.

In talking to various people, I realized the problem. An instapot is amazing–if you already cook. See, there are things I didn’t know such as you need to allow the pressure cooker to come up to the right pressure before setting the timer. I thought that would already be baked into the recipe time (see what I did there?), but apparently not? Or, maybe the Pressure Cook button isn’t as powerful as Manual? Otherwise, I have no idea why the time was so disparate. I could have let the potatoes cook for another four minutes, and it probably would have been better. The recipe for mashed potatoes in the booklet that comes with the instapot says to cook it for twenty minutes. It has two to three times the amount of potatoes (they count in potatoes rather than pounds), but that’s still five  times the time. I didn’t use that recipe because it has dairy and I didn’t see it when I first skimmed the booklet.

In addition, it would have been just as easy to make the mashed potatoes on the stove top. I didn’t really save any time doing it in the instapot, even if it had worked out correctly. Also, I still had to cube all the damn potatoes, which is my absolute least favorite part of cooking. See, that’s the thing I didn’t think of and nobody told me. You still have to do all the goddamn prep work with an instapot. I didn’t know why I assumed I could just toss everything in whole, but my brain did think that. And, I was sorely disappointed. Oh, and the gravy recipe wasn’t for the instapot, so I didn’t try it. That’s my bad, though–I simply read it wrong.

Also, what’s with the gargantuan amounts? Two pounds of potatoes meant I was eating mashed potatoes for days. Not that I minded ‘coz I love mashed potatoes, but I was just surprised at how much leftovers I had. The pork recipe I’m eyeing calls for four pounds of pork. I confirmed with my taiji class that that is a shit-ton of meat. I know, I know, most recipes are for families, but four pounds seems like it should feed twenty people. And, yes, I talked about batch cooking in the last post, and while I don’t mind eating the same thing every day, freezing and unfreezing portions is one extra step that I don’t want to talk.

Funny note about me: I cannot follow recipes to save my life. I’m constantly tweaking them, and I think that’s the right way to cook. For the mashed potatoes recipe, for example, I added probably three times as much milk as was called for in the recipe. I used to make a corn potato chowder back in the day, and I added way more sour cream than the recipe called for. It was fucking delicious, yo. I guess I really just like creamy potatoes. The potatoes remained cubed in that recipe, though. I’m trying to find a good recipe now with the appropriate subs. In my mind, it was a simple recipe. Something like broth, corn, potatoes, and sour cream. I can’t find any with less than ten ingredients, and that’s another gripe I have about cooking in general. If I look at a recipe and it goes on and on an on with the ingredients, my eyes glaze over.

It’s different when I used to bake. I didn’t mind more complicated recipes then, but I still tweaked them. I actually made a cheesecake once. Baking is the best. It soothes me, and I love the smells emanating from the oven when I’m making cookies, cakes, or bars. Cooking, on the other hand, not so much. Yes, it smells good, but there’s not the same warmth to it that I associate with baking.

The biggest bonus with an instapot is that you can save time making stews/soups/meat. You don’t have to watch it as it cooks, and you can make something really quick that normally would take a large amount of time. That’s really it. And, for people who cook on the regular, that can make all the difference in the world. For those of us who don’t cook, though, I’m not sure it’s a great place to start.

I think it’s further frustrating for me because I eat dairy-free/gluten-free out of necessity. If I could, I’d be scarfing down pasta, bread, and cheese all day long. (I think apples might have to be go as well, but that’s another post for another day.) I eat eggs, soy, nuts, meat, and I’m definitely not doing paleo, keto, or whole30. I can find dairy-free recipes. I can find gluten-free recipes. I can find recipes that are basically everything-free. What I have a hard time finding, however, are recipes that are both gluten-free and dairy-free, and are only gluten-free and dairy-free.

In addition, why the fuck do cooking blogs always have long stories accompanying the recipes? Same with cooking videos. I went on a mini-rant on Twitter because this tendency is really hindering my ability to research for good recipes.

I’m all for storytelling and long, meandering blog posts (obviously), but not when I’m trying to get shit done. My favorite cooking channels are the ones where they’re like, “Here’s the recipe. Here’s how to make the dish” without telling a half-hour long story about going to Target with the kids in order to buy the groceries before doing this video. I’ve noticed that guys tend to be more to the point in this genre than women do, which is interesting. If I have to go to the ten-minute mark in your video or scroll four times before I reach the actual recipe/cooking instructions, I’m out.

Anyway, the instapot. There’s a lot people assume when they rave about how great they are. Mostly that everyone has a base knowledge of cooking (reasonable) and cooks regularly (maybe not as reasonable). I liken it to Dark Souls because of course I do. I could say (and have said) that Dark Souls III is the easiest of the Soulsborne games, but that’s with the caveat that you’ve already played one of the other games. If it’s the first one you play, it’s gonna be fucking hard. there’s a steep learning curve, and you’ll feel out of your depth more often than not. If you’ve played the others before, then you’ll have the basics down. You’ll know the technical aspect of the game, which is more than half the battle.

It’s the same with cooking. All these people raving about the instapot are people who already do a lot of cooking. They have the basics down, and they’re ready for the advanced level. I’m a cooking novice (and that’s being generous), so much about what makes an instapot appealing isn’t going to be immediate obvious to me.

Long story somewhat shorter: I need more time with the instapot and to lower my expectations. It’s not the magical kitchen appliance that suddenly turns cooking into a breeze, but it will make cooking easier for me in the long run. Probably.

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