[Instant Pot] Favorite Things: Tools & Extras to Get the Most From Your Multi-Cooker

After a couple more years of living with Instant Pot, my old list of recommended tools has been overdue for a do-over. If you need a last-minute gift for the pressure-cook in your life – or if you’ve been recently bestowed with a fancy new multi-cooker, and perhaps an Amazon gift card burning a hole in your pocket – read on for the tried-and-true stars of my pressure cooking toolkit.

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Gift Guide: Bells & Whistles for the Instant Pot Obsessed

I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have the traffic analytics to prove it, but there’s no denying it… pressure cooking is hot. And I’m not just talking about the elevated boiling point of water inside the powerful, pressurized contraption that you’ve been convinced to invite onto your kitchen counter! Trust me, you won’t regret it. Since I first got acquainted with Instant Pot a couple of years ago, it’s been a constant companion in my cooking adventures. My pressure cooking recipes weren’t always the biggest draws on this site, but these days things are different; I can tell I’m not the only one obsessed with this multi-talented cooker.

Since it looks like there are a lot of people enamored with their new toys this season, I’m taking a moment to help you spread some holiday cheer. If someone in your life is hooked on cooking under pressure, show them some love with these must-have tools and accessories.

(Please note: I’m just a fan, no sponsorship or other relationship with Instant Pot or any of the manufacturers of the products below. I am, however, using Amazon affiliate links. flavorrd is a member of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and earns a commission for purchases made through the following links.)

            
First things first: the cooker! When I started shopping around for an electric pressure cooker, Instant Pot was the obvious choice for me – stainless steel liner, programmable cooking, even yogurt modehere’s my review if you want to read more about how great it is. I have Instant Pot DUO, and since my purchase they’ve also released Instant Pot SMART, which has the benefit of fully customized cooking programs controlled via Bluetooth from your smartphone. Fancy!

                           

If your cooker didn’t already come with one, definitely spring for the glass lid – it’s a nice alternative to the pressure lid for slow cooking and keep-warm mode. It’s also nice to have an extra gasket, as they wear out over time and can have a tendency to retain strong cooking odors. Another surprisingly handy tool is an extra inner pot; it makes it easier to use your IP for multiple courses (eg. after slow-cooking an entree, you can swap out the extra pot for a quick batch of rice to serve alongside).

You can really expand your pressure cooking options with a simple steamer basket. Practically anything you would steam on the stovetop (veggies, dumplings, artichokes) comes out faster and with more flavor locked in under pressure.

                         

If your gift-ee is a fermented foodie like me, they’ve got to be excited about Instant Pot’s yogurt maker mode! Enhance your yogurt endeavors with a set of glass jars; you can make yogurt in any sized container you like (including right in the pot itself) but my favorites are pint-sized jars with a wide mouth. You’ll need a thermometer for ensuring the milk has cooled enough to add the cultures after scalding, and canning tongs are also really useful for removing hot jars from the cooker. If your favorite Instant Pot Fan prefers their yogurt Greek style, this special strainer will help them concentrate their home-made yogurt into thick, creamy perfection.

Not into yogurt? How about expanding their healthy cooking repertoire with some fancy dried beans? Pressure cookers make short work of dry legumes, and Rancho Gordo offers the best heirloom varieties. This sampler pack has 5 exotic types of beautiful beans.

                

Finally, let’s not forget about books: my top two picks are Hip Pressure Cooking and The New Fast Food. The former, by our generation’s top pressure cooking guru Laura Pazzaglia, provides a wealth of information to help new users get their bearings, along with plenty of fresh recipes with a chic European aesthetic. The latter, by the Veggie Queen herself Jill Nussinow (a fellow registered dietitian!), focuses on healthy vegetarian recipes, so it’s a great resource for my favorite kind of everyday cooking. The only caveat is that Nussinow prefers traditional stovetop pressure cookers over electrics, so for use with Instant Pot, you’ll have to be mindful of the cooking instructions and make some adjustments. It’s not that difficult once you get the hang of it, but it may not be the easiest choice for beginners.

I hope these picks will help make some spirits bright among my fellow Instant Pot devotees. Readers, if you’ve come across any other tools or accessories that make pressure cooking more fun, please share! Anything else you would add to the list?

Cooking with Cast Iron

In recent years, the boyfriend and I have been taking gradual steps toward reducing our exposure to risky chemicals in household products. I could write a whole post about this, as it’s much trickier than it should be, but today I wanted to share my experience with a certain kitchen-related detail.

I’m not super proud to admit this, but until very recently I had always employed a non-stick skillet as a major part of my cookware arsenal. It’s been my easy solution for cooking eggs, pancakes, quick sautes and stir fries. While the EPA does not currently attribute health risks to nonstick cookware, the potential concerns of the surface materials are enough reason for me to avoid them if possible.

Over time I’ve tried traditional Teflon pans as well as a variety of PTFE/PFOA-free cookware. While these new “greener” alternative surfaces may be promising, they also have limited research regarding their long-term safety. And as you may have guessed from my track record, I’m not only dissatisfied with the potential health implications, but I’ve also become really tired of replacing them practically every year as they wear out and lose their non-stick qualities.

So, when the surface on my last pan had reached its limit, it was time to consider my options:

  • Continue to grudgingly replace non-stick cookware and acknowledge the potential health risks? No… the madness must end!
  • Stainless steel? Maybe, but I feel like certain sticky foods will pose a challenge and I’ll find myself adding much more oil when cooking.
  • Carbon Steel? What am I, a millionaire?
  • Raw cast iron? When well-seasoned, it is a natural non-stick surface. It’s regarded for its even heat retention and unique ability to create a beautiful extra-golden crust. It even has the benefit of providing extra dietary iron with regular use. So many cooks love using cast iron… maybe it’s time for me to be one of them!

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Less-Mess Blender Trick: The Mason Jar Magic Bullet

For a big weekend project, it can be a necessary evil to destroy the kitchen with splatters, spills, and a mountain of dirty dishes. But in my daily life, I’m rather mess-averse. I don’t have a dishwasher in my apartment, and if a recipe is going to fill my sink up with multiple pots and bowls, it definitely makes me think twice before committing to a late night of scrubbing. Any trick that leads to fewer dishes to clean? I’m all over it.

By now, the trick I’m sharing today has saved me hours in dish-washing grief. Even more than most dishes, I hate dealing with a dirty blender… the huge, clunky pitcher and all the moving parts – just for one measly smoothie!

So, did you know that all standard blender bases are the same size as the opening of a regular (not wide-mouth) mason jar? To create your own “Magic Bullet” single-serve blender, all you have to do is unscrew your blender’s base/blades/gasket and screw them onto a simple canning jar. You can make small batches of blended foods right in the jar, and then use the same vessel for storage or consumption! I find that a pint sized jar is the most useful; just the right size for a bowl of hummus or salsa, and for smoothies I can drink it straight from the jar, or put on a canning lid and take it on the go!

In an effort to fight the worldwide epidemic of unnecessary blender-scrubbing, I made an amateur-hour attempt at creating this post’s pinnable images to let us visualize the possibilities. So if you found this helpful, please share!

Mason Jar Magic Bullet

I’ll admit, when perusing the blogs and reading about the next “amazing trick” for whatever kitchen task, I usually go into it expecting to have heard it before. I take after my lovely mom, who made sure I knew how to remove stray eggshells/keep biscuit dough cold/identify properly risen bread/etc. from an early age. I strangely pride myself on borderline obsessive knowledge of kitchen techniques, and even I had never heard of this trick until maybe a year ago! So I feel it’s my duty as a blogger who strives to make cooking accessible, to shout this one from the rooftops… this tip is a winner!

For full disclosure, it’s important to note that the glass in mason jars does not adhere to the same safety standards as the strongly tempered glass in blender pitchers. I have a hard time imagining the thing blowing apart, but I suppose it’s possible, so take that into consideration (no suing me, ok?). If you’re concerned about safety, throwing a towel over top of the jar while blending would presumably contain any breakage.

Have you heard this tip before? Do you screw a mason jar onto your blender? What other foods should I be blending??

Review: Instant Pot DUO Electric Pressure Cooker

Meet my new favorite toy.

{Please note: this is NOT a sponsored post, just sharing my experience with the newest tool in my kitchen.}

Sometime last year, I got a bee in my bonnet about pressure cooking. I admittedly don’t have much experience with the old-school stovetop pressure cookers our grandmothers used, but after reading an article about countertop Electric Pressure Cookers (EPCs) I was intrigued. I was immediately drawn to the time-saving and nutrient-preserving advantages, the energy efficiency, the versatility of programmable functions, and especially the “set-and-forget” quality that I never realized could be compatible with pressure cooking. When I decided that I wanted my next kitchen investment to be a pressure cooker, I delved into researching all available options, and eventually settled on the popular Instant Pot. This product is on the pricier end of the EPC market, and although I had some moments when I leaned toward less expensive brands, I came to the conclusion that it offered a better value for the price (factors affecting my decision to follow). I asked Santa to pre-order one for me, and I must have been good this year because the jolly old guy pulled through.

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