By Clay Riness  

You know, over the decades I have become a pretty good cook. I’m not chef material, but I can chiffonade, mince and sear with the best of them. I’ve seen a lot of gadgets come and go, too. Electronics that take up real estate on my countertop have to earn it by being used every day. A microwave, coffee machine, toaster and small flat-screen TV all fit that bill even though they are uni-taskers. In general, I prefer multitaskers, things that serve more than one purpose.

It’s probably safe to say that a number of cook-friendly multitaskers were said to be “game changers” when they first hit the shelves. The stand mixer, the pressure cooker, the food processor, the kitchen blender, the slow cooker … so many uses, so versatile, so valuable.

And now we are at the dawn of a fairly new craze … the Instant Pot. On Black Friday, my wife sent me a link to ask my opinion on this product. I hadn’t really heard of it, or hadn’t been paying attention. She told me that all her friends were raving about what a “game changer” it was and how they absolutely loved theirs. So, I took a look at the link, briefly, and was initially unimpressed. I told her I had no preference either way, and that we already had a lot of gadgets that could do a lot of the jobs the Instant Pot claimed to do. I mean, I’ve been using pressure cookers and slow cookers and pots and pans for years.

Then, I dug a little deeper, watching some YouTube videos and visiting the company’s website. Within a few hours, I was back in front of my wife explaining that I’d changed my mind. It was Black Friday and a great deal was to be had. She ordered it immediately. Well played, because I know what she was thinking: “If I buy one of these, I’ll never have to learn to use it because Clay will commandeer it, and he’s a detail weenie so … there’s that. I’ll get all the good eats and won’t have to do a thing!” (She laughed and nodded her head when I told her that.)

I spent the few days it took to arrive studying hard, reading recipes and watching videos on techniques and accessories. When it came, I eagerly unboxed it and read the instruction manual completely, twice. There I stood on the precipice of a kitchen cliff, looking at a dangerous fall … a fall, in love, with our new Instant Pot.

I rushed to the market and bought a hefty package of country-style pork ribs as I was determined that fall-off-the-bone barbecue ribs would christen this ship’s maiden voyage. Less than an hour later, the ribs were finishing off under the broiler for a little sauce caramelization. Impressive. The next day, I ran a batch of rice and some hard-boiled eggs to see how they would turn out … both were perfect. Then, some chicken breasts to make pulled chicken sandwiches, and waxy potatoes for potato salad. 

So far, so good, or, maybe great.

In subsequent days, I used the sauté setting to brown up some onions, added broth, seasonings and beef steaks, switched to pressure cook and made onion steaks and gravy. I also made penne marinara and meatballs using the pressure cook program and get this: After the unit came to full pressure, cook time was FOUR minutes and done, and it came out perfect, too.

The next adventure was to bake a two-layer double chocolate cake, which I finished off with a raspberry glaze. Moist, dense, rich, decadent, flawless. As I write this, a batch of Greek yogurt is fermenting in the pot. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

While there are many models available, ours is the Instant Pot Viva 9-in-1 series, 8 quart. It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, sauté pan, rice/porridge cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, warmer, cake maker and sterilizer. In fact, it is so full-featured that there is a bit of a learning curve. Don’t let that stop you, though, there are abundant resources available.

Truth: While no one is ever going to pry my beloved cast iron from my warm, still-living hands, I do believe the Instant Pot offers limitless possibilities. So, yeah, that’s a “game changer.” And, it’s earned some real estate on my countertop.