The most taxing work in the kitchen is brain work
November 6, 2019 4:54 PM   Subscribe

The Instant Pot Understands The History Of Women's Labor In The Kitchen In an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Women on Food: Charlotte Druckman and 115 Writers, Chefs, Critics, Television Stars, and Eaters, journalist Bee Wilson writes on the history of women's labor in the kitchen. For example, cooking instructions used to include such phrases as, "beat long enough to weary one person or two"

There is much to write about labor-saving devices in the kitchen.
There can be something poignant about the labor-saving devices of the late nineteenth century because they bring home just how much work was once required to get a meal on the table.
Not only are there investigations of past labor-saving devices in the kitchen, but the rise in culinary expectations that go along with them.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit (66 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
 
Neatly sums up why Mother's Day displays of cleaning appliance etc bring me to a frothing rage. Actually the whole commercial schtick about Mother's Day is rage-inducing. "We made breakfast for you!" (just this once and likely left the mess for you to clean up). Bitch, try doing that shit every day and show me how much you really value Mother!
posted by ninazer0 at 5:20 PM on November 6 [36 favorites]


Both interesting and eponysterical!
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 5:53 PM on November 6 [6 favorites]


I do all the cooking around here. Yeah, we too had a random stir fry foraged from the fridge tonight, but I was able to make BROWN RICE IN 20 MINUTES in my new Instant Pot & it was a Father's Day miracle. (I suppose I'm obliged by some sort of law to mention, by the way, that it was vegan.)

Seriously, though. Beef stew in one hour flat? Lentil soup in 30 minutes? I work on average 50 hours a week at my day job & have any number of changing side hustles going on, so cooking gets crammed in where it will fit & my instant pot has really opened up the possibilities for me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:06 PM on November 6 [16 favorites]


" Some thoughtful person had been cooking, and so many hours had elapsed since I sautéed the onion and spices and put the rice and vegetables in the pot that it did not feel as if that someone had been me."

Yes, absolutely -- I always thank Past Me when I walk in the door and my slow cooker is doing its thing. Now, if only I could get the people I cook for to show any interest in food as more than fuel, I'd be all set. Or maybe I should count my blessings, that they care so little?
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:06 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


We love our Pioneer Woman slow cooker! Great for a lazy Sunday.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:08 PM on November 6


The first time I used my Instant Pot, to make a vegetable biryani on a timer delay setting, it made me cry.

Wow, sounds like that's a brand to avoid! ...Or maybe they just used too much hot pepper?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:26 PM on November 6 [8 favorites]


I can't let an Instant Pot thread go by without mentioning Amy + Jacky and their amazing Instant Pot site. Their pot roast is the best. Wait, maybe the chili is the best. Maybe chicken and rice, wait, no...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 6:28 PM on November 6 [32 favorites]


Bee Wilson is a treasure. Highly recommend her books; I especially liked First Bite about how we acquire cultural tastes.
posted by lilac girl at 6:35 PM on November 6 [8 favorites]


I really enjoyed this article. I'm only a year into providing dinner for kids and man, is it unrelenting. I like to cook but every day, three meals and two snacks is so much.

I do use my instant pot a lot. It's not even that much faster but, as the article says, if you manage to get something started, not having to stay around to manage it is the best. I do use the yogurt and steamer functions every week, actually, despite her skepticism!

This part of the article made me laugh out loud: Yet, as Cowan observes, the truly labor-saving technology would have been effective birth control. "When there are eight or nine mouths to feed (or even five or six), cooking is a difficult enterprise, even if it can be done at a gas range."
posted by carolr at 6:47 PM on November 6 [13 favorites]


Bee Wilson has written quite a few books that have made it to fanfare- First Bite, as mentioned, consider the fork, which might be more germane to this discussion as it's about culinary cultural innovations and inventions, and Swindled- which is about food fraud.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:54 PM on November 6 [8 favorites]


Interesting in the article how it points to how people are really good at everyone coming up with their own little mechanical egg beater and gathering these things up at the store, just like we were really good at flint knives and gathering up the right plants and stuff. It's really our core competencies. What we're really bad at is thoughtful improvements on a large scale. Instead we all just kind of blunder along doing our best but stumbling into big messes like here I am 35 years old and big giant brain and I have no idea how to feed myself.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on November 6 [7 favorites]


Wilson also mentions The Indecisive Chicken cookbook by Prajna Desai. The book description:
This is the first and only publication about urban India that blends food, art, and labour in Dharavi, itself a microcosm of modern Asia that many mistakenly think of as Asia’s largest slum. Eight women, most of them housewives, reveal their lives in stories and recipes that resound with the lively accents of Dharavi’s cultural hotpot. Seared vegetables, slow-cooked meats, moreish gravies, and desserts of subtle sweetness light up a menu of complex culinary traditions. This cookbook presents a colourful parade of unfamiliar Indian recipes, while exploring why and how women cook, and what food means to them beyond its life in a meal.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:04 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


I Googled indecisive chicken and was not disappointed.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:38 PM on November 6 [1 favorite]


I love my Instant Pot and my slow cooker.

On Monday, I used the IP to make chicken paprikas. While the IP did its thing, I made spätzle. Everything was done at the same time! It took a whole 2 minutes to thicken the gravy, we had a hearty dinner in under 45 minutes.

Today, the leftover chicken got tossed in the slow cooker with stock and left alone all day. When I got off work, I pulled leftover spätzle out of the fridge, crisper them up in some butter, and dumped them into the soup. Another dinner that was satisfying without taking a lot of time.

IP has become my go-to wedding/housewarming gift.
posted by MissySedai at 10:36 PM on November 6 [4 favorites]


SO got an instant pot and hated it. Fear of bombs, methinks.
posted by parmanparman at 11:53 PM on November 6


Ooh, that sounds lovely, MissySedai. Could I get your recipe?
posted by JDHarper at 12:06 AM on November 7


Greg_Ace, thanks for the cartoon.

On the other hand, I went hunting for the book, Indecisive Chicken, and it seems like it's not to be found, or maybe for over $40. None on amazon, ebay, or bookfinder. People are presumably treasuring them, but it would be nice if it came back into print.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:54 AM on November 7


This was a wonderful piece and it discussed something my husband and I often wonder about after I've exhausted myself making Indian food--how do Indian women do it, meal after meal, day after day? And now I have to buy Indecisive Chicken to find out more. Also, I third the recommendation of Bee Wilson's Swindled, which is both fascinating and horrifying.
posted by ceejaytee at 4:37 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I tried the instant pot but it and I never clicked. For me, the brain-saving kitchen device has been the air fryer. It has buttons that allow you to change the time and temperature, but I've gotten into the habit of just shoving things in there and pressing start, and then just peeping at it every now and then to see how it's doing. This has taken off a huge mental load I didn't know I had. I no longer have to consult a recipe each time because maybe this one ingredient will require a certain time or temperature. I just throw it in there and pull it out when it looks ok.

I also chose an easy-to-clean model that has two removable parts that can go in the dishwasher.
posted by tofu_crouton at 4:55 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I am new to the Instant Pot but I am already cooking more - I live alone in a bachelor (studio) apartment and cooking when you have to stand in the tiny galley kitchen all alone knowing only you will eat the results is tough, so throwing stuff in the pot and going away and doing other things feels way less depressing. Then, hot dinner, plus plenty of leftovers. World's easiest recipe - dump chicken and a jar of salsa in pot, close pot, turn pot on, come back an hour later to beautiful soft tasty stuff to put in tortillas, over rice or salad, whatever. I'm mostly veg though so l do a lot of lentils with rice, white or brown. Saute some onion or shallot with garlic while soaking the lentils for a few minutes and rinsing the rice and the textures come out pretty well.
posted by wellred at 5:14 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


When I was a very little girl in the mid-sixties we all got to help make the Christmas pudding and the mincemeat. It was a once a year ritual where the kids and both adults spent time in the kitchen working together on a project that was anticipated with vast eagerness. Mincemeat and Christmas pudding are both recipes that involve a lot of raisins, and while the currents and the golden, Thompson and sultanas all came seedless the muscat raisins did not. So one of us got the labour intensive and sticky job of poking the seeds out of the raisins with the point of a short paring knife. The seeds stuck to everything and so did the raisins. At some point your hand would get so sticky you couldn't let go of the paring knife.

Turning the handle on the cast iron mincemeat grinder was the job for one child; the other one carefully pushed down spoonfuls of raisins and candied peel with either the back of the spoon or with a piece of cored and chopped apple. Pinched fingers were inevitable. For this reason we took turns but I still ended up being the one doing most of the filling and not much of the grinding. Meanwhile there were oranges and apples being grated, and once white, cut in half and squeezed by hand with a glass juicer. We got to suck the pulp of the citrus after all the juice and zest were removed.

Once the mincemeat was in jars the most important job of cleaning and scrupulously drying the mincemeat grinder with all its parts was carefully done, grinding rings and parts laid out on a towel in the oven at a low heat. But the very last stage we participated in was the next day after the pudding batter had sat to season overnight, when we all gathered around to stir the pudding and taste it before it went into the tin steamer to steam for eight hours. As with everything in our household it was oldest to youngest, so I was last. The pudding had raw suet in it, and brandy, so it was strong, strange, sweet and unmistakably raw. but there was powerful magic in it. You got to make a wish for the next year's hopes and ambitions. And when the tradition of making the mincemeat and the pudding ended so to did our family as a unit. My oldest sister was gone the first year, my father the next. I was twelve when I realised my mother was not going to organize Christmas and began attempting to replace her.

There's no question about the executive work my mother did to create this ritual. She kept an index card in her recipe box listing the cost of the ingredients each year, and I remember walking with her to stores we never used to go to to ensure we got the muscat raisins or some other ingredient that the local grocery didn't have. She could have just bought jars of mincemeat, and it would probably have been slightly quicker or very much quicker to ban the children from the kitchen like any usual day. She would have had to choreograph where each of us got to stand and made sure that we didn't lick our fingers to remove the semi-seeded raisins that stuck to them, not to mention comforting the child roaring with pain when their fingers got squeezed, or squealing because they realised just how very much more tart lemon pulp was than orange.

For whatever reason this ritual was important to her, probably more important than other less exciting rituals like the opening of stockings on Christmas morning which required her to actually be awake. The decorating of the tree with one fragile pre-war blown glass German ornament at a time was another ritual that require each child to be given one task carefully chosen according to their height, clumsiness and the delicacy of the ornament. The very littlest would be relegated to only putting on the old celluloid baby toys. The fact that my eldest sister was by far the most clumsy of us, must have made choosing who got to place which ornament a far from obvious decision.

My mother must have inherited these rituals from her parents - she had her own vintage 1930's mincemeat grinder, of course. There can be a great delight in participating and in organizing them. But there require leisure and time and organization ability and cooperation or they come out of your hide. They tip easily into debacles if those things are in short supply. I can understand fully why they were so suddenly and completely dropped. In retrospect the basic family unit was my mother and my oldest sister. The rituals were for my sister with the rest of us welcome participants but not integral. I don't have to wonder why they were important enough for her to continue them in her own family when we were young. They were important enough to me to do the same. My mincemeat grinder had to be bought from an antique dealer.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:23 AM on November 7 [46 favorites]


How are IPs for folks who are cooking for one person? I have a crockpot (which I do like) but I find that it makes more than I want to eat/freeze.
posted by sperose at 6:26 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


We don't have an instant pot, and I think about getting one every time people sing their praises, but it seems like all the recipes start with browning the meat, and at that point I might as well just cook (I have a harder time dealing with washing pots than I do with the process of cooking). In our city apartment, counter space is a premium, so I just can't realistically buy another machine if I don't use it a lot. We already have (and frequently use) a bread machine and a slow cooker and a deep-fryer and a stand mixer. So I don't know.

My mother-in-law is still old-school. Very few pots, very few gadgets, as far as machines go I think she only has a KitchenAid with a bunch of attachments, and a microwave they rarely use. We go to them for the Passover seders, so every year before Passover we take a day or two to join her in the kitchen to help cook (my FIL "helps by staying out of the way." Yeah.). Which means grinding 10-12 pounds of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts into flour for cakes using a hand-grinder like this one because she insists that the newer electric machines break too quickly and don't grind as fine. And hand-shredding the onions for kugels because when you use a food processor "it doesn't give the right texture," and finding all sorts of other work-arounds because she insists that she's tried the newer, easier methods and they don't work or give you the best results.

And the thing is, she might be right. When we make a kugel or latkes we use the food processor on the onions, and they don't taste as good as hers. And her almond cakes are lighter and fluffier. But I also know that I'm never going to be someone who takes that (not insignificant) extra time to do things by hand when I can get a machine. And at the same time, I'm sad that my own grandkids won't have that experience of taking the time and care and actually tasting the results of what you get when you don't take short cuts.

"The secret ingredient is love" might be more than a trope. But who has time for that anymore?
posted by Mchelly at 6:28 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


Mchelly, I find that using the saute mode IN the Instant Pot makes the browning of meat or cooking of onions not feel like that onerous an extra step, and same pot. It heats up really quickly, as well.
posted by wellred at 6:59 AM on November 7 [10 favorites]


I cook for two in my IP all the time. Recipes scale up and down pretty well - just make sure to have the minimum amount of liquid, which is 1/2 cup or 1 cup depending on who you ask.
posted by soelo at 7:02 AM on November 7


I just got one, because the ex got the rice cooker and the slow cooker in the divorce and the IP was only 89.00 at Costco. I haven't made anything but rice yet, but I have some frozen chicken (YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE TO THAW IT THAT IS MAGIC) that is going in there as soon as the current leftovers are used up.

Haven't figured out what to put with it; most recipes seem to include chicken stock, various herbs, veggies, potatoes, whatever. I am not really into sophisticated sauce making, so maybe a jar sauce.
posted by emjaybee at 7:18 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Mchelly, I find that using the saute mode IN the Instant Pot makes the browning of meat or cooking of onions not feel like that onerous an extra step, and same pot. It heats up really quickly, as well.

+1 - saute mode makes insta pot completely compatible with my one meta recipe that goes "first saute the onions and brown whatever meat you're using. While that's going on look around the kitchen and figure out what else is going in"
posted by PMdixon at 7:23 AM on November 7 [10 favorites]


it seems like all the recipes start with browning the meat, and at that point I might as well just cook (I have a harder time dealing with washing pots than I do with the process of cooking)

I still find the IP advantageous because the recipes designed for it are, mostly by definition, one-pot recipes. Also, the IP pot fits more easily in the dishwasher than a traditional pot with a handle, so there's less chance of being forced to handwash it (like an animal) because there's no room left.

Really though, the reason we have one is because it's a really good rice cooker, and for the price of a really good rice cooker—I would put its results up against a Zojirushi any day—it does other stuff too. I'm not sure we would have it if we hadn't been previously sold on the benefits of having a rice cooker, or made grains often enough to justify having one. (Or were bad enough at cooking rice on the stovetop, I suppose, which I am dreadful at.) As others have mentioned, its ability to cook brown rice quickly is pretty impressive.

I haven't made a biryani in it, might have to try that over the weekend...
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:41 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


This was a wonderful piece and it discussed something my husband and I often wonder about after I've exhausted myself making Indian food--how do Indian women do it, meal after meal, day after day?

It's still a lot of hard work in my experience, at least for lower income women. If they can afford it, most Indian women have domestic servants. Scaling down my mother's expectations for a celebratory meal can be difficult as she is not experienced with doing that kind of thing without a LOT of help.

One minor quibble with the article: beyond the labor-savingness of it, one reason for the Instant Pot's instant adoption by Indian cooks is that we are generally very familiar with pressure cookers. All of my mother's recipes for rice and dal and meat were basically told to me in Indian pressure cooker language - do a 1:2 ratio of this to that, put it in the pressure cooker, then wait for x whistles. Somewhat less convenient than an Instant Pot for sure, but often just as time-saving - but you do have to monitor it more, which is the one big advantage of the Instant Pot. But pressure cookers were very commonly used by Indian cooks back to my grandparents' generation because they lend themselves well to Indian food.
posted by peacheater at 7:44 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


When it’s pottery or painting and a lot of time, thought, and hand work goes into making the finished product, you’re called an artist. When the medium is food...
posted by Secretariat at 7:45 AM on November 7 [6 favorites]


This was a wonderful piece and it discussed something my husband and I often wonder about after I've exhausted myself making Indian food--how do Indian women do it, meal after meal, day after day? And now I have to buy Indecisive Chicken to find out more.
I have an Indian friend who came down with a depression when she moved to the West and realized that here, there are (almost) only nuclear families, she is a great cook and I've learnt a lot from her, but she was used to cooking with her mother, aunts and sisters, not alone.
Both Jane the Brown and Mchelly describe beautifully how cooking was something women did/do together. The article focuses on servants, post and prewar, and I'm sure specially the post-war stay at home moms must have suffered like my Indian friend, and the servants quoted in the article. But I remember cooking together when I was a child as a happy thing, one that I haven't been really good at sharing with my own kids, but that I do hope to give to my grandchildren, regardless of gender.
I think the main reason I've been cooking alone is that I am a picky eater. Part of it is allergies, but a large part is aesthetic. I really hate it when the vegetables are cubed in the wrong way and I have a lot of those idiosyncrasies. Maybe it's a control issue, too. Anyway, this discussion is inspiring me to engage my family more in the process, my daughters and our housemate are all excellent cooks, far better than I was at their ages, so there is no reason to keep them out of the kitchen.

I don't have an IP. I have a pressure cooker that I love to bits. Actually, I have two. I've looked at comparisons between IPs and PCs online, and am not tempted to switch. But I love all the recipes that have turned up online after the introduction of the IP.
posted by mumimor at 7:48 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I've done some more looking, and there may not be any way to get a copy of The Indecisive Chicken-- not on Amazon us, uk, in or ca, not at bookfinder or abebooks. The author mentions two stores in India that carry it. One is definitely out of business, and the link for the other one doesn't work.

I'm trying interlibrary loan.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 8:20 AM on November 7


Wait, you don't have to thaw frozen chicken to use it in an IP? Shit, that might get me to buy one right there.
posted by sperose at 9:00 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Indecisive Chicken's announcement blog has a form for direct ordering from the publisher, but it's not clear if that's still available, or will take orders from customers in the US.


Here are a few sample pages from the book.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:12 AM on November 7


Perhaps the real problem with the concept of "labor-saving" in the kitchen is that it tries to answer the wrong question. Instead of asking, “How can we cancel out this work?” we could instead try to ask, “How can we reward and recognize this work, and the person who does it?” Cooks have never been given anything like their full due.

I think that's important, but at the same time I do think there is value in reducing that labor, especially for those who do not enjoy it for it's own sake. We gotta eat all the time, but it could easily become an all-day consuming task depending on how much "scratch" is put into it. Though, it does circle back, I can't be happy with so much underpaid, over-exploited, and overworked labor on the supply and production side of things, but perhaps I can dream of when non-sentient beings like robots do that stuff. In the meantime, we should really fix the backwards relationships. Those treated as the lowest level often actually deserve the most compensation. The person who owns a coffee company is nearly completely worthless, their absence would only improve things, yet typically the highest paid. That's fucked.

All that said, instant pots seem nice. I was asked if I wanted one for Christmas, but I said no when asked since I have a crock pot. Problem there is, I just now remembered I was going to use it to make pulled pork but now it's kind of too late to start the process!
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:20 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


We don't have an instant pot, and I think about getting one every time people sing their praises, but it seems like all the recipes start with browning the meat, and at that point I might as well just cook (I have a harder time dealing with washing pots than I do with the process of cooking).

The beauty of the InstantPot is that it has a sauté function so it’s just one pot still.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:46 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


All that said, instant pots seem nice. I was asked if I wanted one for Christmas, but I said no when asked since I have a crock pot. Problem there is, I just now remembered I was going to use it to make pulled pork but now it's kind of too late to start the process!

"I'd intended to make a slow cooker dish but forgot to get it started this morning" is definitely one of the killer use-cases for pressure cookers. (Worth noting that the IP does have a slow cooker function as well, which is one of the modes where it works "well enough" but isn't quite as good as a dedicated good slow cooker, in my experience.)
posted by Drastic at 10:18 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


How are IPs for folks who are cooking for one person?

After much skepticism, I got one when it was on super-duper-sale. So far I mostly use it as a rice cooker--and, yes, it IS nice not to have to fret about the pot on the stove. I just walk away and wait for the final beeps. I'm working on using it for farro, but haven't quite perfected the timing yet.

The other, surprising use case is corn on the cob. I got the smaller one so I can't fit many in, but the thing about cooking corn on the cob is that the best corn is available in late July/August/September, when it is hot as hell. Using the IP you do not have to have a big old pot of boiling water on the stove adding to the misery. Genius!
posted by praemunire at 10:26 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


I have long believed the electric, automatic rice cooker doesn't get enough credit as a revolutionary invention. Few single objects have freed so many person-hours from drudgery.

One figures that, what, upwards of 3 billion people eat rice multiple times a week? Huge swaths of Asia and its diasporas?

It used to take constant attention to prevent it from burning. Then they stuck a temperature sensor that puts it in "keep warm" mode automatically. Now you just ... plop rice and water in when you get home (or, for the parents out there, order one of your kids to do it when they are home from school, or else we all starve waiting) and set off cooking the rest of the meal.

A billion households completely freed every single day from hours of persnickety drudge work! Someone should have won a Nobel Peace Prize for it.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:49 AM on November 7 [20 favorites]


Mchelly, something I like about pressure-cookers including the Instant Pot is that the wet steamy cooking kind of cleans off the pot as you cook. You have to really burn the bottom for it to not come off (newer computerized cookers have burn warnings, even) and you don't get the ring of dark stuff that slow-cookers develop as the liquid level drops.

Not losing all that water is why some slow-cooker recipes just don't translate, probably. Others, you put less water in to start with and it's at least as good.

About the cooperation and social angle of how All the Cooking Used to be Done -- I have been laughing a little because of course that was wonderful sometimes, but you can imagine how one awful pairwise relationship could screw up an entire extended family forever. Every meal bitter as the Furies; every woman pulled into one side or another; and all the men and children divided too, eventually. It was safer when one person lost and was exiled, even if it wasn't fair to them.
posted by clew at 11:55 AM on November 7 [4 favorites]


The instant pot fascinates me because I can see the use in it but I already have great versions of all of the things it is supposed to replace. The one thing that could push it over the top for me is internet connectivity because I made some tomato sauce this morning and I am pretty sure I turned the stove off before leaving home but there is a nagging voice in my head saying that the stove was still on. If I could just log in and check it would remove that worry. Even if the stove was left on then it would have been on '2' so it still ought to be fine.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:56 AM on November 7


@ Hollywood Upstairs Medical College someone should have won a Nobel Peace Prize for it.

I second this. I have both an IP and a Rice cooker and use both. I have used a stovetop pressure cooker for 30 years, but I never use it after getting an IP. The main thing is the combination of being able to saute stuff and pressure cook in the same pot, but the more important thing is the absolute security of knowing that it is not going to blow up on me. My old Prestige Pressure Pan did that at least 3 times that I can recall. I can now leave the house with the IP on, set it on a timer etc. I have convinced many of my family to get one too; when they expressed skepticism for another device cluttering their already full kitchen.

But the Rice Cooker is still the best. It does one thing and it does it well. The first thing I got after moving to this country was an electric Rice Cooker. The fellow senior Desi Grad students practically forced us to get one when they took us shopping. Another guy who sang the praises of this was Roger Ebert. He wrote a book about it too.
posted by indianbadger1 at 12:02 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Wait, what am I missing about why cooking rice without a special cooker is drudgery? In a normal pot on the stove, it's like a 30 minute process, from when you first start rinsing the rice, to when you serve, and doesn't require any attention...it's like the easiest part of the meal?
posted by mittens at 12:40 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


The rice cooker will automatically go down to a warming temperature once the rice is cooked so you don't need to give it any attention at all.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:43 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


Also brown rice out of the Instant Pot takes half as long and comes out amazingly perfect, each grain perfectly springy and chewy.

One of my favorite things to do in the IP is a corned beef brisket. The brisket only takes like 45 minutes, and then you take it out to rest and do the potatoes and cabbage in the broth, which is about 5 minutes. So flavorful and tender and QUICK! And doesn't heat up the whole kitchen with boiling for hours.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:56 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I'm off rice cookers, those one-serving plastic rice bowls all the way. Sure I have no idea what kinds of toxic chemicals are in the plastic but they cost a dollar, cook in 1 minute and taste great.
posted by bleep at 1:56 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Every other week I dump a whole bunch of chicken breasts on the Instapot with a cup of a water. I shred it 20 minutes later. Half in freezer for next week, half for whatever this week.

I hate touching chicken and the finickiness of baking it and the instapot was worth it just for that. I eat out way less since I got it months ago.

I will expand into other stuff eventually but it saves me so much hassle and effort, please count me among those who almost cried the first time I used it.
posted by affectionateborg at 2:35 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I enjoy trying different recipes for mine but absolutely, the most useful things I praise is being able to cook still-frozen meat after work, and being able to cook whole grains in less time.

I am one of those people who does inexplicably screw up rice on the stove... it's either too limp for my tastes, or takes an hour to cook, or if I turn the stove up it burns. I rarely get it right.
posted by nakedmolerats at 4:10 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Slow cookers are great for the days when the kids are off on a random Wednesday and I can get the cooking out of the way at 12:30 in the afternoon instead of 5:30, otherwise I kind of don't see what the point is for people who aren't home all day -- is the idea that you wake up at 5 in the morning and start sautéing some chicken and vegetables? Are instant pots any better?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:21 PM on November 7


Ugh, just made it through the article.
We like to imagine that dinner arrives on our plates as if by magic and we discount the work involved in getting it to us, whether it is the toil of a cook in a kitchen, or the punishing lives of tomato pickers and the chicken packers who enable us to feed ourselves....Perhaps the real problem with the concept of "labor-saving" in the kitchen is that it tries to answer the wrong question. Instead of asking, “How can we cancel out this work?” we could instead try to ask, “How can we reward and recognize this work, and the person who does it?”
So we devalue the work of tomato pickers/chicken processors and cooks. But it is only cooks that we need to have one of in every household. There are no think pieces giving the side-eye to grocery stores as insidious conveniences that get American men out of the work of harvesting their own produce and killing their own poultry.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:31 PM on November 7


I already have a rice cooker and a slow cooker (the latter has been life-changing in making sure my oft-too-tired-or-busy-to-eat-properly self gets fed: just chuck a bunch of random stuff in there in the morning, leave it alone till evening, meals for days). Would an Instant Pot add more options or would I be able to accomplish the same with what I have?

My mum cooks for an army every time, but she shocked me some years ago when she told me she didn't like cooking that much. But she keeps doing more than anyone asks her to, and she barely eats any of it! That was probably my first true understanding of a culture that prioritises hospitality: I did grow up in Food Is #1 country, but making sure everyone is taken care of is also a big deal. I don't know if she's regained any love of cooking since, but she does love it when my sister and I ask for and attempt her recipes, it's a form of bonding for her.

(My mum makes the world's best Briyani and I tried to replicate it one time and it took me two days - pretty good but not as good as my mum's. My apartment smelt amazing for ages though.)
posted by divabat at 9:57 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


More options yes, in the sense that it could act as a 2nd one of both, or a replacement if either breaks. And you can do things like brown onions or meat _in_ the cooker before adding the rest of the stew, etc., saving a pan. Little things.
I generally tell people to think of an IP as their _next_ rice or slow cooker, or if starting a new kitchen, to get an IP instead of either or both other machines.
posted by bartleby at 10:45 PM on November 7


It's worth mentioning that the IP will cook dried beans at a high enough temperature to denature the phytohaemagglutinin in them. For kidney beans and cannellini this can make the difference between having a nice meal and being violently poisoned. Slow cookers won't do this and are a dangerous way to prepare some varieties of bean.
posted by Acheman at 5:06 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Slow cookers are great for the days when the kids are off on a random Wednesday and I can get the cooking out of the way at 12:30 in the afternoon instead of 5:30, otherwise I kind of don't see what the point is for people who aren't home all day -- is the idea that you wake up at 5 in the morning and start sautéing some chicken and vegetables? Are instant pots any better?
posted by Ralston McTodd

Yeah, I think you're missing the point, which is that with the Instant Pot, you come home and do the saute, then put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes or whatever under pressure. You're not doing the saute in the morning and using the IP as a slow cooker (though I guess you could, but there's no reason to). You can 1) do the browning or sauteing in the IP instead of a separate pot, and 2) cook it much faster and get the same melding of flavors and ease of use of the slow cooker.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:14 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Also, it's 45 minutes for slow dishes -- oxtail, brown rice, kidney beans. Chicken parts are about 12' at pressure, white rice and lentils and chopped vegetables usually less, and if you start boiling water when you walk in the kitchen* that 12' starts very soon afer you close the pressure cooker. About time to set the table and sort the mail.

*Thank you M Pomiane
posted by clew at 8:52 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Can anyone better explain how the pot-in-pot thing is supposed to work, allowing one to make rice and the protein to go over it in one go?

From what I'm seeing the trivets and etc recommended barely sit off the bottom of the inner pot, and are meant for use in steaming, where you just need to lift the food out of a little bit of water.

When doing pot-in-pot are the trivet and upper bowl really supposed to just be plopped right on top of the food in the inner pot, maybe without the feet reaching the bottom and no clearance between the food in the inner pot and the upper bowl?

Also, model creep is real with the IPs (even excluding the fryers and sous vide machines masquerading as IPs) and the pricing and specs of the different models is confusing: Lux, Duo, Viva, Duo Plus, Ultra, Smart Wifi (which I thought had never worked right and been dropped), Max, Duo Nova, and Duo Evo Plus....Any comments on the newer models and/or current lineup?

According to C-Net the $200 Max doesn't seem to live up to the claims of cooking faster at 15psi...

I have a 6 quart Ultra, but it's too big to keep out in my kitchen and as one person I'm always reluctant to break it out to use it for all of the things it can do short of preparing a full-on dish or meal.

So this Black Friday I'm considering getting a 3 quart Duo or Duo Plus to keep on the counter and use for steaming and eggs and sauces and whatnot.

Yeah, I think you're missing the point, which is that with the Instant Pot, you come home and do the saute, then put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes or whatever under pressure.

That, or you can come home and put frozen things directly in the IP. But, not both (obviously).
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:27 AM on November 8


Also, though its uses are more niche and the controls are super janky (the membrane buttons feel like they could break at any moment, it has a clock but no standby mode so exhibits the 12:00 VCR syndrome, and the LCD in mine came unglued to sit off kilter within weeks of buying it), I really like my VitaClay clay pot "multicooker" (basically, slow cooker and rice maker).

I don't have a clue about cooking with clay pots over flame and this does most of those jobs nicely.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:45 AM on November 8


Yeah, I think you're missing the point, which is that with the Instant Pot, you come home and do the saute, then put the lid on and cook for 45 minutes or whatever under pressure. You're not doing the saute in the morning and using the IP as a slow cooker (though I guess you could, but there's no reason to). You can 1) do the browning or sauteing in the IP instead of a separate pot, and 2) cook it much faster and get the same melding of flavors and ease of use of the slow cooker.

I don't know if it's the same with the Instant Pot, but in the regular pressure cooker, some things turn out better than if you cook them in the regular way (stovetop or oven), because of the Maillard reaction.
posted by mumimor at 12:20 PM on November 8


You're still getting the Maillard reaction. You do the saute exactly as you would in a saucepan, but in the IP pot, which allows you to cook at low/med/high heat over the element. Then you put in your other stuff and put the lid on and cook at pressure.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:39 PM on November 8


(To be clear, in sauté mode the IP is basically an electric skillet in the shape of a pot.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:12 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


When doing pot-in-pot are the trivet and upper bowl really supposed to just be plopped right on top of the food in the inner pot, maybe without the feet reaching the bottom and no clearance between the food in the inner pot and the upper bowl?

No, you can get trivets with taller feet and there is supposed to be room between the top pot and the lid. The triviet that comes in the box is just for steaming stuff with a cup of water, not for pot-in-pot. I have a thing I got at Kohl's that is two pots with one lid and fits in my six quart.
posted by soelo at 1:21 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus, I just put the smaller bowl with my rice and water in it on top of whatever else is in the pot. (Opson?)

I tried a tall trivet, but find it easier to put the clean-food-on-the-outside rice bowl onto a salad plate to serve. Honestly, so often a whole PIP meal gets eaten/packed for lunch right away that I just temporarily put the rice bowl onto a plate I'm about to eat from, to minimize dishwashing.

This seems weird but I think that's an outside:inside::dirty:clean habit, not a rational food safety risk.
posted by clew at 1:26 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Wow, I certainly did not pay 30 bucks for that steamer, either. I think it was more like $12.
posted by soelo at 1:29 PM on November 8


The point of the pressure cooker Maillard reaction is that you can get it without browning because the temperature goes above the boiling point. I guess it's the same in the IP, logically.
posted by mumimor at 2:28 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]




> Wow, sounds like that's a brand to avoid! ...Or maybe they just used too much hot pepper?

I get the joke, but still. This is a feminist article raising a feminist point and as a humorless feminist, I would like to point out that you're making fun of the entire point of it: that the writer felt someone had taken care of dinner, someone who should be appreciated.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:44 AM on November 10 [2 favorites]


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