The Lazy Person's Guide to Cooking with the Instant Pot

The people who live in my house continue to ask me what’s for dinner each evening, which makes me anxious and irritable. I generally respond by locking myself in my bedroom and whimpering. Over the years, the husband has modified his questioning and now asks, “What are we doing about dinner tonight?” It’s a commendable tactic, a “we’re in this together” strategy, and I give him credit for pursuing any line of inquiry dinner knowing there’s a 50% chance that I will swear at him and ask for a divorce. (On those evenings, he brings home pizza.) The other 50% of the time, I either feign exhaustion or excitedly tell him I HAVE A PLAN.

This afternoon when he called, I had a plan. “Chicken and rice in the Instant Pot!” I exclaimed.

The Instant Pot, for the uninitiated, is the modern-day alternative to the pressure cooker. You can cook things at high speed, sort of like you can in the microwave, but more uniformly and without that pesky unproven-to-cause-cancer but still scary-sounding radiation. The Instant Pot also acts as a rice cooker, a slow cooker, a yogurt maker, a steamer, and a saute pan. Owning an Instant Pot is all the rage, so naturally, I have one.

I have yet to make yogurt.

Because I don’t meal plan, I rarely have all of the ingredients needed to make specific recipes. Sometimes, I go to that website where you can type in any ingredients you might have lolling about in your cupboard, and they spit out a recipe. The last time I attempted to use their service, instead of spitting out a recipe, they said, “Go shopping. You can’t make anything with expired cranberry sauce in a can. Sheesh.”

Tonight, I chose this recipe with modifications, which I will share with you.

Holly’s Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie Soupy Stuff

First, I was supposed to cube my chicken. Cubed chicken? I’m teaching my kids to be self-sufficient. If they desire, they can cube their own chicken after it’s cooked. I opened the chicken tenderloin package and threw its contents into the pot.

Next, I got ready to chop and add my vegetables. I hates to chop the vegetables. It’s boring. Luckily, I had a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, so I tossed that into the pot. I also had a bag of frozen chopped onions, because my sensitive eyes can’t handle chopping onions, so I threw that in, too.

Third: I added my spices and seasonings. I didn’t have poultry seasoning. I had no idea that existed. I did have a chicken bouillon cube that expired four years ago. I threw it in.

I was out of salt. There’s a good explanation for this. The twins made a massive batch of play dough recently, and they used up all of my salt. Luckily, it’s February in Rochester, and every prepared family has a bag of rock salt on their porch. I grabbed a handful, crushed it up, and threw it in the pot. I AM RESOURCEFUL.

Finally, I turned the valve to “seal,” set the pot to high pressure, and backed away slowly.

Around this time, Ella wandered into the kitchen to see what I was doing, and I screamed at her.


I don’t fully trust the Instant Pot.

The pressure built, the food cooked for ten minutes, and soon it was time to release the steam. I grabbed my wooden spoon and eye goggles, nudged the valve with the spoon from “seal” to “release,” and took cover like my village was under attack by WWII  bombers.

I really don’t trust the Instant Pot.

After an adequate amount of time had passed, I opened the pot carefully and, as per the directives, added my heavy cream (The heavy cream was not heavy cream at all, but a mixture of milk and butter, which, according to the Internet, is an adequate substitute. The last time we had heavy cream in the fridge, Ben drank it all then complained the “milk tasted funny.” I told him it wasn’t milk but heavy cream that probably expired three weeks ago. He said, “huh.”)

The cooking portion of dinnertime was not yet done. So much for “instant.” I turned the setting to “saute,” and after a few minutes of stirring, I decided the concoction wasn’t thick enough, so I poured in some corn starch, which worked well at thickening the play dough we made last week. I also added a can of cream of chicken soup, which looks so much like vanilla custard that I’m always disappointed it’s not vanilla custard. Ten minutes later, voila! Dinner.

It was edible! The people who live in my house added hot sauce and poured the mixture over instant rice, rice not made in the Instant Pot but in the microwave, which is probably why some of it was hard while some of it was soft. Microwaves do not cook uniformly.

Tomorrow night, pulled pork in the Instant Pot! Except, I don’t have pork, so I’m using this soft piece of wood I found in the garage. The Internet says it’s a reasonable substitute. With enough barbecue and hot sauce, I don’t think anyone will notice the difference.