A multicooker is dinnertime convenience in stainless steel form, an appliance that combines an electric pressure cooker with a slow cooker, electric steamer and rice cooker. Several manufacturers make multicookers, including Breville and Fagor, but Instant Pot has become the best known in the United States. (Note that while most multicookers include a pressure-cooking function, there are some models that only slow cook, so check before you buy.)
There’s no other single gadget that can make weeknight cooking easier. It can cook food either quickly or slowly, and it does both consistently, evenly and automatically. Get one, and you can get rid of your slow cooker.
I bought a multicooker almost a year ago and over time is became so embedded in the rhythm of my everyday cooking that I never unplugged it. I ended up writing my new cookbook for it, “Dinner in an Instant” (Clarkson Potter), as well as an in-depth guide at nytcooking.com. It was the slow cooker that went into storage, where it will remain until my next stoop sale.
After using the machine consistently for nearly a year, I can say that if you stick to what it does best — stewing, braising, simmering, steaming — you’ll be amply rewarded. Just don’t attempt to cook anything crunchy or golden, because it probably won’t end well. No matter how many multicooker roast chicken recipes you may stumble across on the internet, don’t believe them. I’ve tried it several times: The skin ends up soft and flabby instead of crisp and salty, and the meat turns stringy.
If you play to the multicooker’s many strengths and remain aware of its weaknesses, you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also eat better — even at the last minute.
Pressure cooker sticky tamarind baby back ribs
Yield: 4 servings; time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
4 to 5 pounds baby back ribs
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tamarind paste or concentrate
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
1/4 cup honey, plus more as needed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 star anise pod
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
4 small shallots, diced (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
1. Cut the ribs into chunks of 2 or 3 ribs, depending on their size, and place them in a large bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt, and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
2. In a small bowl, combine the tamarind, orange juice, honey, soy sauce, lime zest and juice and star anise. Set aside.
3. Using the sauté function, heat the oil in the pressure cooker. Stir in the shallots and cook until they are starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, another minute, then stir in the tamarind mixture. Bring to a simmer, and then scrape the sauce into the large bowl of ribs. Toss gently to combine.
4. Arrange the ribs standing up along the outer edge of the pressure cooker, making a ring with the meat side of the ribs facing out. Continue with the remaining ribs, arranging them to make concentric circles. Pour any remaining sauce over the ribs, cover and cook on high pressure for 32 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
5. Heat the broiler.
6. Transfer the ribs, meat-side down, to a rimmed baking sheet. Turn the pressure cooker to the sauté function and cook to reduce the sauce until it’s thick, about 15 minutes; spoon the fat off the top when finished. Taste the sauce, and adjust the seasoning or add more honey if necessary; then brush the ribs with the sauce. Broil the ribs until they are charred in spots, 1 to 3 minutes. Then flip them over, brush with more sauce, and broil on that side until charred. Serve immediately, with more sauce on the side.
Note: If you’d rather use a slow cooker, add 3/4 cup water to the machine when adding the sauce in Step 4. Cook the ribs on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove the ribs, reduce the sauce and broil as described in Step 6.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Coconut Curry Chicken
Yield: 4 servings; time: 1 hour
3 to 4 ripe tomatoes, halved through their equators
3 tablespoons ghee, unsalted butter or safflower oil
3 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
6 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or minced
2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 3-inch cinnamon stick or 1 / 2teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife, or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 to 2 teaspoons garam masala, to taste
1/2 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
Cooked basmati rice, for serving (optional)
Plain yogurt, for serving (optional)
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Set a box grater over a bowl. Starting with their cut sides, grate the tomatoes through the large holes of the box grater so the tomato pulp falls into the bowl. Discard the skins. Measure out 2 cups of tomato purée.
2. Using the sauté function, heat the ghee and the coconut oil in the pressure cooker. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring often to encourage even browning, until they are caramelized, 12 to 18 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger and cumin seeds; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and cardamom and cook for another minute. Then stir in the coriander, salt, turmeric, red pepper flakes, black pepper and finally the tomato purée.
3. Add the chicken to the sauce, cover and cook on low pressure for 4 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If the sauce seems too thin, use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a bowl and then simmer the sauce on the sauté setting until it has thickened to taste. (Note that the coconut milk will thin the sauce down further.) Stir in the garam masala and the coconut milk, and let the curry sit for 20 minutes for the flavors to meld. Serve with the rice and yogurt, if desired. Garnish with cilantro.
Note: If you’d rather use a slow cooker, cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or on low for 4 to 5 hours, adding the coconut milk during the last hour.