Let’s face it. As fall gets into full swing, time and energy are at a premium, and fantasies of having a flavorful, creative dinner on the table each night turn out to be just that—fantasies. But before you swipe an app or turn on the microwave to thaw a frozen entrée, there’s another simple way to get a delicious warm meal on the table while you’re busy doing other things or, even better, kicking back.
How? With a multicooker, the most popular of which is the Instant Pot. If you’re new to the party and aren’t already a die-hard fan (aka “pothead”), this high-tech appliance is a combination slow cooker, rice cooker, and yogurt maker that sautés, steams, simmers, and braises. Like traditional slow cookers, the mighty multicooker can be a lifesaver.
Plus, it keeps the kitchen clean while you get a leg up on a great home-cooked dinner. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to make in the multicooker (they work well in the slow cooker, too), which make great use of the late-summer, early-fall produce that’s now so abundant and delicious.
5 Tips for Instant Pot Deliciousness
- Best Is Best The quality of the ingredients you cook with is, as always, paramount. Use the best seasonal ingredients you can find.
- Brown First When cooking meat, sear first, either in the multicooker or a skillet, to add extra flavor.
- Don’t Pile On Never load the pot more than the maximum fill line, or about two-thirds full.
- Liquid Math You don’t need a lot of liquid for a multicooker or slow cooker; the covered, hot, moist environment makes it unnecessary. A 2-to-1 ratio of ingredients to liquid is a good rule of thumb.
- Tough to Tender If not using the pressure-cooking function, start with the toughest, longest-to-cook items on the bottom when adding ingredients, and put more delicate foods on top.
RecipeThe vinegar braising liquid cooks down to a mellow sweetness, bright with ginger and the woodsy umami of shiitake. This dish is perfect with jasmine rice and a glass of cold Riesling.
RecipeEggplant caponata is a vegetarian main course that offers the balanced acidity and sweetness of the classic condiment. Served with couscous and a fresh mint, tomato, and cucumber salad, it hits all those notes that I crave in a meal.