A Good Appetite: To Transform Your Weeknight Cooking, Turn On the Instant Pot

What I especially love about the multicooker is its inherent flexibility, pleasing cooks of all temperaments.

If you’re an organized, plan-ahead type of person, you can use your multicooker exactly like a slow cooker. Just use the slow-cook setting with any of your old favorite slow-cooker recipes without even having to adjust them.

Culinary procrastinators, on the other hand, can take full advantage of the pressure setting, which cooks food in minutes instead of hours.

I’m in the latter camp, and so this is my routine: On the way home from work, I stop at the store for some beans or grains or a package of chicken thighs. I throw them into the pot with a mix of interesting seasonings. Then I make a salad while the pot does its thing.

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The ribs are first cooked using the pressure-cooker function, then glazed and broiled in the oven to finish.

Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

That’s it. A satisfying dish that would normally take an hour or more is on the table in 20 to 30 minutes.

Now earthy soups, supple stews and luscious braises are within reach for winter weeknights, instead of being relegated to weekends when I have hours to let them simmer. In the summer I can quickly cook beans and grains for salads without heating up the kitchen, or steam artichokes without having to stare at a pot on the stove. I don’t even have to be home.

No matter the season, my basic strategy for using my multicooker on weeknights remains constant: I estimate how many minutes I have before I want dinner to be on the table, and work backward from there.

Often, getting my meal done in the shortest amount of time is simply a matter of how you cut up the ingredients — the smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook. So while a whole brisket or boneless pork shoulder might take 90 minutes to braise under pressure, beef stew meat cut into 1½-inch pieces, or pork ribs cut into two or three rib sections, will be tender in 20 to 25 minutes. Save the large, impressive, company-worthy pieces of meat for when you have more time.

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Coconut curry chicken can be made beginning to end in an hour.

Credit
Karsten Moran for The New York Times

You can apply the same method for dense root vegetables like beets and potatoes. While whole roots usually need about 20 to 30 minutes to cook, slices or cubes take 5 to 10 minutes.

Because I rarely plan ahead, one of my favorite multicooker tricks is to cook dried beans on a weeknight without soaking them first. Of course, you can’t cut them up to make them cook more quickly, but you can select smaller beans. When time is tight, buy lentils, split peas or adzuki beans, which cook from their dried, unsoaked state in under 20 minutes. Save the chickpeas, kidney beans and cannellinis for when you’ve got close to an hour.

As for those chicken thighs, my go-to method is to buy them boneless, cut them into pieces and then throw them in the pot with pretty much any combination of spices, aromatics and condiments, to cook in under 10 minutes. Add barbecue sauce and you’ll get barbecued chicken.

Coconut milk, a can of tomatoes and garam masala result in a creamy, currylike dish. A squirt each of sriracha, lime juice, soy sauce and honey, along with a grated garlic clove, gives you something far tastier than it should for the amount of work you put in. If you use breasts instead of thighs, they’ll cook even more quickly, though be careful not to overdo it because they’ll dry out.

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