Pressure Cooker Anxiety Kept Me From Buying One—Now I Can't Stop Using It

I have an entire room in my house filled with small appliances. But it didn't include an electric pressure cooker until just recently.

a collage of an Instant Pot
Photo: Courtesy of Brand; EatingWell collage

Anyone who knows me knows I am a gadget woman. If there is a small appliance, no matter how niche, I probably own it. I envy those cooks who believe they only need two pots, one skillet and two knives to do everything they need. I'm that person who might use three or four different countertop appliances to prep for dinner. Protein being cooked gently to medium-rare with the Joule sous vide? Check. Risotto magically stirring hands-off to creamy luxurious perfection in the Thermomix? Absolutely. Vegetables getting steam-roasted in the Fotile ChefCubii combi-steam oven? You betcha. Sauce being held at temperature in a Yeti bottle? Naturally. And after dinner I might offer you tea from the Zojirushi water boiler that keeps my water at a perfect 208 degrees all day long, or coffee from a fancy Jura bean-to-cup maker.

In fact, I have so many small appliances that we converted a small back bedroom off our kitchen into what I like to call my "kitchen library." Step inside and you'll find floor-to-ceiling metro shelving holding cookbooks on one wall, and the others full of equipment, much of it made up of these little units designed to make my life and cooking easier and better. It is my happy place. But it looks like a whole Williams Sonoma in there. And while the room is already bursting at the seams with these innovative tools, when a new one comes out, my heart starts to pitter-pat—I can always make room for more.

So, you might imagine that I would have been an early adopter of the multicooker when Instant Pots became all the rage. You couldn't escape them. Every food outlet was publishing multicooker recipes, cookbooks started to be released at a staggering pace, and it was, for a while there, the one appliance the whole world seemed to love. I did my research, explored functions, thought about how I like to cook. And didn't get one.

Not because I didn't want one. I mean, of course I wanted one. I didn't get one because they scared the bejesus out of me.

I am a middle-aged person, if you believe that 105 is a reasonable age to expect to achieve. I grew up in the era of stovetop pressure cookers hissing and steaming on the stovetop. Sure, they could get a tough pot roast tender as anything. But they could also, if legends begin in truth, explode. Kitchen myths of pressure cookers shooting right through the roof or spattering an entire family with lava-hot gravy were oft told in my childhood, and as much as I was coveting all those features everyone was enjoying with their Instant Pots, the idea made me very anxious.

I am not, by nature, a skittish person, especially in the kitchen. So, I convinced myself that my hesitation with getting a multicooker was purely about having the functionality they provide already covered in my many other appliances. But deep down, if I am honest, it was just serious catastrophizing. I was worried that it would try to kill me. Like a literal timebomb waiting to go off.

Then, two things happened that forced me to reframe my thinking. First and foremost, a very dear friend, Chandra Ram, wrote a cookbook called The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook. It was full of delicious recipes I had enjoyed at her home and very much wanted to be able to cook myself. But Instant Pot was right there in the title, and using one would be the only way to cook the dishes. And second, after a very long time on the waitlist, I was finally accepted into the Rancho Gordo Bean Club, which meant that premium-quality legumes were about to become a major part of my life and being able to cook them quickly and efficiently was going to be essential.

Like it or not, it was time to face my fears. Which is how the Chef iQ Smart cooker came into my life. It seemed easy and fairly intuitive, and I liked that it connected to my phone. In no small part because, in the back of my head, if it was going to blow up, at least I could be in another room. The kicker for me was the auto-release steam system, so you do not have to manually deal with releasing pressure, and it will ping your phone when the unit is safe to open, which seemed the best way to avoid ending up in the burn unit.

When it arrived, I unpacked it, read the instructions so many times I practically memorized them, and put it on the shelf. Where it sat for six months before I got up the gumption to plug it in. Wanting to help Chandra promote her book, I found four recipes I thought would make for a satisfying last supper and got to work.

It will surprise no one that the results were both quick and delicious. Tender butter chicken that tasted long-simmered. Rice perfectly cooked, each and every grain. The fastest dal on the planet. Even a steamed pot de crème for dessert. The electric pressure cooker was simple, worked as advertised, and I could not fault the results.

I also spent as little time as possible actually standing near it while it worked, hiding in the kitchen library and watching my phone as the pot auto-released, and waiting for the notification that it was safe to open. Baby steps, people.

I now use the appliance fairly regularly. I haven't become a multicooker evangelist, and it isn't the first appliance I reach for. But I do acknowledge it has been a game changer for both beans and braises, and for last-minute "we really shouldn't order takeout" suppers. I still make my rice in the rice cooker, but I have to admit my flans are better now that they are pressure-steamed. There is something a teeny bit magical about putting a bunch of dried pasta in the pot with a jar of sauce and some water and having a reasonable plate of al dente linguine marinara faster than it would have taken to boil a pot of water.

We seem to have come to an understanding at my house. I treat the pot with respect and allow it to make certain parts of my cooking life easier and faster, and in turn, it has behaved itself admirably. And now the only high pressure in my kitchen these days is inside the pot, and not in my chest. It's a start.

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