I excitedly opened my Instant Pot as soon as the mailman delivered it in the summer of 2017.
Then I put it in the pantry, which is where it sat. For months.
Truth is, the thing scared the dickens out of me. It was a pressure cooker. Those of us at a certain age have heard tales of such vessels exploding. I may as well have brought a bomb-wielding copperhead snake into my home.
Things might have been different had I first taken Cooking Under Pressure, the two-hour class offered by Cumberland County UT Extension. Kelli Roberson and Crystal Blankenship give easy-to-understand instructions on the kitchen appliance wonder that's taken the culinary world by storm.
“Don't be afraid of it,” Roberson said during an October class at the Plateau Experiment Station. “Just use it. They're a lot of fun.”
Extension's Roberson, Blankenship and Tammy Sells are three of Instant Pot's most die-hard fans, and they're anxious to convert others to the one-pot method of cooking.
It's a sophisticated device. Unlike those pressure cookers your mother and grandmother used, Instant Pot won't release its lid until depressurization is complete.
In other words, no more explosions.
Social media's Instant Pot faithful ― and there are millions of them ― sing its praises for cooking food quickly. Many a novice, myself included, have felt deceived when a recipe takes longer than a friend insisted.
What we rookies don't understand is that time must be factored in to allow the pot to depressurize, whether it's by natural release (leaving the Instant Pot to its own devices) or quick release, which we force by turning the valve to expel steam more expediently.
“It takes about a third of the time” to cook, Roberson said. “It is a quicker method. The flavor is a lot more concentrated. You're going to get more flavor out of it.”
Instant Pot isn't only a pressure cooker. It's multi-faceted functions allow cooks to use it as a slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, warming pot and yogurt maker.
The food preparation is almost limitless ― Blankenship said she uses hers to boil eggs, and she showed off two beautiful (and delicious) cheesecakes that she prepared earlier. While she told of people who have said it's easier to buy yogurt than make it, one of the class participants delivered a testimonial from a friend.
“Once you make it, you'll never buy it again,” she said.
The class was hands-on, so those who signed up were assigned stations to cook from scratch breakfast casserole, stuffed cabbage roll casserole, apple butter and cheesecake. Not only did they hear terms like deglazing and pot-in-pot cooking, they performed the functions themselves.
Instant Pot might be a great gift for yourself or your favorite foodies who love to cook and eat. Even better, it might be just the thing you need to get you away from the stove and having fun with your family this Christmas. After all, isn't that what the holidays are truly about?
(And take the class the next time Extension offers it. You'll have a blast. I promise.)
It may be time for those of us scared of the thing to give it a first or second chance. I plan to spend the weekend getting acquainted with mine ― if I can wrest it away from my 20-something daughter.
She wasn't afraid of it. And like our friends at Extension, she's one of its biggest fans.