Look for the summer’s most dedicated cooks, and you will probably find them at the grill. But you might not want to hang out there with them too long: it’s a hot, often buggy place to be. (And there are so many rules.)
Now, a group of ardent cooks is touting an alternate place to create some of summer’s standout dishes: their Instant Pot. Melissa Clark, The New York Times columnist whose latest cookbook is “Comfort in an Instant,” happily stays away from outdoor open flames.
“It’s scorching out where the grill is, cool in the kitchen where my Instant Pot is. I can’t imagine doing long barbecued meats like ribs and pork shoulder on the grill ever again,” she says. “The only thing the grill is really better for is quick-cooking things that you want to char. Downside, you have to hang out with your ingredients while they char. Maybe char is overrated.”
Other enthusiasts of the automatic pressure-meets-slow cooker echo the sentiment. “The last thing I want to do when it’s hot out is stand over a gas grill that’s at 600 degrees,” says Bruce Weinstein, author, with Mark Scarbrough, of “From Freezer to Instant Pot.” Besides delivering great food, Instant Pots require minimal cleanup compared to the burnt-in mess of grills, Weinstein adds.
Here are nine meat, poultry and fish dishes that Instant Pot advocates argue are better in their beloved appliance.
And for those who want the best of both worlds, revered Indian chef Madhur Jaffrey, author of the upcoming “Instantly Indian Cookbook,” has a solution: “Take your Instant Pot outside for a summer meal. You’re re-creating the social performance that a grill serves for people, and you can sit in the shade while your food cooks.”
Ryan Pera, chef/co-owner of Revival Market and Coltivare in Houston: “My wife and I want tacos all the time. In Houston’s fall, winter and summer, I will fire up our grill without hesitation. But in late summer’s humidity, I turn to the Instant Pot in our delightfully air-conditioned home to slow-cook carnitas. This creates a nice tender pork with — in a shockingly short period of time — complex layers of flavors that surpass what I can cook up with charcoal fire.”
2. Baby back ribs
Melissa Clark: “They stay tender, they gain more flavor, they increase in succulence in the IP. On the grill, they often dry out, and they can get too smoky. Plus, ribs only take 25 minutes in the Instant Pot. Just compare that to the four to six hours ribs take on the grill.”
3. Pulled pork
Bruce Weinstein: “Pulling pork takes all day on the grill. We cook it in the IP with pickle brine for an unbeatable barbecue flavor.”
Melissa Clark: “You can’t get the same falling-off-the-bone texture for this on the grill, no matter how low and slow you go. The moist environment of the IP is superior. It’s also another supreme time saver: Six to eight hours on the grill over indirect heat vs. 90 minutes in the IP.”
4. Pork chops
Madhur Jaffrey: “I cook thin pork chops in a sauce that’s flavored with a mix of toasted spices — cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns. Because the pork is sautéed, then braised in a sweet soy sauce mixture, you get the best of all worlds. When it boils down, you’re left with a lovely, sticky barbecue sauce. It’s just not the same on the grill.” Plus, you really risk drying them out.
Melissa Clark: “Salmon in the IP is quick, you can get a sear on the bottom and the fish never turns rubbery. Cooking it with lots of aromatics, as I do in my Vietnamese-style caramel salmon recipe, infuses the flesh with loads of flavor. The grill can cook fish unevenly, and then you have to clean the fish basket, which is always unpleasant.” Plus, you should never cook salmon on the grill.
Melissa Clark: “Instant Pot chicken wings are amazing, tender, juicy and deeply flavored. They won’t turn crisp unless you broil or grill them, though, so in this case, I’d say the best-case scenario is a hybrid method. Cook them in the IP until tender, then flash them on the grill for one to two minutes. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Bruce Weinstein: “Buffalo wings are yet another summer grill favorite that we do easily in the IP, with butter and hot sauce.”
7. Barbecue pork loin
Bruce Weinstein: “The Instant Pot makes a barbecue pork loin that’s tender and moist, something the grill can never guarantee. Plus, the sauce infuses into the meat much more deeply than can happen on the grill or in the oven. You just thin out whatever flavor barbecue sauce you like with any liquid from beer to apple juice.”
8. Pork/lamb kebabs
Madhur Jaffrey: We know never to do shish kebabs on the grill, but even single meats can benefit from the IP treatment. “I cook the pork cubes or lamb with not much more than ginger, garlic and a special mixture of spices. It is quite scrumptious, yet very easy to make in the Instant Pot. They’re made with stock, but it boils away, so the meat is exceptionally juicy and also more flavored with spice than if you made it on the grill.”
Bruce Weinstein: “For the most part, burgers are what you put on them. It could be pickle relish and pickled jalapeños or mayonnaise and kimchi” — or this incredible Kronnerburger cheese mayo. In the Instant Pot, you can put many of these toppings right in with the burger before you cook it, so the flavor gets infused into the meat. You can cook them plain or with butter, mustard, onions, garlic — so the flavor really infuses the meat.”