Instant Pot vs Breville Multi-Cooker vs my bank account

Since we still live a kitchenless existence I am always looking for ways to “cook up” without having to use the induction hot plate and filling the apartment with lingering food smell = something I despise. I have 2 slow cookers, a Breville toaster oven, an Anova immersion heater for sous vide, a rice cooker, the aforementioned induction hot plate and an electric kettle. So when Louis Anderman started going on about the Breville Multi-Cooker I was all ears. He had turned me on to the Anova – I used to sous vide in a rustic hodgepodge way (that yielded excellent results.) Louis also has the vacuum chamber sealer thing which makes me jealous AF. But I also have limited counter space so another gadget had better be really good.

The thing about the slow cooker is that browning is difficult to achieve. I’ve preheated the crock and been able to brown onions and such but it’s vaguely irritating. So I order the Breville from Sur la Table at the whopping cost of $280. It is also ENORMOUS so it sat unopened for about a month while I tried to justify its addition to the pantheon. At some point $280 back in the bank seemed the better part of valor so I took it back.

Fast forward to September. We’ve been doing an Indian Veg sort of diet and I am making dals and other bean dishes daily. All of the blogs for Indian cuisine have pressure instructions and I soon came to understand that cooking Indian daily makes a pressure cooker essential. I felt stupid about the Breville for about 15 minutes and then I discovered the Instant Pot.

To reel it back for a moment – I have always been deathly afraid of pressure cookers. My mom had a stovetop one with the whistle and the little bell and I can remember the drama around using it to make the occasional Osso Buco. It was sort of like having an unexploded landmine laying around. Tales of hideous steam burns and general fear of mutilation accompanied the mere concept of pressure cooking. Assuming that they are way safer than in the ‘70s and now come in electric, after the requisite internet research I went for the Instant Pot which I ordered from Amazon for a mere $89 with free shipping. $179 less than the Breville.

I LOVE this thing. It cooks potatoes to a silkiness for aloo gobi I have rarely experienced even in a restaurant. I’ve made dal makini, mixed lentils and chana dal – lightning fast. And now that I get the functions I’ve gone off book and finessed the manual settings. I did potatoes for 6, released pressure and added cauliflower and sautéed both in ghee then added a little water and pressure cooked it 3 minutes more.  It worked perfectly. I’ve sautéed at high heat. I even made rasmalai using the Pot to make the syrup and poach the dumplings.

Today I thought that a white bean with bacon soup sounded good (Indian Veg be damned.) I wanted to test the Pot in the field so I considered starting the whole thing from dry but opted to soak the beans for most of the day. Then once we got home I bet Frank that I could make the soup by the time he got out of the shower. So:

1lb Great Northern beans soaked

1 large can of chopped tomatoes

1 onion chopped

Couple cloves of garlic

Chipotle pepper flakes (nice and smokey)

Bay leaf, celery salt, sea salt

1/2lb smokey bacon – diced

Put it all in the Pot. Add water to the top of the veg. Set pressure high for 25 minutes.

Since I was racing Frank I only let it sit for 10 minutes to get things simmered down and then I did a quick release. It was a very nice looking soup – a little thin perhaps but the beans were perfect, the bacon unctuous, the seasoning sufficient. I think that long-cooked soups are more complex taste-wise. But for a hearty soup in 45 minutes (he likes long showers) it can’t be beaten. Next time I think I’ll smoosh the beans some and reduce it a bit.

UPDATE 10/20: Today the soup has thickened up nicely and tastes as good as versions I’ve made in the slow cooker. And it tastes very much like the Campbell’s bean with bacon soup I had as a kid. Next up – Progresso lentil soup.