A modern version of grandma’s old pressure cooker, digital pressure cookers like the Instant Pot are a modern marketing wonder. This “new” cooking system offers varied functionality at the press of a button, allowing the user to sauté, pressure cook and slow cook, turning out the perfect stew, quickly prepared beans or rice, or a mouthwatering, cooked-all-day meal from fresh and frozen meats. Set your pressure level and cooking time manually, or use the preset buttons on the front of the pot, preprogrammed for the correct pressure and cooking time of staples like soups and stews.
The benefits of an Instant Pot include shortened cooking time, tender meat, and vegetables cooked to perfection. Tough cuts like shank, neck or stew meat often take hours to braise on the stovetop or slow cook in a traditional Crock-Pot. With an Instant Pot pressure cooker, what would normally take four to eight hours can be prepared in an hour or so, with a taste and texture that will blow your mind. Even starting with frozen meats, you can be serving dinner in less than two hours.
Learn the Basics An Instant Pot can be intimidating at first, but its functions are nearly foolproof and safety features are built in.
The easiest way to learn the functions on your Instant Pot is to start by reading the user manual, of course. Once you have basic understanding, it's time to observe the cooking times for different foods via the pre-programmed cooking buttons provided. Plug the power cord into the unit, lock the lid in place and start playing with the function buttons. Push one, and it will show the preset cook time. Cancel it and try another. You'll notice you can also adjust the cooking time and pressure manually.
Once you've got the basics, try your hand at a simple yet hearty stew, perfect for a cold February night.
A few things to note when it’s time to start pressure cooking:
The lid will lock in place only when it is seated correctly. The lid must be locked and the steam vent must be in the closed position to allow pressure to build and start cooking.
Make sure the gasket ring is installed correctly on the underside rim of the lid. The lid won’t seal properly without it. The gasket can be removed for cleaning and is easy to put back in place.
There is no “On” or “Start” button. Once the ingredients are added, the lid is closed and locked, and the time and pressure are set (manually or via a preprogrammed function button), the unit will automatically start heating. Once the pressure builds, the vent will close and shortly thereafter, the timer will start.
Your pot requires liquid to create pressure. After adding your solid ingredients, make sure to include the minimum amount of liquid recommended by the manufacturer (about 1 cup).
When the cooking time is up, the unit defaults to the “Keep Warm” mode. There are two options for venting the built-up pressure and removing the lid of your Instant Pot. First, the user can do nothing, allowing the unit to default to the “Keep Warm” mode and decrease pressure on its own slowly over time. This can take up to 40 minutes or more. The other option is to do a quick release by turning the steam release valve located on the lid to the “Venting” position. This opens the steam valve, allowing the built-up steam to vent quickly. Just remember, if using the quick-release venting function, the steam you release will be hot!
Don’t worry, your Instant Pot will display an error message if something is wrong. Look to the user manual to explain the error. Most problems can be corrected with a simple cleaning of the lid and pot.
Editor's Tip: One of the best things about cooking wild game with an Instant Pot is the amount of resources and recipes that are available free online. There are plenty of hunters out there with freezers full of game who have turned to this "new age" cooking system, and many of them have shared their Instant Pot successes and failures online. Want to know how long to cook that moose roast? What about starting with frozen meats? Need a quick and delicious weeknight recipe for that ever-plentiful deer burger? Duck and sausage gumbo, anyone? Try some recipes, adapt your own. Get creative. The path to Instant Pot pro-status can be found at the click of a button. —Jon Draper