7 Tricky Dishes Made Easier With an Instant Pot

If don’t have an Instant Pot at home, you may be skeptical of the hype surrounding this hot new kitchen gadget. The electronic pressure cooker works for many dishes once limited to the oven or stove top, and according to fans, it makes cooking them a lot less stressful. Looking for some recipes to convert you to the Instant Pot camp? Start with these notoriously tricky dishes you may have avoided in the past.

1. BROWN RICE

Bowl of brown rice.
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Why It's Hard: Brown rice delivers a whole lot of nutritious bang for your buck, but it’s also famously unforgiving to home cooks. Mess up your rice-to-water ratio and you end up with rice that’s soupy and mushy; leave it on the stove for a few minutes too long and your rice comes out dry, or worse, burnt. The whole cooking process takes 45 minutes to an hour.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: Like a rice cooker, an Instant Pot delivers perfectly steamed rice that requires little-to-no babysitting on your part. When preparing brown rice in an electric pressure cooker, you should use a rice-to-water ratio of approximately 2 cups to 2.5 cups, according to the food blog Our Best Bites. Cook for 22 to 24 minutes (depending on your elevation), and then give the pot a chance to release its pressure naturally for about 5 to 10 minutes. Your rice should come out fluffy and flavorful.

2. CHEESECAKE

Cheesecake on plate.
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Why It's Hard: Cheesecake is one of those treats that rarely turns out as good at home as it does when you order it from your favorite diner. Unlike other cakes, it has to be cooked in a hot water bath: Without one, you end up with ugly cracks breaking up the top. Between the 20-minute prep time, two-hour cook time, and the time it takes to cool down, baking cheesecake can be an all-day affair.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: Cheesecake may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cooking in an Instant Pot, but once you try it you’ll never go back. The food blog Little Spice Jar recommends preparing the graham cracker crust and cream cheese filling like you normally would, then placing the cake on a steaming rack inside the Instant Pot above one-and-a-quarter cups of water. Instead of sitting in a water bath, the cake steams, ensuring a perfectly smooth top. Allow it to cook on manual high pressure for 37 minutes, then let the Instant Pot naturally release pressure for another 25. Your cake will be cooked through in a little over one hour instead of two. (You'll still have to let it cool for a couple of hours, though.)

3. POACHED EGGS

Eggs benedict.
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Why It's Hard: It isn't easy to perfect poached eggs at home. Get it right, and you have a flawless white pillow that oozes with runny yolk the moment you pierce it with your fork. Get it wrong, and you have an egg with ragged, wispy whites and a yolk that’s broken or overcooked. The method for poaching an egg on the stove top involves dropping it in gently boiling water, a method that leaves a lot of room for error.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: Poaching an egg with an Instant Pot is one step above hard-boiling it on the difficulty scale. This recipe from Cooking with Curls has you crack eggs into silicone cups rather than directly into a pot. Once your cups are filled, place them on a steaming rack inside your Instant Pot above one cup of water. Seal the lid and steam them for a few minutes to get round, neat, Benedict-ready poached eggs.

4. RISOTTO

Risotto in a bowl.
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Why It's Hard: Anyone who’s watched a competitive cooking show knows that risotto is infamous among chefs. The recipe, which involves stirring rice with liquid until it reaches a creamy consistency, is seemingly simple, but add the liquid too quickly, or not often enough, and you’ll miss out on that luscious texture the dish is known for. If you’re doing it right, making risotto can take up to 30 minutes of your undivided attention.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: With an Instant Pot, making 7-minute risotto without the constant stirring is a possibility. This recipe from Hip Cooking has home chefs toast their rice in a preheated pressure cooker like you would with conventional risotto. Once the rice is ready, add the broth, seal the lid, and leave it to cook for five to six minutes. After releasing the pressure and giving the rice a good stir, your risotto should be ready to hit the plate.

5. MAC AND CHEESE

Cheesy mac and cheese in a bowl.
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Why It's Hard: Homemade macaroni and cheese is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It also requires a lot of work, including cooking pasta, making a roux, and baking it all together in the oven. More steps means more time, more dishes to clean, and more opportunities to mess up.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: Instant Pot mac and cheese is even more convenient than the boxed stuff. Instead of dirtying multiple pots, throw your ingredients—dry pasta, water, butter, seasonings—into your pressure cooker, says food blog Center Cut Cook. After leaving it to cook at high pressure for four minutes, release the pressure and add evaporated milk and a blend of shredded cheeses. Mix the ingredients to achieve gooey, cheesy goodness.

6. BAKED POTATOES

Baked potato on plate.
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Why It's Hard: Traditional baked potatoes are less difficult than they are time-consuming. To get fluffy oven-baked potatoes at home, you need to be prepared to wait about 45 minutes.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: An Instant Pot makes this simple dish even simpler. For this recipe from Self Proclaimed Foodie, just add a cup of water to the bottom of your pressure cooker, place your potato on the steaming rack, and close the lid. Cook the potatoes at high pressure for 12 to 20 minutes, then naturally release the pressure for another 10. That’s all it takes to transform your potatoes from hard and starchy to soft and creamy.

7. POT ROAST

Pot roast on a plate.
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Why It's Hard: Pot roast is a great meal to make on a lazy Sunday—not so much on a weeknight. The dish traditionally features a tougher cut of meat like chuck roast that needs to be cooked low and slow in a braising liquid until it becomes fall-apart tender. Depending on the size of your cut, the cooking process alone can take three to four hours.

How an Instant Pot Makes It Easy: Meet your new weeknight dinner staple. This recipe for pressure cooker pot roast from Amy + Jack cuts your roasting time in half and tastes just as good as a chuck roast cooked in a dutch oven. Start by browning your meat and sautéing your onions and garlic inside the hot Instant Pot. Load these ingredients into the pot with a cup of chicken stock and allow them to cook at high pressure for 45 minutes. Wait another 25 minutes for the cooker to depressurize naturally before removing the roast, and then add your vegetables and cook them on high for four minutes. Do a quick pressure release before taking out the vegetables and use the remaining juices to make your gravy.

9 Vintage Thanksgiving Side Dishes We Shouldn’t Bring Back

We all have that aunt—the one who’s been bringing her Miracle-Whip-bound pimiento-pea salad to Thanksgiving dinner since time immemorial. Although you may swear she got her recipe straight from the devil, it turns out that cheese-and-lime-Jell-O salads and their ilk were all the rage in her day. So it’s not (totally) her fault! To cut her a little slack, here are some examples of vintage Thanksgiving-themed recipes that will make her salad look like a perfectly golden-brown turkey.

1. CRANBERRY CANDLE SALAD

Best Foods Mayonnaise Ad 1960s with Jello Molds

Nothing complements the tart, refreshing flavor of cranberry sauce like some gelatin and salty, eggy mayonnaise. If that weren’t weird enough, this recipe also tells you to shove a real candle in there and then light it. Ostensibly, you’re supposed to eat around the melted wax, but we can’t be sure—maybe it’s considered a condiment.

2. CANDIED SWEET POTATOES WITH ANGOSTURA BITTERS

This recipe for candied sweet potatoes, which involves baking them in a mixture of butter, sugar, and angostura bitters, is probably either really good or really bad. It sort of makes sense, adding bitters to cut down on the sugar factor. Alternatively, you could just not make a candied version of something that already has the word sweet in its name.

3. CREAMED ONIONS

This once-popular Thanksgiving mainstay has been neglected over the last century, for perhaps obvious reasons. In some households, the idea was to pour creamed onions over the turkey, like gravy, to add a little moisture. Or possibly because eating a chunky mouthful of pearl onions and cream sauce by itself is gross.

4. TURKEY AND STUFFING ON JELL-O

Thanksgiving Jello Ad

There’s not much to this one, is there? It’s a pile of turkey and stuffing dumped on top of a cranberry orange Jell-O ring—sounds delicious!

5. WINTER CORN

This mixture of corn, sour cream, and bacon is sometimes found on Midwestern Thanksgiving tables. It’s mostly off-putting because its main ingredient is creamed corn. That said, creamed corn really needs all the help it can get, so adding bacon can only improve it.

6. SWEET AND SOUR TANG POPCORN (A.K.A. ASTRONAUT POPCORN)

Reportedly, this was a popular Thanksgiving dessert in the ’70s. The idea seems to be an offshoot of caramel corn, but … with Tang powder.

7. HOT DR. PEPPER

You gotta give the good folks at Dr. Pepper a few points for at least trying here. They noticed that soda was not often considered a cozy, comforting holiday drink, and they stepped up to the bat undaunted. Bold move.

8. FROZEN JELLIED TURKEY-VEGETABLE SALAD

There’s only one way to improve a dish as alluring as Jellied Turkey-Vegetable Salad, and that’s to stick it in the freezer. From the sound of the recipe—which combines cream of celery soup, salad dressing, diced turkey, vegetables, and gelatin—this is basically the inside of a turkey pot pie if it was served frozen. And also if it was square.

9. JELL-O FRUIT CORNUCOPIA

Sure, cornucopias were for holding food in olden times, but don’t you wish you could eat one? Well, guess what—your years of longing are finally over, because someone has made a Jell-O version of one with fruit trapped in it. You don’t even have to take the fruit out of the cornucopia this time—you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Dreams do come true.

10 Amazing Facts About Stan Lee

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

Comic book legend Stan Lee’s life was always an open book. The co-creator of some of the greatest superheroes and most beloved stories of all time, Lee—who passed away on November 12 at the age of 95—became just as mythical and larger-than-life as the characters in the panels. In 2015, around the time of Marvel’s 75th anniversary, Lee had the idea to reflect on his own life, as he said, “in the one form it has never been depicted, as a comic book … or if you prefer, a graphic memoir.”

The result, published by the Touchstone imprint of Simon & Schuster in 2015, was Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir—which was written by Lee with Peter David and features artwork by cartoonist and illustrator Colleen Doran. Here are 10 things we learned about Lee.

1. HIS WIFE WAS ALSO HIS BARBER.

As a bit of a throwaway fact, Stanley Martin Lieber (Stan Lee) revealed the secret of his slicked back mane on the second page of his memoir. “My whole adult life, I’ve never been to a barber,” he wrote. “Joanie always cuts my hair.”

2. HIS CONFIDENCE CAME FROM HIS MOTHER.

Lee wrote that as a child he loved to read books by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and others, and his mother often watched him read: “I probably got my self-confidence from the fact that my mother thought everything I did was brilliant.”

3. YOUNG STAN LEE WROTE OBITUARIES.

Before writing about the fantastic lives of fictional characters, Lee wrote antemortem obituaries for celebrities at an undisclosed news office in New York. He said that he eventually quit that job because it was too “depressing.”

4. CAPTAIN AMERICA WAS HIS FIRST BIG BREAK.

A week into his job at Timely Comics, Lee got the opportunity to write a two-page Captain America comic. He wrote it under the pen name Stan Lee (which became his legal name) and titled it "Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge." His first full comic script would come in Captain America Issue 5, published August 1, 1941.

5. HE WROTE TRAINING FILMS FOR THE ARMY WITH DR. SEUSS.

After being transferred from the army’s Signal Corps in New Jersey, Lee worked as a playwright in the Training Film Division in Queens with eight other men, including a few who went on to be very famous: Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Saroyan, cartoonist Charles Addams (creator of The Addams Family), director Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington [1939] and It’s a Wonderful Life [1946]) and Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

6. HE DEFIED THE COMICS CODE AUTHORITY WITH AN ANTI-DRUG COMIC.

In 1971, Lee received a letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare asking him to put an anti-drug message in one of his books. He came up with a Spider-Man story that involved his best friend Harry abusing pills because of a break-up. The CCA would not approve the story with their seal because of the mention of drugs, but Lee convinced his publisher, Martin Goodman, to run the comic anyway.

7. AN ISSUE AT THE PRINTERS TURNED THE HULK GREEN.

The character was supposed to be gray, but according to Lee, the printer had a hard time keeping the color consistent. “So as of issue #2,” Lee wrote, “with no explanation, he turned green.”

8. HIS WIFE DESTROYED HIS PRIZED TYPEWRITER.

According to Lee, during an argument, Joanie destroyed the typewriter he used to write the first issues for characters including Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four. “This happened before eBay," he wrote. "Too bad. I could’ve auctioned the parts and made a mint.”

9. A FIRE DESTROYED HIS INTERVIEWS AND LECTURES.

When Lee moved his family to Los Angeles, he set up a studio in Van Nuys where he stored videotapes of his talks and interviews, along with a commissioned bust of his wife. The building was lost to a blaze that the fire department believed was arson, but no one was ever charged with the crime.

10. HIS FAVORITE MARVEL FILM CAMEO WAS BASED ON ONE FROM THE COMICS.

Beginning with the first Spider-Man film in 2002, Stan Lee has made quick cameos in Marvel films as a service to the fans. He said that his appearance in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) was inspired by the story of Reed and Sue Richards’ wedding in Fantastic Four Annual Volume 1 #3, in which he and artist/writer Jack Kirby attempt to crash the ceremony but are thwarted.

A version of this story ran in 2015.

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