Pulling out my shiny new Instant Pot for the first time didn’t come without trepidation. I was really curious, eager to find out how this appliance that proclaims itself to be a pressure cooker turned crockpot turned yogurt maker could produce a Shabbat quality roasted chicken in record time.
Picture this: It’s Friday. You’ve established with your family that lighting candles, saying Brachot over the wine and bread, and having a meal together will be a weekly ritual. You want to make a traditional Shabbat meal – chicken, potatoes, and green beans; however, making this meal would take a typical Balabusta (Yiddish for good homemaker) at least an afternoon to prepare. You don’t have an afternoon: It’s 5 p.m. and you’re serving dinner at 6:30 p.m.
You scour Pinterest for a chicken recipe that offers a honey garlic rub. Here’s the recipe I found, and spoiler alert…it’s good:
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp onion powder
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp molasses (optional)
1 tbsp brown sugar
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Prepare the chicken by seasoning it first with salt and pepper before rubbing in the sauce.
The Instant Pot is simple and sleek. Its chrome exterior offers a series of buttons on a panel shaped like a shield worn by a Maccabee warrior. It certainly looks self-explanatory, yet you find yourself again on Pinterest looking for step-by-step instructions on how to use the motherboard.
You start by pouring a cup of water into the bottom of the pot’s cavernous bowl, which remains inside the pot. Gently, you place the bird on top of a trivet that offers side handles for pulling the chicken out when it’s done. Once placed on top, the lid is rotated to lock in place. You’ll know it’s secure when a series of beeps are sounded communicating some sort of code you’ve yet to learn.
As instructed, you push a button clearly labeled Poultry. Increase the type of pressure from normal to high (if you have the 7-in-1, you do that by pressing the “adjust” button.) Cook time is determined by the weight of the bird. Multiply the number of pounds by 6 minutes. Mine was close to 5 pounds so I set the timer for 30 minutes. The catch: the lid isn’t glass so you can’t peer in to watch that little sicken (Yiddish for chicken) cook.
Next, you’ll need an industrial telescope, a theater quality stage light, and possibly Tom Hanks’ character from the movie “The Da Vinci Code.” Here’s why: there’s a small wobbly dial towards the back of the lid that locks in the pressure. The aforementioned tools help you see and decipher the symbols surrounding the dial – one symbol looks like a puff of smoke with the raised word VENTING and the other looks like straight lines. I’ll cut to the chase; turn the dial towards the symbol with the straight lines.
Ten minutes pass as you wonder if the device is working when another series of foreign beeps sound off. Is the little clucker talking to you from the inside, or is the lid about to break through the ceiling? Turns out it’s signaling that pressurizing is complete and cooking will now commence. Thirty minutes pass and the beeps signaling the finale are sounded. The chicken is done. But how do you break the chicken out of this solitary confinement?
First, you release the pressure by cautiously turning the dial at the back-of-the-lid towards the hieroglyphic emoji that looks like a puff of smoke. Do not place your hand over the steam as the pressure and heat could cause serious burns. You’ll know the pressure is escaping when you hear a kettle-like whistle and see a steady stream of steam rising from the air holes on top of the dial.
The whistle winds down and the device is at rest. It’s now time to twist off the lid to reveal a succulent chicken cooked to perfection. The aroma permeates the room. Incredible! The chicken from start to finish was prepared in 50 minutes: 10 minutes prep, 10 minutes pressurizing, and 30 minutes cooking.
Now it’s 6 p.m. and the real pressure cooker begins. While the chicken was cooking you had prepared the potatoes and green beans in the oven – but that’s a recipe for another time. You put out the fancy plastic dishware and utensils, arrange the Shabbat ritual objects – candles, wine, challah – and herd your family around the table. You are a hero amongst Balabustas. And, it only took an instant…in the pot!