There's all sorts of ways to use this wonder gadget when it's sweltering outside.

Alex Van Buren
June 13, 2018
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No matter how much you love summer, most of us are not inclined to pop the oven up to 500 degrees when it’s 90 degrees out there. Nor crank it to 400 for roast chicken when it’s 85. Nor even deal with a boiling pot of water when it’s 80.

Whether you’re struggling with a couple of cantankerous, wheezing A/C units or have the luxury of central air, there’s no need to restrict yourself to cold salads, raw foods, or a single can of tuna, eaten as you sit in front of the blast from the box fan. You can indeed eat cooked food without turning on your oven or using that stovetop. But you need the right gadget.

Whether you’re a slow-cooker or a pressure cooker person, now is the time to remember their power to keep your home cooler. The electric versions tend to heat a room minimally, and reduce the time you have to wait for dinner, to boot. Today, for example, I made coconut curry chicken using a recipe from Melissa Clark’s excellent Dinner in an Instant in my Instant Pot. The poultry cookery time? Four minutes. Four. A combination of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, coconut milk and a hit of garam masala make this a dream recipe in my house.

I wanted to talk to an Instant Pot savant to learn more tricks, so I called Urvashi Pitre, whose genius (and viral) tomato-butter Indian chicken Instant Pot recipe has sparked so much interest in the recipes she posts on her blog Two Sleevers that she’s written four cookbooks in a year. The Texas-based Pitre had plenty of smart tips for using a pressure cooker—she owns five—to keep her kitchen cool.

“I live in Texas and I hate the heat,” says Pitre right off the bat. She is a huge fan of doing as little as possible not in the Instant Pot. “Use one pot, you don’t dirty 16 pans, and you’re done in under an hour.” Sounds about right to us.

Brew iced tea

Pitre is convinced that making iced tea in your Instant Pot (recipe below) is key to keeping it from becoming bitter. It’s faster, she says, and you don’t need to sweat over boiling water. “It’s absolutely the way to get a super-strong, robust tea that’s not at all bitter,” she says of her method. She also makes masala chai, horchata, and “a ton of iced drinks” in the IP. Why? “The flavors infuse better.”

Cook Instant Pot beans for sturdier salads

Whether it’s chickpeas for salad or “Texas caviar,” a hearty black-eyed pea salad spiked with lime juice and jalapeños, beans made in a pressure cooker are key to having an inexpensive, hearty protein on hand to fold into uncooked dishes, says Pitre. Layer beans with avocado, romaine, and homemade dressing for something easy. Smash them for layered dips for chips. Spin chickpeas into hummus. Pressure cookers get beans done in a snap without any day-long soaks; there’s a reason people love them for beans.

Make cakes

Someone’s birthday coming up? Don’t fret. Make them a cheesecake or a chocolate cake using the pressure cooker. It’s a bit mind-blowing, but it works. Pitre has more than a dozen cake recipes on her site, and I’m definitely tempted by her IP apple cake, ricotta-lemon cheesecake, and carrot cake.

Don’t always worry about sautéing aromatics

Though I love Clark’s chicken curry, it does require sautéing onions in the pressure cooker for a good 12 to 18 minutes to caramelize them. That’s a lot of crying and sweating over hot onions. Pitre tries to avoid sautéing wherever possible. She might use the pressure cooker’s sauté function to cook garlic if “there’s not much else going on” flavor-wise, but she usually finds workarounds. For her butter chicken, for example, she takes advantage of the fact that the tomatoes will nearly caramelize right in the pot, lending the whole dish the sort of booming flavor that you might usually get from caramelized onions or toasted spices. Make the pressure itself do the work of boosting flavor, she suggests.

Cook meaty mains

Remember: Just because it’s hot outside doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to tasty cooked foods. Pitre pointed me to her sesame ginger chicken recipe, which mingles Instant Pot-cooked chicken with julienned carrots, cucumbers, red onions, and smashed peanuts. But you can also be knee-deep in ribs, stews, and coq au vin—whatever your heart desires—without setting foot outside that door, and without turning on that dang stove.

How to Make Instant Pot Iced Tea

Serves: 8

4 regular teabags

6 cups water

¼ cup Splenda adjust to taste, or ½ cup sugar

  1. Pour everything into your Instant Pot, and cook on High Pressure for 4 minutes, and allow the pressure to release naturally for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Allow it to cool slightly and then serve over ice.
  3. I usually use the teabags twice. For the second batch, I add 1-2 fresh teabags to the old ones and make another batch of tea.
  4. My typical brew is 2 bags of decaf tea + 2 bags Chai flavored tea bags. This gives the tea a light chai flavor which is great over ice.

Receip rprinted with permission from Urvashi Pitre of Two Sleevers.

Alex Van Buren—follow her on Instagram and Twitter @alexvanburen—is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and content strategist who has written for The Washington Post, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, and Epicurious.

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