Van Cooking With An Instant Pot
So it is official, the Instant Pot is my new favorite van cooking appliance. Unless you have been living under a rock recently, you have probably heard some talk about the Instant Pot. Food bloggers are all about this multifunctional appliance. Numerous cookbooks are all over Amazon, I even saw a few the last time I went to Costco. Pressure cooking has become mainstream, thanks to this device.
The Instant Pot is numerous devices in 1. It can be used as a rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, sauté, yogurt maker, and food warmer. The mini size will make up to 6 cups (12 cups cooked) of rice at once, keep food warm for over 10 hours, and has a 24 hour delay start timer. Have I peaked your interest yet?
So what makes the Instant Pot my new favorite van cooking method? Well there are many reasons, but let’s start with ease of use. I have a stove top pressure cooker for our home that I used to love using, but it now basically a large hard boiled egg cooker. With a normal stove top pressure cooker, you need to constantly watch the cooker to make sure it is at your ideal pressure for what you are cooking. Which is a pain if your kitchen is in a cubby of your home away from say a seat and the TV. But with the Instant Pot, you just set the cooking method, set the timer, and just let it do its thing. No need to monitor the heat from a stove top or even turn the device off, when the timer finishes, it turns itself off. It will even keep food warm. In a van this is great, it means you can put everything in the cooker, then be outside enjoying the day, and come back into the van with dinner ready.
Clean up with the Instant Pot is a breeze. Instead of using numerous pots to make a dish, everything is cooked right inside the cooker. So that is one pot to clean up. And because of the way a pressure cooker cooks, you rarely have food stuck to the bottom of the pot.
The model I choose for the van was the Instant Pot Duo Mini 3 quart. The standard size is 6 qt and the large is a 8 qt. The reason I am telling you this, is because most recipes are designed for a 6 qt model, but I have only had to do slight adjustments since most of the recipes for the 6 qt don’t actually max out the pot. The mini size has successfully made enough for 1 meal and then leftovers, so 4 meals since I am cooking for 2. I have then used it to heat up the leftovers since we don’t have a microwave. Multifunction for the win!
I found this great blog post showing the difference between the 3 sizes. One of the things she did not mention was the reason the Mini Instant Pot takes longer to come up to pressure is because it is only 700 Watts compared with 1000 Watts for the 6 qt size and 1200 Watts for the 8 qt. Some people online have been complaining about this, but to me it is fine and to be expected. Spending an extra minute or 5 to get up to high pressure is no biggie in my book.
We went on a week long trip over the holidays and I did not take out the propane stove top once. I cooked every meal in the Instant Pot. Now I didn’t cook every meal we ate since we were in urban areas and went out a few times, but we ate at least 1 meal a day in the van. I made chicken and rice, potato sausage soup, pasta bolognese, and okay I made chicken and rice twice, don’t judge. Water conservation in the van is always on my mind, and the Instant Pot is great at that. White rice cooks with a ratio of 1:1 instead of 2:1. Pasta cooked right in the pot, so 12 ounces of gluten free pasta only needed 1.5 cups of water and 1/2 cup of wine, instead of boiling a whole pot of water. Pressure cooking locks in steam/water/flavors/etc so nothing is lost during the cooking process which means less water.
When I bought the pressure cooker I also bought this book, The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook. There are no pictures which is always a bummer, but the book is super helpful. It has a wide range of dishes including labels to help you decide on timing of the recipes. Cooking with the pressure cooker is not always super quick, it does take about 10 minutes for the cooker to get to pressure, then cook time, then if the recipe requires slow release it can take another 10-20 minutes for that step. So labeling the time required is helpful for someone who is new to pressure cooking. I have seen numerous recipes online that say something like, “Only 5 minutes in the Instant Pot”, which is a lie. So don’t be fooled.
For anyone who is wondering. We have a 2000 watt inverter, 400 amp hour battery bank, 270 watt solar panel, and can charge our batteries via the alternator while driving. We were up in the California bay in winter and had no issues running the Instant Pot with our set up.
Leave me questions or comments below if you need more help or advice.