The most used appliance in my kitchen?


A few months ago, I got a review copy of  a clever new cookbook featuring one of my favorite countertop appliances. The book had 150 of what were advertised as the best recipes for this particular device, and it included a 10 page section devoted to how to work the thing. On the front was a beautiful photograph of a dish this appliance was great for making. 

The picture was of a Tuna Melt!

You thought I was going to say faux-tisserie chicken, didn’t you?

Admit it — I fooled you into thinking the book was about using an instant pot. 


The book is about toaster oven cooking. It’s called “150 Best Toaster Oven Recipes,” by Linda Stephen. I’m a big toaster oven user, and even I learned a thing or two from this book. Toaster oven sales are up 80 percent since 2000! And they only use about half of the energy of a regular oven. 

The recipes in here are not particularly trendy, but they do work in the toaster oven. I loved the idea of roasting your own almonds or other nuts on a small scale in the toaster oven. And the addition of hoisin sauce will definitely up our nacho game. The toaster oven gets a lot of use in our house because as a family of six with four teenage kids, someone is always whipping up a snack or meal The toaster oven is perfect for serving one to two people, which is about the number of people who are hungry at any one time in my house. It’s also somehow lower stakes than preheating the big oven, and there have been a lot of test recipes prepared in there. I think the toaster oven was essential for the perfection of home made granola my daughter has made. 

But back to the elephant in the room. And, yep, it is in the room. I got an Instant Pot!

After months and months of envying everyone’s Facebook raves and all my recipe blogs yammering on about it, I got an Instant Pot for Christmas!

Will it get as much use as the toaster oven?As the Magic 8 Ball would say: Remains to be seen.

So far, I have discovered that it really depends on what your definition of instant is. While recipes may have impossibly short cook times like “One minute Quinoa” or “Steel Cut Oats in four minutes,” that isn’t really the whole story. This thing is a pressure cooker, which means it has to come to pressure before it cooks, which takes 5 to 10 minutes, depending on what you’re working with. Plus, the pressure has to release before you can open it. In the case of those steel cut oats, the 4 minute cook time was padded with 10 minutes to let the pressure naturally release. And in other recipes, you use “quick release” which is a little bit like dinner and a show: you press a button and a loud plume of steam is violently emitted from the thing. When I did it, I hovered close enough to ward onlookers off to a safe distance, but not so close to burn myself. 

In that case, it also seems to blow whatever might be floating around into the vent as well. I found dried thyme and ground sage stuck the lid of my Instant Pot after a recent batch of Wild RIce and Mushroom Stew. After a vigorous scrub with what turned out to be a saxophone brush, and it was clean. But I’d been assured by an Instant Pot loving friend that cleanup was no harder than any other basic dinner clean up and i felt a little peeved. Honestly, I hate cleaning up so much that I would probably only be satisfied if the Instant Pot sprouted arms and scrubbed itself, and then sprouted legs and put itself away. 

But I have made a few dinners in the Instant Pot which fed the family and were mostly pretty easy to clean up. I haven’t even found a place to put it away, so maybe it will earn a spot on the counter, next to the good old toaster oven.