Chapel Hill food writer and teacher Sheri Castle tends to shy away from trendy, bulky kitchen toys.
She often spends her time developing recipes that can be recreated by home cooks. And when the deadline approaches for a cookbook or other publication, she relies on her quality pots and pans and technical skills, not wanting to waste her time with magical implements that promise to eliminate the drudgery of cooking.
But then came the Instant Pot. The popular appliance and other multicookers can cook food under low or high pressure, in slow cooker or sauté mode, and can – dare I say, magically? – take dried beans from bag to dinner table in under an hour. Depending on the make and model, it also can produce tangy yogurt or foolproof crème fraîche while you’re at work or asleep.
“I was a latecomer because I didn’t think I needed one. But there are some things it can do that just blow me away,” says Castle, whose mastery of multicooker-cooking is on display in “Instantly Southern,” a new collection of 85 recipes published this month by Clarkson Potter. “I’ll never cook poached or hard-boiled eggs on the stovetop again.”
Castle will extol of the virtues of multicookers at Southern Season Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. as part of the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival Sustainable Classroom workshop. She will be joined by acclaimed chef Ian Boden of The Shack in Staunton, Va., who quit mocking the devices after Castle challenged him to give them a try. (Note: This writer, a confessed member of the Cult of the Instant Pot, will facilitate the session.)
Castle counters naysayers who dismiss multicookers as trendy gadgets by defending their innovation and ability to support so many different cooking techniques. They also are considerably safer than old stovetop pressure cookers, whose misuse became the stuff of many family legends.
“We all grew up hearing stories about grandmother’s pressure cooker blowing up, but I am telling you, these will not leave a Rorschach-test of exploded beans on your ceiling,” Castle said. Multicookers, she said, “represent a new generation of countertop appliance.
“It’s not a gadget,” she said. “It’s a great addition to a well-stocked kitchen, and a godsend to people with practically no kitchen at all.”