Food & Drink

Beginner chef + picky eater - should I get an instant pot?

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Beginner chef + picky eater - should I get an instant pot?

I am living alone and don't really enjoy cooking, plus I am a picky eater. However, I am trying to eat better and do a little bit more meal prep, as cooking single serve meals is obviously a lot more work and pretty difficult.

I recall in the past instant pots were super well loved - are they still a great kitchen appliance to have? I'm thinking I could also (potentially) reuse it to prepare rice (although how to cook a side rice if main meal needs the instant pot?) and steel cut oatmeal,

I am not vegetarian but have significantly cut down on chicken+beef - I see a lot of chicken+beef recipes, but how does something like tofu cook in an instant pot?

So what do you guys think - a good option for a picky eater who is also not the most comfortable with cooking, making dishes with complex recipes...? Any recommended recipes/dishes to get started?

Side note: it also looks like there are so many variations on the instant pot models! What's important and what's worth ignoring?
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Do it. You can usually find a receipe for anything that someone has made in an instant pot. Butter chicken, soups, mishmash of left overs, the meals are only limited to what u have in your fridge, freezer and pantry.

I wouldnt do rice or oats, u have to remember if a receipe says 10 min cooking time, the instant pot needs to pressure which takes 10 min, and depressurize. U can quick release or let it naturally release + 3 to 10 min. U can make rice and oatmeal way faster than that.

In regards to what type of pot u need, all depends on what u wanna cook. Some higher models offer cake, yogurt, stew and sous vide options, u just really have to ask yourself what u wanna use it for. If you want a 1 stop shop of everything then u might want a high end model. Also remember when looking at the buttons on the instant pot that they are usually just "preset" times which all can be accessed by the "manual" button which allow you to set the time u want to cook yourself.

If u are one to do meal prep for the week, it's so easy as u just put your things in the pot, let it cook and separate into your Tupperware.

I myself are a lazy cook, when my wife isn't around I use it as it is just a set it and forget it kinda machine.

I have a duo myself and it works for me.
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We have an Instant Pot and I think it's great. A pressure cooker can do certain things really well like soups, stews, braises, steam, cooking veggies, rice/grains/oats/barley/quinoa type dishes. BUT ... I don't know if I would get it as one of my first "beginner chef" appliances.

If I had to outfit my kitchen as a beginner chef, I would choose a good frying pan ("saute pan") and a good soup pot ("sauce pan"). And this goes without saying - a good chefs knife. I know you can find all manner of recipes for the Instant Pot but I still think a pot and pan is more versatile in the types of cuisines you can prepare and I feel using an IP as my primary food making device would be too limiting for me. A for speed and time, soups, stews, ect is certainly faster on the IP. But I can pretty much do a stir-fry, egg fry, steam a fish, cook veggies, boil eggs, faster on a conventional pan - I know the IP can stir-fry (saute function) but it doesn't do it all that well. Also, with the IP, you need to get the timings right. You really have no control or feedback of how your food is cooking when it's under pressure. Not so with pot and pan where you know exactly how your food is doing.

Anyway, I really do like the IP and use ours about once a week. I just rely on my more basic tools more often.
Last edited by DiceMan on Apr 13th, 2020 9:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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DiceMan wrote: We have an Instant Pot and I think it's great. A pressure cooker can certain things really well like soups, stews, braises, steam, cooking veggies, rice/grains/oats/barley/quinoa type dishes. BUT ... I don't know if I would get it as one of my first "beginner chef" appliances.

If I had to outfit my kitchen as a beginner chef, I would choose a good frying pan ("saute pan") and a good soup pot ("sauce pan"). And this goes without saying - a good chefs knife. I know you can find all manner of recipes for the Instant Pot but I still think a pot and pan is more versatile in the types of cuisines you can prepare and I feel using an IP as my primary food making device would be too limiting for me. A for speed and time, soups, stews, ect is certainly faster on the IP. But I can pretty much do a stir-fry, egg fry, steam a fish, cook veggies, boil eggs, faster on a conventional pan - I know the IP can stir-fry (saute function) but it doesn't do it all that well. Also, with the IP, you need to get the timings right. You really have no control or feedback of how your food is cooking when it's under pressure. Not so with pot and pan where you know exactly how your food is doing.

Anyway, I really do like the IP and use ours about once a week. I just rely on my more basic tools more often.
I have a henckels 9+12" fry pan as well as a 4qt (I think?) pot + steamer insert. Also have a 2qt pot.

My recipes are very basic right now, rather than creating something (i.e. I might use a store-bought sauce, steam some veggies, bake a chicken) but I don't really do much MIXING/prep of ingredients and really CREATING a meal. At best it tends to be a plate with an area of my protein, my veggies, my carbs. And while I am enjoying more and more the different flavors+spices when eating out, I've never successfully brought any of that back into the kitchen. Soups I don't create, I buy the tins and heat...

Basically, what I do have is certainly under-utilized in my opinion. It's interesting that, at least what I sort of read from you... I'd be better off better-utilizing them vs using an instant pot? I was sort of imaging that using the IP would make prep, cooking, AND cleanup easier and error-free.
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I like my Instant Pot but it isn't a great way to cook tofu. If you are mostly vegetarian, it is great for bean dishes that use dry beans.
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Kaitlyn wrote: Basically, what I do have is certainly under-utilized in my opinion. It's interesting that, at least what I sort of read from you... I'd be better off better-utilizing them vs using an instant pot? I was sort of imaging that using the IP would make prep, cooking, AND cleanup easier and error-free.
Yes, that's exactly it! You've summarized my thoughts better than I did Smiling Face With Open Mouth. Better utilize what you have instead of hoping the Instant Pot will cure your fears.

You said you're not the most comfortable with cooking and making dishes with complex recipes. That means you'll gravitate towards easy (which usually means quick) recipes with not a lot of ingredients. Which means your conventional cookware will almost always be faster (and IMO, easier) than the instant pot. You likely wont be making a beef bourguignon stew or a 15 ingredient chili, things which the IP would have a speed and convenience advantage. Also keep in mind the ingredients would be the same whatever device you use and the prep work will be about the same as well.
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Kaitlyn wrote: I have a henckels 9+12" fry pan as well as a 4qt (I think?) pot + steamer insert. Also have a 2qt pot.

My recipes are very basic right now, rather than creating something (i.e. I might use a store-bought sauce, steam some veggies, bake a chicken) but I don't really do much MIXING/prep of ingredients and really CREATING a meal. At best it tends to be a plate with an area of my protein, my veggies, my carbs. And while I am enjoying more and more the different flavors+spices when eating out, I've never successfully brought any of that back into the kitchen. Soups I don't create, I buy the tins and heat..

Basically, what I do have is certainly under-utilized in my opinion. It's interesting that, at least what I sort of read from you... I'd be better off better-utilizing them vs using an instant pot? I was sort of imaging that using the IP would make prep, cooking, AND cleanup easier and error-free.
I love my Instant pot, but I know it’s not a Magic pot. It cooks some things quicker and clean up is usually quickie. You still need to prep your food, the IP isn’t go to cut the food, season it, and use any techniques. If you just steaming veggies, hea ing up canned foods, and baking chicken, it won’t do much more for you, just maybe the chicken is faster.

I would wait to get an Instant pot to see if you can learn some of the basics on cooking first. I know it can be difficult to cook for one. How do you feel about leftovers or freezing portions? If you don’t mind, you may have a lot more options.

I alway did a lot of what I call ‘modular cooking’ using my own version of ‘once a month meal prep’. Essential I do the prep work of base ingredients, and use them later on in the week or freeze the if freezable. This helps that it reduces prep and clean up time to once and your uc an reuse a lot of the items with out eating the same thing. Which is super handy for cooking for one person, and it reduces time and costs. I take base ingredients use them for many items.

Some examples -
- Ground beef - a larger package could be divided for meatloaf muffins (bake in individual serving sizes), meatballs, hamburgers, just fried with onion and garlic and put in sauce or used in tacos. Since I have a package, I would prep all five and maybe vary some of the seasonings, freeze them (not the burgers, just form) and I have 5 different meals. I my cases I would portion enough to have at least two meal or three meals of each, and then freeze (assuming I have freezer space). When I want one, I would just thaw and do the final seasoning.
- base ingredients. Wash and cup up your veggies for the week. Put them in containers or ziplock bags. You can mix up the ingredients to your liking. You can make salads, stir fries, noodle bowls, Buddha bowls all with similar ingredients but have a different taste.

These were just some examples of what you can do to making cooking for one less labour intensive.

On terms of you desire to cook, an instant pot won’t teach you to cook. If you google basic kitchen skills, that will help. Alternatively, you can buy those meal kits, they are healthy, but more expensive. Most are well laid out that it tells you step by steps what to do. That starts to teach y U the basic tips, like turn on your oven first, the order to cut up your ingredients (so you only have to use One cutting board), timings ect. I personally like Hellofresh the best, and have had my kids do the cooking when they were 8 and 11 following those instructions. They are perpetually good now and can follow a recipe and are starting understand some of the techniques.

My recommendation is to learn the basics of cooking and putting together flavours, it can be very sImplement, and then some t chniques. The Instant pot will make it faster but not taste better. It definately isn’t error proof.
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An Instant Pot ["IP"] is basically a cooking vessel ie a POT. You still have to put the ingredients in the POT in the proper proportions and cook it for the appropriate amount of time to make good food. The "strength" or biggest advantage of an IP is it's ability to cook what normally takes a long time to cook, it can cook it in roughly one-third of the time (vs normal non-Instant Pot). Added to that the Pot can do it without having you to watch it or even smell it while it cooks.

If you're cooking what is normally faster dishes like stir fries, the IP will not work for you.

Another advantage for someone like you is the Internet has a huge following of ppl who have IP's and they post their recipes so for you..take the recipe and follow it.
There are also some ppl who cook certain ethnic cuisines...if you have a preference, follow those ppl who use IP and cook the cuisine that you like.

Since you live alone, I might suggest buying the 3 Qt model....buy the cheapest model Instant Pot.
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If you're only cooking for one (and don't want too many leftovers) then you should get the 3Qt. However like others have said, this won't make you a better cook. You still have to prep and prepare the ingredients. If you already have pots and pans you're probably going to end up using those.
If you want a try a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice maker..etc... then this would be a good thing to get as it is a space saver over getting individual items. That was why I bought it, to save space.
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We have one. This thing makes awesome fall off the bone bbq ribs in about an hr. Great appliance and can replace several other ones that you have.
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jackrabbit000 wrote: We have one. This thing makes awesome fall off the bone bbq ribs in about an hr. Great appliance and can replace several other ones that you have.
We got one for christmas and hubby wanted ribs.. fall off the bone yes, but the flavour wasnt there.

I like it for the ease of cooking a healthier meal on a work night, something thats ready quicker than an all day simmer in the oven or on the stove. One of my favourite things to cook is an indian rice recipe I found in a book.. you start of sauteing the garlic and ginger (in the pot), add the seasonings, rice, water and frozen peas/veggies, 3 minutes or something like that? comes to pressure super fast because the saute gets everything going and the temp up. The rice is perfect, better than my pricey rice cooker makes it.

Whole cauliflower, 2 minutes. We really like this one too. Have done a few stews, beef bourguignon, cornish hen in garlic sauce (8mins). This is not my preferred way to cook but easy for a work night.
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Some food for thought... If you live on your own, you can't really be a "picky eater". Because you're only gonna be shopping for you and you're only gonna be cooking for you...typically speaking. So are you really "picky" if you're just buying what you like to eat and making dishes you enjoy? Nope. That's not picky and that's the beauty of living alone :lol:

As for not having much confidence cooking, well if you're good with math and or science, that's mainly what cooking is all about. It's just science and then later experimentation in thinking "hmm how can I make this better next time", or, "you know what would go really good in this?" And so trial and error comes up as well--just like science experiments lol. Understanding things like pan sears and Maillard reactions, what oils smoke at what temperatures, how to do a reduction, etc...all science. If you learn the science behind a lot of this stuff it becomes a lot easier. If you're not so good with math and science, well I'm out of advice about that--good luck to you! :lol: But seriously following recipes of which there are zillions online these days is typically as easy as following directions. Only yes some times it will tell you to do something like "pan sear" this or do something else you might not know how to do--again though just give 'er the ol' college try and even if you don't get it right, you'll have an idea of how to do it better next time. Unless you totally burn something or put way too much of something in, usually the result is still gonna be edible.

Some other tips are to make sure you get some good knives and pots & pans (sounds like you have the latter), throw out the garlic press (seriously don't use those), and make a point of getting kitchen tools and commonly used non-perishable ingredients (like spices and stuff) you might not have, when you're out shopping. I wouldn't worry about things like using "store-bought" sauces or soups. You don't have to make every single thing yourself for every single meal. If you want to start making soups the start with a few recipes and see how it goes, but don't need to start from scratch to make a soup side-dish or something every time you go to make something. You don't need to crush your own tomatoes every time you make pasta...and you def. don't need to make your own pasta. You can certainly do all those things but my advice is baby steps, don't try to do everything at once.

Personally I ain't got no time for making these kind of things from scratch either--I take all the shortcuts I can :lol: I use instant mash potatoes too, much to the chagrin of others, and TBH I actually like them better (and the instant varieties they got in the US are way better than Betty Crocker ones too, so I got that...until I run out of course lol).

Also, get a FoodSaver if you don't have one. When you're living alone/cooking & eating as just one person, you're not gonna be able to finish blocks of cheese and stuff before they go moldy...without a vacuum sealer. With a sealer you'll never have to throw out moldy cheese again :) Plus you can buy larger packs of meats, divide, vacuum seal and freeze because again you're not gonna be able to down a whole club pack of chicken, or 3lbs of ground beef, before you get sick of whatever it is you made with it lol. You'll have to go to the grocery store less frequently like this too, which is the "in" thing to do these days lol.

You're on the right track with the restaurant food but you have to try to recreate some of that stuff at home--just think about how you can make that stuff and perhaps even better, but it might take you a few tries. Sometimes it's tough to identify what ingredients may have been used, however but most of the main ones are usually stated on the restaurant menu.

Anyway that's all the advice I got--stick to what you like; don't consider yourself picky when it's only you you're cooking for; science!; get decent kitchen tools; follow some recipies; trial and error--try, try again!; don't get crazy about not taking shortcuts or not using some pre-prepared ingredients; you can do it!
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Tip: Watch cooking shows (not the game show type ones) shows like Jamie Oliver, Pioneer Woman, Good Eats etc., they really help to improve your cooking skills.
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Hi,

https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&sour ... ent=psy-ab
Think of an instant pot as a "smart" pressure cooker. For me, it's taken the place of my slow cooker. For example, using my chili recipe, it comes out tastier than using the slow cooker. I use my instant pot for chili, stews & soups. Official recipe books from the instant pots.
https://instantpot.com/recipe-booklet/
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If you dont like cooking, but like eating well, then I'd suggest whatever cooking tools you buy, you also buy a deep freeze. You don't want to be making every meal individually to order. Learn to make larger meals in your IP/whatever and learn to freeze meals/ingredients well. That's literally 75% of effective meal planning. You'll end up eating better with less effort and a fraction of the cost. If you're looking to cook each meal by itself, then don't bother with something like an Instant Pot and just go with regular cookware.

For things like rice and oats, I'd still just use a pot and learn to cook with that. Then if you've nailed those and still want to upgrade you can, but at least you know how to make them with whatever pot you have and are not reliant on the Instant Pot. I also think that by cooking on a stove you'll be more likely to learn more and start to enjoy hands-on cooking, whereas with the IP you'll memorize recipes but not really understand them and wouldn't be able to replicate them using normal cookware. If you literally have zero interest in becoming better, and truly do not enjoy cooking at all and see it as nothing but a chore, then maybe an IP is a good way to go, but then you'd be missing out on a wonderful part of life.

You can get a good clad pot/pan set at CT for cheap that will do more and last a lot longer than an IP. If you are going to look at pressure cooking (which I love) and slow cooking, or cooking while away from home, then that's where the IP comes back into play.
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Fraser River Rat wrote: Hi,

https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&sour ... ent=psy-ab
Think of an instant pot as a "smart" pressure cooker. For me, it's taken the place of my slow cooker. For example, using my chili recipe, it comes out tastier than using the slow cooker. I use my instant pot for chili, stews & soups. Official recipe books from the instant pots.
https://instantpot.com/recipe-booklet/
While you may have started pressure cooking your chili, please remember that a Slow cooker and a pressure cooker and much more different than just speed. They are used for different things and produce different results. For the most part you don't often pressure cook things like chili and stew as there is little place for the steam to actually penetrate the food since it's so dense. Pressure cooking is usually a solid in with liquid that then builds up pressure through the steam. The IP is great for chili stews and soups, but I wouldn't suggest having it sealed up and pressure cooking them as the benefits would be limited. You can't really force infuse such a dense liquid. Unless you don't actually have your seal fully on, in which case you aren't actually pressure cooking.
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Get one, get a bag of dry beans, and watch youtubers like this to make quick healthy meals
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Macx2mommy wrote: Some examples -
- Ground beef - a larger package could be divided for meatloaf muffins (bake in individual serving sizes), meatballs, hamburgers, just fried with onion and garlic and put in sauce or used in tacos. Since I have a package, I would prep all five and maybe vary some of the seasonings, freeze them (not the burgers, just form) and I have 5 different meals. I my cases I would portion enough to have at least two meal or three meals of each, and then freeze (assuming I have freezer space). When I want one, I would just thaw and do the final seasoning.
- base ingredients. Wash and cup up your veggies for the week. Put them in containers or ziplock bags. You can mix up the ingredients to your liking. You can make salads, stir fries, noodle bowls, Buddha bowls all with similar ingredients but have a different taste.
Hey thanks for your advice! I could definitely do more of #2 - it's annoying to prepare many of the base ingredients over and over when I could just prepare and store a bunch of it. Then it'll come to understanding the best way to store each type of item and how long they'll last for...

For your first point - are you saying you get say a club pack of ground meat and cook it all at once, then freeze it? How are you making, like 5 different "Types" with different flavors and spices?

For me, the most I tend to do is buy the ground beef, cook + prepare my whole meal and plan to divide in half or so, so I have the same meal the next day. I've never really planned for more than a single day, or planned for preparing my ingredients to be used in multiple different dishes...
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Kaitlyn wrote: Hey thanks for your advice! I could definitely do more of #2 - it's annoying to prepare many of the base ingredients over and over when I could just prepare and store a bunch of it. Then it'll come to understanding the best way to store each type of item and how long they'll last for...

For your first point - are you saying you get say a club pack of ground meat and cook it all at once, then freeze it? How are you making, like 5 different "Types" with different flavors and spices?

For me, the most I tend to do is buy the ground beef, cook + prepare my whole meal and plan to divide in half or so, so I have the same meal the next day. I've never really planned for more than a single day, or planned for preparing my ingredients to be used in multiple different dishes...
For the group beef, I get a very large club pack or (up to 4 (about 20 pounds) if cheap) and then separate it and prep it when I first get home. Lets assume I have a big shop of 20lbs or so, it could look something like this
- bricks of 1lb ground beef (for a family 4, 1lb is enough for almost any decent meal)
- Make hamburgers that are seasoned, and formed. and freeze them raw
- make some meatballs and meat loaf - I would add breadcrumbs, eggs, onions, seasonings, etc for a non-cook, you could use onion soup mix, breadcrumbs, egg. I would make a loaf that night, put some in silicon muffin tins (to it's single portion then for kids lunch), and then the rest would be meat balls. All cooked in the oven to save time and electricity.
- fry up some ground beef with onion and garlic (I would just cut up extra onion and garlic from above), salt and pepper. That's always my base for anything (I just like onion and garlic for everything). Once all cooked, drained and cooled, I separate the cooked seasoned ground beef in 2.5ish measures, and freeze in ziplock bags. I use this as a my base for tacos, pasta sauce, and any recipe for fried ground beef. When I make the tacos, I would just thaw, add the additional (taco) seasoning, and reheat. It take about 10-15 minutes (including clean up) during the week night version instead of an hour

In my case, I making about 4-5 lbs of each of the above for a family of 4. It would take me about 2-3 hours to chopped onions and garlic, season, mix, cook and clean up. That would give my family about 20 meals in the future. For single person, you could do the same but obviously not in the same quantities. It might look like this for a 5lb club pack
- 6 meatloaf muffins, 1 lbs meatballs
- fry up 2 lbs ground beef with your base and seasoning, divide in to 4 packages (each would make two portions)
- make hamburgers with the remaining
It would take a very short time for a single package. Maybe an hour or two.

It take a little practice and habit forming to plan for more than a meal. The time you spend in planning will save so much time in cooking. It also saves money as you plan around sale items, and there is a lot less wastage. My family likes to eat a lot of variety, we seldomly eat the same thing more than once or twice a month, so having base stuff prepared or available in the freezer is critical for us. I made rice bowls the other night, I had some random meat I had marinated with I think it was 'asian' flavours (you can use the same idea with large packs of meat as the ground beef). We grilled it up, I had random vegetables that I threw in. For the veggies, I cut them up, some I decided to throw in raw, some quickly pickled, so marinated, so stir fries. Everyone just picked their toppings with their base. The leftovers, we still made rice bowls, but during the week changed up the protein to quick things. I had marinated tofu, fried eggs, and one night we threw in deli ham. Each of the subsequent meals tasted different but I had the rice and the base ingredients prepped, so the meals were under 20 minutes prep each night. Tonight I will take the remaining random toppings, and put then on top noodles and a broth to mix it up. Then we are done with this so will probably not do this for at least 3 or 4 weeks.


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