Issue 30

The Dumpster: The Slow Cooker

The Dumpster: The Slow Cooker

Millions rushed out to buy an Instant Pot, this year’s hot kitchen gadget. Many were disappointed to discover the Instant Pot didn’t deliver that kind of pot. It didn’t even deliver instant. But it is a pot.

You can bake a potato in 10 minutes! That is, if you don’t include the 20 minutes it takes the Instant Pot to heat up, and another 20 to depressurize, which means anything you cook takes at least 50 minutes.  That is glacial compared to McDonald’s, where they mine your Facebook data to predict what you’re going to order, then throw it into your car window before you’ve come to a full stop. McDonald’s knows instant.

Baking a potato in my oven, which was the hot kitchen gadget of 1920, only takes 40 minutes.

They don’t call it by its actual name, the Pressure Cooker, because that fad came and went sometime around 1940. They also could have called it a Crock Pot, because calling it instant is a crock. But the bowl is thin metal, not thick ceramic, and besides, everybody already has a crock pot they don’t use.

They call it instant because it reduces cooking time from crock pot speeds of 8 hours down to pressure cooker speeds of 2 hours. This means if you get home at 5pm, you can prepare your dinner and have it on the table by 8p.m. Boom! That’s better than a crock pot, where you’d eat at midnight, so there’s that. Lunch hour fast, it is not.

But, you say, you can prep your dinner in the morning, and it’ll be ready by — no wait, being ready by 11 a.m. doesn’t help. If you want it to cook gently all day long while you’re at work, you need to set your Instant Pot to crock.

Too late? You already bought one? Don’t despair: the Instant Pot also has a timer you can set for up to 12 hours, so you can program it to go off when your crock pot is done.

The Instant Pot is called a small appliance, which it is if by small you mean smaller than a suitcase but bigger than the toaster oven you had to move to make room for it. (The Instant Pot does not make toast.) It is too big to leave on your counter, unless you’re rich and have a huge kitchen, and in that case it’ll look great sitting next to your electric can opener, lettuce spinner, George Foreman Grill, and your three crock pots.

The Instant Pot claims it is “Seven Gadgets in One!” Including:

  1. A slow cooker: we all agree the Instant Pot is slow.
  2. A pressure cooker: true, but it doesn’t replace your old pressure cooker because you’ve never owned one nor had any inkling why you might.
  3. A rice cooker: which makes rice in only five times the time it takes your rice cooker to do it.
  4. A steamer: a crock pot is a steamer too, if you have eight hours to kill.
  5. A yogurt maker: you never made yogurt. With an Instant Pot, you still won’t.
  6. A “sauté pan/oven:” First, why are sauté pan and oven paired up like they’re interchangeable? Do any of you bake cookies in your sauté pan, or brown onions in your oven? If you buy an Instant Pot, you’re not likely to throw away your pans or your oven.
  7. A warming pot: This it is, only because we never use a pot to cool anything.

By these measures you can also use your Instant Pot as a hat box, a beach pail, or a sink. It’s an Infinity-in-One appliance!

To use the Instant Pot, you throw all your ingredients into it, lock it up tight, and leave. If this is your idea of cooking, what you really need is a restaurant. You won’t be stirring while drinking wine. You won’t flirt in the kitchen while sharing a tiny taste and adding a little spice as you go. Your house won’t fill with the smell of sautéed garlic and onions.

Yet you still have to clean it. What nobody mentions is that while it cooks faster than a crock pot, an Instant Pot takes 10 times longer to clean. For all the gadgets it replaces, it does not replace your scrubby sponge.

If you’re still disappointed about the whole pot thing, I learned you can make cannibutter in 2 hours. Still not instant, but hey.

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell

Michael Campbell is a songwriter and humor essayist. His “Dumpster” column closes every issue of Food & Spirits magazine. He has authored two books, including Are You Going To Eat That? (2009), and Of Mice and Me (2017). He also has four albums of original songs. The latest, My Turn Now, was released in 2015. Learn more at michaelcampbellsongwriter.com.


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