Saturday, February 23, 2019     Volume: 19, Issue: 51

Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Going to pot: Instant pot roast sounds too good to be true, but it works

Rebecca Rose

I will openly and shamelessly admit my Instant Pot spent six months on my kitchen counter before I would even touch it because I was terrified it would explode all over my kitchen.

I must have Googled "pressure cooker explosion bomb" so many times, the FBI probably has me on a list called "People Who Aren't Terrorists, Just Idiots Who Are Afraid of Kitchen Appliances." Finally, after much cajoling and begging from my fiancé, I let go of my irrational fears and made one of the best pot roast meals I have ever had in my life.

Getting your mise en place (a French term meaning “everything in its place”) together before cooking helps to prevent mistakes and keep things tidy in your kitchen.

If you're not familiar, the Instant Pot is a combination electric pressure cooker and slow cooker (it's actually marketed as a seven-in-one device also featuring a rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, yogurt maker, and warmer). Electric pressure cookers are nothing new, but Instant Pot (who I promise is not paying me for this) simplifies the process with a digital display and a really easy-to-use device. There are a variety of models with different sizes (mine is the Instant Pot DUO60 6 Quart), whether you're cooking for one or a big family.

I'm not good with recipes, so if you're looking for something with exact specifications of ingredient amounts, I'm here to disappoint you. I learned to cook from my mother who literally did not own measuring spoons or cups and just cooked by eyeballing everything and tasting as she went. 

I started with a 3 to 4 pound chuck roast. Chuck, which comes from the shoulder of the steer, is a tasty cut of meat but is extremely tough and should be cooked for a long time. This is an excellent time to mention that all meats are best when cooked low and slow. Roasting or braising meats at a very low temperature for a very long time yields the best results. The longer you can cook tough cuts of meat such as chuck, the better your meal will turn out.

Searing meat before cooking it for a long time is a must to lock in flavor and create a caramelized crust. It’s easy to do, and in an Instant Pot, searing can be done in the same pot the meat pressure cooks in.

I next prepped about four carrots in 2-inch rough cuts, chopped three potatoes into a large rough dice, and cut two celery stalks to match the carrots. I seasoned them with salt and pepper and put them to the side. I also chopped one onion, crushed two cloves of garlic, and rough chopped some fresh Italian parsley (which you can save for the very end just before serving the meal). 

Before putting your meat in a pot to roast, it's extremely important to sear it. Searing locks in the flavor by creating a caramelized crust on the surface of the meat. Begin by patting the meat down with paper towels to dry it completely and then season it. I used a special blend of my own creation: 2 teaspoons pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning, 1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, 1 teaspoon dried onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon dried marjoram.

Mix the seasoning thoroughly and pour about half onto an empty plate. Spread it around and then lay your roast (which should be very dry; this is the only way meat properly sears) on top of the spice mix. Rub the remaining spices on the top and sides because you're going to sear all of it, and make sure you completely coat the meat in the mix.

Now to the fun part. With a device like the Instant Pot, you have an option to saute, which means you can sear the meat and brown your vegetables all in the same pot (this is exciting for cooking nerds). Set the saute setting to high and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. The meat should sizzle as it hits the pan. You'll know it's been enough time (about two to three minutes on each side) when your meat no longer sticks to the bottom of the pan. Turn the meat to sear the top and bottom, and using a good pair of tongs, sear the the remaining sides. Now you have a good crust with lots of flavor, ready to cook for a long time.

The bottom of the pot is going to look black and gross, but don't worry! That's actually the best part. Before adding the onions, deglaze the pan (I used a little bit of butter) and scrape up all the brown bits. Then add the onions, which should get a nice coat of all those yummy bits. Then add the crushed garlic and about 1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce. 

An Instant Pot is a great way to get slow cooked foods in a fraction of the time. A basic pot roast with carrots and potatoes is a perfect dish to begin with.

Place your meat on the trivet that comes with the Instant Pot (if you don't have one, it's fine. Just place the meat directly on the onions). This will help you lift the meat out at the end. Next add 2 cups of beef broth and 1 cup of dry red wine. Don't skimp on the wine, either. It makes a difference in the end result. It should be a wine you like to drink (a good pinot noir works best), and don't use cooking wine because it will just taste weird.

From here, make sure you've studied the directions and familiarize yourself with how to use the device (I watched about 3,000 YouTube videos) so you know how to set the pot to pressurize and depressurize. I would avoid using the presets for "meat" and other ingredients and just stick to the manual setting.

With a traditional slow cook or braised pot roast, you would let the meat cook for some time before adding the vegetables and potatoes (which would turn to mush if you cooked them for the entire time with the meat). This was a bit tricky to navigate the first time in the pressure cooker, and it takes some experimentation to know when to add the vegetables. I tried 45 minutes with the roast (this was way too short of a time; the meat needs to cook long enough so that it literally falls apart on your fork) and then added the vegetables, cooking for another 20 minutes. 

While they were delicious and soaked with flavor, the carrots and potatoes were way too soft because they had cooked too long. So the meat was a little tough and the vegetables and potatoes were a little soft. The solution: Adjust cooking times. My recommendation is to cook the meat for 80 to 90 minutes, then drop the potatoes and carrots in for about eight to 10 minutes. Tent the meat in aluminum foil (it's always good to let the meat rest about five to 10 minutes before cutting into anyway). 

That's pretty much it. Once you take the vegetables and meat out, you can reduce the remaining juices by returning to the saute setting. Once the sauce reduces, run it through a fine sieve (I use a chinois for this) or leave it unstrained. Finally, add some fresh chopped herbs, such as parsley, for color and a pop of freshness.

Arts and Lifestyle Writer Rebecca Rose is always under pressure. Contact her at 



• When journalists tell you to try something at a restaurant you can count on two things: It's going to be delicious and cheap. A fellow journalist who works with me strongly recommends Jaffa Cafe's garlic pita. For a mere $2.99, I agree; it's a must-try. Get your cheap eats on at 2530 S. Broadway, Santa Maria.

Adelina's has Sunday suppers from 5 to 9 p.m., featuring a three-course meal for $25 a person. On July 14, in celebration of Bastille Day, they are offering Angus coulette steak, truffled pomme frites (pictured) and sauce béarnaise, with a vanilla bean crème brûlée for dessert. Visit them at 1645 Trilogy Parkway, Nipomo.

• Why count calories when you could count how many licks it takes to finish a cone of Saturdays Cereal from Nite Creamery? Made with Cap'n Crunch Ice Cream and topped with Frosted Flakes cereal, it's available at 2003 S. Miller St., Santa Maria.

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