Hardcover book for durability
Recipes are well explained
Many recipes also have slow-cooker instructions
Only 75 recipes
Servings per recipe not consistent
If you have an Instant Pot or any other electric pressure cooker, it’s a good idea to add a few Instant Pot cookbooks to the bookshelf, even if you like to modify recipes to your own taste. We recently read and cooked our way through Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot, a cookbook by Melissa Clark. We bookmarked the recipes that looked good and began testing, using several sizes and models of Instant Pots as well as electric pressure cookers made by other brands. While we don’t expect every recipe in a cookbook to be perfect, we always hope we won’t have any complete fails. Read on to see how this hardcover book stacked up.
Audience: The average home cook will be comfortable
This book is targeted towards cooks who are comfortable in the kitchen—for example, you won’t find instructions on how to cut an onion—but those cooks might not be completely familiar with an Instant Pot. Recipes are not restaurant versions that require obscure ingredients, but they do rely on fresh ingredients rather than canned or boxed foods.
Production Quality: Hardcover for the win
This is a hardcover book, so we expect it to be more durable than paperbacks. When opened, the book didn’t lay completely flat, but it also didn’t fight us when we placed something on it to keep our page available. While there isn’t a photo for every single recipe, there are enough visuals to keep it interesting, and the dishes look achievable rather than over-styled and impossible for dinner at home.
When opened, the book didn’t lay completely flat, but it also didn’t fight us when we placed something on it to keep our page available.
The ingredient list is printed in bold, making it easier to read from a slight distance as we measured spices and chopped garlic with the book at arm’s length, which we appreciated.
Recipe Results: We’ll be making these again
Our favorite recipe was the Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Soup. It was simple to make, and the flavor was just about perfect. Although it wasn’t called pho, it had those flavors, and we added a squeeze of lime at the end to nudge it even close to the pho at our favorite local spot. The Garlicky Cuban Pork was also flavorful and simple to make. We’ve made similar recipes in the past, and this was equally as good and much faster.
Our favorite recipe was the Vietnamese Chicken and Rice Soup. It was simple to make, and the flavor was just about perfect.
The Smoky Barbecue Chicken was another winner when it came to flavor, but we had a slight technical error. The recipe calls for cooking the sauce ingredients down to a paste before adding the chicken—and not adding any liquid to the pot. We were totally skeptical, but we gave it a try. Unfortunately, our Instant Pot gave us a burn notice when the chicken stuck to the pot near the end of the cooking time. Fortunately, the chicken was completely cooked through, and the barbecue sauce was very, very good. As the recipe said, it wasn’t super-thin and only needed a short sauté to thicken it up for serving. Despite the problem, we’re considering it a success because of the flavor.
We were pleased with every recipe we tried, and we found that the number of spices (and salt) gave us tasty and well-balanced dishes. We also appreciated that many of the recipes also included slow cooking instructions, for those times when we’re not in a hurry.
We’ve never been a fan of cooking foods that otherwise cook very quickly, like seafood, in a pressure cooker. That made us curious about the recipes that used shrimp, like the Indian Butter Shrimp. We were pleased that the shrimp was not cooked under pressure at all. Instead, the sauce is made under pressure and the shrimp are added at the end of cooking, which makes a whole lot of sense.
One slight quibble we had with this book was that the servings for each recipe varied widely. Some were as small as three to four servings, while others fed ten, so we had to pay attention to that lest we end up feeding the neighborhood. For some recipes, we cut them in half to make them less bulky, or to cook them in our mini Instant Pot, just to see how they fared.
Instructions: Clarity is the key
Melissa Clark is the author of several dozen books, so she’s had plenty of practice writing recipes that users can follow. We certainly didn’t make every single recipe in the book, but we never had an instance where we wrinkled our foreheads and wondered if we were doing the right thing.
While some of the recipe names sounded complex and the ingredient lists looked long, we found that the instructions were clear and easy to follow. They were also streamlined so we didn’t end up dirtying every bowl in the kitchen on our way to dinner.
The beginning of the book includes some basic information about the Instant Pot, including a photo demonstrating how to use a foil sling on a soufflé dish, which could be very useful for new Instant Pot owners. While this information isn’t every possible thing you need to know, it’s all very useful.
Ingredient Availability: Just go to the store
Overall, the ingredients required were easy to source, and we appreciated that alternatives were offered for ingredients that were a little unusual or seasonal. For instance, a recipe that suggested palm sugar noted that light brown sugar was fine, too. The most exotic ingredients we found were star anise pods and garam masala, or perhaps the mustard greens, which might be seasonal.
The ingredients required were easy to source, and we appreciated that alternatives were offered for ingredients that were a little unusual or seasonal.
The seafood section—often a cookbook minefield of boutique fish—called for varieties that should be widely available, even for folks who don’t live near a coast.
Price: Not a budget breaker
This is definitely an affordable book, and it’s well worth the price. The variety of recipes means that just about every cook will find a few favorites and perhaps some new recipes to try.
Dinner in an Instant vs. Weeknight Cooking with Your Instant Pot
With a comparable price and the same number of recipes, these two books are very similar. The selling point for Weeknight Cooking with Your Instant Pot is that the recipes can be made on any busy weeknight, right after work, and that’s how every recipe is designed. While there are quick recipes in Dinner in an Instant, there are also recipes that cook for two hours or more, so they’re not all speedy—although the cooking time is much shorter than conventional methods. If the point of getting an Instant Pot was to get dinner on the table in as little time as possible, then we have to give the nod to Weekend Cooking. However, if you want a little more variety, Dinner in and Instant has recipes we loved. Since both are affordable, we wouldn’t flinch if you chose both.
Three thumbs up!
Aside from folks who need to adhere to a special diet, it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t find at least some of the recipes in Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot quite appealing. Everything we found was well spiced, and aside from a nuclear-hot jalapeño that we used in one recipe, we found that the flavors were well balanced, so we didn’t feel a need to adjust spices or salt after cooking.
- Product Name Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Pressure Cooker, Multicooker, and Instant Pot
- Product Brand Clarkson Potter
- ISBN 1524762962
- Price $22.00
- Author Melissa Clark
- ISBN-13 978-1524762964
- Material Hardcover