Why You Should Use Your Instant Pot All Summer Long

It's a handy oven replacement that won't heat up your kitchen.

sweet potato curry in Instant Pot

Getty Images/siims

When the temperature goes above 80 degrees, the last thing I feel like doing is turning on the oven. Despite my best efforts to ventilate the kitchen, the oven inevitably heats up the room to an uncomfortable temperature and it takes forever to cool down again.

If you can relate, then I'm going to let you in on a little secret that will make summer cooking far more pleasant. Your Instant Pot (or another electric pressure cooker) is a fabulous way to make the kinds of foods you'd normally roast, simmer, or braise in an oven, minus all the added heat.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who knows this. I was delighted to see that "The Complete Summer Cookbook," published last summer by America's Test Kitchen, had an entire chapter dedicated to "keeping cool with countertop cooking," using both pressure cookers and slow cookers. 

I have written before that the Instant Pot is a game-changer for the simple fact that you can "set it and forget it"—a godsend for a busy working mother like myself who wants to eat well and have leftovers without spending a ton of time in the kitchen on weeknights. But the pot's ability to cook for you on those hottest and muggiest of summer days will make you love it even more.

It's endlessly versatile. On summer nights you may not want to eat the heavy, filling stews typically associated with Instant Pots, but you can do so much more than that. It's ideal for cooking beans to fill tacos or lentils for salads or plant-based burgers. Whip up vegetable soups (including this yummy recipe for vegan pho), chickpea curries, and dals. ATK's Summer Cookbook features a barley salad made on the slow-cooker setting, as well as pressure-cooked fish and shellfish (salmon, striped bass, mussels) that promises a perfect consistency minus the smell, mess, and steam.

barley salad
Barley salad, made on a slow cooker setting.

America's Test Kitchen

Vegetables are no exception. Beets (which I always cook in a pressure cooker) make a great summer salad. You can braise green beans using pressure without turning them to mush and they're delicious served with other summer staples like basil and tomatoes. ATK suggests "rustic garlic toasts with stewed tomatoes, shaved fennel, and burrata" for a mouthwatering light meal, and of course, there's always the classic ratatouille.

Think beyond main recipes and use your Instant Pot to make other fundamentals in your pantry. Caramelized onions, yogurt, homemade paneer and ricotta, vanilla pudding, rice and risotto, stock, hard-boiled eggs, one-pot pasta meals like mac and cheese, and even desserts like cheesecake can all be made easily in a pressure cooker.

So, the next time you find yourself dreading making dinner because it's already so hot in your kitchen, pull out that handy countertop appliance and put it to work. You'll quickly realize it makes meal prep much easier. Just be sure to set it next to an open window before releasing the pressure valve so it doesn't fill the kitchen with steam, or set it to run on a shaded outdoor deck or balcony.