A multi-cooker is a handy kitchen investment that offers a number of benefits:
- Health rewards of home cooking.
- Set-it-up-and-walk-away convenience.
- Ability to cook either fast or slow.
- Superior flavor and tenderness, every time.
However, as useful as this tool is, it seems to be among the most daunting of kitchen gadgets, even to those who are used to similar tools such as a slow-cooker. Perhaps we are simply too busy mastering other facets of our lives to devote mental bandwidth to understanding a cooking device. Or maybe the sheer quantity of warning labels plastered all over the box, cooker, and instruction manual are just too much for the human psyche.
Whatever the explanation, the new multi-cooker has a strong tendency to stay in the box or on the shelf unused for a while, sometimes even for months.
But rest assured, once you actually start using the multi-cooker, you will be glad that you took the leap—every meal comes out a winner. Here are some easy ways to get started.
The Easiest Way to Start
The easiest way to start, especially for those who are already familiar with the tried-and-true slow-cooker, is simply to use the Slow Cook setting on the multi-cooker. Pull out your favorite slow-cooker recipe, set it up, and go.
This is a great confidence booster, as the results are always satisfactory and the only thing you will have to figure out is the steam release valve setting, which is usually labeled in a counter-intuitive manner. Furthermore, you will probably use the Slow Cook setting the most, anyway.
Once you have experimented with Slow Cook to your satisfaction, you are ready for more advanced techniques.
The Next Step
When you have mustered the courage to try one of the Pressure settings, make it easy on yourself the first time: Pull out one of the recipes in the cookbook that undoubtedly came with your multi-cooker. Quality multi-cooker manufacturers have a vested interest in your satisfaction with their product, so usually they will try to set you up for success the first time out with a recipe that is easy, tasty, and nearly foolproof. They will also provide specifics on the various buttons that you will have to push on your particular machine.
Once you have tried using the Pressure setting for the first time, you will find that suddenly the multi-cooker has lost all of its off-putting mystery. You are ready to begin experimenting.
An obvious next step is to find some more multi-cooker recipes from other sources. There are enough foodie bloggers and quality cookbooks out there that a simple search should take you to what you need. Just watch out for low-quality eBooks, as the included recipes may not produce something that you will actually want to eat. Choose a resource by an author who knows their topic or from a professional publisher.
Another way in which you can enlarge the bounds of your multi-cooker expertise is to start modifying proven recipes. Swap one vegetable for another. Add a new flavoring ingredient. If your recipe calls for a can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, try something with a more Mexican theme. The important thing is to keep ratios roughly the same; in particular, pay attention to the ratio of liquid (chicken broth, pasta sauce, canned soup, etc.) to absorbent ingredients (uncooked grains or pasta).
Before long, you will find that the multi-cooker has become an essential part of your kitchen.