The Only People Who Aren’t Using Instant Pots? Chefs

(Bloomberg) -- In the cookbook world, you need just need two words for a surefire best seller: “Instant Pot.”

The pressure cooker-style device, specifically the six-quart, seven-in-one model, has dominated the world of home cooking since Amazon.com Inc. featured it during Prime Day in 2016. In November, CNBC reported that 5 million Instant Pots had been sold in a three-year period.

Two of the top 10 cookbooks in 2017 were devoted to the appliance, according to Publishers Weekly. Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant (Clarkson Potter, $13.93) has sold 150,000 copies since its October release; the New York Times columnist estimates that her latest hit outsold her previous 39 cookbooks, combined.

The Only People Who Aren’t Using Instant Pots? Chefs

Mention the appliance to chefs and you’re most likely to draw a blank stare.

“What’s an Instant Pot?” asks Alex Stupak, chef and co-owner of Empellón in New York.

Officially, the device shouldn’t be in professional kitchens at all. “Our current products are designed and certified for household use only,” Yi Qin, vice president of product management at Instant Pot in Ottawa, Ontario, told Bloomberg by email.

One obvious reason the appliance hasn’t been embraced by the restaurant community is scale. The largest Instant Pot holds 8 quarts—a drop in the (stock) pot for most restaurants.

One of the few professional chefs who admits to having an Instant Pot in his restaurant is Jonny Hunter of the Madison, Wisc.-based Underground Food Collective.  In fact, he has five. Hunter is a fan of the compressed cook times and precision that the device offers.

“Traditionally, it takes about 40 days to make black garlic,” he says, referring to the intensely sticky Asian flavoring. “I can do it in six hours.” 

Most dishes can’t be sped up so rapidly by the Instant Pot, but Hunter argues that even modest time savings will add up for a busy cook. Take hard-boiled eggs, for example: “It takes you eight minutes in an Instant Pot; the regular way takes 12 minutes,” he says. “Chefs say, ‘Who cares about that difference?’ But I save four minutes each time, and they’re perfectly cooked.”

Garrison Price, of New York’s il Buco Alimentari, routinely does 250 covers a night, yet he still finds the low-yielding appliance useful for making goat-milk yogurt. He serves it as an accompaniment to leg of lamb with wild watercress and anchovies, as well as spice-roasted spring carrots with green almonds. Making yogurt the traditional way is “tricky,” Price says. “You don’t have to baby sit yogurt you’re making in an Instant Pot.”

The Only People Who Aren’t Using Instant Pots? Chefs

Price believes chefs don’t use the Instant Pot because of the message they associate with it. “I think it’s the infomercial-ness,” he says.

In Houston, James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is experimenting with an Instant Pot to create batches of pho “dressing” for a carpaccio dish at his upcoming 80-seat restaurant, UB Preserv. “I got the idea from my manicurist; she’s a big Instant Pot fan,” says Shepherd. He first used one at a previous restaurant when he ran out of Korean-braised goat and dumplings. “My cook said: ‘We should bust out that Instant Pot we have in storage.’ We had more goat ready in 45 minutes.” 

The Only People Who Aren’t Using Instant Pots? Chefs

At the Latin restaurant Público in St. Louis, Mike Randolph cooks almost everything on an open hearth. Yet his Instant Pot has been used to produce items ranging from vegan chorizo stock to dulce de leche. Randolph agrees that a drawback for some chefs is perception. “There’s a hesitation in having a brand name like that in your kitchen. A lot of chefs want to keep things more traditional, with a stovetop,” says Randolph.

Why indeed doesn’t Instant Pot create a bigger model for professionals? The company appears to have already asked the same question. “We are looking into all opportunities to expand the electric pressure multi-cooker market. Currently, we don’t have a commercial offering. But nothing is impossible,” said Qin by email.

The Only People Who Aren’t Using Instant Pots? Chefs

To contact the author of this story: Kate Krader in New York at kkrader@bloomberg.net.

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