Instant Pot Pork Shoulder Two Ways
The Instant Pot and pork shoulder are a match made in heaven. With high pressure cooking, your favorite tender pork recipe cooks in a mere 45 minutes, instead of the usual cooking time of 3.5+ hours (or 8 in a slow cooker).
Like many Americans across the country, I spent July 16, 2018 looking at pictures of dogs on the internet. While the nation's largest online retailer struggled with glitches and canine-themed error messages, I approached my mission to purchase an Instant Pot with dogged determination. And eventually, success: After much refreshing of the computer screen, my brand new electric pressure cooker was purchased at a bargain price and would arrive at my door a few days later.
Also like many Americans across the country, I excitedly tore open my package upon arrival, unboxed the intergalactic-looking device, and promptly spent the next three weeks looking warily at my purchase, trying to work up the nerve to try it out. To be fair, it does look like a droid out of Star Wars or something, so being intimidated is a reasonable response. Not to mention every great-grandmother in the nation had spent years broadcasting warnings about the explosive potential of pressure cookers. Spoiler alert: I used my pot. It didn't explode.
Not Your Grandmother's Pressure Cooker
Today's multicookers are not only safer than their non-electronic ancestors but come with all sorts of bells and whistles, both literal and figurative. As a multicooker, it may be able to replace any combination of these space-hogging devices: pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker, vegetable steamer, sauté pan.
Multicookers also come equipped with advanced safety mechanisms that auto-adjust the pressure, keep you from opening the lid before the pressure is released, and monitor temperature, pressure, and lid position while you cook. To be honest, your biggest safety concern is probably making sure not to give yourself a steam burn when doing a quick release of pressure from the pot ("quick release" involves manually opening up the pressure release valve to let the steam escape all at once, as opposed to "natural release" in which the pressure slowly releases on its own over time). Easy solution: instead of your hand, use a wooden spoon to push open the pressure valve.
Making The Most Of Your Multicooker
Like most things in life, the best way to get over the fear of doing something is, well, to do it. Start small, create some simple successes for yourself, and before you know it, you'll be off and running. Some good candidates for a first-time user include hard-boiled eggs, rice, or beans. These basic items will help you become familiar with how your multicooker works before you take on a full meal to serve your family. (Full disclosure: I did not follow my own advice. I jumped in full force, and made the Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe of internet fame. And yes, it was fabulous.)
Part of creating simple successes means picking recipes that are best suited to the cooking method you're choosing. Because pressure cookers rely on water to create the steam that builds up pressure in the pot, you'll want to choose recipes that are commonly cooked using a liquid-based method, such as braising. Most recipes that have historically been cooked low-and-slow in a lidded dutch oven will translate very well to the pressure cooker. Tender meat roasts, richly-flavored soups, beans, grains, and tubers all fare well under pressure.
The Case For Pork
A typical pork shoulder roast (also called pork butt or Boston butt) is slow cooked for hours with some liquid, then "pulled" through a laborious shredding process before being doused with barbecue sauce and consumed as pulled pork sandwiches. There's got to be a better way, right? Yes. In fact, we've got two. The folks over here at Yummly were super excited to have author and Instant Pot maven Daniel Shumski develop two new Instant Pot pork shoulder recipes for us to share with you: Instant Pot Chipotle Pork Shoulder and Instant Pot Asian-Inspired Pork Shoulder.
Using an electric pressure cooker to make a pork roast is a no-brainer. A boneless pork shoulder cooks in a third of its usual time in a pressure cooker, making your favorite pulled pork recipes a weekday option at last. Got time to spare? That same recipe can be made using the slow cooker function where it can go all day and be ready for you when you get home.
Pork is also insanely flexible, and can easily be doctored up with spices and sauces to create a wide array of flavor profiles. In Dan's two recipes, he starts with a similar base for each: a pound of onions, two pounds of cubed pork shoulder, some salt and some pepper. From there, he shows us how to make pork two ways by adjusting the flavors to make two wildly different dishes that taste equally delicious.
The Magic of Onions
Here's what Dan had to say about the recipes he created for us: "These Instant Pot recipes call for very little liquid. “But wait!” you say. “Doesn’t the Instant Pot need water to reach pressure?” It does. The trapped water molecules bouncing around the inside of the tightly sealed Instant Pot create pressure, raise the temperature, and cook things quickly. But nothing says that the cooking liquid has to come from pure H20. What these easy recipes lack in water they make up in onions. And what do onions have? Water. In fact, onions are mostly water.
Where water dilutes flavor, onions add to it. Yet despite the onions, the pork here doesn’t taste overwhelmingly of onions. Instead, the simple base of onions, kosher salt, and black pepper provide a depth of flavor and subtle sweetness that complement the pork. When it comes to the onions, don't go crazy chopping them — large chunks are fine. The point of electric pressure cooker recipes is to make things easy and delicious, not to spend eons chopping onions.
After starting with onions and pork, it’s then a question of adding a handful of other ingredients to take the pork shoulder recipe in one of two directions: chipotle chilies and brown sugar to give the pork a Mexican flair, or stir-fry sauce of your choice (think teriyaki, soy-ginger, or sesame) to take it in a more Asian-inspired direction.
One detail worth highlighting: In the Chipotle Pork Shoulder, there is no added water. The liquid from the onions and the vinegar is enough. The Asian-Inspired Pork Shoulder does include a tiny bit of water. Why is that? Most prepared sauces include starches that thicken the mixture and can interfere with the pressure-building in the machine. While the onions provide a generous amount of liquid, a couple tablespoons of water provide a little insurance to overcome a thick, bottled sauce."
Daniel Shumski is the author of How to Instant Pot: Mastering All the Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook.