Are you a believer or a skeptic? I’m more of a hands-on, visual type of person so I’m the latter. I like to try things and see it for myself.
If you haven’t heard about the Instant Pot by now, then you might as well be living in a hole.
The first time I had even heard or seen the Instant Pot was 2 Christmases ago, when I was at my grandaunt’s house for her annual dinner party. She made a large pot of “Lo Mai Gai Fan” and eagerly showed me how amazing this pot was. She touted that it could make congee, rice, stews, and soups and much more, especially since it had a pressure cooker function. Then she suggested that I get one for my family since she knew that I loved to cook.
At first, I thought it must’ve been one of those gadgets that all the older Chinese grannies were raving about, so I didn’t think too much about it. Even though from the time to time, I did wish having a pressure cooker around since it would theoretically speed up some recipes in my life.
This past summer, a good friend invited us over for dinner at his place and he made a dish in his Instant Pot. This was the second time I had seen this appliance in action. He lives by himself and really seemed to enjoy using it. So I thought, if he can justify using the Instant Pot for cooking meals for himself, maybe I should get one to use too.
With the incessant hype around the Instant Pot, especially around the holidays, I decided that this was the year I was going to get one to see what all the fuss was about. I did some research online to see which model I was going to get, and did some polling to find out what size would best suit my needs.
I ended up getting the 8 qt Instant Pot Duo (7-in-1) on a Black Friday deal on Amazon’s website. I had some issues with getting the appliance since I was promised 2-day shipping (we have Amazon Prime), but after a week of it not showing up, my husband followed up with them to see where it was. Turns out the package was MIA and not even in their tracking system. So they sent us a replacement and 2 days later, it arrived.
When I opened the box, I was shocked at how large of a beast it was. And then I had second thoughts — maybe I ordered too big of a pot! I noticed that most people had the 6 qt, but when I asked my friend for advice, he told me to definitely get the 8 qt, which made sense to me.
Once I opened up the inside and took out the inner liner, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was the perfect size. It was tall and large enough for soups, like a stockpot.
My primary reason for purchasing the Instant Pot was to make soups and stews in a shorter period of time. Foods that I would normally make in my slow cooker. For my first trial, I wanted to test the promise of the pressure cooking function. Could it deliver tender meat in 35 minutes?
My optimal test was Vietnamese Beef Pho with beef tendons. Beef pho is a flavourful noodle soup that takes hours to make, and beef tendon takes at least 6 hours in a slow cooker to break down all that connective tissue. An Instant Pot Beef Pho in 2 hours? Let’s give it a try!
Here’s a timeline of how it all went down:
4:45pm: Prep and char onions, toast spices in a pan. Place aromatics into a cheesecloth. Set into the Instant Pot.
4:50pm Husband comes home with beef bones and tendon.
4:52pm: Wash beef bones and tendon. Place into Instant Pot liner.
4:59pm: Place liner into the pot. Start Instant Pot at meat setting, high pressure. Auto set for 35 minutes cooking time.
Let the Instant Pot do its thing. It takes a little while to get it up to pressure, but once it’s there, it will automatically count down.
6:09: Beep. It’s almost ready. Have to let it depressurize. (Can do this via quick release — letting the steam out the vent, or natural release which will take appx 15 minutes)
6:24pm: Ready to open the lid and check the beef meat and soup.
The beef meat was tender and pretty much fall-off-the-bone. In fact, there were so many pieces of bone on the bottom of the pot. At 35 minutes cooking time, the beef tendon was slightly on the firmer side, but still soft enough to eat. However, my husband did comment that the tendon could’ve been left in a little while longer to get it more tender.
But the beef pho broth was beautifully clean and clear. Also, just to note: there was no need to blanch the bones and remove the scum like you would if you did it over the stovetop or crockpot. It was fragrant with the aromatic spices of star anise, clove, cardamom, and all within 2 hours, with minimal prep! I’m now a believer!
Seeing the results of this first trial makes me definitely believe that I will be making a lot more Instant Pot Beef Pho this way since I can make a large amount in such a short period of time. The Instant Pot Beef Pho was surprisingly flavourful for the time it spent in the pot. The speed in which the Instant Pot delivers is already making me very happy with the appliance. I can’t wait to see what else I can make in this seemingly magical pot! Maybe it is true… Chinese grannies do know best! 😉 I think I will try making my Taiwanese Spicy Beef Noodles Soup next.
What is your favourite type of noodle soup? Let me know if you try my recipe for Instant Pot Beef Pho by tagging me @siftandsimmer on Instagram, or leave a comment below.
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Instant Pot Beef Pho
Yield: 8 Large Servings
3 lbs beef bones, rinsed
1 lb beef tendon, rinsed
3-4 L water
1 large onion, halved
1 inch nub ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
8 star anise
6-7 green cardamom pods
3 black cardamom pods
2 T fennel seeds
2 T coriander seeds
1/2 C fish sauce
salt to taste
1 disc palm sugar
cheesecloth + twine to tie
1 1/2 lbs rice noodles
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 package bean sprouts, washed
Heat a dry frying pan over medium-low heat.
Toast the dry spice aromatics (cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, fennel, coriander, cloves) in the frying pan until slightly fragrant.
Place the toasted spices over top the cheesecloth.
Next, put the onion and ginger in the frying pan and let them char until blackened. Use a pair of tongs to flip and char the other side.
Place the blackened onion and ginger into the cheesecloth. Tie the cloth with a piece of twine. Set the spice bag into the Instant Pot liner.
Add the cleaned beef bones and beef tendon into the Instant Pot. Cover the bones with enough water, up until right before the MAX line.
Make sure the exterior of the Instant Pot liner is dry and place it into the Instant Pot cooker. Place the lid on and close securely.
Ensure the steam valve is set to sealing.
Set the cooking program to Meat/Stew and High Pressure. It will automatically be set for 35 minutes. (Note: if you want the tendon to be a little softer, do a Manual setting of 45 minutes on High Pressure).
In the meantime, prepare the rice noodles by filling a large pot of water and bringing it up to a boil. Blanch the noodles for about 2 minutes and drain under cold running water. The hot soup broth will continue to cook the noodles further.
Assemble portions of the noodles into bowls.
When the Instant Pot beeps, it will start to depressurize (takes about 15 minutes). Once the float valve comes down, carefully open the lid, remove the beef meat and bones.
Portion out the meat into the noodle bowls.
Skim the fat off the surface of the broth, taste and adjust seasonings and ladle piping hot soup into the noodle bowls. Garnish with toppings and serve immediately.