Do you have an Instant Pot? It’s a multi-purpose cooker that combines several cooking functions into one appliance. You can pressure cook, slow cook, make yogurt and I think maybe even birth a live cow (but don’t quote me on that). My need for an Instant Pot arose last year when we first moved to London. We’d left all of our 110 volt appliances with American plugs in storage, so I thought an Instant Pot might help me fill some gaps in my cooking needs.
And oh, has it ever — like making this fall-apart tender Mexican pork pibil in just a fraction of the time it would take in the oven.
I first discovered pork pibil at our first Cookbook Club meeting, when we cooked and reviewed The Really Quite Good British Cookbook . Our members all fell in love with this recipe by Thomasina Miers (the winner of the first season of UK Masterchef). The pork pibil takes an overnight marinating plus all day in a low oven, but the end result is this robustly flavored, yet tender pork. I can’t think of a more comforting bowl when served with radishes, cilantro and pickled onions over rice or in a tortilla.
The problem is, of course, time. We’re so busy these days, between work, school, the kids’ playdates and our endless lust for exploring London. I can’t imagine spending an entire weekend day babysitting a pork pibil in the oven, and on a weeknight? Fuggedaboutit.
Enter Instant Pot. When ours first arrived, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical that this giant pot consisting basically of an outer pot with an electric heating element, an inner stainless steel pot and a heavy lid would be able to handle whatever I planned on throwing at it. For the first couple of months, I only used the Instant Pot to steam rice (seriously, sometimes I’m so Chinese I can’t even handle myself). I honestly didn’t trust my Instant Pot to handle tough meats, or pressure cook anything more challenging than presoaked dried beans. I have trust issues when it comes to machines that claim to cook for me.
The Instant Pot seemed made for Thomasina Miers’ pork pibil, though. I couldn’t wait to see how this pork would fare with the Instant Pot’s pressure cooker setting, and whether we really could have it on a weeknight. On Sunday night, I chopped up the garnishes and whizzed the recipe’s marinade in a food processor, leaving the pork in a gallon Ziploc bag to bathe in these tangy juices all day while I worked.
At the end of the day, I dumped all of the contents of bag into the Instant Pot and set the cook time to 35 minutes. When the Instant Pot hissed its finish, I cracked it open and was greeted with the most delicious pork steam facial of all time. My tender pork shoulder, luminous with pork fat and juices, drooped on both sides of the tongs as I pulled it from the pot, as if it, too was saying that it didn’t want to leave this cozy little haven.
I did hit a little hiccup when I realized I had to transfer the pork to a dish to keep it warm while I cleaned out the inner pot to my Instant Pot. I needed to make rice, and I’ve grown totally dependent on doing it in my Instant Pot (it only takes 14 minutes total, as opposed to my old rice cooker, which took a few minutes short of an eternity). While the rice cooked, I set out all the garnishes, harassed my kids into setting the dinner table, and poured drinks.
As for my Instant Pot Mexican pork pibil — well, it was just as flavorful, tender and delicious as the oven version. I couldn’t believe that I could shorten the original cooking time of this amazing dish to under an hour for a weeknight meal (the original recipe states that it can take between 3-4 hours).
In sum, I’m totally an Instant Pot convert. I was not paid to say this. I just hug it every night and tell it I’m grateful.
- 1 4-5 pound pork shoulder, cut into a few large pieces
- Habañero or Scotch bonnet chilli 1, de-seeded and finely chopped (optional)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 tsp allspice berries 1 tsp
- 2 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds
- ½ tsp cloves
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- ½ cup achiote paste (you can buy this online or at a Mexican grocer)
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- Juice of 6 oranges plus 1 extra, divided
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- Juice of 1 lime
- Cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, rice (for serving)
- Put the spices (allspice, cumin, cloves and peppercorns) into a dry skillet and toast over a low heat to release their aroma. Pour into the bowl of a food processor.
- Break up the achiote paste and add the vinegar, onion, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt and olive oil. Pulse to make a fine paste, then slowly add the orange juice until incorporated.
- Pour about ⅔rds of the marinade into a large gallon Ziploc bag and add the pork shoulder, turning once or twice to coat the pork shoulder. Put the pork shoulder in the bag and seal tightly, then refrigerate overnight. Reserve the rest of the marinade to use on chicken breasts or flank steak (according to Thomasina Miers' original recipe, you can freeze the leftover marinade for later use).
- While the pork is marinating, put the sliced red onions in a heatproof bowl and pour enough boiling water over the onions to soften them a bit (about 30 seconds). Drain the onions and add the lime juice and juice of 1 orange (if you're using hot peppers, you can also add a tablespoon or two to this mixture). Cover and refrigerate.
- To cook the pork, empty the contents of the entire bag into the inner pot of your Instant Pot. Push "manual" and set the timer to 35 minutes, then use quick release (10 minutes on the "Keep Warm" setting and then releasing the steam lever). If the pork is not easily shredded wth a fork, seal the Instant Pot again and then add another 5 minutes under the "manual" setting (using quick release again to let the steam out).
- Serve immediately with rice, chopped cilantro, thinly sliced radishes and pickled red onions.