Friday, June 11, 2021

The Cooking Beauty of the Instant Pot for the Little Camper

When it comes to meals and camping, especially with the simplicity of camping in small trailers or vans, a one-pot meal is hard to beat. In this review, I'm not going to wax eloquent or drag on, I'm just going to relate how simple the Instant Pot pressure cooker is to use in a small camper space, or even in a tent. 

My wife and I have the Duo Mini 3-quart Instant Pot, and it suits our needs very well--neither too large or small. I have to admit that we haven't explored all the cooking possibilities with this pressure cooker; we've learned how to do a few simple meals--and tend to do them over and over, with the main variations being the ingredients.

Camping Positives
  • The Instant Pot isn't large and stores easily, the cord inside the cooking pot, important in a tiny space.
  • For cold weather camping, the pot vents hardly any steam while getting up to pressure, which reduces condensation. I vent the pot outside before opening.
  • Because the pot is sealed when cooking, there is very little smell, just a whiff when the pot is heating and building pressure. Again, this can be useful in the small, enclosed space of the camper.
  • The pot is portable. In better weather, I usually cook outside with the pressure cooker. 
  • There is a lot of information online regarding recipes, including YouTube videos.
  • Since my recipes include water, cleaning up is easy.
Camping Negatives
  • Be sure to check the plastic gasket seal to make sure it seats well. I've had a few times (in two years) that the gasket didn't seal and steam started shooting out. I unplugged the unit, brought down the pressure, checked the seal, and turned it successfully back on. The recommendation is to change the sealing ring every 12-18 months, so I guess I'm overdue. My wife and I didn't know about the sealing ring change-out, though, until we researched it. Personally, I don't use the programmable timer cooking feature.
  • One-pot meals, at least for me, are mostly stews, with variety being different ingredients or how much water is added. (Is it a soup, a stew, or a pilaf?) If you like meal variety, then that will probably entail more prep work and finesse.
  • Although the Instant Pot isn't large, it isn't exactly tiny, either. It will take up precious space. I recommend using the unit at home, testing out camping recipes. Then if you think you'll regularly use it, pack it up!
Here are a few of my simple recipes. I provide them not to wow you with my culinary skills but to just provide an example of how easy cooking with the Instant Pot is. Be sure to check out bonafide recipes online. I'm just a simple guy, cooking a simple meal.
  • STEW: A third cup of rice and 1.5-2 cups of water. Chopped vegetables. Herbs de Provence and a half a bouillon cube, salt and pepper and so forth. Add tofu or fish sections. Dahl or lentils can also be added (which could mean adding more water). Cook 12-20 minutes, depending on the rice you use. 
  • PILAF/STEW: This meal is much like the above stew, except I add nuts and raisins. Less water brings you closer to a pilaf; more water moves the recipe into "soup" territory.
  • POACHED EGGS: Add one cup of water to the cooking pot. Using silicon egg cups (oiled) add the cup or cups with the eggs inside to the pot. Cook for 1-3 minutes, depending on how poached you want the eggs. I cook mine two minutes and release the steam as soon as the cooking time is done. It works well.
  • STEAMED VEGETABLES: Add one cup of water to the pot. Using a collapsible steamer basket (quite a few brands online) add the vegetables. Cook zero minutes. The steaming occurs while the cooker is getting up to pressure. Zero minutes!
  • NOODLES: Noodles in a pack with seasoning is an easy way to go. I add the two cups of water, plop in the noodles and seasoning, turning the solid rectangle of dry noodles over a couple of times to get it completely wet, and then I add whatever extra I want to eat--veggies and/or tofu. Cook for three minutes. I use the Lotus Foods individual Ramen packs.
I'm sure there are other tasty recipes I haven't bothered trying yet. My apologies to Instant Pot and to all those creative Instant Pot cooking wizards online. Looking at my cooking list, except for the poached eggs, I pretty much have one recipe that I vary according to my mood and what ingredients are available. What can I say? When I'm on the go, quick and easy isn't all that bad.

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  1. As I go back and forth on the size of camper (I had a teardrop 5/8, a Fiberglass 6/12, two popups and how looking for my fifth. I find you article about instant-pot right up my alley. I travel alone most of the time and fish wherever I go so I'm going to get a instant-pot and try it out. I like simple. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting! The Instant Pot is pretty versatile. One thing I like about it is that I can cook eggs, steam vegetables, and make stews with very little smell or steam. That means the small space of the trailer won't get too smelly or gather too much moisture for condensation.