Are you living in Ecuador or are you thinking of moving here? A regular query on social media posts is, “What should I bring from home?“ Recently, I’ve seen, “Should I bring down an Instant Pot?” Another was, “Can I buy an Instant Pot in Cuenca?”
The answers are, “Yes” and “Yes.”
Mashable.com defines an Instant Pot (the brand) as, “The insanely fast, intelligent pressure cooker that can replace numerous kitchen appliances, and is quite possibly the most important technological advancement in recent history. SpaceX is a close second. (Sorry pal, maybe if you cooked rice at the speed of light.)”
I’m old enough to remember visiting my grandma in Brooklyn, cringing as the enormous silver thing rattled and hissed on the stove — grandma yelling at us kids to stay away! I inherited this same pressure cooker from my mother, but it was far too scary to use. It sat in the pantry collecting dust for years. It turns out, when we moved to Cuenca, it was a collector’s item that a Florida culinary nutritionist friend/food historian was thrilled to receive!
Electric pressure cookers have been around for years, and the multi-cooker — including but not limited to the Instant Pot — takes convenience and safety to a new level. They don’t just cook under pressure: the “multi” means a multitude of functions: they sear, brown, and sauté; a multi-cooker can work as a rice cooker, and a slow cooker too. Some models come with insert baskets to steam; many are non-stick, making clean-up a breeze. Some even have yogurt settings, and I have seen recipes for baking bread, cakes, custards and flan, and even cheesecake.
If you’re a regular reader of my columns, you’ll know that I avoid superlatives like the plague. There are too many “amazing” and “unbelievable” and “miraculous” claims attached to unproven treatments and vitamin/mineral/dietary supplements. But a countertop multi-cooker can work magic on your diet, your budget, and your time — meaning that it saves you so much time that you’ll be able to enjoy healthy and delicious meals without spending too much time in the kitchen. It will save you storage space because you won’t need those other appliances!
There’s no more fear associated with cooking under pressure. As reported in CNET.com, multi-cookers have built-in safety features and sensors that assure the user that the machine will not build pressure unless it’s being used just right. The gasket must be placed securely in the lid, and the lid is locked on just right before pressure will build, and once the cooker’s interior becomes pressurized, the lid is locked in place — securely. No more being terrorized by the threat of explosion! Another thing to love about many multi-cookers is a time delay start and keep warm setting, to making your meal preparation super flexible.
Before moving to Cuenca, I told my husband (a Consumer Reports kinda’ guy) that I was shopping for an Instant Pot — he did some research and decided that I needed one of the Good Housekeeping Institute of Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab’s favorites: The Fagor LUX. At the time, what sold us on this model is that it took less time to come up to pressure compared to the most popular Instant Pot. I also like that the Fagor is very quiet. I’ve been very happy with the Fagor, but there are new models on the market — what’s your favorite? Feel free to post in the comments below.
What about the second question: “Can I buy an instant pot in Cuenca?” Well…maybe not a new Instant Pot (the brand) but you can certainly buy a variety of different multi-cookers in Cuenca. And you may find a used one in a Cuenca consignment shop, or by posting in the classifieds on CuencaHighLife.com and GringoPost or Facebook. But you’re more likely to find used rice cookers and slow cookers, appliances being traded in as people learn about the advantages of multi-cookers.
I went online to Sukasa.com — in Cuenca they’re located on Avenida de Americas in the Supermaxi Plaza and there are stores in Quito and Guayaquil. Featuring a variety of different multi-cookers, the prices range from $300 (including VAT) for a Westbend 5.7 liter (about 6 quarts) model with eight functions to $260 for a Cuisinart six-quart (5.67 liters) stainless steel model to $159 for a Starfrit 8 liter (8.45 quarts) multi-cooker. Go to this page to see more, and to check the availability at the store nearest you.
Multi-cookers may be available at other stores in Cuenca — feel free to post in the comments below. And don’t forget, the multi-cooker will make your other appliances obsolete, so you can offer your used rice cooker or slow cooker up for sale and defray the cost of your new multi-cooker.
If you’re bringing a multi-cooker in from North America for your personal use, Amazon.com has an impressive array of makes and models, ranging from 5-9 quarts to 10-14 quarts, new, renewed, and used, and made from plastic, aluminum, or stainless steel. My Fagor LUX is currently available for $129.99 on Amazon or “used – like new” for $116.99. See more Amazon options here. Click on the article from CNET.com for more info on different models here.
The Facebook group Food and Cooking in Ecuador has a very busy thread devoted to multi-cookery with tips and recipes plus places to source ingredients locally in Cuenca; the Instant Pot Community group has almost 2 million members and tons of videos and recipes; and for those who may need a little more hand-holding, join the Instant Pot 101 for Beginners group. They “accept all pots!”
Don’t forget, you don’t need an Instant Pot to enjoy multi-cookers! Today there are many model options and price points.
Tell us why you love your multi-cooker — or hate it! Do you have a favorite recipe?
Susan Burke March, a Cuenca expat, is a Registered Dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator who specializes in smart solutions for weight loss and diabetes-related weight management. She is the author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally—a fun and informative book intended to liberate serial dieters and make healthy living and weight control both possible and instinctual over the long term. Do you have a food, nutrition or health question? Write to her – SusanTheDietitian@gmail.com