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Tom’s Cookbook Library: Pressure cooker cast in a new light

“Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark includes 75 modern recipes for home cooks using a pressure cooker, multi-cooker or Instant Pot.
“Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark includes 75 modern recipes for home cooks using a pressure cooker, multi-cooker or Instant Pot.

Food writer and cookbook author Melissa Clark counts the stove top electric pressure cooker as a favorite kitchen appliance.

In “Dinner in an Instant” (Clarkson Potter) Clark provides 75 modern recipes for home cooks using a pressure cooker, multi-cooker or Instant Pot.

“The latest models [have] a slew of self-regulating safety features,” Clark notes in the introduction to her book. “In this book, I focus on the machine’s strengths.” She says the pressure cooker does a bang-up job braising and stewing, making polenta and beans, soups and custards.

Smoky Barbecue Chicken (recipe follows) is a flavorful dish that introduces zest and a touch of spiciness. Try it over rice and use leftover chicken in a bun or stuffed in a tortilla.


Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 tsp. kosher salt


1/2 cup ketchup

1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons molasses

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chili in adobo sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 garlic clove, grated on a micro plane or minced

3/4 teaspoon sweet or hot smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder


Hot sauce, to taste (optional)

1. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and let them sit while you prepare the sauce.

2. For the barbecue sauce, set the pressure cooker on the sauté function. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire, chipotle chile, vinegar and garlic. Stir in the paprika, black pepper and dry mustard, and simmer until the mixture is darkened and thick (it should turn into a paste), 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Stir in the chicken. Cover and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.

4. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large bowl, leaving the sauce in the pressure cooker. Set the cooker on the sauté function and simmer the sauce until it has thickened to taste (remembering that it will continue to thicken as it cools), 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, shred the chicken. Toss the chicken with some of the barbecue sauce and season with hot sauce to taste. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.


Cook the sauce slightly less – it should bubble for a minute but not turn into a paste. Stir in the chicken, making sure it is well coated in the sauce. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 4 to 5 hours.

Journalist Tom Witom, who lives in Elgin, has written extensively for years about food and the food industry. Contact him at

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