A Month with the Instant Pot

Amanda got me an Instant Pot for Christmas! I’ve used it now for about a month and I love it.

Some observations:

  • I use this so much more than I ever used my stovetop pressure cooker. The stovetop one needed babysitting and I was never completely convinced that it wouldn’t explode. The Instant Pot doesn’t need babysitting, has safety features and failsafes, and is more exact than the stovetop one.
  • It takes at least 15 minutes to come up to pressure and another 5 to come down with the quick release. Plan accordingly.
  • It cooks rice like a charm. I couldn’t justify getting a rice cooker because we don’t eat THAT much rice, but now that the Instant Pot can make great rice, I’m pumped. My first trial was successful.
  • While it is great at curry and great at rice, cooking one and then cleaning it out to cook the other in the same night does not save time. Plan ahead accordingly. I tend to make stovetop curries anyway.
  • It is great for hearty winter meals. I wonder if I’ll use it as much during the summer?
  • It is great for meats, soups, stews, rice, beans, lentils, etc. Probably not worth the effort for things that would normally take just 10 minutes to steam.

Meals I’ve made with the Instant Pot so far:

  1. The Food Lab’s Pho Ga ūüć≤ ūüźď
  2. Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pig ūüźĖ
  3. The Food Lab’s Ragu Bolognese ūüćĚ
  4. Nom Nom Paleo’s Curried Cream of Broccoli Soup ūü•¶
  5. Sausage, lentil, potato ūü•Ē , and kale soup (my own recipe, adapted for the Instant Pot – brown sausage, dump in everything else, high pressure for 30 minutes, quick release)
  6. Chicken, Wild Rice, and Mushroom ūüćĄ soup adapted for the pressure cooker (sear chicken first, dump rice in uncooked, 35 minutes on high pressure, quick release)
  7. The Food Lab’s Chicken Chili Verde
  8. Rice for a stovetop curry ūüćõ

One book that helped me figure out what the Instant Pot is best for (and gave me great recipe ideas!) is Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark. Our friends Tyler and Erin made a great braised pork recipe out of this book when they had us over for dinner in December and I bought the book right away.

Here is a great quote from the intro:

In this book, I focus on the machine’s strengths, writing not about what you can make in it, but what you should make because the electric pressure cooker does it better‚Äďfaster or more flavorfully, or with less mess and/or stress. The key to successful pressure cooking is choosing recipes in which softness and succulence is the goal, and which traditionally take hours to get there. It can’t cook a whole chicken very well, and it doesn’t do crisp or crunchy. So don’t ask it to and you won’t be disappointed.

What I want to try making next in the Instant Pot:

  • Yogurt
  • Chili
  • Black bean and ham soup
  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Tagine
  • Elaichi gosht (lamb with cardamom)

I’ll post some of my own Instant Pot recipes soon, so stay tuned!

New Cocktails Section is Live!

I added a new section to Cook Like Chuck: Cocktails!

Now you will find my 27 favorite cocktail recipes with notes on how to make them, the cocktail books I recommend to people most often, and the tools I use to make cocktails here at home.

Check back as often as you’d like. I’m continually adding new cocktails, books, and tools as I come across them. If there is anything you love that I should know about, drop me a line!




Barrel Aging Manhattans

I experimented with aging cocktails¬†in bottles¬†with charred oak staves last fall, but now I’m stepping up my game because my parents got me a charred oak barrel for Christmas.

After filling it with water and topping it off daily for two weeks, the wood swelled enough to prevent leaks and I was ready to start.

I picked Manhattans to start with because 1) This barrel holds 32 cocktails and not everyone likes the taste of Campari and 2) The flavors aren’t as intense as gin and Campari, so it is less likely to impact future spirits in the barrel.

Starting with my Manhattan recipe as a base, I scaled up the rye and vermouth. I opted to add the bitters to the glass before serving because bitters are so strong that they do not scale linearly like other liquors. A small amount goes a long way, so dumping half a bottle of bitters into the barrel might ruin the rest of the contents.

I measured the volume of my barrel and scaled accordingly. I needed 80 oz of rye (I opted for Rittenhouse) and 24 oz of sweet vermouth (I opted for Carpano Antica). I grabbed my trusty stainless steel funnel and went to work.

barrel_aged_manhattans - 1

I put the barrel on a shelf out of direct sunlight and left it there. I jostled it around once every few days to circulate the contents a little bit.

barrel_aged_manhattans - 2

We sampled it after three weeks, but it was clear that it wasn’t ready yet. It still had too much of a bite. I knew it could be better. We went a whole month without trying it again.

Now the Manhattans have been aging in the barrel for ten weeks.¬†They’ve really smoothed out and picked up hints of vanilla, oak, and charcoal. I’m not tasting any oxidation on the vermouth. I’m very pleased with how this batch turned out.

To serve two drinks, I put a large ice cube¬†in my cocktail mixing glass, add 6 dashes of Regan’s orange bitters, fill the glass up from the spigot, and stir to cool the drinks down. I let it sit for a minute as I get an orange peel ready in each coupe, then I pour the now-chilled liquor in each glass.

It is going to take us a while to finish the contents of this barrel. It makes enough for 32 cocktails overall. After another week or so, I’m going to bottle this and start aging something else. I haven’t decided quite what it will be yet, but I’ll definitely let you know.

Cuisinart Food Processor Blade Recall

If your Cuisinart Food Processor has a blade with rivets like the one pictured above, the blades are being recalled and replaced.

I stumbled across a recall post on DigitalTrends.com and decided to check mine. Sure enough, the one I use regularly and often recommend to readers of this blog is part of the recall. Model sold between July 1996 to December 2015 are subject to this recall.

You can check your model and request a replacement blade here: https://recall.cuisinart.com

I’ve had mine¬†for about four years and my parents have had theirs for over ten. The blades haven’t broken, but I pulled mine out to take a look just in case. To my surprise, the bottom blade cracked on three of the four rivets and the fourth one looks like it has a hairline stress fracture, so it is only a matter of time before it cracks, too:


I submitted a replacement request at https://recall.cuisinart.com. Make sure you check yours before you use it next!

2016 Gift Guide

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are quickly approaching. Here are some gift ideas for your friends and family who like to spend time in the kitchen.

Note: Many links below are affiliate links. By buying through these links you support this site and my Amazon habit. No one incentived me to post these things here. Every single item is here because I either have it or think it is great. Happy holidays!

Under $30



Help your friends refresh their cabinet of old, stale spices. I get most of my spices from Penzeys. Great quality and fair prices.

The gift boxes are always great. My regular order usually contains:

  • Turkish Bay Leaves – Better than anything you’ll buy in the grocery store and a more complex flavor than the California variety.
  • India Special Extra Bold Peppercorns – The highest grade of peppercorns. If the person you are buying for doesn’t usually grind their own pepper, get them this and a mill and you will change their world.
  • Smoked Paprika – I love the flavor of smoke. This stuff is a regular¬†occurrence in potato dishes, meat rubs, and stews in our house.
  • Mural of Flavor – A dozen different herbs and spices mixed together to roughly mimic Mediterranean flavors. Great with chicken, pork, popcorn, and breakfast sandwiches.
  • Kosher Flake Salt – This is our house salt. Great general-purpose stuff. Get your giftee a salt box, too.
  • Roasted Garlic Powder – I’d rather have roasted garlic powder over regular any day of the week.
  • Cajun – Cajun spices regularly dust the outside of our chicken, pork, and beef before we sear them to add some extra flavor.
  • Whole Vanilla Beans – Make your own vanilla liqueur, flavor some mid-shelf bourbon, or use them to make some awesome homemade ice cream.



  • The Food Lab¬†–¬†J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is my favorite food blogger and one of the main inspirations for this blog. He¬†meticulously tests every dish he makes and posts the results for the benefit of us all. I’ve learned so much from this book.
  • The Art of Simple Food¬†–¬†Alice Waters of Chez Panisse has the best books around for¬†simple, flavorful dishes made with in-season ingredients. Each time I flip through this book I get new ideas. The second edition is great, too!
  • On Food and Cooking¬†–¬†This is the go-to source for the science of food and cooking. If I want to know what is going on when I ferment sauerkraut, which genus currants belong to, or the proportions and qualities of different kinds of cake batter, this is the book I pick up.


Other Food-Related Reading

  • A subscription to Lucky Peach magazine, the best food periodical in the game, from Momofuku.
  • The Raw and the Cooked – Jim Harrison is “the Henry Miller of food writing”. Hilarious, a bit raunchy, and a treasure trove of knowledge.
  • An Everlasting Meal – A meditation on cooking and eating.
  • The Belly of Paris – A classic about¬†class struggle and the many tantalizing tastes and smells of 1850s Paris.




Very few people have proper¬†soup spoons.¬†If someone you know regularly eats soup but doesn’t have soup spoons, these will give them a huge quality of life increase. Get some soup bowls to go with them.


Cocktail Gear



Under $50



I had a whole post on inexpensive knives you’ll actually use a while back. These are great knives that make great gifts.


Coffee Gear


  • For brewing single cups, the¬†Aeropress¬†cannot be beat. I use mine almost every afternoon.
  • For brewing more than one cup, we turn to the Chemex.
    • Make sure you get some paper filters or a reusable filter cone.¬†¬†If you like coffee oils in your cup and don’t mind a bit of fine sediment, I think the reusable¬†is the way to go. There are cloth options that filter out oils, but the metal ones last much longer.
  • The¬†Porlex Coffee Grinder¬†produces the most consistent grind size this side of a $200+ coffee grinder.
  • The¬†Buono Gooseneck Kettle‘s¬†weird spout allows you to pour a consistent stream of hot water, which is essential for making a good cup of coffee.
  • Consistent measurement is a key ingredient in making good coffee. I use my¬†kitchen scale¬†every day.
  • You can’t go wrong with a nice bag of Blue Bottle’s Three Africas coffee beans¬†or a gift subscription.
  • My favorite mugs are made by Mazama. They are handmade, dishwasher and microwave save, and beautiful.


General Kitchen Tools


  • Mandolin V-Slicer¬†–¬†This makes slicing and shredding veggies into a uniform size very easy. It is a bit dangerous, but worth the risk.
  • Hand Blender¬†–¬†When I got this two years ago, I put my regular blender in the cabinet and havent touched it. This will change how you blend. It makes blending soups very simple and you can make homemade mayo with it in two minutes.
  • Amazon Echo Dot – This may be a tech gift, but its home is in the kitchen. It¬†is a voice-activated¬†assistant. Set timers, ask for measurement conversions, check sports scores while making a gameday snack, or have it order pizza for you when you burn your meatloaf.
  • Lodge Cast Iron Skillet – Perfect for searing meat, frying up potatoes, roasting half a chicken¬†in the oven, or making crispy bar-style pizza. I don’t know where I’d be without my cast iron. I use it more than all my other pans combined. Works on both gas and electric glass-top ranges.
  • Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven – Perfect for braising, my go-to for soups, and even great for baking no-knead bread. Sure, you could get a Le Creuset that is 5x as expensive, but I’ve been getting along just fine for years with a cheaper one.


Tampers for the ROK Espresso Maker

I had trouble finding this info when I first got the ROK Espresso Maker, so I’m posting this here for others to find.

The tamper size you want for the ROK Espresso Maker is 49mm.

Why not just use the little plastic one that came in the box?
The one that came with the ROK is significantly smaller than the portafilter, so it pushes grounds up the sides when you push down on it. It has no heft, so it is left up to you to push evenly. This leads to uneven pressure, which can lead to channeling. Plus, regular tampers are just plain cool. Unnecessary, sure, but cool.

Here are a few options for all price ranges and styles:

RSVP Stainless Steel Espresso Tamper 49mm

RSVP Stainless Steel Espresso Tamper, 49mm. $14.95 at time of writing.


Zoie + Chloe Stainless Steel Espresso, 49mm

Zoie + Chloe Stainless Steel Tamper, 49mm. $17.99 at time of writing. (This is the one I’m currently using. See photo above.)

49mm Stainless Steel Tamper

49mm Stainless Steel Tamper. $21.79 at time of writing.

Jimei Calibrated Coffee Tamper,49mm

Jimei Calibrated Coffee Tamper, 49mm. $37.00 at time of writing. Clicks when you reach 30lbs of force.


Espro Calibrated Convex Tamper, 49mm

Espro Calibrated Convex Tamper, 49mm. $113.67 at time of writing. This cool but expensive contraption clicks after you reach 30lbs of force.


Faster, Easier, Tastier Homemade Mayo

I used to make mayo at home with the food processor method. I only made mayo for special occasions because this method has a high probability of failure (emulsions are tough!), has more prep and clean-up than I like, and makes fairly large batches for two people.

That all changed after I read this post from The Food Lab. J. Kenji Lopez-Alt figured out that a hand blender does a much better job at emulsifying the ingredients and it is much faster and easier to clean up than the food processor. Check out how easy it is with this video from Serious Eats:

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See how easy that is? I was amazed when I tried it. This method makes it easy to produce small batches, too. I’m not buying mayo from the store any more.

If you don’t have a hand blender, you should pick one up. I use ours twice as much as the regular blender.

An added benefit of making mayo at home: You will have regular access to delicious aioli. We always keep a squeeze bottle of this stuff in the fridge to dip, spread, and devour.

Try adding these things to your mayo to make it even better:

  • Garlic
  • Vinegar
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • Bacon fat
  • Dill
  • Herbs like basil, parsley, or oregano
  • Cilantro and lime juice
  • Indonesian ABC Extra Hot Chili Sauce (aka everything I wanted Sriracha to be)

Inexpensive Knives You’ll Actually Use

No con foisted on the general public is so atrocious, so wrong-headed or so widely believed as the one that tells you you need a full set of specialized cutlery in various sizes.
РAnthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Forget those expensive knife blocks with tons of knives you’ll never use. For $100 you can get three good knives you’ll actually use and a good tool to keep them sharp.

I know that these knives aren’t the¬†high-end Japanese knives that you’ll pass on to your children, but these will serve you well until you save up enough to buy the ones you really want.

They are sharp, durable, balanced, and inexpensive. Everything you need.

Note: These are Amazon Affiliate links. I really do use and believe in these knives. If you buy them from these links, you are supporting my Amazon addiction and this blog. Thanks!


Wusthof Silverpoint II 4-1/2-Inch Utility Knife

$14.95 at time of writing

I use this knife for cutting up apples and small fruit in general, charcuterie, and small vegetables.


F Dick 7″ Offset Bread Knife

$21.76 at time of writing

This knife handles all types of bread like a champ. It is also perfect for¬†tomatos and other soft vegetables. I learned about this knife from Anthony Bourdain’s¬†Kitchen Confidential. You can use it for just about everything.


Victorinox Fibrox Straight Edge Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch

$44.95 at time of writing

This knife has topped the budget knife charts for years. It is super sharp, balanced, durable, and inexpensive. 4.8/5 stars on Amazon with 4,200 reviews. I use this knife for almost every kitchen task.


PriorityChef Knife Sharpener for Straight and Serrated Knives

$19.95 at time of writing

You need something to keep your knives sharp. Sharpen them regularly! This is a great little tool that will work for both straight and serrated knives. I know it isn’t as cool as one of those precision sharpening systems from Lansky, but this is so easy to use that you’ll actually use it regularly. Take the pressure off and it will actually get done.


EDIT: Check out Robert Ramsey’s comment below. The Chinese cleaver is a steal and definitely worth picking up! I just bought one on his recommendation.¬†



Bonus items

Now that you have some knives, you need to learn how to use them and learn how to take care of them.

Also, here are some cutting-related items you might want have around the kitchen:

Wusthof 5558-1 Come-Apart Kitchen Shears

$19.95 at time of writing

The kitchen shears that usually come with knife block sets are garbage. They are difficult to clean and usually arent strong enough to spatchcock a chicken, let alone a turkey. This is a good, sturdy set that is easy to take apart for cleaning.


OXO Good Grips Multi-purpose stainless steel scraper & chopper

$9.95 at time of writing.

Bench scrapers are great for working with any kind of dough, so they are a must-have if you bake. I use one for scraping things off of my cutting board instead of dulling the edge of my knives. Since this scraper also has a bit of an edge, I use it for rough-chopping carrots and parsnips.


Laguiole Steak Knives

$54.50 at time of writing

Don’t talk yourself into a run-of-the-mill knife block with tons of knives you won’t use just because it has steak knives. Buy the knives I recommended¬†above and then pick up a decent set of¬†Laguiole steak knives that will make you happy every time you use them.

How to Take Care of Your Cutting Boards

It is easy to forget about your wooden/bamboo cutting boards, but you need to keep them up if you want them to last. If you don’t, they will dry out, crack, and absorb unwanted food smells. Here is what you need to do.

  1. Get some food-grade mineral oil. This great 16oz bottle is under $10.
  2. Wash your wooden/bamboo cutting boards with a little bit of soap, rinse them with hot water, and stand them up to dry.
  3. Apply the mineral oil to the cutting board and rub in with a paper towel in the direction of the grain.
  4. Wipe off excess oil and prop them up to absorb/dry overnight. Depending on counter space, sometimes I stand them up, and sometimes I prop them up like the photo below. If I prop them like this, I only do one side of the big board on the bottom at a time.
  5. Repeat this at least once a month.

Letting the oil soak in and dry