I’m a big fan of one-and-done stuff in general, and multi-cookers fit the bill perfectly. My current multi-cooker has both pressure and slow cooking settings, plus canning and several other functions. It has a 10-quart capacity, and it’s perfect for making huge amounts of rice, pasta, or anything else I want. All I have to do is toss everything in, turn it on, and set it. When choosing a multi-cooker, there are several things you need to consider.
Functions: Look for the functions you are most likely to use. If you’re not going to use a particular function, there’s no sense having it, right? I wanted a canning function so I can make things such as soups or other low-acid foods and can them for preservation; low-acid foods need to be canned using pressure as opposed to the basic method of boiling water in a canning kettle that you would use for jams.
Most multi-cookers have both pressure and slow cooking, as well as rice/grain, baking, and several other settings. Some of the newer models have the ability to be connected to an app on your phone so you can control the cooker no matter where you are. Convenient, but if you’re not really going to use that function a lot, there’s no sense having it.
Size/Capacity: Buy the largest size you can afford–the bigger, the better. I opted for the 10-quart size because even though I live alone, I knew I’d need the capacity to make large quantities of the foods I eat the most, such as rice or pasta. I sometimes make a 5-lb. bag of rice all at once and portion it into single-serving sizes. I’ll also set some of it aside for larger portions, such as 4- to 6-cup amounts to use in recipes. I like to thaw a recipe portion and make fried rice with it. I can then portion the fried rice into individual servings and refreeze it.
Ease of Use: Some multi-cookers, no matter how popular, functional, or desirable, are difficult to figure out how to use. If you’re going to use it often, you need to be able to put everything in and start it up as quickly as possible. Another thing to consider is how easy it is to clean. The inner pot of my multi-cooker is too big to fit in my dishwasher, so I need to hand wash it after every use. It was a trade-off for me–I got the capacity I wanted, but had to sacrifice the ability to put it in the dishwasher even though it’s dishwasher-safe. If that sort of thing is ok with you, then go ahead and concentrate on the size and function you want at the expense of ease of cleaning.
There are a lot of different things you can make in a multi-cooker, and you can often convert your stovetop or oven recipes to be made in the multi-cooker instead. This frees up your stovetop and oven for other things when entertaining. Using a multi-cooker instead of your oven in the summertime also keeps your home from overheating while you cook.
There are many cookbooks on the market just for multi-cookers, as well. Don’t worry if you don’t have The Brand of multi-cooker (you know the one I’m talking about). You can still use recipes that are made for that cooker; just adapt the recipe directions and settings to the model you have.
My grandma made a recipe for beef and noodles every Christmas, and I’ve adapted it to the slow cooker function of my multi-cooker. It’s really simple. You season a boneless chuck roast (about 2½-3 pounds) with salt and pepper, brown it in oil, add some sliced onion and brown that, and then add water to cover. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Slow cook 6-8 hours. Remove the meat and shred it a bit, then boil some noodles in the remaining broth. In my multi-cooker, I boil the noodles on the sauté setting. You want some of the broth to remain to make it a bit saucy. Then you return the meat to the pot and heat through. I use fettuccine, but you can use just about any kind of pasta or even egg noodles if you want. My grandma made her noodles from scratch. There was a time I’d have been clever and eager enough to do that, but I can’t be bothered anymore.
If you don’t have a multi-cooker or slow cooker, or you don’t want to use it to cook this recipe, you can simmer the meat on the stovetop for 2-3 hours or until the meat is falling apart. Then turn the heat up a bit and boil the noodles. Proceed with the recipe as directed below.
One thing about seasoning the broth: you want the broth to taste somewhat salty. The noodles will absorb some of the salt during boiling, and if you make the broth a little salty you’ll have enough for the noodles and the finished dish. Before boiling the noodles, taste the broth and add more salt as needed.
Multi-Cooker Beef and Noodles
1 2½- to 3-lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed if necessary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 med. white onion, sliced ¼” thick
4-6 c. water, plus more if needed
1 lb. uncooked fettuccine or other pasta
Heat oil in inner pot of multi-cooker on sauté setting. Season both sides of meat with salt and pepper; brown one side of meat well. Turn meat over; add onion to pot around meat so that most of onion touches surface of inner pot. Stir and turn onion slices over as needed. When both onion and second side of meat are well browned, press cancel.
Add 4-6 cups water, stirring to loosen browned bits from bottom of inner pot. The water should just barely cover the meat. Set cooker to slow cook setting for 8 hours and start cooker. Taste broth and add more salt, making broth slightly saltier than you usually prefer. Check meat after 6 hours. It should be falling apart. If not, continue cooking up to 2 hours more, checking meat again after another hour. Press cancel. Remove meat and shred into large chunks. Keep meat hot.
Set cooker to sauté, or whichever setting is needed for boiling; add fettuccine and boil until noodles are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, adding more water if needed. Press cancel. Return meat to pot and stir to heat through. Serve hot, garnished as desired.
To freeze, portion mixture into labeled and dated food storage containers with lids. Replace lids and freeze up to 6 months. To reheat, remove lid and cover with paper towel. If frozen, microwave on high power 3-4 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through time. If thawed, microwave on high power 1-2 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through time.