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Frank Mangio and Rico Cassoni
Taste of Wine and Food Frank, left, and Rico with DAOU Reserve and Estate cabernet sauvignons. Photo by Frank Mangio
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Taste of Wine: Turbocharge your smoker with Instant Pot

I suspect by now that Taste of Wine and Food readers get that I am hooked on Instant Pot, and you would be right.  While I love my Instant Pot, there are some things that are just better the old-fashioned way, for example, a pot of Bolognese that has simmered all day or a cook on my Kamado Joe Smoker.

Both examples are labors of love, especially a cook on the smoker. This could take 12 or so hours with moderate attendance depending on the cooking temperature and weight of the meat.

As a physics major and a retired submarine officer who operated nuclear reactors, I thought that I should be able to figure out how to turbocharge cooking food on my smoker with the aid of an Instant Pot.

With my nuclear engineering knowledge and the Internet, I put this to the test by cooking pork roasts for Senior Editor Frank’s recent birthday soiree.

I love the Costco Pork Sirloin Tip Roasts. These little gems are about 2 lbs. each and cook up deliciously. Online I was able to find others who had the same idea, but there was no consensus on the best way. The big question is whether you smoke first and then Instant Pot or vice versa?

I am not a master chef, but I figured if I smoked the uncooked meat first and then used the Instant Pot, the meat would better form a bark with the spices and a more intense smoke ring. The only issue with this approach is that pressure cooking after the smoker would affect the outside bark. This was nothing that my Instant Pot Air Fryer lid could not overcome. I now had a plan, and it was time to get the cook underway.

I started off with a Carolina Mustard-based sauce as a binder for the Rico Rub to stick. As a reminder, here is the recipe for my rub: 1 teaspoon (tsp) black peppercorns roughly ground and then add 1-1/2 tsp Mesquite spice, 1 tsp “Chicken Shit” by Disparity Ranch, 1 tsp granulated garlic, 1 tsp brown sugar, and ½ tsp season salt before fully grinding the spices. The rub was applied to the roasts and then I let the spices soak in for a few hours in the refrigerator.

The roasts were then off to the smoker for 2.5 hours using pecan and applewood chunks for flavoring. This brought the pork roast twins up to 125deg F. Normally this cook would take about 4.5 hours to reach the desired 150 or so deg F final temperature.

After pulling the roasts from the smoker, I added both to my Instant Pot and pressure-cooked on high for 20 minutes with 1.5 cups of apple juice for the necessary liquid. This took the roasts up to a perfect 152deg F. What I did not expect was how juicy the roasts were compared to smoking alone along with a prominent smoke ring despite only smoking to 125 deg. F.

As I had expected, the bark loosened up a bit during the pressure cooking, but not as much as I thought.  It was another great discovery. To tighten up the bark, I put the air fryer lid on for 10 minutes at 375 deg F and it did the trick to tighten up the bark.

Taste of Wine and Food Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni, left, and Senior Editor Frank
Mangio showing two pork sirloin tip roasts. Photo by Frank Mangio

The roasts were served with baked beans. I find the secret to great beans is cooking them with diced sweet dill midget pickles along with your regular fixings. I challenge readers to try out the pickles and let me know how it turns out.

We also had Yukon Gold potatoes that I cooked in the smoker for 2 hours at 225deg F. Just scrub the potato skins, wrap in foil with kosher or sea salt, and put on the smoker for the creamiest potatoes ever!

We had a 2018 DAOU Cabernet Reserve with appetizers ($60) and a 2018 DAOU Estate Cabernet ($85) for dinner. Both Cabs were similar with crushed blueberry on the nose and a palate delivering blackberry, juicy black cherry, cassis and cocoa. They both had smooth tannins and were spectacular, but you get what you pay for with the Estate Cabernet. It delivered silkier tannins and a more intense flavor profile.

As Italians, it would not be dinner without dulce (dessert). I made a cheesecake in, you guessed it, the Instant Pot. I know that some are thinking, no way Rico!

Here is another reader challenge. Once you make cheesecake in the Instant Pot you will never make it any other way. I hear some thinking okay where is the recipe? This is one from thekitchn.com that I adapted.

*Note that you will need a 7-inch Instant Pot Springform pan.

First cut a piece of parchment paper, put it in the bottom of the pan, and grease the sides with butter.

Crust: Grind up 4 whole graham crackers along with ¼ cup all-purpose (AP) flour, and 1 tablespoon (tbsp) granulated sugar in a food processor. Once mixed, add 2 tbsp of melted butter and pulse a few more times in the processor.  Add the crumb mixture to the bottom of the pan and use a flat surface (i.e., a bottom of a flat glass) to press in.

Filling: All ingredients should be at room temperature. Add two 8-ounce (oz) blocks of cream cheese.  Other options include using one 8oz block of cream cheese and either an 8oz block of Neufchatel Cheese or 8oz of strained cottage cheese. The latter two variants cut down on the calories compared to two blocks of cream cheese. All three variants produce great results.

Next, add the following, 1/3 cup sugar, ¼ heavy cream (or half and half), 2 large eggs, ¼ cup AP flour, 1 tsp vanilla, and ¼ tsp salt and blend until smooth in the processor. Pour the filling on top of the crust. Add 1 cup of water (6 Quart) or 1.5 cups (8 qt) pot and then place a trivet in the pot. Cover the pan with a paper towel and then foil, and place in the pot.

Pressure cook 25 min, then natural pressure release for 20 min, and then place in a refrigerator for 12 to 24 hrs. Remove from the pan and optionally top with fruit or other toppings, serve, and enjoy!

— Story by Tech Director/Writer Rico Cassoni  

Wine Bytes

— The WineSellar Brasserie in the Sorrento Valley district of San Diego is presenting an Eleven Eleven Wine Dinner Sat. Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. Entice your senses and make your moment as this small-production boutique winery introduces wines that are single vineyard and single varietal from winemaker Kirk Venge. A four-course dinner will climax with the 2018 Eleven Eleven XI Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Oak Knoll in the heart of Napa Valley. The cost is $110 with club members discounted to $100 each. Call now to reserve at 858-450-9557.

— It’s “Vintage Paso” with over 100 local Paso Robles wineries celebrating Paso’s own Zinfandels Fri March 19, Sat. March 20 and Sun. March 21. Each of the wineries will have its own special schedule to smell, sip and savor the heritage of Paso, under current state-approved rules, which are currently only allowing outdoor service with a maximum of six people per party. Get the full three-day program with the wineries and locations within Paso by visiting pasowine.com/events.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading commentators on the web. View his columns under “Recent Columns” at tasteofwineandfood.com. Reach him at frank@tasteofwineandfood.com

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