Despite its commercial success, the Instant Pot is not the most beloved vessel within food writing circles.

It lacks a certain romance of being “involved” with your food, artificially speeding up the natural course of the time it should take for a dish to braise. It doesn’t look as romantic as a clay pot used for simmering beans or as eye-catching as a brightly colored Le Creuset passed on to you by your family. I won’t try to convince the naysayers that the timesaving and hands-off benefits of the multicooker can be a godsend to working parents or busy folk, but those of us on the Food desk who own an Instant Pot sing its praises. If you follow us on Instagram or read these very pages, you’ll likely spot us regularly making brothy beans, sublime stews, saucy spaghetti, luscious risotto, creamy yogurt, silky dulce de leche — and even luxurious cheesecake. Whereas the jury may still be out on the trendy air fryers, one thing’s for certain, the Instant Pot is here to stay.

That is perhaps because the Instant Pot isn’t a one-trick pony, but has a wide range of capabilities. No need for a separate pressure cooker and slow cooker occupying double the space in your kitchen — Instant Pot or another multicooker can do the job of both, and then some, with a smaller footprint. Plus, the Instant Pot, unlike most slow cookers, comes with a searing feature, a key selling point for anyone who prefers to wash fewer pans.

One of my favorite ways to use the multicooker is to take a large piece of meat and pressure-cook it in less than half the time it would take the conventional way. I stay away from such hearty meals in warmer months, but as the highs and lows for the day trend lower, I find myself craving more belly-filling comfort. Such comfort is perfectly embodied by the possibilities that lie in a pork shoulder.

Unfortunately, the pork shoulder also falls into what I like to call the “weekend aspiration” cooking category, highly rewarding but requiring a sizable chunk of your day to produce. The Instant Pot turns it into a weeknight reality.

Though I’m not embracing colder months willingly — I’m still mourning switching to hot coffee — I am leaning in by braising pork shoulder in apple cider, sage and rosemary, some of my favorite autumn flavors. For any meat I braise, I like to do an overnight cure or marinade to infuse the meat with more flavor.

For this recipe, I coated the meat in an overnight marinade of brown sugar, fennel, sage and rosemary, and a slurry of orange and lemon juices whisked together with olive oil.

After searing the meat on all sides — by far the most labor-intensive part of the recipe — I sauteed an onion and then nestled the chunks of meat among the half-moon heaps. Next I added apple cider and a little white wine, the latter delivering a welcome acidity to a dish that skews heavy. Then, on went the lid, and a little over 90 minutes later, I had an enviable dinner I hardly had to fuss over.

The resulting braising liquid is a flavorful and fragrant concoction that can be served as is or slightly enhanced. I like to skim the fat from it and simmer the remaining liquid to reduce and enrich the flavors, for a jus-like result.

While an Instant Pot has its limitations — it won’t make a good roast chicken, for instance — it does make a sublime pork shoulder in less than two mostly hands-off hours, making it one of my favorite weeknight cooking partners.

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Make Ahead: The pork needs to be marinated for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Storage Notes: Leftover pork can be refrigerated in its braising liquid for up to 4 days.

Serving Notes: Serve with aromatic cumin rice and a glass of hard cider; or for a zero-proof option, combine equal parts apple cider and sparkling water, for a refreshing fall drink.


Ingredients

  • One (3- to 4-pound) boneless pork shoulder, cut into 2 to 3 large pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground fennel
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea or table salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion (about 12 ounces), halved and sliced
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Step 1

Marinate the pork: Thoroughly dry the pork, then poke the meat — avoiding the skin side — all over with a sharp paring knife. Stuff the garlic slices into the holes.


Step 2

In a large bowl, add the brown sugar, fennel, rosemary, sage, salt, garlic and onion powders, pepper, and the zest and juice of both the lemon and orange and whisk until combined. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until combined. Add the pork pieces and turn them over a few times, making sure they are generously coated in the marinade. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.


Step 3

Cook the pork: Set a 6-quart programmable multicooker (such as an Instant Pot) to SAUTE. Let the pot heat for 2 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of oil. Remove the pork from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and pat the meat dry. Working in batches, sear the pork until browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the seared meat to a plate and set aside, and repeat with the remaining pork.


Step 4

Pour off as much fat as possible from the Instant Pot. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, followed by the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Return the pork, along with any accumulated juices, back to the pot and pour the cider and wine around the meat. Add the reserved marinade and cover. Make sure the steam valve is sealed. Select PRESSURE (HIGH) and set the timer to 1 hour 15 minutes. (It can take up to 10 minutes for the appliance to come to pressure before cooking begins.)


Step 5

Let the pressure release naturally. Carefully uncover the multicooker and transfer the meat to a cutting board. Taste the cooking liquid and if it seems thin or weak, set the Instant Pot to SAUTE and simmer the liquid until it reduces slightly and the flavors concentrate, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper, if desired.


Step 6

Transfer the meat to a platter and spoon some of the sauce around it. Alternatively, you can shred the meat using 2 forks or a knife and a fork. Serve warm.

NOTE: To make the pork in a slow cooker, follow the marinating and searing instructions above, then slow-cook the pork for 4 to 5 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW. If your slow cooker has a searing function, you can sear the meat and saute the onion in the same pot, otherwise use a skillet and transfer the meat and onions to the slow cooker when ready to combine the ingredients.


Nutrition Information

Per serving (about 5 ounces meat and 1/4 cup sauce), based on 8

Calories: 545; Total Fat: 41 g; Saturated Fat: 13 g; Cholesterol: 121 mg; Sodium: 564 mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 6 g; Protein: 29 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.


From food writer Olga Massov.

Tested by Olga Massov; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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