The Instant Pot Community on Facebook is an amazing thing. It’s huge. It’s so huge that the posts from it tend to blow up your news feed. But it’s also so huge that if you ask a question you can get an answer, or multiples of copies of basically the same answer, almost instantly.
It’s also interesting to see the little fads or crazes that occupy the group. There are many posts, for example, about how to use your pot to create little “egg bites” like those sold at Starbucks. There’s an Indian dish called “butter chicken” which I’ll get around to trying one of these days.
Lately, one of the big fads has been “no-boil” yogurt. I have to say I do not understand this trend at all.
First, let me recap: I started making yogurt months before I had an electric pressure cooker. Making yogurt, normally, is a two-step process. The first step is that you scald milk to about 178 degrees, watching it carefully, stirring constantly to keep it from scorching, and checking the temperature with a thermometer. This changes the milk proteins to make the end product creamier; that’s the reason many homemade ice cream recipes call for scalding the ice cream mix. It also helps make sure that there are no other microorganisms in the milk to compete with your yogurt culture.
After you have scalded the milk, you have to bring it down to 110 degrees before you add the starter culture (which is a little bit of your previous batch of yogurt, or a little bit of storebought yogurt, or a freeze-dried yogurt starter purchased online). If you were to add the starter at 178 degrees, it would die.
Then, the yogurt must rest, undisturbed, at 110 degrees for hours while the yogurt culture multiply and do their thing.
Before I had an electric pressure cooker, I would scald the milk in a saucepan on the stove, and then cool it to 110 degrees, and then transfer it to a $16 yogurt maker that I bought on Amazon, which would keep it at 110 degrees overnight. (There are alternate, jury-rigged methods as well; for example, an oven, turned off but with the interior light on, will keep a temperature of about 110 degrees if you leave the door closed the entire time.)
Not all electric pressure cookers have a yogurt function, but some do. If an electric pressure cooker has a built-in yogurt function, it automates the process somewhat. You put the milk into the pot, then start the mis-named “boil” half of the yogurt function (the milk does not actually come to a boil, which would be bad). The pot automatically monitors the temperature. Occasional stirring is recommended, but you don’t have to stand over it the way you do on the stove. The pot brings the milk to the desired temperature and leaves it there for several minutes before beeping at you.
When it beeps, you pull out the inner pot and place it in cool water to bring the temperature down (just as I had to do with the saucepan). But then, once the temperature is down to about 110, you can add the starter and place the pot back into the cooker. Push the buttons for the second half of the yogurt function and set your desired incubation time. (Longer incubation leads to thicker, and tangier, yogurt, which for some people is a tradeoff.) The pot monitors the temperature and keeps it at a perfect 110 degrees.
My previous EPC, and my current Instant Pot, both do a terrific job at both of these functions. I don’t have to dirty a saucepan, and I don’t have to stand over the oven stirring during the scalding phase. I just love using the Instant Pot as opposed to the old method.
But that’s not enough for some people. As I said earlier, the big thing now on the Instant Pot Facebook group is “no-boil” yogurt. To do this, you buy certain types of ultra-filtered milk (the most commonly-mentioned brand is Fairlife, distributed by Coca-Cola) which, because of their composition, allow you to skip the scalding step and go straight to incubation.
But Fairlife is more expensive than regular milk (about twice the price, according to Wikipedia) — and one of the benefits to making your own yogurt is how cheap it is. Using Fairlife takes away some of that cost advantage. And I just don’t see what’s so onerous or difficult about scalding, especially when the Instant Pot watches things for you. The only mildly-inconvenient part of the process is that cool-down stage, which requires you to run a little cold water in an empty sink.
I guess I’m missing something.