Have you ever tried pork cheeks? Before you start to get all skeeved out: don’t. Because they’re one of the most wonderful, tender and tasty cuts of pork out there. And pork cheeks make ridiculously amazing stew, for a whole bunch of reasons.
Why I’m lovin’ the pork cheeks lately:
- they are paradoxically really lean and yet meltingly tender
- they’re packed full of collagen, which is wondrous for you nutritionally and for the making of a silky smooth stew
- unlike standard stew meat, there’s none o’ that gristly stuff to sneakily dispose of in your napkin or surreptitiously pick out of your teeth
- they’re inexpensive and even more economical because you can eat the whole darn things
- did I mention they make the BEST stew ever? They do.
Pork cheeks really lend themselves to a nice, cuddly time braising in the oven, getting all so-tender-I-can’t-believe-it while you’re off hopefully doing relaxing Sunday things. At least, that’s my kind of Sunday. That kind of dreamy slow cooking that doesn’t need much hands on time, but fills your home with the sort of cooking-in-progress smells that reminds me of grandma. But if you’re not really in the mood for reminiscing about grandma and want to make a ridiculously delicious stew a little faster, you need to whip out your Instant Pot.
Do you have an Instant Pot? I’m somewhat in love with mine, since it’s pretty much an electric, electronic pressure cooker on crack. I picked up my 7-in-1 model when it was on sale for just under a hundred bucks, figuring that it would make broth making so much quicker and less attention-needed than my stovetop method. It definitely delivers on that front, making rich, nourishing broth in 2 hours, which, honestly, makes it worth the price alone. Especially when I take into account just how much broth I go through in a week for making breakfast soup. But it’s also super handy for a whole bunch of other things, especially speeding up traditional, long braising time recipes. Instead of taking 3 hours to slow cook me some pork cheeks, I can get them done in 45 minutes. Winning!
So here’s my Instant Pot Pork Cheek Stew recipe. It’s simple, hearty and nourishing, plus it makes a big batch that just gets better and better the longer it sits, making for tasty lunches and leftovers throughout the week. The pork cheeks break down into perfectly succulent mouthfuls and the smooth gravy makes this meal pure comfort food. The best part? All that good-for-you collagen breaks down as the pork cheeks cook and makes its way into the veggie packed gravy, giving it a delectable mouthfeel and thickening it without needing to add any weird, expensive gluten free flours. If you’re on the fence about pork cheeks (or the Instant Pot), give this recipe a whirl! Oh, and don’t skip the lemon juice at the end – it adds a lovely freshness to the umami filled gravy and balances all the flavors out perfectly.
- SEAR: Pat the pork cheeks dry with some paper towel, then trim off any loose pieces of fat. Cut the pork cheeks into 2 x 3 inch / 5 x 7.5 cm pieces so that they're evenly sized. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the fat of your choice. Working in batches, sear the pork cheek pieces until they are golden brown on both sides, then transfer them to the insert of the Instant Pot. You can use the "sear" function of the Instant Pot if you would like, but it will take much longer to get all the pieces done, so I prefer to just dirty up a large cast iron skillet.
- PRESSURE COOK: Pour the broth over the browned pork cheeks, then add the mushrooms, leek, onion, garlic and sea salt. Check the rubber seal is in place on the lid, that the shield is in place, that the float valve moves freely and that the weight is set to the "sealing" position. Pop the lid on and lock it into the closed position. Use the "Meat and Stews" setting to pressure cook for 45 minutes, until the meat is fork tender.
- BLEND: Carefully turn the weight to the "venting" position so that the pressure is quickly released. Remove the pork cheek pieces to a chopping board and use two forks to gently shred them into bite size pieces. Carefully transfer the cooked vegetables and all of the cooking liquid from the Instant Pot to a large blender and add the lemon juice. Make sure that the blender is large enough to handle 5 cups / 1.2 l of hot liquid, making sure to leave part of the lid open to allow steam to escape when blending, covered with a kitchen towel if needed. Blend until you have a smooth, sauce like consistency, then taste and add any extra salt, if needed.
- SERVE: Transfer both the shredded meat and the blended liquid to the insert of the Instant Pot and stir through to combine into a silky smooth stew. You can either serve it immediately, or pop the insert back into the Instant Pot and use the "warm" setting to keep it hot until you're ready to serve.
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