Just making a large batch of beans is enough for my Instant Pot to earn its keep. (I cook a LOT of beans).
The pressure cook feature, most valued for beans, large and small cuts of meats, soups and casseroles, is what prompts many people to buy an Instant Pot or one of the many other multicookers on the market.
But there are plenty of additional ways to get the most out of these appliances, both by using the pressure cooker feature for less obvious tasks and the other built-in features you might not have played with yet.
Here’s a rundown of my top picks.
How to use an Instant Pot for steaming
I’m a huge fan of the steamed veggies in the Instant Pot. I open the “Martha Stewart Pressure Cooker” often, because it has great reference tables with cook times for various foods (veggies, grains, beans), so I tend to stick to the strategy listed there. For 1 to 3 pounds of vegetables, you need to place 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of coarse salt (like kosher; use half of that for finer salts) in the bottom of the multi-cooker pot. I then drop my steamer basket, but you can also use the steamer insert that comes with the pot or just put the veggies directly into the water.
The pot will reach (high) pressure fairly quickly and after that the vegetables will steam quickly. Then finish with a manual pressure release. The time, from 0 (like turning the pot off as soon as you press the pressure) to 8 minutes, will vary depending on your desired level of tenderness and the type and size of your produce, with broccoli and cauliflower buds, green beans and potatoes diced in the bottom end and carrots and beets at the top end. You can always go wrong at the low end and then check. If you need more time, the pot will press again almost instantly after you replace the lid and seal.
Steaming can be especially helpful for quickly preparing small frozen cuts of meat, which can be placed in the pot straight from the freezer. Most of the time, I’m just making steamed chicken for my dog! I usually put in about 1 cup of water or broth and then place the chicken in the steamer basket over the liquid. The time depends on the size and if the piece is boned or not, but prepare for 12 to 20 minutes. Again, it’s easy to check the temperature and add more time as needed. You will find a lot of information about suggested cook times online.
How to use an Instant Pot for simmering
Yes, multi-cookers aren’t just for speed. They can also double as slow cookers, just like the slow cookers of yesteryear. Probably besides beans, the thing I do the most with my Instant Pot is use it to make overnight steel cut oats. I simmer them with a 3 to 1 water to oatmeal ratio, along with some dried fruit, for 8 to 10 hours and leave the “keep warm” setting on, so when my husband and I wake up We can dig whenever we want for a ready-to-eat breakfast. Leftovers keep well for a few days and reheat splendidly in the microwave.
A good number of sources offering pressure cooked recipes will also include a slow cook time should you choose to go that route. That makes the process pretty straightforward. However, if you want to adapt a recipe designed for a traditional slow cooker to make it in a multi-cooker, it can be a bit more complicated.
The first step is to choose the appropriate configuration. I encourage you to check the recommendations for your particular model. Instant Pot, for example, says that in its slow cooker feature, Less corresponds to a low slow cooker setting (8 hours); Normal corresponds to a medium slow cooker (6 hours); and the Plus mode corresponds to a tall slow cooker setting (4 hours).
You may also see variable results due to differences in shape, as slow cookers generally have a larger surface area and construction, with multiple cookers with a heating element on the bottom and slow cookers that often they also have a band around the side. Slow cookers allow for the release of more steam, while multi-cookers, even with a vented lid, tend to retain it.
Also, as America’s Test Kitchen discovered, temperatures in some multicookers set to simmer can fluctuate significantly, leading to uneven or longer cook times. These are not deciding factors, but are worth keeping in mind as you learn about your appliance and its recipes, which you may need to adjust.
How to Make Yogurt in an Instant Pot
Also on the slow and slow end of things – have you tried the yogurt setting on your multi-cooker?
How to use an Instant Pot as an additional burner
Multi-cookers are equipped with a sauté or browning function, which means that you can use them as you would a pot or pan on a traditional stove. That can come in handy when your stove is full (Thanksgiving!), Or you can’t (kitchen renovation), or you don’t want (summer heat) to turn it on. Make sure to note that the pot’s surface area is likely to be smaller than some of your pots or pans and that multi-cookers can get hot, which means you need to pay attention and adjust the heat as needed. If something starts to burn, you may get an alarm and an automatic shutdown.
If you think you’re going to try recipes that need to be cooked with the lid on or ajar, consider purchasing a glass lid that will fit your multicooker or repurpose an existing one that matches the size. This will help you control your food and allow a better escape of steam.
How to Make Desserts in an Instant Pot
Crispy and golden desserts are not going to happen in your multi-cooker. Instead, as cookbook author Jessie Sheehan wrote to us, focus on the items that benefit from steam cooking: “Instant Pot excels at ‘baking’ delicious custards and puddings, cakes with a dense, moist crumb; think sticky caramel pudding or dense ‘snack cakes’ (since the IP only ‘bakes’ a single layer of cake at a time, it’s perfect for making snack cakes), custard, rice pudding, custard , clafoutis, chocolate crème pots, lemon pudding cake, and … cheesecake and bread pudding. “As she points out, desserts contained in a 7-inch cake pan work well, as do can be prepared in individual molds.
This story was originally published December 27, 2021 6:00 AM.