7 Ways To Make Nearly Any Recipe Work In Your Instant Potadmin July 13, 2018 0 COMMENTS
Raise your hand if you have an Instant Pot problem. Well, maybe “obsession,” is the better way to put it. You can’t stop, won’t stop using your IP, and why should you? It cooks everything super-fast, it’s easy to clean, and it makes meal-prepping a breeze.
Even gourmets have become obsessed with their Instant Pots. Just ask Melissa Clark, a staff reporter for the New York Times food section and author of the Dinner in an Instant cookbook.
“I love it. It’s faster and sometimes better, because the pressurized atmosphere makes for even cooking and gets the flavor better into what you’re cooking,” Clark says. “Plus, I love the convenience and one-potness of it. You plug in and walk away.”
And you don’t have to limit yourself to using the recipes that come in the booklet with your new Instant Pot. You can actually tweak a lot of your go-to recipes to work in the Instant Pot—provided you know what you’re doing.
The IP has some unique settings (pressure level? natural release?) that take a bit of getting used to, meaning you can’t just YOLO it and throw some ingredients in the pot with your fingers crossed.
Here’s your step-by-step guide to converting nearly any recipe to work in your Instant Pot.
1. Be sure your recipe actually works for the Instant Pot
Clark says that the Instant Pot is ideal for most meats (particularly roasts), most veggies (like fennel, collard greens, and especially dense root veggies like beets), beans, and grains like farro and oats. It’s also great for anything cooked in a moist environment, like soups and stews.
However, this magical gadget does have some limitations. Skip it if you’re working with a lean cut of meat best served rare (like steak), since the device only fully-cooks things. And because it cooks using steam pressure, it doesn’t work well for foods with a fried, crispy, or browned coating.
You should also be cautious when working with seafood and chicken breast, Clark says. Both of these foods require exact timing and low pressure to prevent overcooking—something harder to control with the Instant Pot.
2. Add liquid as needed
The Instant Pot needs enough moisture to create steam to pressure-cook foods without burning them, so if you’re taking a regular recipe and trying to convert it to fit in the IP, you might have to add or tweak the liquid called for in the recipe.
But that doesn’t mean you suddenly have to drown your chicken thighs just to cook them the IP way. “There’s an Instant Pot myth that you have to add a cup of water for every recipe,” says Clark. “One of the founders of the company told me that wasn’t true.”
For most traditional meat recipes, Clark says to add several tablespoons of water or broth, depending on how long you’re cooking it (longer requires more water) and whether you’re cooking a two-pound roast whole (more water) or in bite-sized pieces (less). For drier foods, including dried beans and grains like oatmeal, cover the food with at least an inch of water. For potatoes and dense root veggies like beets, a couple of tablespoons should do it.
Meanwhile, if you’re converting a braise or stew, Clark says you can use a quarter to half the liquid called for the original recipe. That’s because unlike cooking on a stovetop, very little liquid evaporates while cooking in the Instant Pot (it’s completely covered and sealed, after all!). Without the proper tweaks, the Instant Pot version of your favorite chili recipe could taste bland and watered-down. “Using less liquid to start will get you a richer result,” Clark says.
3. Brown your meat
“Whenever you brown meat, you bring out its lovely flavors,” says Clark. So if a recipe suggests browning meat first before cooking, DON’T skip it.
And no, you’re not going to make extra dishes. You can brown meat directly in the Instant Pot itself. Just set it to the sauté function, which heats the bottom of pot, add oil, and sauté exactly as the original recipe suggests.
4. Tweak the cooking time
The biggest benefit to the Instant Pot: Recipes that take hours in the oven take mere minutes. For braised meats and stews, you can often cut the cooking time from your regular recipe to one quarter or half, depending on whether the ingredients are whole (more time) or bite-sized (less time).
With that said, for most recipes there is no general conversion rule of thumb. Instead, check the cooking time for the individual ingredients, either in your Instant Pot manual or online.
Some general cooking times, according to the Instant Pot site:
Boneless chicken breasts: 6-8 minutes
Beef: 15-20 minutes
Steel-cut oats: 3-5 minutes
Brown rice: 22-25 minutes
Dried black beans: 20-25 minutes
Dry brown lentils: 10-12 minutes
Whole sweet potato: 12-15 minutes
Cauliflower florets: 2-3 minutes
Both stovetop and electric pressure cookers (like the Instant Pot) cook in the exact same way, so the cooking times and liquid measurements are the same for both.
5. Separate ingredients as necessary
Sometimes, different ingredients in your recipe—say chicken thighs and cauliflower in a curry you want to make—have way different recommended cooking times in the Instant Pot. To ensure parts of your meal don’t end up under- or over-cooked, you’ll need to adjust your recipe. A few options from Clark:
Boil it: Throw boiling water on dried beans while you prep the rest of the ingredients. That way they’ll be a bit cooked when you toss them in the pot with other ingredients that require less cooking time, like veggies and grains.
Add ingredients in two steps: Increase pressure on your longer-cooking ingredient (like meat) for a minute or two, depending on how much longer it needs to cook. Then release the pot, add other faster-cooking ingredients (like veggies and potatoes), and finish cooking together for the recommended time.
Cut it into smaller pieces: Cut the longer-cooking ingredient into smaller pieces to speed up the cooking time. For example, instead of cooking a whole lamb roast, chop meat into bite-sized pieces. For recipes like veggie risotto, grate butternut squash instead of cutting it into chunks.
6. Choose the pressure release that works for you
So what about natural versus manual (quick) pressure release? Natural pressure release is when you turn off the Instant Pot and let it slowly release pressure on its own—a process that takes about 10 to 15 minutes. This is a gentler way to finish delicate foods and chicken.
The quick pressure release (where you turn a valve or press a button to force steam out of your pressure cooker) works great for soups and stews—or if you’re in a rush and want your meal ASAP. Clark suggests putting a dish towel over the valve first before manually releasing, so you won’t steam up your kitchen.
7. Don’t be afraid!
There are a lot of myths about the Instant Pot that make it intimidating, says Clark. But don’t buy the B.S.
“People are afraid of the Instant Pot, but it’s not going to explode,” she says. “The worst thing that happens is it overcooks. Even then, it won’t get super-burned because most pots will turn themselves off. If it undercooks, just put it back on,” says Clark.
You can also cook using a lot more ingredients than you’d think. Dairy, pasta, and thickeners like corn starch all work fine in the Instant Pot, Clark says. Cheese is fine in recipes where it acts as a flavoring, like quiche (although if you want your cheese gooey, add it after you’re done cooking).
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to experiment. “It’s a bit of trial and error. If you have a favorite recipe, it may take more than one go at it to make it work for the Instant Pot,” says Clark.