Master the Art of Adapting Slow Cooker Recipes to Your Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is a game-changer for busy families looking for quick and easy meals. Whether you're in the mood for a hearty beef stew, tender beans, or shredded pulled pork, the Instant Pot can cook them all in a fraction of the time it takes a slow cooker. Plus, it can handle many dishes that a slow cooker can't, with settings for rice and yogurt.

One of the best things about the Instant Pot is that you don't need to dirty another pan if you need to steam or sauté food before pressure cooking. The device has settings for steaming and sautéing, which allow you to cook your food all in one pot.

For dishes like scalloped potatoes, casseroles, and desserts, you can use silicone muffin cups and pans, metal pans, ceramic baking dishes, and oven-safe glass containers. There are also many pans made especially for the Instant Pot, including cake pans, steamers, and nonstick pans. Just remember to add at least 1 cup of water to the Instant Pot pan when using a separate pan, place a trivet or steam rack in the pot, and place your pan on top.

If you have a favorite slow cooker recipe but don't have all day to cook it, make it in your Instant Pot! However, make sure you follow some basic guidelines for converting slow cooker and crockpot recipes to the Instant Pot.

Unlike slow cookers, the Instant Pot requires at least 1 cup of liquid to create the steam that creates the pressure. Water, stock, beer, wine, fruit juice, and thin sauces are all great to use as the liquid element, but don't count thick sauces or condensed "cream-of" soups as liquid. If you're worried about food items soaking up too much water, use the trivet to keep roasts, heatproof dishes, and other foods out of the liquids.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to timing a slow cooker recipe in the Instant Pot, but make sure you include the time necessary to build pressure and the required pressure release time. Depending on how full the pot is, it can take up to 20 minutes to build pressure, and if you're not doing a quick release, it can take about 15 minutes for the natural release of pressure.

As a general rule, if your slow cooker meat, soup, or stew recipe calls for eight hours on low or about four hours on high, it should be fully cooked in about 25 to 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. For chicken or turkey, use the 15-minute poultry button. However, keep in mind that density matters more than volume. Large, thick pieces of meat will take longer, as will baking dishes filled to a 3-inch depth compared to those filled to a 2-inch depth. In these cases, it's best to cut large roasts into smaller pieces for faster cooking.

Frozen meat can also be cooked in the Instant Pot, but you'll need to add about 10 minutes to the total cooking time. If the meat doesn't look done after the pressure is released, put the lid back on and cook it at high pressure for another 5 to 10 minutes.

When preparing beans and grains in the Instant Pot, keep in mind that they will expand during cooking, so do not fill the pot more than halfway. Additionally, cooking times for unsoaked dry beans will be longer than for those that have been soaked overnight. Various types of beans can vary in size and shape, which affects cooking times. Luckily, the Instant-Pot cooking chart contains the recommended times for different types of beans and grains, both soaked and unsoaked.

It is important to note that, much like with a slow cooker, the Instant Pot has limitations. It cannot achieve a crispy, crunchy, or crusty texture, nor can it be used for deep-frying or baking cookies. Here are some things that may not work well in the Instant Pot:

    Dairy: Adding milk products and cheese at the beginning of the cooking time may cause them to curdle or separate. Additionally, their foaming can cause clogging of the pressure valve. It is best to add them towards the end of the cooking process.

    Quick-cooking foods and dishes: Fresh and frozen vegetables, especially green beans, cook much faster on the stovetop or in the microwave oven. Although the cooking time guide may indicate only a few minutes, the time it takes to build pressure and release it can increase cooking time substantially. If food can be prepared by conventional methods in less than 20 to 30 minutes, the Instant Pot may not save you time.

    Thickeners: It may not be possible to reach full pressure if the liquids are thickened before cooking. Cornstarch, flour, arrowroot, or similar substances used as thickeners should be added after cooking, and the sauté function can be used to thicken the food.

    Yeast breads: Yeast bread can be prepared in the Instant Pot, but it will not result in a crusty bread loaf.

    Canning: The Instant Pot is not recommended as a pressure canner or for canning any food. While it may reach pressure, it does not have a thermometer to regulate the temperature. For safe canning, always use a pressure canner. The Instant Pot can, however, be used for boiling water bath canning for jams, jellies, and pickled items.

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