The One Type Of Stew Your Instant Pot Can't Handle

Few gadgets in the kitchen remain as convenient as the Instant Pot. Whether you're looking at its fast-pressure cooking abilities or trying out one of the many overlooked Instant Pot functions, this machine can easily expedite a variety of lengthy recipes. Stews are an Instant Pot's bread and butter, as most recipes benefit from the speed of pressurized braising. But not all dishes shine best when cooked on an Instant Pot, and slow-cooked stews might be one of the worst dishes to make with this appliance.

The ability to tenderize and lock in flavors over an extended period of time remains one of the biggest benefits of slow and low cooking. Given enough time, any tough cut of beef can soften and be infused with an array of aromatics such as bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, and sauteed onions. While an Instant Pot can replicate those conditions, its stainless steel pot insert will not be able to distribute or hold in heat as effectively as a proper slow cooker. This makes an Instant Pot struggle with concentrated slow broils such as pot roast, whose meat needs gentle, consistent heat to fall off the bone.

Use a ceramic pot insert to work around slow cooker issues

While Instant Pots aren't excellent at slow cooking, they can do a much better job with the proper accessories. Using a ceramic pot insert, whose thicker sides can hold and distribute heat more evenly, remains one of the best ways to upgrade your Instant Pot for lengthy braising. Since most Instant Pot models only come with the stainless steel pot insert, you'll have to get this item separately and spend some money on it. However, just buying a ceramic pot insert will likely cost less than buying a whole new appliance, and definitely save you shelf space.

Slow cookers do not use pressure to tenderize ingredients. Because you'll want to allow steam to slowly exit out of your pressure, you must use a tempered glass lid in lieu of your Instant Pot's default cover. Some models don't come with this accessory, so you'll likely need to invest in a glass lid separately as well. Combined with the ceramic pot insert, you're giving your Instant Pot the best chance at resembling a traditional slow cooker.

Other foods your Instant Pot can't handle

Pressure cookers excel best at moist dishes that don't require a lot of dry, high heat. Instant Pots are no different, and when it comes to recipes that require crunchy exteriors, you're better off not using this kitchen gadget. Steaks and other expensive cuts of meat that require a nice sear, for example, are the last thing you should make in an Instant Pot. The saute function on an Instant Pot just does not get hot enough to get a nice sear. Baked goods such as brownies and cornbread also suffer under pressurized heat. Since an Instant Pot cannot offer the dry atmosphere an oven can, most recipes that require a crisp crust just cannot happen.

Fried dishes should also never be made with an Instant Pot. Because this appliance is not built to fry, its heat just cannot get high enough to get a crispy exterior in dishes like fried chicken or calamari. Also consider the fact that using an Instant Pot to fry is a fire hazard, as it can easily ignite from the pressurized hot oil. Instead, stick to foods that can be made safely in this appliance, such as some outstanding Instant Pot meatballs.