The One Type Of Sauce To Keep Far Away From Your Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is a marvel of modern kitchens that has made the lives of many home cooks easier when it comes to stews, broths, rice, sauces, and more. People love Instant Pots because they can prepare the ingredients, pop them in, and have dinner ready in no time. But there's one thing you should never cook in an Instant Pot: dairy-based sauces.

Anyone who's ever left milk boiling for too long will know that overcooking a dairy-based sauce leads to a curdled, lumpy, unappetizing finished product. At high heats, the water found in milk, sour cream, and other dairy products begins to separate, resulting in clumps of protein known as curds.

Curds noticeably form in milk when heated to between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. While heavy cream can withstand higher temperatures, it requires constant attention and movement to avoid scorching or burning. Inside an Instant Pot, temperatures can reach upwards of 240 degrees Fahrenheit, and the lid is locked until it's depressurized, so you can't stir anything within it while it's cooking. So, unless you want your Mornay, Alfredo, or white sauce to be extra lumpy, do yourself a favor and keep these to the stovetop.

When is it okay to use dairy in the Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is still suitable for some saucy dishes that call for dairy. Stroganoff, for example, can be made in the Instant Pot because the dairy is added at the end of cooking. So, after the Instant Pot has released its pressure, you can slowly add sour cream or heavy cream to give it the signature stroganoff creaminess.

The slow-cook function is one Instant Pot function you might be overlooking, and some handy slow-cooker recipes for creamy sauces are out there. Sometimes, you'll have to add milk or dairy later in the cooking process, but it still beats making the sauce from scratch when making a simple weekday dinner.

The Instant Pot also has some uses for making dairy products. For example, celebrity chef Martha Stewart swears by using a slow cooker to make creamier cheesecakes, and the Instant Pot can undoubtedly be used to get similar results. Also, some models have a yogurt setting, which can make clotted cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, and yogurt, of course.

Ways you can make dairy-based sauces easier

Making certain dairy-based sauces is truly time-consuming, and without the convenience of an Instant Pot to speed things up, they may seem daunting. Thankfully, there are some easy ways to speed up the process.

Many cream-based or white sauces, like Mornay, cheese sauce, and white gravy, call for a bechamel, a creamy, thick sauce that combines butter, flour, and milk. While best fresh, you can make a bechamel ahead of time and store it for later use. Reheating it in the microwave will only take a few minutes. It might not be as time-efficient as using an Instant Pot, but having a bechamel ready to go will cut down on active cooking time.

If you're making a cheese sauce, there's a shortcut you can take to avoid using cream or a bechamel altogether. Professional and home chefs use sodium citrate to make perfect, smooth cheese sauces. Sodium citrate helps most cheeses melt evenly to make a quick queso, beer cheese, or dip without a cream base or bechamel. While the scientific name can be daunting, you can easily find sodium citrate online, and keeping some on hand could help you cut down on time when making a perfectly gooey cheese sauce. If you don't have sodium citrate, you can make something similar at home by combining lemon juice and baking soda.