The Steak Cuts You Shouldn't Waste On An Instant Pot

The go-to kitchen equipment for cooking up a pair of steaks is typically a fiery grill or a cast-iron pan over the stove, but with the Instant Pot making a more frequent appearance in home cooks' kitchens, there are bound to be more than a few good ways to get that perfect sear on the outside and tender bite on the inside. There's just one problem — not all steak cuts are created equal, so how do you know which ones are best suited for the latest staple kitchen gadget? The secret to the perfect Instant Pot steak: The thicker and fattier the steak, the better the result.

There's no shortage of steak cuts to choose from, filets, striploins, and T-bones being among the most popular choices. All of these are perfectly fine to throw on the grill after applying your favorite rub or marinade, but not for a pressure cooker. Here's the skinny on why: A grill uses high, direct heat for a brief amount of time to sear the outside of a steak while keeping the inside moist and tender (if cooked medium rare). Meanwhile, most features of the pressure cooker use liquids from the ingredients to create steam, building pressure to cook the meal evenly. Thinner cuts of steak will likely become mushy by the time the cooking cycle is complete, and you can forget about developing that delicious crust we all crave when cutting into, say, a sirloin.

Stay away from thinner, lean steaks

When cooking steaks with an Instant Pot, there are two ways your dish can go wrong: Either the cooking process will take too long and the steam and pressure will leave your protein mushy, or the heat of the pot itself will be too high and suck the juices out of the steak before you can pull it out to rest. To avoid serving a steak that's too soft or too dry, you'll want to pick a cut that cooks slower and has plenty of fat for an Instant Pot recipe. Stay away from cuts like top round and eye of round, both of which tend to lack a whole lot of fat as they are parts of muscles that get a lot of work. 

Likewise, you'll want to avoid thinner cuts like skirt steaks, also known as flank steaks. With one of these steaks, by the time you release the pressure valve of your Instant Pot, you'll be left with a bunch of jerky — tasty, but very tough to chew. No matter the setting you choose on the Instant Pot, you'll find that the cooking process is just too intense for cuts this delicate. So, if you have a few skirt steaks waiting in your freezer, save them for a night you can use Aaron McCargo Jr.'s grilled skirt steak recipe instead.

Which steak cuts are best for the Instant Pot?

In essence, the best cuts of steak for an Instant Pot recipe tend to be found in the center of the cow, located in the rib, short loin, and sirloin sections where there's plenty of marbling and lots of girth to the cuts. If you aren't too familiar with the butcher section of the store just yet, you'll want to choose a steak that is at least an inch thick and has a fair amount of fat. Think ribeye, sirloins, and strips. 

Bone-in steaks, like T-bones and Tomahawks, also do well in a pressure cooker as steaks with bones tend to take longer to heat through, and as a result, so does the surrounding meat. This allows the Instant Pot to work its magic without draining the flavor from the beef.

Once the steak is ready and you've chosen your favorite steak marinade, press the sautee function on your Instant Pot. This setting will most closely replicate the effect that a skillet or stove surface will have on a steak, using high heat to render the fat and brown the meat. Likely, you'll only keep the steak in the Instant Pot for a couple of minutes, so be sure to keep a close eye on the meat, and don't be afraid to keep a meat thermometer close by.