Instant Pots are not designed to cook everything. Find out exactly what NOT to cook in the instant pot so that you can avoid pressure cooking FAILS and burn notices in your Instant Pot.
If you are just beginning to learn how your Instant Pot works, be sure to start with Instant Pot Basics. But as you test out Instant Pot Recipes, you MUST first remember what NOT to cook in your Instant Pot.
An Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker is a great tool to speed up the cooking process of many dishes.
Tough meats are made tender, like in Instant Pot French Dip Sandwiches. Frozen chicken breast cooks up perfectly in less than 10 minutes. Homemade yogurt is a breeze in the pressure cooker. You can even perfectly thaw out frozen ground beef in the pressure cooker.
But the Instant Pot is NOT good for ALL recipes.
And just because a recipe --exists does NOT mean you should make it.
Ingredients to Avoid Using in the Instant Pot
Even when placed on a rack, breaded meats or vegetables are not recommended due to the fact that the breading will get soggy as the pressure cooker cooks with steam. The breading may also fall off the meat and cause burning on the bottom of the pressure cooker.
Delicate Cuts of Meat
If you want to ruin an expensive cut of meat, cooking it in the Instant Pot is a surefire way to do so!
For example, a steak needs to be cooked to temperature--and that is next to impossible in the Instant Pot. Plus the steak will not be able to achieve caramelization on the exterior of the meat, which gives it texture and flavor. When making steak, I always rely on my fool-proof method for cooking steak.
A beef burger or chicken burger cooks up extremely fast on the grill or stovetop. Not only does it take longer to cook in the Instant Pot, but it also does not taste as good. The meat has a boiled consistency, instead of a caramelized exterior and juicy interior that makes a perfect burger!
Adding dairy to the beginning of the cooking time of pressure cooking can cause the milk or cream to curdle or separate. It can also cause your pressure valve to get clogged as dairy will foam at a high temperature. This will mean your pressure cooker will not come to pressure as expected and will be a reason your instant pot may not seal.
It also is a VERY COMMON reason a burn notice occurs on your Instant pot.
It is best to add any dairy product, like milk or cheese, to a recipe at the end of the cooking time, and let it finish cooking (or melting) using the saute function or the heat from the Instant Pot, which is done in recipes like Instant Pot Macaroni and Cheese.
Heavy cream can be used, as its high-fat content will not curdle when pressure cooked. But beware, it can still cause a burn notice if not used in with another type of thin liquid such as water or stock.
Quick Cooking Dishes
The whole purpose of using the pressure cooker is to take a long cooking process and shorten it. If a dish already cooks in less than 20 minutes, using your pressure cooker will NOT save you time, in fact, it may increase the amount of time--as you have to wait for pressure to be reached and pressure to be released.
So all those recipes for Instant Pot stir-fries? It is better to stick with making things like Chicken and Bok Choy and Chicken Stir Fry on the stove. And use your Instant Pot to prepare the brown rice to serve on the side.
Proofing bread in your instant pot is a GREAT idea--baking, not so much!
There are recipes for Instant Pot Bread out there, but a pressure cooker will never yield a crusty exterior and the result is a super dense, moist bread instead of a delicate crumb that is achieved in recipes like Whole Wheat Bread, Dutch Oven Bread, and Italian Bread.
As for quick bread recipes like Lemon Bread or Banana Bread, I still find the texture is BEST when prepared in the oven. Quick bread recipes take just as long, if not longer in the Instant Pot and they turn out extremely moist and dense, not as light and fluffy as they should be.
You may have thought I lost my mind on this one, but there are so many recipes for Instant Pot Cookies.
The verdict? They are horrible--and take much longer than oven-baked cookies. Cookies made in the Instant Pot are missing the crisp exterior and chewy interior that is key to delicious cookies like Neiman Marcus Cookies and Sugar Cookies.
Adding cornstarch or flour to your recipes at the beginning of pressure cooking can cause your food to burn or for the pressure cooker to not reach pressure. And even if a burn notice does not happen, your sauce likely will separate.
Instead, it is best to thicken dishes like Instant Pot Creamy Mushroom Pork Chops at the END of pressure cooking.
To do this, you would mix together a slurry, which is a mixture of flour or cornstarch with water. Once pressure cooking is complete and pressure is released, open the instant pot. Hit saute on the instant pot and then whisk in the slurry. Let simmer on the saute function until the sauce has thickened.
There is evidence to support that an electric pressure cooker does not get hot enough to kill bacteria required for safe canning. In my book, it is not worth the risk.
Bottom Line: Remember that pressure cookers work with moist heat. Any dish that you want to achieve a crisp crust or a reduced sauce, will not be able to be achieved in the instant pot.
This post was originally published in 2018 but updated with a new video in 2020.