One-pot cooking has been around almost as long as grilling over an open flame has. Pioneers slow-cooked meals in big cast-iron Dutch ovens hanging over beds of coal. Pressure cookers, first introduced in 1939, rocked the culinary world even more, and the iconic slow cooker of the 70s made one-pot meals that cooked food all day long a staple in many households across the country.
Instant pots are relatively new. They first gained nationwide attention in 2015 and are now the new go-to one-pot appliance for many home cooks. They can be used as a slow cooker, high or low pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, warmer, yogurt maker, or for sautéing/browning. And while they are more versatile than their predecessors, they also come with their own set of limitations.
Without further ado, here are some classic foods you should never attempt to cook in your new instant pot.
The crisp puff pastry crust yielding to a layer of duxelle thinly spread over a succulent beef filet roast is exactly what makes this dish so extraordinary. An instant pot will only prevent crisping and reduce the puff pastry to a disgusting pool of buttery dough.
The texture of bread and its crispy crust are unfortunately impossible to achieve in an instant pot. By contrast, ovens and bread makers allow it to develop an airy interior and nice crunchy exterior.
The beauty of a burger is its caramelized exterior. You can get that outer layer in a skillet, over a barbecue grill, or under a broiler, but an instant pot just gives you a soft, steamed disc of ground beef.
Cakes and Brownies
Unless you’re cooking a sponge cake to use for a trifle or fill with custard or fruit, an instant pot will let you down here too. A regular cake will cook through and be super moist, as will brownies, but the lack of crust or crunchy edges for texture produced by steaming is enough to ruin the overall experience.
Although canning can be successful using a conventional pressure cooker, basic instant pots are not recommended for it. Not only is the temperature uncontrollable, but the sealing process is also hit and miss, meaning you may have a whole batch of beautifully canned food that’s ripe for developing bacteria (and for giving you food poisoning).
Similar to cake, cookies don’t have an appealing consistency when prepared in an instant pot. Stick with old-fashioned oven baking to guarantee the best cookies in half the time.
Successful frying requires stable, relatively high temperatures, neither of which are possible with an instant pot. You can use a pressure fryer for chicken, fish, and french fries, but an instant pot will only give you moist food with no crispy exteriors.
Generally speaking, an instant pot is not recommended for dishes that include milk, cream, sour cream, or cheese. That’s because these ingredients curdle and should only be added near the end of the cooking process. Exceptions are homemade yogurt and cheesecakes, which can be successfully prepared in an instant pot using recipes and processes recommended by the manufacturer.
Multiple Food Items Together
Unlike a slow cooker, you can’t cook a traditional pot roast with carrots and potatoes in an instant pot. You can cook the roast, remove it from the pot, then cook the vegetables and serve them together, but cooking them all at once will ruin the roast, the veggies, or worse, both.
If you use an instant pot as a vessel for boiling water without the lid, you can cook pasta in it. If you cover it, the pasta will often cook unevenly and take on a gluey consistency. For that reason alone, you’ll find it best to stick to stovetop cooking for perfectly prepared pasta.
The mouth-feel of a soft filling paired with a crisp crust is what makes pie so good. Making pie in an instant pot robs the dish of that flaky crust and leaves it doughy and soggy.
Rare or Medium-Rare Beef
Top-quality cuts of beef are ideally cooked rare or medium-rare. Preparing steaks or prime rib in an instant pot turns the meat into overcooked mush with a dry, rubbery consistency. Stick with roasts in an instant pot, which slowly breaks the meat down into bites of succulent joy.
The key to delectable seafood is quick, delicate cooking. From salmon and cod to clams, shrimp, scallops, mussels, and oysters, instant pots invariably overcook the creatures of the deep. For best results, prepare them on a stovetop where you can constantly monitor them to avoid chewy results. Two exceptions are squid and octopus, both of which actually benefit from pressure cooking.
Yellow and Red Lentils
Brown and green lentils are great instant pot choices, but the more tender yellow and red lentils easily succumb to pressure cooking and turn into paste in just a few minutes. Cooking these varieties on a stovetop yields far better results.
Newer models of instant pots are regularly introduced, each one with more versatile cooking options than the last. Still, you should always double-check the settings and cooking times for all your recipes to ensure they come out perfect every time.