From meat and veggies to rice and potatoes, the Instant Pot really can do it all. Here's how to hack it.
There’s something glorious about the Instant Pot. It delivers tasty, hassle-free meals in a short period of time, and it can make your life so much easier.
Basically, it’s a magical cooking tool that combines an electric pressure cooker, a warming pot, a slow cooker, a steamer, a yogurt maker, and a rice cooker, all in one. (Yup—now that’s impressive.)
Not only does it free up some counter space, but it also cooks up some amazing food. Yet you should use it to your advantage to make the most of your meals, have fun experimenting, and make meal prep much easier by cooking foods that would normally require more time and effort. Here are 8 Instant Pot hacks to go crazy for right now.
Look for Frozen, Pre-Chopped Veggies
Buy frozen, pre-chopped veggies—it’s totally okay. “Yes, sounds simple, but when you're relying on the ease of an Instant Pot, you want to really think stress-free (and fairly mess-free) cleanup,” says Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, CPT. Plus, the nutrition is the same (if not better!), so you’re not skimping on any vitamins and minerals in that frozen pack.
Go With the Right Setting and Trust It
“Focus on functionality! Yes, if you're making a slow-cooked dish in the Instant Pot, don't try to cook it on pressure cooked,” says Shaw. “Use the slow cooker settings and follow the recipe instructions rather than trying to get it done too quickly. Doing so may result in a rubbery roast or chewy chicken,” she explains.
To clarify the difference—a slow cooker is for cooking a meal "low and slow", while a pressure cooker works to cook something fast at a high temperature with pressure. “The Instant Pot has settings for both to simulate the cooking,” says Shaw, but you should go with whatever recipe you’re using and trust that it’ll come out properly on the correct setting.
Make a Big Batch of Rice
“The Instant Pot is THE BEST rice cooker around. Toss in brown rice, water and salt. No matter how much rice you want to make, the cooking time is the same so make lots for weekly meal prep,” says Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, author of the Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook. This is a great use for holiday planning and parties, as well as simply getting your meals prepared in advance for the whole week ahead.
You can also make a killer risotto. “It seems hard to believe that risotto perfection can be achieved without attentive stirring but the Instant Pot makes it possible and easy enough for a healthy and fast weeknight meal,” she says. Ten minutes of cooking and another ten for natural release will give you a creamy and comforting recipe to dig into.
Hack Hearty Squash and Potatoes
Squash can be pretty challenging to cook, so use your Instant Pot to do the tricky work for you. “Instead of wrestling to cook cumbersome veggies like sweet potatoes and butternut or spaghetti squash, pop winter squash in the Instant Pot,” she says. Poke a few holes in the outer flesh, place on a steamer rack, pour in 1 cup of water, and cook on high pressure for 10 to 15 minutes until it’s done.
Make Freezer Meals
Make-ahead meals can go straight from freezer to the Instant Pot in a jiffy. “Combine your favorite protein and sauce in a freezer safe bag and store in the freezer. When ready to cook, remove from the bag, toss in the pot and cook on high pressure for about 15 minutes (exact times may vary),” says White.
“When the cook time is done, quick release the pressure, remove the lid and stir in fresh or frozen veggies, [as] they will be heated through very quickly,” she says.
You can use whatever foods you want—there’s much versatility when it comes to freezer meals and the instant pot. “Some of my favorite combinations are chicken breast tenders and Cajun seasoning with onions and peppers and sliced flank steak and teriyaki sauce with broccoli or sugar snap peas,” says White. Before serving, add a handful of fresh herbs or sesame seeds for a final burst of flavor, she suggests.
Cook Beans Quickly
Cooking beans from scratch can be pretty cumbersome and take a while—not so great when you’re exhausted after a long day at the office. “The process of soaking, draining and cooking dried beans can take a lot of extra time when prepared the traditional way,” says White. “The Instant Pot method requires no overnight soak—perfect black beans are less than an hour away,” she says. And you can then avoid sodium from a can of beans, too.
Use It for Your Favorite Healthier Desserts
“If you haven’t made cheesecake in your Instant Pot, you aren’t living up to your full Instant Pot potential. The moist, high pressure is the perfect cooking environment for light, fluffy and evenly cooked cheesecake,” says White.
You can make lightened up versions using a combination of Greek yogurt and reduced fat cream cheese. “My recipe for Rainbow Cheesecake can be found on the Instant Pot website and recipe app,” she says, if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Tackle Tough Cuts of Meat
“The Instant Pot is the ideal tool for quickly cooking cuts of meats that usually require long and slow cook times,” says White. And no one has time for that during a busy week! To make sure you can still enjoy these delicious meals, without all the hassle, turn to the instant pot. “Beef roasts, pork shoulders and racks of ribs can be cooked in a fraction of the time,” she explains.