Why You Should NOT Use Your Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker
Yes, there's a setting, but your slow-cooker recipes aren't going to work as well in it.
Editor's Note: The Instant Pot is great for making a lot of amazing things, from perfect stuffed peppers, to delicious deviled eggs and more. But most of the time, we love it for its speedy pressure-cooking capabilities. So what about that other button, the one that says "slow cook" on it?
It turns out that, while the Instant Pot is great at being, well, Instant, it's not so great at slowing down. Why? For the answer, we turn to Sarah DiGregorio, a James Beard nominated writer and author of Adventures in Slow Cooking. This excerpt from her book explains why a technological marvel like the Instant Pot won't work as well as a slow cooker—and how to adjust your recipes if you're dead set on trying it anyway.
The Instant Pot is a multi-cooker—it has settings for pressure cooking, slow cooking, sautéing, and yogurt making, and it can probably do your taxes, too. It’s a very cool appliance, but I don’t think it’s as good at slow cooking as traditional slow cookers are. That’s because the lid seals and locks in place—as it must for pressure cooking—which allows for even less evaporation than traditional slow cookers. Of course the pressure valve is open when you’re on the slow cooker setting, so some steam escapes—otherwise, you’d be pressure cooking! But in my experience, it still doesn't allow for as much moisture loss as a slow-cooker lid. In some circumstances, that means a dish ends up swimming in liquid when you translate a traditional slow-cooker recipe to slow cooking in the Instant Pot. (The locking lid also means you can’t use a probe thermometer and close the lid over it—not the end of the world, but not ideal.) I also find the control panel not at all intuitive, though of course you can figure it out once you fiddle with it for a while.
To further confuse matters, the Instant Pot also has three slow-cooker heat settings (not counting warm): less (180˚F to 190˚F), normal (190˚F to 200˚F), and more (200˚F to 210˚F). Those do not exactly correspond to the heat settings on most other slow cookers—although the “less” setting seems like it would be the same as low, it seems to run much slower. Instant Pot does have an auto-switch to warm, as does a traditional slow cooker.
All that said, if you have an Instant Pot, yes, you can use the slow cooker setting to make many of the recipes in my book, with a few caveats.
· The manufacturer claims the Instant Pot’s “less” setting runs at about 180˚F, but I don’t think I believe them. (And I can’t use a probe thermometer to find out for sure because of the way the lid locks into place.) The “less” setting runs very, very slow. If you’re looking to stretch out a cooking time, try the “less” setting where “low” is called for, and increase the cooking time by an hour or so. But the better analog is the “normal” setting: In general, use the “normal” setting for when “low” is called for and the “more” setting where “high” is called for.
· If the finished product is quite dependent on a certain ratio of liquid in the dish (as in polenta), try reducing the cooking liquid slightly, by about 15 to 20 percent, to compensate for the complete lack of evaporation—or alternately, buy this slow cooker lid for your Instant Pot, which allows steam to escape.
This is an excerpt from Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio. Copyright © 2017 by Sarah DiGregorio. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.