10 Foods You Should Seriously Never Cook in Your Instant Pot. Here's Why
Your Instant Pot shouldn't be used the same as your air fryer or pressure cooker. That means certain foods are better left to other appliances.
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Clifford is a managing editor at CNET, where he leads How-To coverage. He spent a handful of years at Peachpit Press, editing books on everything from the first iPhone to Python. He also worked at a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWEEK and MacUser. Unrelated, he roots for the Oakland A's.
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If you own an Instant Pot, you know how convenient it is when it comes to cutting down the time it takes to cook food, all through the magic of heat and steam. But while your Instant Pot has kitchen prowess, it can't cook everything safely. And for some foods, you may find the results inferior to more traditional cooking methods like using a stovetop or air fryer.
Unless you've purchased a specialty model, your Instant Pot is not a pressure fryer and isn't designed for the higher temperatures needed to heat cooking oil for something like crispy fried chicken. Of course, an Instant Pot is perfect for a dish like carnitas, but to get the final crisp on the meat, after you remove the meat from the Instant Pot, transfer to a skillet and brown for a few minutes or on a baking sheet to crisp up in a hot oven. (However, if you're looking for an air fryer that will get your food nice and crispy, you can check out our tested picks for the best air fryers of 2023).
Just like in a slow cooker, most dairy products such as cheese, milk and sour cream will curdle in an Instant Pot, no matter if you use the pressure cooking setting or the slow cooking setting. Add these ingredients after the dish cooks or avoid making the recipe in the Instant Pot altogether.
There are two exceptions. One is when you're making yogurt, and that's only if you use a recipe specifically for an Instant Pot. The other is if you're making a cheesecake, and again, only if you're following an Instant Pot recipe.
While you technically can cook pasta in an Instant Pot, it may come out gummy or unevenly cooked. Honestly, unless you don't have the option, boiling the pasta in a pot on a stovetop is just as fast and easy and will yield consistently better cooked pasta.
Two recipes at once
Cooking a roast with potatoes and carrots is a time-honored recipe, right? Not in this case. Don't try to cook a main dish with a side dish in your Instant Pot. They may fit in the pot together, but each food will need its own cooking time. Cooking items together will inevitably result in a dry or mushy mess.
You aren't really baking a cake in an Instant Pot, you're steaming it. The cake will be moist -- which works for something like bread pudding -- but you won't get a nice crust on the cake or the chewy edges that everyone fights over with baked brownies. However, if you do need to throw something together for a potluck or quick family dessert, you can get a moist sponge in half an hour or so, excluding prep time.
Canning, the art of cooking and sealing foods in jars, is often done in a pressure cooker. So, it may seem like a good idea to make a batch of jams, pickles or jellies in your Instant Pot. Don't do it.
With an Instant Pot, you're not able to monitor the temperature of what you're canning as you would with a regular pressure cooker. With canning, cooking and sealing the food correctly is key. Improper cooking and sealing can lead to bacteria growth that can cause food poisoning.
While you want to avoid canning with an Instant Pot, some of the newer models (like the Duo Plus) do have a sterilize setting that lets you clean baby bottles and kitchen items like jars and utensils.
Rare or medium-rare meats
A pressure cooker is not a barbecue. An Instant Pot does great with tougher cuts of meat -- which the pressure cooker can easily break down -- but not so good with ones that are best eaten medium-rare, like a steak. Save those for the grill.
We love lentils, but not all of them can be cooked in an Instant Pot. Brown and green lentils can hold up to pressure cooking, but the more delicate yellow and red versions turn to mush because they cook so quickly. Unless you're purposely making lentil soup or dhal, stick to cooking red and yellow lentils on the stove to preserve their texture and shape.
Don't try this trendy method of cooking with most Instant Pots models. The Instant Pot Max is an exception because it gives you the ability to accurately control the cooking temperature. If you don't own an Instant Pot that has that level of control, you are better off using an Instant Pot attachment to do your sous-vide cooking, if you are really set on using your pressure cooker this way.
In general, seafood such as fish, oysters, shrimp, muscles and clams are just too delicate for pressure cooking and slow cooking modes. They are foods that are meant to be cooked quickly at just the right temperature, which is hard to do with an Instant Pot. A few seconds too long or at the wrong temperature and you can end up with mush or rubbery lumps.
Besides, fish, shellfish and crustaceans are easily cooked with other methods, so breaking out the Instant Pot for them won't guarantee better results as it can for tougher meats.
The only exception is octopus and squid. Pressure cooking these tough creatures can make them tender while keeping the meat juicy. Just be sure to find a recipe that is specifically for the Instant Pot.