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For many, the Instant Pot is a smart investment. This multi-purpose kitchen appliance can save space, time, money, and energy. However, that’s only true if you know how to get the most out of it. And, many people are missing out by using the Instant Pot for pressure cooking only.
In an Instant Pot, you can do almost if not everything – from sauces and yogurts to air-frying healthy snacks, or dehydrating fruits. In fact, you can even prepare an elaborate and delicious dinner for your loved ones without being stuck in the kitchen for hours on end. The whole process is easier than you think.
In this article, we’ll explain how to use an Instant Pot as a slow cooker and what the benefits are. But, first, let’s talk about slow cooking in general.
Why Slow Cooking?
The Instant Pot is notorious for shortening the cooking time for incredibly long recipes. That’s why so many people with busy schedules swear by it. But, with that in mind, what can we expect when we want to use the slow cooking method for our meal?
Just like baking, frying, deep-frying, or simmering, slow cooking is a specific method of preparing food. It relies on using low heat for a long amount of time, hence the name.
The reason why people sometimes prefer to slow cook a meal is related to texture and taste, but also health. Foods that are prepared over low heat are more nutritious, taste better (more intense flavor), and are usually a lot more tender in texture.
Slow cooking is usually done with a special kitchen appliance called a ‘slow cooker.’ Basically, this is an electronically heated (with few settings), ceramic bowl with a glass lid that offers three main benefits:
- hands-off cooking;
- conservation of energy;
- extraction of flavor.
Slow cookers offer incredible convenience. You can leave the food unsupervised for a long period of time while you tend to your other responsibilities – without impacting the quality of food.
Slow Cooking With an Instant Pot
From the description, you might have noticed that slow cookers have a lot in common with the Instant Pot. This is not a coincidence. The Instant Pot is designed to be a multi-cooker with pressure cooking, sautéing, slow cooking, steaming, rice cooking, and yogurt making as some of its best features.
So, if you were wondering whether you can slow cook in an Instant Pot, we’re here to assure you that you absolutely should, and here’s how!
How to Use an Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker?
Contrary to popular belief, slow cooking is not an intimidating or complex process. In fact, slow cookers are made for one-pot recipes that require almost no food preparation. In most cases, slow cooking means cutting the ingredients into large chunks, adding seasoning, liquid, and pushing a button. Doesn’t sound like you need chef’s skills to do it, right?
Nevertheless, you do need confidence, which is why, we’re going to break down the process, step-by-step.
A Few Considerations Before You Start
Let’s start by making sure that you have everything ready to start cooking – and we don’t mean the ingredients for your chosen recipe.
There are two important considerations you need to know before slow cooking in an Instant Pot.
The first one is the glass lid. As we already mentioned, slow cookers are traditionally made with a glass lid that allows a little bit of steam and moisture to escape the cooker. However, the standard lid for the Instant Pot has an air-tight lock mechanism that completely traps steam and moisture – perfect for pressure cooking but not slow cooking.
You might already have a glass lid as it’s a common accessory for the Instant Pot, but if you don’t you can buy one from Amazon. The glass lid won’t cost more than $30, but if you haven’t bought an Instant Pot yet, it’s a smart idea to get one that has a glass lid included.
The second consideration concerns the recipe adjustment. What we mean by this is that adding water or broth is really important when pressure cooking with an Instant Pot, and also for slow cooking in general. However, since the two cooking methods are very different, the liquid concentration needs to be adjusted. This is also true when you’re following recipes designed for a slow cooker.
The rule of thumb is that you won’t need more than a cup of liquid when using the slow cooking setting in the Instant Pot. However, to make sure you have just the right measurements, let’s see how to convert any recipe into an Instant Pot recipe.
How to Make Slow Cooker to Instant Pot Conversions
The first difference you may notice in some slow cooking recipes is that they might ask for no liquid at all. And, that’s okay. When you’re using a slow cooker, you don’t need a liquid, but it’s a very different story when using the Instant Pot.
The Instant Pot needs liquid, even when using the slow cooking setting. If your original recipe is without liquid, add around at least 1 cup of liquid.
If you’re worried about creating a watered-down version of your recipe, you have two options:
- Use the steamer basket (accessory) to keep your food above the water line.
- Use the Saute function after the slow cooking to boil off excess liquid.
The second difference between slow cooker and Instant Pot recipes is the time. Since they’re two different appliances with different properties, the time to cook the food won’t be the same for the two.
Most slow cookers have three settings:
- Low setting – cooking time can take 9+ hours (cooking usually starts the day before).
- Medium setting – cooking time is up to 6 hours.
- High setting – cooking time is up to 4 hours.
In slow cookers, the max temperature is around 209 °F regardless of setting. The low and high options refer to how much time it takes for the cooker to reach a simmer point – not the temperature with which it will cook the food.
The Instant Pot’s Slow Cooking setting has three options which are temperature-associated:
- Slow cooker setting + Less = cook at 190 °F.
- Slow cooker setting + Normal = cook between 195-205 °F.
- Slow cooker setting + More = cook at around 200-210 °F.
Usually, if the recipe says to use the low setting on a slow cooker, this would correspond to the less option of the slow cook setting in the Instant Pot. Alternatively, if the slow cooking recipe says that the meal needs to be cooked eight to nine hours, that’s your cue to use the less setting in the Instant Pot.
Disclaimer: In this article, we’re teaching you how to use the Instant Pot as a slow cooker. This means cooking just as you would in a slow cooker. However, since the Instant Pot is designed to speed things up, you can actually convert slow cooking recipes to Instant Pot recipes (pressure cooking) and achieve relatively the same result in less than an hour.
Using The Slow Cook Option
Let’s start cooking.
1. Prepare all the ingredients!
Cut all the ingredients into large chunks and place them inside the Instant Pot with at least one cup of liquid (water or broth). Alternatively add one cup of water into the Instant Pot and insert the steamer basket. Then, load all the ingredients into the steamer basket making sure that all the food is above the water line.
Tip: Be mindful about the amount of ingredients you need. You may need to scale down your recipe to fit, as you should be careful not to overfill the Instant Pot.
2. Place the Glass Lid on Top!
Do not close the Instant Pot with its standard top that has an air-tight lock mechanism because this will create pressure inside the pot. Instead, use the glass lid that comes as an accessory or the regular tempered glass lid that you bought from Amazon.
Tip: If you do not have a glass lid to use, then you can use the standard lid by putting the steam release handle in the venting position.
3. Press the “Slow Cook” button.
The next step is to plug in the device and choose the “Slow Cook” option by pressing the labeled button.
4. Set the Time.
The Instant Pot allows you to set the desired cooking time anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours. Use the “+” and “-” buttons to set the time. The buttons are under the time display where you can read the time you’ve chosen.
5. Choose the Cooking Mode.
Older models do not have a special button, but you need to press the “Slow Cook” button more than once to change the cooking mode – which you can read on the display. However, the newer models have three distinct buttons located next to Timer and above Manual. They read “Less,” “Normal,” and “More” and correspond to the standard settings of Low, Medium and High in most Crock-Pot slow cookers.
6. Wait 10 seconds!
Ten seconds after you push the last button the Instant Pot will start cooking. At this point, you can go about your day and leave the Instant Pot to do its business. You don’t even have to be there when it’s scheduled to finish. Once the timer runs off (cooking is complete), the Instant Pot will automatically shift to a “Keep Warm” setting for up to 10 hours. That’s all!
Cooking in the Instant Pot is a fuss-free experience regardless of what you want to prepare or how you want it prepared. Even when you want the benefits of a deciduous and tender, slow-cooked meal, you can press a few buttons and leave the Instant Pot to prepare the food while you go about your day.
In fact, with the Instant Pot and a glass lid you can mimic standard Crock-Pot slow cookers to the T. But, unlike traditional slow cookers, with the Instant Pot you can choose the exact time you need your meal to be ready – from 20 minutes to 20 hours. On top of that, the Instant has a smart function where it automatically shifts to keep the food warm (up to 10 hours) once it’s done cooking.
So, what are you waiting for? We hope that our guide gives you the confidence you need to start slow cooking some amazing recipes in yot Instant Pot making the most out of this magical multi-functional cooker.
Amazon product information last updated on March 24, 2022. Images, prices and links from Amazon Product Advertising API.