Should You Use Your Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker?
I know I can use my Instant Pot as a slow cooker, but should I ? We’re giving you the scoop about if it’s all it’s cracked up to be.
I think before jumping into the question in the headline of this article, we have to answer a different one first. Can you use your Instant Pot as a slow cooker? Absolutely. In fact, it’s one of the appliance’s purposes. The Instant Pot is most often used as an electric pressure cooker but yes, it also has a slow cooker setting.
Should you use it? Ah, that’s another question altogether.
An Instant Pot is great at cooking things fast. That’s because it’s intended to be used as an electric pressure cooker. It does amazingly well in this regard. You can drop all your ingredients inside and have a ready-to-eat meal in under an hour.
A slow cooker takes a longer approach to cooking, often taking between 4 and 12 hours to complete a meal. The longer you cook in a slow cooker, the more tender and flavorful your food. So, in theory, the Instant Pot’s ability to serve as both a slow cooker and an electric pressure cooker should make it a one stop shop for all your cooking needs, right?
Not so much…
First off, an Instant Pot has different settings than a traditional slow cooker. Most slow cookers have three settings – Low, High and Warm. Cooking on low obviously takes the longest, but your patience is rewarded with tender flavorful dishes. The high setting will cook most meals within four hours, and warm is a great setting for when your food is finished cooking to keep it at a reasonable temperature.
The Instant Pot’s slow cooker function also has three settings. They are Less, Normal and More. Many cooks following slow cooker recipes might see that they call for a “low” setting and place their Instant Pot on “less.” But that would lead to a frustrating experience eight hours later when you return to your Instant Pot to find your meal completely uncooked.
In fact, Instant Pot’s less setting is not nearly as powerful as a slow cooker’s low setting. You’re mostly getting temperatures of 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s too hot to warm your meal, but also not warm enough to cook efficiently. Normal ups the ante to somewhere between 190 and 200 degrees, while “more” clocks in at up to 210.
Different Heat Sources
To understand why the Instant Pot fails as a slow cooker, you need to understand how heat is generated in both these appliances.
A slow cooker heats from the bottom. That heat spreads up the sides so the heavy ceramic bowl of the slow cooker will soak it all up and heat all over.
An Instant Pot also derives its heat from the bottom, but the thin metal pot that it uses does not have the same heating effect as that of a slow cooker. The heat that is used to cook in an Instant Pot comes from steam that is pressurized and trapped in the pot. This works well at high temperatures to cook complex meals within an hour. But for slow cooking it is incredibly problematic.
Instant Pot states that you need somewhere between 1.5 and 2 cups of water (or other liquid like broth) in the pot for the slow cooker function to work. This is fine for soups and other liquid-based recipes, but what about thicker foods that don’t require such a large amount of liquid?
They say it’s better to be great at one thing than it is to be mediocre at many things. The Instant Pot is an amazing electric pressure cooker, but it was not designed to be a slow cooker and is nowhere near as efficient as a Crock Pot when it comes to playing the long game.
An Instant Pot trying to be a slow cooker is like Michael Jordan playing baseball. It’s something no one wanted to see, and it was just kinda sad at times. Stick to fast efficient recipes with the Instant Pot and don’t throw out your slow cooker just yet.