Last year, the Instant Pot went viral, and we haven’t looked back. Even the most committed no-frills cook was tempted by the idea of preparing deliciously tender pork, satisfying pots of beans and fluffy whole grains in half the time it would take on a stovetop. What’s not to love about a sophisticated pressure cooker so multi-functional it can even make homemade yogurt?
If you bought one, you raved about it; if you didn’t, you might still have FOMO. But here’s the unspoken truth: No kitchen appliance can do everything. That’s why we feel compelled to introduce this very important list of what the Instant Pot can’t do — and what to do about it.
MY INSTANT POT CAN’T … DO IMPROV
Who doesn’t love making it up as you go along? Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Instant Pot is that you can’t “taste test” during cooking. The machine seals up tighter than a spaceship bound for Mars once you hit start. It’s simply not possible to check flavors until the machine’s chime indicates it’s safe to open — yet by then, cooking is over and it’s too late to adjust key components for flavor.
What to do if the recipe turns out bland? Try salt, as well as the saute function that will allow you to simmer down the liquids to concentrate flavor. Last resort: drench everything in hot sauce.
MY INSTANT POT CAN’T … MAKE SALAD
Lettuce is to the Instant Pot what kryptonite is to Superman. Only disaster awaits when the two meet. Yet even though the machine can’t help when it comes to prepping a fresh, crunchy salad, it’s certainly capable of expanding your weeknight veggie repertoire. Ingredients like butternut squash or beets — normally time-consuming — are tender in around 20 minutes in the pressure cooker, inspiring new opportunities for fiber- and vitamin-rich veggie sides or creative additions to salads (beets, walnuts and goat cheese, anyone?).
Don’t forget about oft-neglected artichokes, a springtime favorite that normally takes forever to cook but is finished in the Instant Pot in approximately 30 minutes.
MY INSTANT POT CAN’T … HOST A DINNER PARTY
Unless you’re just serving stew as the main event, most Instant Pot recipes aren’t enough to constitute a full meal suited to entertaining guests. The machine is sort of a one-trick pony in that you’ll likely use it to make meat or beans or potatoes, but not all three in the same evening. (Since it can’t be opened without releasing the pressure, which defeats the point, there’s no chance to cook the beans for half the time then add the potatoes, for example.)
When you’re having guests, plan ahead for time to cook add-ons in the oven or on the stovetop. On the plus side, the machine is super effective at cooking large cuts of meat quickly, so it’s an excellent choice when cooking for a crowd.
READ MORE > INSTANT POT ROTINI WITH CHICKEN AND BELL PEPPERS
MY INSTANT POT CAN’T … ALWAYS SAVE ME TIME
This machine hangs its hat on trimming precious minutes off meal preparation: Hello, it’s called an Instant Pot. But keep in mind the cook times you’ll see in recipes can be misleading. Often, they won’t include the minutes it takes to “pressurize” the pot (5–10 minutes) or the time required for “natural release” of pressure (as long as 30–40 minutes). Depending on what you’re making, the total number of minutes required for the machine to work fully can really add up. Yes, it can cook dried legumes quickly, but other dishes such as chicken may end up taking the same amount of time in the Instant Pot as they would in a roasting pan. In the case of quick-cooking seafood such as shrimp, the stove top may be the faster and easier method.
As cooks discover what these machines can — and can’t — accomplish maybe we’ll all finally find the answer to the ultimate question: If you love your Instant Pot enough, will it love you back?