How to Make Seamless Slow Cooker to Instant Pot Conversions
There’s a lot to keep in mind when making slow cooker to instant pot conversions for all of your favorite recipes. We break it down so there’s no delay as dinner time approaches.
The day I received my Instant Pot felt like Christmas morning. I unpacked the box and started dreaming about what I would cook first. Then, I took a good hard look at all those buttons and realized something: This thing definitely wasn’t the same as my slow cooker. It was a sophisticated appliance and I had a lot of learning to do.
Once I got the hang of how to use my new favorite kitchen tool, I started learning how to make slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions for all of my favorite slow cooker recipes. By following a few simple rules, I was able to whip up all these fabulous foods in a fraction of the time. So let’s dive in and take a look at what it takes.
1. Make sure there is at least 1 cup of liquid in the recipe
You don’t need any liquid at all when using a slow cooker, but it’s a different story in the Instant Pot. This thing gets really hot very quickly, which means there’s no time for the ingredients to release their natural juices. That can turn your food into a burnt hockey puck before you know it.
To solve the problem, you need some liquid (which also helps to create pressure inside the pot). You’ll need to adjust your slow cooker recipe so it has at least 1 cup of liquid. Since liquid doesn’t evaporate in a pressure cooker, this added cup will still be there when you’re done cooking your food. If you’re worried about creating a watered-down version of your favorite recipe, you can set your ingredients up on the steamer insert to keep them above the water line. Or, use the Saute function after you’ve pressure cooked to boil off the excess liquid.
2. Scale back your recipes
If you wanted to, you could fill a slow cooker to the brim with ingredients. Not so much with the Instant Pot, which won’t pressurize if it’s too full. If it doesn’t pressurize, the food won’t cook properly, so make sure you’re scaling back your recipes. In general, you’ll need to keep the ingredients level below the 2/3 full “MAX FILL” line. If you’re cooking ingredients that expand (like beans, pasta or grains), only fill the Instant Pot to the halfway mark. The best instant pot recipes ensure you follow this step.
3. Omit a few ingredients while cooking under pressure
When it comes to what you can cook in an Instant Pot, there are a few ingredients that don’t work well under pressure. The Instant Pot gets too hot too quickly for dairy (like milk, sour cream and cream of mushroom soup) which means it can scorch. Modify your recipe so you’re adding these ingredients after you’ve finished the pressure cooking setting.
Similarly, thickening ingredients (like arrowroot, cornstarch or flour) also cause problems by preventing the Instant Pot from building pressure correctly. If your recipe calls for flour-coated chicken, like this slow-cooked chicken cacciatore, saute the chicken without the flour to avoid any problems. You can add any thickening agents at the end and simmer using the Saute function.
Finally, since liquid doesn’t evaporate under pressure, avoid adding wine or beer to Instant Pot recipes. The alcohol vapors won’t burn off like they do in the slow cooker, so you’ll end up with an incredibly tart, acidic or malty flavor in your dish.
4. Adjust the timing
Cooking meat in the slow cooker usually takes 6 to 8 hours, but it will only take about 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. If you include the time it takes to build pressure and release pressure, that means your meat will be cooked in about an hour. When it comes to vegetables, they take less than 5 minutes on the Manual pressure setting, so you certainly won’t need to let the recipe cook away all day!
To find the best cooking times, there are a few cheat sheets available out there. I recommend keeping a record of what timings worked and what didn’t for your slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions (more on that below!). Or, if you’re not one for record keeping, you can cross-reference other recipes with similar ingredients to find the Instant Pot cooking times.
5. Consider adding ingredients in stages
Since meat and vegetables cook at drastically different timings, you may not want to add them at the same time like you do in your slow cooker. If your meat is cut into 1-inch or smaller pieces, it should be safe to toss them in together. But, if you’re using a larger chunk of meat, like pot roast or pork shoulder, make the recipe in stages. Start by cooking the meat first and releasing the pressure. Then, add the vegetables and either simmer using the Saute function or cook under pressure for an additional 1 to 5 minutes.
The Pros and Cons of an Instant Pot vs. Slow Cooker
Does the idea of not having to wait hours for your favorite slow cooker recipes sound too good to be true? While overall the Instant Pot provides more benefits than drawbacks, there are a few things to keep in mind when making slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions.
- Not everything can go in an Instant Pot. Generally, you won’t be able to cook recipes with dairy, thickening agents or alcohol in the Instant Pot, while you would be able to cook them in the slow cooker. On the flip side, an Instant Pot has many more cooking functions than a slow cooker, like steaming and sauteing. When choosing the best Instant Pot for you, keep in mind what functions you want it to offer.
- An Instant Pot requires more attention. With a slow cooker, you can often add all the ingredients at once, stir occasionally, and call it done. But with an Instant Pot, there may be extra steps. To start, you may have to wait for the pot to come to pressure. For some recipes, you’ll won’t want to add all the ingredients at the same time, which means you’ll have to come back to tend to your recipe.
There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for making slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions. It depends on your appliance and the ingredients you’re using, down to the particular cut and weight—so you’ll likely have to do some experimenting. A good place to start is by checking Crock Pot’s slow cooking vs. pressure cooking guide and Instant Pot’s cooking time table.
Use a chart like the one below (you can print it out here!) to keep track of settings, temperatures and times for your slow cooker to Instant Pot conversions. This way, the next time you go to make that pot roast you’ll know exactly what worked.
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