Is the Instant Pot Saute Function Too Good to Be True? We Tested It to Find Out.
We love the Instant Pot for slow cooking and pressure cooking, but what about that saute button? Our Test Kitchen tries it out.
Photo: Siim79 / Shutterstock
When it comes to the Instant Pot, it’s one of our favorite new kitchen gadgets (and here’s why!). To combine the powers of a slow cooker and pressure cooker in one appliance is absolute genius! But I have to admit, I wonder about all those other functions, but most especially the saute option since it seems to be so useful (no offense to the porridge button!). To find out if the Instant Pot can hold its own when it comes to sautéing, I checked in with our Test Kitchen to get the skinny.
So how does it work?
Looking at the Instant Pot, I understand that it’s built perfectly for slow cooking, pressure cooking, making rice and even making yogurt, but how could a deep pot like that possibly work that well for sauteing veggies and meats?
Well, it turns out the Instant Pot does a great job at sauteing your ingredients. Test Kitchen food stylist Shannon Roum showed me that all there is to getting this multitasking appliance ready to saute is to select that button on the machine as well as your desired temperature (low, medium or high). After coming to temperature, Shannon placed a few chicken thighs skin side down in the bottom of the pot, and after a few minutes, the chicken had a great sear and nice crispy skin. I was a believer.
But to really put me over the edge, she walked me through the rest of a chicken and mushroom recipe, and demonstrated how well the Instant Pot worked for sauteing its mushrooms and shallots. They looked just as they would if you made them on the cooktop. After this tasty experiment, it’s safe to say that yes, the Instant Pot saute function works.
What are the advantages of sauteing in an Instant Pot?
I was skeptical of how useful sauteing in the appliance would be. Was it that much better than just working on the stove? Well, Shannon explained that, yes, you can still sear and saute ingredients on the stove if your Instant Pot recipe calls for it, but there are some reasons you might not want to fire up your cooktop.
First and foremost, using the Instant Pot this way helps you avoid some kitchen mess. If you’re only using the Instant Pot, it saves you from having to clean up a frying pan. It also saves you the work of wiping down the stove after cooking. She also noted that the higher sides of the pot help to keep any oil splatter contained so you don’t end up with grease anywhere but in your pan. Have greasy countertops? Here’s the best way to clean grease off the most common kitchen surfaces.
Shannon also added that since you only use one pan when cooking all in the appliance, you’re able to maintain a lot of flavor. “You get to keep all those crispy brown bits from the bottom of the pan,” she said. And any home cook knows, those bits are packed with flavor.
Are there any drawbacks?
Of course there are a few cons to using this appliance for all your cooking needs. Shannon immediately pointed out that the Instant Pot cooking surface is much smaller than most cast iron skillets or other pans. That means that for many recipes, you’d likely have to work in batches. It’s important in an Instant Pot or in any skillet not to crowd the pan or “you won’t get proper browning,” she said.
Another drawback to sauteing in the Instant Pot is that the heat isn’t quite as variable as your traditional stove top. With the Instant Pot, you get your choice between low, medium and high. This likely won’t cause any problems in your favorite pressure cooker recipes, but it’s a notable difference between sauteing in a pan and in the Instant Pot.
In the end, I’m so happy to learn that the Instant Pot has yet another super useful function! Now, I’m going to embrace this multi-tasking appliance start making one of these pressure cooker-ready recipes.