I have to admit that using the Instant Pot as a slow cooker was a bit of a dilemma for me. The first thing that started my loving relationship with this device was the pressure cooking setting. I was mesmerized by how quickly it can bring beans, beef, chicken and other foods to their perfect texture and taste in half the time it usually takes!
So, yes, it felt anticlimactic to use a pot that’s intended for fast cooking as a slow cooker. Nonetheless, the feature is there, so I thought I’d give it a chance.
Long story short, it works! But, there are a few tweaks and adjustments you need to make. These are important if you want to get the same flavor and tenderness as you would with a standard slow cooker (like a Crock Pot).
Don’t get me wrong, Instant Pot is a good slow cooker, but if you are particular about this practice, I advise you to continue reading.
Great but not the Same
One thing I noticed when using the slow cooking function is that the results are a bit different. And I’m not the only one to notice this. Other Instant Pot owners in the community reported that they wouldn’t throw out their slow cookers just yet.
I did a bit of digging and comparison, and here’s why things take a different turn in the Instant Pot:
A dedicated slow cooker has three settings that take care of everything: Low, High, and Warm. As anyone can understand, the Low setting is for those meals cooked thoroughly for up to 9+ hours. It takes forever but the result is Oh! So Yummy!.
The High setting will get almost everything done in about 4 hours, so you don’t have to start your cooking the day before. And, if you want to keep the food warm until everyone is ready, you have the Warm setting, which is similar to the Keep Warm feature in Instant Pot.
Now, if you look at your pressure cooker, you’ll see there also are three settings: Less, Normal, and More. So, the logical conclusion is that, if you want the best results, you should set the pot on Less, the equivalent of Low in your old slow cooker, right?
Wrong! The Less setting only gets the temperature up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit which is too low for cooking food regardless of the time length.
The correct setting for really slow cooking (the Low on the Crock Pot) is Normal for the Instant Pot. This sets the temperature to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, if you want the High on your slow cooker, set the Instant Pot to High but add about 15 minutes for every hour on the Crock Pot. This means that, if a dish took about 4h to cook, you should set it to 5h on the IP with the High setting.
The reason why slow cookers produce such impressive results is heat distribution. If you’ve ever owned such a pot, you know that the bowl is heavy and ceramic. So, even if the main heat source is at the bottom, the walls of the bowl also heat up and radiate energy from all sides. As a result, the food is heated evenly, which is why the texture is extremely tender.
Now, the IP also has its heat source at the bottom. However, the inner pot (even if it’s ceramic) is too thin to retain heat in its walls for long. Also, the heat is generated by the steam that’s trapped in the pot, which is fantastic for quick cooking. Not so great for slow cooking though.
The uneven heat distribution will have an effect on the final texture of the food and people who understand the difference will know.
The Quantity of Liquid
We all know that IP needs some type of liquid to get to pressure. This is how it works and there is no way around this. The liquid is used to power up the pot and delivers amazingly with regular and steamed recipes.
However, when you want something with a thick texture cooked slowly you need a slow cooker. With a Crock Pot, even if the dish starts with more liquid, it will evaporate during cooking. With Instant Pot, this isn’t possible because the lid is tightly sealed. Sure, the steam release valve is open, so some steam is released, but the result just isn’t the same.
Also, I like probing the temperature from time to time, using a food thermometer, but this is not possible in the Instant Pot.
True, it’s not the end of the world, but if you are really particular about your slow cooking, the IP won’t do it.
How To Use Instant Pot As Slow Cooker?
Sure, not everyone is as particular about their slow cooking preferences, so here are the steps I apply whenever I don’t feel like using the Crock Pot:
- Prepare the food for slow cooking and place it in the inner pot.
- Make sure there is at least one cup of liquid in the pot, or 2 cups if you have 8-quart model.
- Close the lid.
- Press the Slow Cook button.
- Hit the Adjust button and make the setting to Normal or High (Normal = Low and High = High as specified above).
- Set the time and enjoy the magic :]
As you can see, it’s not complicated. Still, it may take a few tries before you discover the perfect settings for your preferences. Also, I recommend trying various recipes, to understand the differences between types of foods and cooking times.
In the end, I have to admit that I kept my old Crock Pot. I don’t use it as often, but when nostalgia hits, I fire it up and let it do its job. The Instant Pot is a fantastic kitchen appliance and I don’t think I can live without it (I don’t even want to think about it), but it’s not perfect.