When you first purchased your Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, it is likely that some of the advertised functions contributed to your choice. Instant Pot pressure cookers are advertised as substitutes for a slow cooker, rice cooker, egg maker, steamer and a few other things.
When I see products that claim to have so many functions, the first thing I think of is, how well does it perform all of these functions? I’ll be answering that question for one feature of the Instant Pot family of pressure cookers.
This article will be going over the basics of the steamer function of Instant Pot electric pressure cookers and how well it performs.
Why use the steamer function?
One of the most popular ways of preparing vegetables is to steam them. Why would you choose this method of preparation over any other?
- Steaming vegetables helps to preserve the nutrients naturally found in the vegetables.
- Steaming doesn’t break down the structure of the food, so it doesn’t come out mushy.
- Steaming doesn’t require the use of fats or oils for cooking.
Aside from the health benefits of steaming your vegetables, using an electric pressure cooker as a steamer has additional benefits.
main difference in the traditional stove top method of steaming and steaming with an Instant Pot, is the addition of pressure. The high pressure used allows for the steam to penetrate deeper into the food, so it cooks more evenly and faster.
The pressure works even better for harder vegetables or roots like potatoes, which usually take much longer to cook completely. The steamer function can also be used to tenderly prepare seafood and other meats that usually may come out tough.
How to use the steamer function on an Instant Pot
Steaming any food in an Instant Pot is incredibly simple;
- Add one or two cups of water to the inner pot.
- Place your trivet, which is included with all Instant Pots, into the inner pot.
- Place your food in a stainless steel or oven safe dish, and place the dish on the trivet.
- Place the inner pot into the pressure cooker.
- Plug in the Instant Pot and select steam and enter desired cooking time.
- As soon as the cooking cycle is finished, manually release the steam
You can find a step by step video on how to use the steamer function on Instant Pots website here.
How well does the steamer function work?
Steaming vegetables, seafood and even eggs is possible with the Instant Pot. When the proper cook time is used, your vegetables will come out bright, crisp and flavorful.
The main issue customers had with the steam function was over cooking vegetables. This is mainly because you can’t check on the doneness of the food while it’s cooking because it’s under pressure.
Once you get the cooking times down, you will have no problem preparing perfectly steamed vegetables. Instant Pot offers a time table for cooking times for a variety of vegetables.
The key to preventing your vegetables from over cooking is to release the steam immediately after the cooking cycle has ended. Although the cooker is no longer actively cooking, the pressure and heat are still trapped inside the cooker and will continue to process the food. Also because it automatically switches to the keep warm setting, additional heat will continue to be added until you turn it off.
Another option for preventing over cooked vegetables is to cook on low pressure. If you have an Instant Pot other than the IP-LUX models, you have the option of cooking with both high and low pressure.
To do this you would follow the steps above for setting up, but instead of using the steam function, use the manual settings to choose low pressure and then select your desire cooking time.
Other options for steaming with Instant Pot
If you are having trouble nailing down the proper cooking times for steaming with an Instant Pot there is a work around to make it easier. The only thing you will need is a glass lid that you can purchase here if your Instant Pot did not come with one.
Again you would set up everything the same with the trivet, basket and water. The difference is with the cooking settings. Instead of using the pressure cooking or steamer setting you would use the sauté or browning setting, and select more as your temperature setting.
Cooking with this method will boil the water in the pot and using the glass lid will keep the steam in the pot. It’s basically the same as if you were steaming vegetables in pot using a steam basket on your stovetop.
Having a glass lid and not cooking under pressure will allow you to check on your food and stop cooking as soon as it reaches the desired level of doneness.
Things to remember when steaming with Instant Pot
- Instant Pots include a trivet but not the steam basket so you will have to purchase one separately. You can find more information on compatible steam baskets here.
- You must release the pressure immediately after cooking is done or your food will be over cooked and come out mushy.
- If you are cook less vegetables or delicate vegetables, using low pressure will lower your risk of over cooking your vegetables.
- You can use the steamer setup and function for more than just vegetables. It’s also great for seafood, and you can prepare “boiled eggs” with this method and they are super easy to peel.
- You can steam fresh or frozen vegetables.
Overall an Instant Pot is a good option for steaming foods. The most trouble you may have with it is selecting the correct cook time, but after a few tries this can be perfected. Also the option of using it as a traditional steamer is always available if you can’t get pressure steaming down.
Other than the fact that you’ll have to purchase a steaming basket separately, there are almost no downsides to using an Instant Pot as a steamer.