Most people know of the Instant Pot for its excellent pressure cooking ability. However, this multi-cooker often comes with dozens of other functionalities that are worth using, especially since they can help you prepare countless more recipes.
Slow cooking is the easiest to start with. It’s simple enough for most people to be able to do on the first try. It further helps that slow-cooking recipes are plentiful and delicious, as well!
So, here is a complete guide on how to use an Instant Pot as a slow cooker.
How to Use an Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker: Does It Work?
Long story short, an Instant Pot can make for a decent slow cooker.
An Instant Pot can serve as a slow cooker thanks to three things.
First is the sealed, insulated construction that prevents heat from escaping. Second is the accurate temperature management system that stabilizes the cooking temperature inside the pot for long durations. Third is the timer, which sets the pace for the cooking session.
So, in terms of hardware, the Instant Pot has everything necessary to transform into a slow cooker at the touch of a button.
But there is one thing that a real slow cooker can do that an Instant Pot can’t (at least, not as well): heat distribution.
The inner pot of a slow cooker is often very heavy and made from dense ceramic. This way, the heating element of the cooker can warm up the walls of the pot. When sufficiently hot, the walls will radiate thermal energy. This radiation from the walls will cook the food from all directions.
That is how a slow cooker can cook the food so tenderly and evenly.
In contrast, the inner pot of an Instant Pot is rather thin and often made from stainless steel. But even if it’s made from ceramic, the pot will still be way too thin to effectively radiate heat.
Additionally, the heat generated by an Instant Pot does not come directly from a heating element like it does in a slow cooker. Instead, the heat in an Instant Pot comes from steam. While steam is great for pressure cooking, it’s not exactly ideal for slow cooking.
Due to its ineffectual heat distribution, food made with an Instant Pot is not as tender. The savvy connoisseur can quickly tell when a dish has been made with an Instant Pot instead of a slow cooker.
Nonetheless, if you only have your Instant Pot at home and want to eat a slow-cooked recipe, it will do the job just fine. In fact, most people likely won’t recognize the difference in quality between an Instant Pot and a slow cooker.
How to Slow Cook in an Instant Pot
Before doing anything else, you should equip your Instant Pot with the correct kind of lid. The glass lid is preferable due to the steam vent at the top, which can regulate pressure inside the cooker. The stainless steel rim of the glass lid does a decent job at insulating, as well.
Plus, the glass top gives you the ability to visually inspect the food.
If you don’t have the glass lid, the normal lid that comes with the Instant Pot is okay. The quality of the food shouldn’t be affected too much, but there will still be a slight difference. After all, the regular lid is meant to be used for pressure cooking, not slow cooking.
How Much Liquid to Add?
As we said earlier, Instant Pot generates heat using steam. No matter what you do, there’s no avoiding adding liquid into the pot. However, if you add too much liquid into the pot, there’s a good chance that the food will turn watery.
For this exact reason, most people trying out a new slow-cooking recipe with an Instant Pot will have to do it twice. First, follow the recipe’s recommended amount of liquid. Once that comes out, see if it is to your liking.
If it’s okay on the first try, keep the liquid portion in the recipe as it is. But if it is either too dry or too watery, adjust accordingly by increasing or decreasing the amount of liquid added.
Depending on the size of your Instant Pot, there’s a minimum amount of water that you should always add.
For example, if you have either a 3-quart or 6-quart Instant Pot, you should always add more than 1 cup of water. If you have a large 8-quart Instant Pot, use no less than 2 cups of liquid.
Slow Cooking Settings
You can find the “Slow Cook” setting right on the control panel of your Instant Pot. Once pressed, you will be presented with three options: Less, Normal, and More.
In the Less setting, the Instant Pot will function like the “Keep Warm” setting on a traditional slow cooker. This mode shouldn’t be used for cooking. Instead, use it to preserve your freshly cooked food from spoiling as it waits to be served.
In this mode, the Instant Pot will stabilize the temperature at around 170°F.
The Normal setting, meanwhile, functions like the Low setting on your slow cooker. Your food will be cooked at a relatively low temperature (around 200°F). This mode is ideal if you want to cook the food for an extended amount of time. A slow cooking session using this setting can go well beyond 9 hours.
As for the More setting, the food will be cooked at a higher temperature (up to 210°F). Instead of waiting 9 hours, you can serve in around 4 hours. The equivalent for this setting on a traditional slow cooker is medium-high.
It’s not difficult to learn how to use an Instant Pot as a slow cooker. The main consideration is correctly measuring the amount of liquid to add. Everything else is handled by the Instant Pot with the touch of a button.
Find a slow-cooking recipe and try it out with your Instant Pot!