10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Instant Pot Could Do
Your Instant Pot (this is the Instant Pot I use) is great for making so much more than braised pork shoulder and tender beef stew in remarkably short periods of time. Venture outside the expected with these surprising Instant Pot ideas.
If you believe the hype of Instant Pot owners like myself, you’d know how magical an Instant Pot can be. Sure, they make quick work of tenderizing a dense pork shoulder. They can have beef chunks, carrots, and potatoes soft and simmering in a delicious sauce in a matter of minutes. Instant Pots can even turn hearty whole grains that typically need more than 30 minutes of simmering into fluffy pieces in less time than it takes to boil instant rice.
However, as curious home cooks experiment with their Instant Pots, the Internet’s collection of unusual but totally legit ways to use the pressure-cooking device continues to grow. Some are a little out there—cough syrup,for example. Some are downright genius—keep reading. But all are a sign that you don’t have to think of your Instant Pot as just a glorified slow cooker anymore.
#1 You can reheat leftovers.
People living without a microwave have likely created a series of genius alternatives to nuking their day-old ziti, from baking in the oven to simmering in a saucepan or skillet. Using an Instant Pot to heat up those leftovers might be the most efficient way you can warm them, however.
How to do it:
- Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot insert. Place the metal rack in the insert. (If the leftovers are not in heat-proof containers (like Pyrex bowls or mason jars), you need to transfer the food to those safer containers. )
- Cover the “Oven Proof” container with foil, and place it in the Instant Pot on the metal rack.
- Turn the pressure cooker to Steam, and set a five-minute timer. That’s typically enough time to get pasta, lasagnas, soups, or stews warm.
- When the time is up, let the machine release the pressure naturally. Then open the vent and lid, and use pot holders to lift the container out of the Instant Pot. If you need more time, repeat the steps, but decrease the amount of time you steam the food.
#2 You can make applesauce.
Before you dismiss this idea for the overly sweet stuff hat is passed off as applesauce in many grocery stores, know the beauty of making your own applesauce in an Instant Pot is that you get to control the sweetness. You also get to control the spices and the texture. Basically, you can make applesauce just how you like it, as thin or as lumpy as you like with as much or as little cinnamon as you can stand.
How to do it:
- When picking out apples for sauce, select the ones you’d normally avoid for apple pie because of their tendency to fall apart under heat and pressure. Those are precisely the apples you want for this recipe. Fuji and Golden Delicious come to mind.
- Core the apples and slice them in two-inch wedges. You can remove the peel before you slice the apple if you want, but the skin is a great source of nutrients and fiber. Plus, you can pulverize it with a blender later.
- Add the apples, one cup of water, and your spices of choice (cardamom, vanilla extract, and cinnamon are common). Don’t forget a sprinkle of salt. Stir to coat the apples, then put the lid on the Instant Pot and set to seal.
- Next, set the pressure cooker to cook on High with a timer of five to seven minutes. After the timer goes off, let the pressure release naturally.
- Remove the lid, and then use an immersion blender to turn the lumpy apple mixture into silky, delicious apple sauce.
- Store the apple sauce in mason jars for up to 10 days in your fridge.
#3 Hard boil eggs for the week.
If you’re a big fan of hard-boiled eggs for breakfasts or snacks, you may have mastered the art of cooking eggs on the stovetop, but if you need to make more (several dozen, perhaps), you can use your Instant Pot to cook them more efficiently.
How to do it:
- Place a basket or wire trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add one cup of water.
- Place as many or as few eggs as you want to cook in the Instant Pot, and put the lid on the cooker.
- For a soft-boiled egg, cook on high for five minutes.
- Let the steam release naturally, then move the eggs into a bowl filled with lots of ice and water. This will stop the cooking process and make the eggs a snap to peel.
- The total time comes out to about 15 minutes (five minutes to pressurize, five minutes to cook, and five minutes to release the pressure), so it is faster than stovetop boiling, and you’ll get a lot more eggs cooked at once.
#4 Pop plenty of popcorn.
If you don’t have a large saucepan or tall pot, you can use your Instant Pot as your go-to popcorn popper. It’s actually so simple you may soon bid farewell to anything that comes in a microwavable bag.
How to do it:
- Turn your Instant Pot to the Saute feature, selecting “More” to get the pan a bit hotter. When the surface of the pot is hot, add an oil of your choice (canola oil is good, as is coconut oil).
- When the oil begins to sizzle, pour in popcorn kernels. Cover with a lid.
- Listen for the popcorn to pop, and turn off when about two-thirds of the kernels are popped so you can prevent scorched kernels.
- Before serving, sprinkle with your preferred seasoning, and gently toss.
#5 Make homemade vanilla extract.
You can DIY this baking necessity if you have time and patience to wait. (The process typically takes several weeks) But you can also speed it up with your Instant Pot. This particularly comes in handy if you forget to make favors for your bridal shower or a thank-you gift for your neighbors and need something pronto.
How to do it:
- Using the pot-in-pot method, pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom of the pot.
- In pint-sized mason jars, combine two cups of high-quality vodka and vanilla beans that have been split with a knife. (One bean per jar is fine.) Leave at least one inch of space between the vodka and the jar lid.
- Seal with jar tightly, but not firmly, and place each jar in the Instant Pot.
- Close the Instant Pot, and cook on high for 30 minutes to one hour.
- At the end of a natural release, remove the jars from the Instant Pot, and let them cool naturally. Swirl each jar a few times while they’re cooling.
- The extract ready to use now. However, before you do, smell the extract. If it is still predominantly vodka, let the jars sit for a few more days with the vanilla beans in the liquor, swirling daily. You can remove the vanilla beans from the extract if you wish, but they’re OK to leave, too. However, they will begin to disintegrate and may leave particles behind in your extract.
#6 Share some bottles of homemade Limoncello.
What is seriously good for sipping and gift giving, is limoncello, a sugary lemon liqueur that’s great as an aperitif or after-dinner dessert beverage.
How to do it: Y
You will need the same equipment for limoncello as you did for vanilla extract: your Instant Pot, trivet, and mason jars. For ingredients, you’ll need lemon peels, vodka, water, and sugar (or store bought or homemade Simple Syrup.)
- Pour one cup of water in the Instant Pot, and place the metal trivet in the bottom. In each pint-sized mason jar, add vodka and lemon peels, leaving about an inch between the top of the liquid and the jar lid. Place two big strips of lemon peel in each jar, and seal the lid tightly but not firmly.
- Use the Instant Pot’s manual function to cook on high 30 minutes.
- Let the machine release the pressure naturally. Remove the jars, and set them aside to cool overnight.
- The next day, strain the lemon peel out of the vodka, and combine the lemon-infused liquor in a larger jar.
- Add simple syrup to taste, 1 Tbls. at a time. (store bought Simple Syrup or follow this recipe here)
- Cool, then pour into bottles, and enjoy.
#7 Turn a bounty of fruit (even mixed fruit) into quick preserves.
If your strawberry patch, local peaches, blueberries or raspberries was more generous than you had expected, you can use your Instant Pot to make quick jam or preserves. This procedure doesn’t sterilize the fruit spread for long-term use, but you can store the preserves in jars and use up to a week later. (Or share with your friends and neighbors, with the caveat that they too need to use them quickly.)
How to do it:
- Wash, clean, and slice three to four pounds of fruit. Add the juice of one orange, and a 3 tablespoons of sugar (coconut sugar, agave, honey or white sugar).
- Set the Instant Pot to Manual mode, and cook four to five minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. If the fruit isn’t falling apart when it’s stirred, you may need a minute or two more.
- When you like the texture, pour the fruit mix to a blender or food processor or mix with an emulsion blender right in the Instant Pot, and gently combine until smooth.
- Pour into prepared jam jars, and enjoy using on everything from biscuits and toast to ice cream and oatmeal.
#8 Melt chocolate with ease.
Now that you have an Instant Pot, you’ve basically got everything you need to engineer your own fancy double boiler at home and no more burning your chocolate while trying to melt it in the microwave.
How to do it:
- Fill your Instant Pot with water, almost to the top. Turn on the machine’s Sauté function, and heat to Normal. Place a glass bowl that is slightly larger than the opening of the Instant Pot into the appliance, being sure to not overflow the water.
- Pour chocolate chips or chopped melting chocolate into the bowl.
- Wait five to 10 minutes for the water to heat through and begin to melt the chocolate. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir occasionally until smooth and uniform.
- Turn off the Instant Pot. Then turn it back on to Keep Warm. This will keep the water from cooling quickly, so you have smoother chocolate longer for all of your dipping.
#9 Bake a whole cheesecake.
You didn’t know you wanted to make a cheesecake in your Instant Pot, but I bet as soon as you see how easy it is, you’ll be finding many reasons to make this creamy dessert.
How to do it:
- Pour one cup of water in the bottom of an Instant Pot. Place the wire trivet in the pot.
- Next, fill the bottom and sides of a springform pan that fits in your Instant Pot with a graham cracker crust, and pour in your preferred cheesecake mixture. (You’ll need to look for a recipe that makes a smaller cheesecake, as most are written for nine-inch pans.) Cover the cheesecake with foil.
- Transfer the springform pan with unbaked cheesecake to the Instant Pot, and seal the pressure cooker.
- Cook on Manual Low for one hour, or until the cheesecake’s center jiggles but isn’t still liquid.
- Cool the cheesecake on a wire rack, and then refrigerate overnight.
- (Those quick strawberry preserves would be a great topper—hint, hint.)
#10 Roast a whole chicken.
You already knew you could cook big cuts of meat like pork shoulder and beef roast in a fraction of the time you’d need in a slow cooker or oven but the same magic that helps break down those dense proteins can cook whole chickens perfectly while still keeping them juicy. You can find another recipe option here.
How to do it:
- Sprinkle a fresh or thawed whole chicken with salt and pepper.
- Set the Instant Pot to Sauté, and brown the chicken breasts and sides in the Instant Pot for three to four minutes on each point.
- Remove the chicken from the Instant Pot, and deglaze the pan with stock or broth.
- Place the metal trivet in the Instant Pot. Before returning the whole chicken to the pressure cooker, add any seasonings to the skin or cavity, then put the chicken in the Instant Pot. Seal the cooker, and cook on high. The time depends on the size of the chicken. Plan for six minutes per pound of chicken, plus three additional minutes. For example, a four-pound chicken would need 27 minutes.
- When the time is up, let the pressure release naturally. Check the internal temperature of the chicken, and cook for several more minutes if it’s not done at the center-most point.