An instant pot is a great time-saving tool for the home chef. It’s versatile, quick, and turns out delicious fare—some requiring only a modicum of preparation. It functions as a rice cooker, slow cooker, and pressure cooker all in one—how cool is that? The instant pot can be used to prepare stews and warm leftovers, even to sauté and brown meats.
The number of dishes that you can prepare using one of these kitchen wizards is extensive, with amazing variety. Unfortunately, the list is not infinite. There are certain food items that should never be prepared in an instant pot—some for purely aesthetic reasons, others on account of taste, and still others because they may even pose a health hazard.
Read on to learn more about seven foods that should never come into contact with your instant pot, and why they should be avoided.
As mentioned above, there are a few things that pose a health risk if the instant pot is used for preparation. A basic understanding of the science behind safe cooking goes a long way here—simple common sense should tell you that it’s best to avoid use of the instant pot in these situations.
1. Fried Chicken
Or deep-fried anything, really, as the oil won’t get hot enough to cook the food to a safe internal temperature—at least not until the batter has absorbed half the oil in the cooker. Deep-fried foods need to be submerged in a bath of oil that’s been heated to at least 350 degrees.
For chicken, it’s best to heat the oil to 365 degrees—a number as easy to remember as the amount of days in a regular calendar year. If deep-frying is a common occurrence in your household, it’s better to invest in a piece of equipment designated for that specific purpose.
2. Canned Foods
The issue here is quite similar to the one that faces fried foods in the instant pot: The temperature doesn’t rise high enough to kill the dangerous bacteria that can form in improperly canned foods. This technique also calls for a higher pressure than the instant pot can offer, so canning won’t be made easier by its use. Unfortunately, this is one form of cooking that will always have to be done the hard way.
Using the instant pot for these foods won’t pose any severe health hazards, but the results are likely to disappoint nonetheless.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, stir-fries require quick cooking over very high heat in order to achieve that crisp, fresh-tasting goodness. This is why such items don’t fare well on the buffet table—a fast pan-to-plate turnaround is essential to their success.
Add to that the fact that constant stirring is so vital to these dishes that the word stir is literally in the name, and you’re far better off using a simple wok with high sides. (As an added bonus: Regular woks—not the electric ones that became so popular in the early 1980s—also work beautifully for perfectly fluffy bowls of oil-popped corn.)
4. Cream Sauces
Given that cream sauces are easily made in a medium-sized saucepan, there’s no need to use the instant pot for this task. Should you give in to the urge and try it anyway, the milk could scald or even curdle, leaving you with a gloppy mess. If the dish you’re cooking calls for a creamy sauce, wait until the last minute to stir in the dairy products.
Resist the urge to use this function on your instant pot. While it can technically be done, it takes way too long and is exceedingly difficult to get right, especially on a first try. Taking into account that you’ll still have to buy the ingredients, the time involved just isn’t worth the investment.
Just Plain Ugly
Here’s where it just becomes impractical to use the instant pot, as the results will be so far from what you’re looking to achieve that it could put you off the device for a good while afterward.
Cookies need to be baked on a flat surface, something the instant cooker doesn’t have much of to begin with. This alone makes its use impractical at best and downright silly at worst. Furthermore, it doesn’t have the overall capacity to turn out a good batch of your favorite crisp-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside treat; and the heating is too uneven to result in a cookie that anyone would want to eat. The oven is still the best bet for this kind of baking.
As with the yogurt, this one is technically possible, but it should be avoided nonetheless. For one thing, it won’t save you any significant amount of time—bread baking requires long kneading and slow rising, no matter what the cooking technique. Bread that’s baked in an instant pot won’t have a crust, either, which is bound to be a turnoff in and of itself. Even failing that, though, the end result is pale and unattractive, with a slumped round shape that’s difficult to cut into uniform slices.
Given the vast array of cooking opportunities that the instant cooker provides, it should be easy enough to steer clear of these few. Remember that even if the instructions say it can be done, that’s no reason why it should be done. Follow your instincts, avoid the health hazards, and you’re bound to enjoy a long and fruitful relationship with your instant pot.