The Instant Pot is a versatile multi-cooker that can quickly cook meats to tender, juicy perfection. With its pressurized cooking setting, the Instant Pot steams meats rapidly by raising the internal temperature above the boiling point. This allows even tough cuts of meat to become fall-off-the-bone tender in a fraction of the normal cooking time. The Instant Pot is also great for braising meats and cooking stews.
When it comes to cooking meat in the Instant Pot, almost any cut or type can be used. The key is properly preparing the meat and using the right settings on the Instant Pot. Here is an overview of some of the most common meats cooked in the Instant Pot and tips for ensuring they turn out perfectly.
Beef does wonderfully in the Instant Pot. The moist environment and pressurized steam help break down tough connective tissues in beef. Here are some of the best beef options for the Instant Pot:
- Stews – Chuck roast or beef stew meat cooks up meltingly tender in the Instant Pot. Try classic stews or chilis.
- Brisket – Brisket transforms into fork-tender perfection with an Instant Pot. The long cook time gives the collagen time to break down.
- Meatballs – Quick-cooking ground beef meatballs cook up in just a few minutes in the Instant Pot. They make great appetizers or meals.
- Pot roast – Well-marbled pot roasts become incredibly tender and juicy after an Instant Pot braise.
- Short ribs – These meaty ribs are ideal for the Instant Pot. The marrow and connective tissue softens into succulent meat.
For best results, sear beef pieces first to develop flavor. Cook tougher cuts like brisket and short ribs for at least an hour for maximum tenderness. Quick-cooking ground beef only needs a few minutes under pressure.
From loin chops to pork shoulder, pork also cooks beautifully in the moist Instant Pot environment. Some great options include:
- Pork shoulder – Transform tough pork shoulder into mouthwatering pulled pork with seasoning and pressure cooking.
- Chops – Pork chops cook quickly and stay juicy, especially boneless or thin cuts.
- Tenderloin – Whole pork tenderloins cook perfectly moist and tender in about 15 minutes.
- Ham – Cook an Instant Pot ham for a holiday meal. The natural juices keep it moist.
- Sausage – Raw sausage links or patties steam quickly to perfection.
- Carnitas – Cook seasoned pork shoulder or cubes for Mexican pulled pork.
Always use natural release when pressure cooking pork to prevent shrinkage and dryness. Pork tenderloin and chops only need about 5 minutes cook time for 1-inch thick pieces.
With its fast cook times, the Instant Pot is ideal for chicken. Whole chickens or pieces can be cooked in the pot with great results.
- Whole chicken – Cook a whole seasoned chicken in 20 minutes for shredded or chopped chicken.
- Boneless breasts – Cook gently in broth for juicy, tender chicken breasts.
- Bone-in breasts – Cook these split breasts with aromatics for extra juicy meat.
- Drumsticks or thighs – Braise for fall-off-the-bone texture.
- Wings – Steam or braise wings in sauce until crispy and cooked through.
The key with Instant Pot chicken is not overcooking. Boneless breasts should cook for 5-8 minutes max, while bone-in pieces can go 10-15 minutes. Natural release helps ensure even cooking.
Turkey and Game Birds
You can cook a whole turkey or turkey parts in the Instant Pot. Cornish game hens also fit nicely.
- Whole turkey breast – Cook a 4-6 lb breast in 25 minutes for a holiday meal.
- Turkey drumsticks – Braise drumsticks in broth for pull-apart meat.
- Ground turkey – Quick-cooking ground turkey is great for Instant Pot recipes.
- Cornish hens – Cook 1-2 whole hens with aromatics for a family dinner.
When cooking poultry in the Instant Pot, add 1 cup of broth or water to generate steam. Turkey breast should cook about 15 minutes per pound, while dark meat needs about 20 minutes per pound.
Fish and Seafood
The moist environment of the Instant Pot is excellent for cooking fish and seafood. The short cook times help ensure tender, flaky texture.
- White fish – Cook delicate white fish fillets like cod or halibut surrounded by liquid.
- Salmon – Steam salmon fillets for flaky, moist texture in just 3-4 minutes.
- Shellfish – Quickly steam mussels, clams, or shrimp until the shells just open.
- Lobster tails – Cook 4-5 oz tails in water for perfect doneness.
- Crab legs – Steam pre-cracked legs for dipped crab meat.
For best results with fish, add 1 cup water or broth to the Instant Pot. Seafood and fish fillets should steam for just 1-4 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally to prevent overcooking.
The Instant Pot excels at turning tough game meats into fork-tender dishes. Try cooking:
- Venison roasts or steaks
- Bison roasts
- Elk roasts or stew meat
- Boar roasts or sausage
- Rabbit pieces
Sear game meats first, then pressure cook similar to beef – about an hour for roasts and 15-20 minutes for steaks or chunks. The natural release lets the meat rest and become tender.
Vegetarian Meat Substitutes
Many vegetarian meat substitutes can also be cooked in the Instant Pot with excellent results:
- Tofu – Steam extra firm tofu blocks with aromatics for 7-8 minutes.
- Seitan – Simmer chopped seitan in broth for stews or sandwiches.
- Tempeh – Braise tempeh cubes to absorb flavorful sauces.
- Veggie crumbles – Make quick tacos, chili, or pasta sauce with veggie crumbles.
- Veggie sausages or dogs – Steam or simmer meatless sausages until heated through.
Vegetarian proteins only need 2-10 minutes cook time at pressure. Natural release helps prevent overcooking. Add flavorful sauces or seasonings to complement the mild flavors.
Tips for Cooking Meat in the Instant Pot
Here are some top tips for cooking meat successfully in the Instant Pot every time:
- Sear or brown meats first for better flavor – Use the saute setting to brown ground meats or quickly sear roasts, chops, etc before pressure cooking.
- Cut meats into uniform pieces – Try to cut meat into same-size pieces to ensure even cooking.
- Add at least 1 cup broth or water – This creates steam to heat and pressure cook the meat.
- Use natural release if possible – Allowing the pressure to release naturally prevents overcooking.
- Don’t overload the pot – Only fill half full with ingredients to allow proper pressurization.
- Adjust cook times as needed – Cook times vary based on cut, amount, and doneness desired.
- Use a meat thermometer – This helps avoid under or overcooked meat.
Handy Instant Pot Meat Cooking Times
Use these Instant Pot cooking times as a general guide when preparing different cuts of meat:
|Chicken breast||Boneless||5-8 minutes|
|Chicken thighs||Bone-in||10-15 minutes|
|Pork tenderloin||Whole||8-10 minutes|
|Pork shoulder||Cubed for stew||30-40 minutes|
|Beef chuck roast||Whole or chunks||25-40 minutes|
|Beef brisket||Whole||1-1.5 hours|
|Ground beef||Shaped or crumbles||5-10 minutes|
|Fish fillets||1-inch thick||2-4 minutes|
|Shrimp||Medium, peeled||1-2 minutes|
Common Instant Pot Meat Mistakes
It’s easy to make mistakes when getting used to cooking in the Instant Pot. Here are some common meat cooking mistakes and how to avoid them:
- Overcrowding – Don’t pack the pot completely full. Leave at least 1-2 cups empty for proper pressurization.
- Not browning meat – Take a few minutes to sear or brown meat first for better flavor.
- Incorrect release method – Use natural release for meats to prevent overcooking.
- Skipping resting time – Let meat rest 5-10 minutes before slicing for juices to redistribute.
- Using quick release too soon – Wait until float valve drops before quick releasing remaining pressure.
- Incorrect cook time – Start with minimum cook times and check doneness. Adjust as needed.
- Not checking sealing ring – Make sure the sealing ring is cleaned, seated properly, and not warped.
- Forgetting liquid – Always add at least 1 cup broth, water, or sauce.
Get Started Cooking Meat in the Instant Pot
With a little care and practice, you can master cooking all types of meat to perfection in your Instant Pot. It’s a fast, convenient way to prepare tasty family meals with melt-in-your mouth texture. Be sure to refer to recipes and the owner’s manual for detailed guidance. In no time, you’ll be whipping up amazing Instant Pot roasts, chops, wings, and more!