10 things you should never cook in an Instant Pot

Instant Pot on countertop
Instant Pot on countertop (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best Instant Pot multicookers have transformed home cooking with its no-fuss, one-touch operation. Not only can they pressure and slow cook meat stews to perfection, but can steam, sauté, cook rice, and do so much more.  

Whether you’re a novice or a keen cook, Instant Pots are designed to cut down the time it takes to rustle up delicious meals, which also means less prep work and time spent in the kitchen. But while Instant Pots have a wide range of programs to cook almost everything, there are some things that you should simply never cook in an Instant Pot. You’ll probably find that the results are not as great as cooking in the traditional way, and will only result in time wasted, not to mention a disappointing meal. 

So before you get cooking, here are 10 things you should never cook in an Instant Pot. 

1. Fried chicken 

Chicken Wings Two Ways

Chicken Wings Two Ways (Image credit: Steven Asarch/Tom's Guide)

While you can use the sauté program to pan fry meat, an Instant Pot should never be used for deep frying. Unless your model has a specific air frying function, the Instant Pot is not designed to heat oil at higher temperatures needed for deep frying. Doing so may burn your foods or worse still, set the appliance on fire. Similarly, you can’t cook other breaded or battered foods such as fish. If you do love fried foods, you’re better off investing in one of the best air fryers to do the job.

2. Bread 

Bread loaves in bread box

Bread loaves in bread box (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Although there are plenty of recipes for making bread in an Instant Pot, the results will never be as good as you would expect from traditional baking or by using one of the best bread machines. Since you’re steaming rather than baking, you simply won’t get the crispy crust on the outside of the bread, which is always the best part! 

3. Macaroni and cheese 

Mac and cheese on table

Mac and cheese on table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Any dairy-heavy foods that use milk as the main ingredient won’t do well in an Instant Pot. This is because the high heat of the pressure cooker can make the milk curdle, which will ruin the flavor and appeal of the dish. So classics such as macaroni and cheese or creamy soups are a no-no. Most Instant Pot recipes advise adding cream and cheese at the end of cooking.  

4. Stir fry 

Stir fry in wok

Stir fry in wok (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While you can technically pan fry meat and veggies in an Instant Pot, you won’t get the high temperature needed to sear your favorite beef or chicken stir fry. That’s why stir frys are always best cooked in a wok, as the wide pan and high heat provides the right texture and taste. If you love rice to go with your stir fry, here are 8 reasons why you should buy a rice cooker.

5. Pasta/noodles 

Boiling noodles in water

Boiling noodles in water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Despite plenty of recipes online, steer clear of cooking pasta or noodles in an Instant Pot. These can foam and froth during the process, and may come out gummy or unevenly cooked. Stick to traditional methods of boiling pasta or noodles in a pot on a stovetop to get better texture and results. What’s more, such foods that splutter can also clog the pressure release valve, leading to excessive pressure build up. 

6. Seafood 

Seafood Favorites Bundle

Seafood Favorites Bundle (Image credit: Omaha Steaks)

Delicate seafood such as fish, oysters, shrimp, muscles and clams won't cook well in either a pressure cooker or a slow cooker. These foods need to be cooked quickly at just the right temperature, which is often tricky to do with an Instant Pot. If you get the timings and temperature wrong, your seafood may turn into mush or rubbery lumps. The only exception is pressure cooking tougher octopus and squid, to make them tender and juicy. 

7. Baking cookies 

Cookies on a towel

Cookies on a towel (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While you can make cakes or desserts in an Instant Pot, baking cookies won’t be as successful. This is because cookies need to be baked on a flat baking sheet that allows room to spread out, which simply cannot be done in an Instant Pot. What’s more, you won’t be able to get the chewy centre and crunchy, cookie exterior that you’d get from oven baking. 

8. Yellow and red lentils 

Red lentils in a wooden bowl

Red lentils in a wooden bowl (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While brown and green lentils can cope well with pressure cooking, avoid cooking yellow and red lentils. These are more delicate, so they're likely to turn soft and mushy as they cook quickly. Of course, this is ideal if you’re making lentil soup! Instead, cook red and yellow lentils on the stove to preserve their texture and taste.

9. Grilling 

Omaha Steaks

Omaha Steaks (Image credit: Omaha Steaks)

Instant Pots can sear well, but will not give your food the classic, charred grill marks you'd get from grilling. In addition, while an Instant Pot does well to pressure cook tougher cuts of meat, it doesn’t with tender cuts that are best eaten medium-rare like steak. So if you want that aromatic, grilled flavor and texture, you’ll need one of the best grills to get delicious results. Plus, these 11 grilling tips and tricks may come in handy too.  

10. Jams, jellies, and preserves 

Variety of jams in glass jars

Variety of jams in glass jars (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to can your fresh fruit for a tasty spread, you would need to closely monitor the temperature as you cook. Sadly, this is something you can’t do with an Instant Pot as it only measures the pressure. It’s advisable to avoid any canning recipes with your Instant Pot as incorrect cooking and sealing can lead to bacteria growth, which could result in food poisoning.  

To help you decide what appliance will suit your needs, check out Instant Pot vs air fryer: which should you buy?. Or are Instant Pots worth it?, How to use an air fryer and 11 air fryer mistakes you're probably making — and how to avoid them.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!

  • killabyte79
    What you say is not true about pasta and lentils, these devices are not only intended to cook by pressure. I cook A LOT of pasta on it and i always get it al dente or hard as i like. Use the "saute" function and boil the water like any pot, cover with a glass lid, that's all.

    You can also cook those lentils even with 0 minutes pressure if that's what you want , then quick release. Those pots show the cooking time wether pressured or not.