Instant Pot 101 Series/ Instant Pot Basics

Instant Pot 101: Meat & Poultry

With easy-to-navigate organisation by type of meat from beef to pork to poultry, learn how to master the art of cooking every cut of meat from the basics to fancy braises in our comprehensive 101 guide.


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In yet another Instant Pot 101 feature, today, we’re focusing on the meat of the dish. No – literally. All of the meat. This post is for the carnivores and the omnivores (sorry plant-based eaters) who want to master the art of cooking all cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken, and turkey.

While many meat dishes include other ingredients to make a full meal, it’s good to know some of the basics like how to cook a roast, which cuts you can follow the ‘minutes per pound rule’ on, and some of the time differences you’ll need to know between fresh and frozen.

Cooking from scratch has never been easier. Whether you need to quickly cook a few pounds of ground beef to use in another recipe or you’d love to have a tender, juicy roast on the table for dinner tonight and you totally forgot to plan ahead, we’ve got you covered. Here is our guide to cooking meat in the Instant Pot.

 

Red meat (beef & lamb)

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Roast beef (chuck roast, rump, tri-tip, brisket, pot roast)

These cooking instructions apply to chuck roast, rump roast, tri-tip, brisket, and pot roast. The most important thing to consider is that a successful and delicious beef roast is based entirely on minutes per pound of meat being used, so having an accurate measure of the size of your roast is important. These cuts are mostly cheaper and larger cuts of meat, making them perfect for feeding families, entertaining, or buying in bulk to save money. These cuts are also notoriously tough and take a long time to cook. With the Instant Pot, you can cut back on cooking time significantly with tender, juicy results every time. You get that slow-cooked or braised flavour without the wait.

For these recipes, use enough liquid for the pot to come to pressure and to avoid a burn notice (1.5 cups should be fine). You can also use broth to cook instead.

Instructions:

  • If you cut your roast into large chunks: Cook on high pressure with the minimum amount of water (1-1.5 cups) required for 20 minutes per pound of meat (450 grams).
  • If you cut your roast into smaller chunks: Cook on high pressure with the minimum amount of water (1-1.5 cups) required for 15 minutes per pound of meat (450 grams).
  • Optional: Pre-heat oil in your pot on saute mode, and use your favourite dry rub or marinade on the beef. Before setting the pot to come to pressure, sear your meat on all sides to brown and lock in flavour.

Try this recipe: Instant Pot pot roast from Pressure Cook Recipes

Ground beef

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Ground beef makes a fantastic ingredient for many Instant Pot dishes like chili or bolognese. It’s also a great meal prep staple on its own. Season it how you like for Italian dishes, taco meat, or plain mixing and matching with a dash of salt and pepper. Either way, it’s so easy to cook up a pound or two with the Instant Pot. Hands off is what we love, after all. It’s not really a useful method if you’re just cooking ground beef by itself (in which case, break out your best saute pan). It is, however, handy to know if you are beginning a meal with ground beef in your IP. Oh, and meatballs. Meatballs are a must!

Side note: You can follow these instructions for ALL ground meat and mince (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, etc.).

Instructions:

  • For plain ground beef, from fresh: Place the trivet or a steaming basket into the pot along with 1 cup of water. Then, place the beef (1-2 lbs.) in the trivet. Cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Finish up by quickly releasing the pressure.
  • For plain ground beef, from frozen: Repeat the first steps above, then cook 1-2 lbs. of frozen ground beef on high pressure for 20 minutes. Finish up by quickly releasing the pressure.
  • For meatballs, from frozen (fully cooked) or fresh and raw: Place meatballs in steamer basket. Cook on high pressure with 1 cup of water for 8-10 minutes per pound of meat.

Check out our favourite Instant Pot ground beef recipes.

 

Diced meat (stew beef)

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Beef stew is a must-make Instant Pot meal. It’s often very inexpensive to purchase a pound or two of stewing meat at the shops, but it comes with the expectation that you’ll wait all day for your stew to simmer! Otherwise, the meat is going to be tough and difficult to chew. The IP changes everything, turning this classic all-day recipe into a dish you can make and enjoy on the fly. For the most part, you won’t be cooking stewing beef on its own. The 20-minute per pound rule applies to most beef stew recipes. If you want to convert your favourite, this cooking guide is a good rule of thumb.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oil with the saute function, and season your stewing meat liberally with salt and other spices if desired.
  • Cook with 1-1.5 cups of liquid for 20 minutes per pound of meat (450 grams).
  • Finish up with a quick release of pressure.

Try this recipe: Life-changing Instant Pot beef stew from Pinch of Yum

Short ribs

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Short ribs are an absolutely delicious meal. They’re often served in Asian-style cuisines with sticky, delicious sauces. They contain a lot of meat and a lot of fat which means they require longer cooking times for the fat to really marble well, creating a fall-off-the-bone, tender, juicy bite. With the Instant Pot, you can braise these babies in record time.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oil with the saute function, and season your short ribs liberally with salt and other spices if desired.
  • Sear one side of the short ribs (the meatier side) for about 7 minutes before flipping and finishing up the other side with a 5-minute sear. This step is great for breaking down the meat and starting off the cooking process strong, melting down some of that fat.
  • Drain the fat before adding liquid. Preferably, you can spare 2 cups of decent red wine (not cooking wine – drinking wine) for this part. This is the key to a great braised flavour.
  • For boneless short ribs: Cook the meat on high pressure for 35 minutes.
  • For bone-in short ribs: Cook the meat on high pressure for 50 minutes.
  • Finish up with a natural pressure release for 15 minutes, followed up with a quick release if needed.
  • For the best results, add balsamic vinegar to the remaining liquid and boil it down to a sticky reduction to coat your ribs with – yum!

Try this recipe: Rustic Instant Pot short ribs from Fed & Fit

Beef shanks (ossu buco)

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Beef shank is a cut from the leg of a cow. Considering how much use the leg of an average cow gets, you can imagine this cut isn’t very tender. Instead, it’s quite sinewy and dry. This is why cooking with moist heat for extended periods of time is recommended for the perfect shank meat (traditionally used in osso buco).

Instructions:

  • Preheat oil on the saute function and place seasoned shanks in after a few minutes to brown the outsides.
  • Cook on high pressure with 1-2 cup of water (or desired liquid) for 30 minutes, and follow up with a natural release of pressure.

Try this recipe: One-pot osso buco rice


 

Pork

Pork tenderloin

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Pork loin makes a wonderful dinner. It’s a mid-range cut when it comes to price, but I often see them as BOGO deals so there is almost always one hiding out in my freezer! They slice beautifully for a lean and tasty protein option with any side of veggies and starches you like. They’re also lovely with a herb crust, so consider finishing yours off in the oven to lock in those fresh herbs.

Instructions:

  • Preheat the pot on saute with some oil and season your pork loin. After 3-4 minutes of heating, add the loin to the pot to brown the sides.
  • Remove the pork loin and add 1.5-2 cups of liquid to the pot. Then, add the trivet or steamer basket and place the pork inside.
  • Cook for 20 minutes on high pressure per pound of meat (450 grams).

Try this recipe: Balsamic apple pork tenderloin from Simply Happy Foodie

Pork chops

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Why cook a quick-cooking cut like chops in the Instant Pot? Well, sometimes a busy night just calls for it. Moreover, you can get that sear you love while also cooking up sides simultaneously, or creating a delicious gravy to pour atop your chops and mashed potatoes. If the one-pot meal is something you can’t get enough of, knowing how to effortlessly whip up some chops in your Instant Pot is vital.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oil in the inner pot on saute and get the surface hot. Season pork chops as desired and sear on either side for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add sauces, vegetables, and/or fruit to the pot for a full meal. Here, things like BBQ sauce, potatoes, or apples would work really well. Don’t cook with delicate/green veggies.
  • Cook on high pressure with at least 1 cup of water for 10 minutes (or press the ‘Meat’ button).
  • Finish up with a quick release of pressure.

Try this recipe: Pork chops & apples from Wondermom Wannabe

 

Pork ribs

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Pork ribs or spare ribs are an amazing dish at a good BBQ. They’re finger-lickin’ good, perfect for entertaining during the summer or just hitting those cravings for something rich and smothered in your favourite sauce. You don’t need to head south for the real deal stuff. Ribs can take forever on the grill (and for good reason with great results). You’ll want to finish these off on the grill, but cooking through the meat to get it soft, edible, and melt-in-your-mouth good will take less than an hour in the IP.

Instructions:

  • Assemble your rack of ribs so that you can fit it in the Instant Pot. Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs.
  • Season the ribs to your liking. You will add desired sauce after cooking, so focus on your dry rub or a simple blend of salt and pepper for now.
  • Place the trivet into the pot along with a cup of water. Now, place the ribs in.
  • For tougher, chewier ribs: Cook on high pressure for 17-20 minutes, and finish with a full natural release.
  • For tender, fall-off-the-bone ribs: Cook on high pressure for 21-25 minutes, and finish with a full natural release.
  • Finish off ribs with your favourite store-bought or homemade BBQ sauce in the oven. Broil on low with a coat of the sauce for 15-20 minutes.

Try this recipe: Instant Pot country-style ribs from The Salty Marshmallow

 

Pork belly

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Pork belly is so delicious it should be illegal. Who’s with me? It’s just like an abnormally large and thick piece of bacon. It’s quite a delicacy really, and chances are, you don’t cook much of it at home. If you ever see some at the butcher, it’s worth picking up and experimenting with – especially with this ‘no-intimidation’ method in your Instant Pot. Turns out, this meat does great with a braising technique!

Instructions:

  • Preheat some oil in the inner pot on saute mode and get ready to add the pork belly. Slice the pork belly thin. This step renders the fat and helps to perfect the flavour, so it’s technically optional but also optimal.
  • Add one cup of water and aromatics if you’d like. Pork belly is often served as an Asian dish with soup or noodles. Ideas include sliced ginger, scallion or green onion, fresh garlic, chillies, and whole spices.
  • Cook at high pressure for 35 minutes, then finish up with a natural release of the pressure.

Try this recipe: Pressure cooker pork belly (Kakuni) from Just One Cookbook

Pork shoulder & butt

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Mmm. Pulled pork, anyone? There’s nothing like BBQ pork sandwiches, kalua pork, or carnitas! This cut of pork really stretches your dollar, making it an awesome dish to bring to summer potlucks and parties. It’s fabulous for serving a crowd, but you’ll easily run through a batch during meal prep too because it’s just so dang good. Usually, it takes all day to get that ‘shreddable with a fork’ texture, but the Instant Pot makes it quite a bit quicker.

Instructions:

  • Preheat the pot on saute with some oil. Cut your pork butt into large, uniform chucks and season liberally with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like.
  • After 3-4 minutes of heating, add the loin to the pot to brown the sides.
  • Remove the pork loin and add 1.5-2 cups of liquid to the pot. Then, add the trivet or steamer basket and place the pork inside.
  • Cook for 15 minutes on high pressure per pound of meat (450 grams).

Try this recipe: Instant Pot pulled pork (Barbacoa inspired)

Ham

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Generally speaking, ham comes pre-cooked. We all know that timing is imperative when it comes to getting it in the oven. Ham is often served on holidays, so making sure the main dish is ready when the guests are hungry is crucial! The Instant Pot makes reheating your ham simple and delicious. Never serve a dry slice again. Your family will put you on ham duty for life once they taste your IP version!

Instructions:

  • Place liquid in the pot. For ham, you may want to use a combination of pineapple/pineapple juice, orange juice, etc. This will depend on the recipe you choose to follow, but water will work to cook it through as well.
  • Place your ham in the pot, fat side up. You can cut the ham if it won’t fit. The 8-quart pot works best for a large bone-in ham, naturally. Use your best judgment here as it might not be a good fit!
  • Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes and follow up with a 10-minute natural release before performing a quick release.
  • Depending on the liquid you used to cook, you may be able to reduce it to a glaze.
  • Optional: Finish off in the oven with a broil using the glaze from the pot.

Try this recipe: Instant Pot bone-in ham from Simply Happy Foodie


Poultry

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Whole bird

A whole chicken is definitely one of the best uses for the Instant Pot. It just makes a beautiful meal, and it’s not even out of the question for a random Wednesday night when it’s this easy. The Instant Pot will even cook a whole bird from frozen with ease. It’s not dry or rubbery at all! It’s a great way to stretch your dollar, especially if you use the carcass to make some nourishing homemade bone broth in your Instant Pot afterwards.

Instructions:

  • Fit the chicken or turkey to the pot. A 3-4 lb. chicken should fit in a 6-quart pot either fresh or frozen, but consider the lack of flexibility there is when cooking from frozen and meal planning. If needed, you can cut the bird into quarters.
  • Combine your favourite dry spice blend in a bowl and use it to thoroughly coat the chicken. A blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme, sage, and rosemary is great. You can also choose your own flavour profile. Add fresh garlic cloves, onion, and other ‘stuffers’ into the chicken cavity for additional flavour.
  • Place a trivet into the Instant Pot and pour a cup of water into the inner pot. Then, place the whole chicken on the trivet – breast side up.
  • From frozen: Seal the Instant Pot lid and manually set to cook on high pressure for 45 minutes.
  • From fresh: Seal the Instant Pot lid and manually set to cook on high pressure for 8 minutes per 1 lb.
  • Once the timer goes off, let the pot NPR (natural pressure release) for around 15 minutes before performing a QR (quick release).

Breast meat

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Chicken breast is a staple in the omnivore’s diet. Whether you follow a paleo diet, a keto diet, or just enjoy food, chicken is easy to cook and easy to use in a wide variety of recipes. Plus, it’s great to take advantage of a good sale! Fortunately, it’s quite simple to make both from fresh and from frozen with great results. It makes a fabulous ingredient, but it’s also a really versatile meal prep item whether you like yours whole or shredded.

Instructions:

  • Add 1.5 cups of liquid to the inner pot. You can use water, broth, or flavourful options like salsa/BBQ sauce for this step.
  • From fresh: Cook on high pressure for 7-8 minutes and follow up with a quick release. Turkey breast may need to cook for 8-9 minutes.
  • From frozen: Place the chicken directly into the pot and set the pot to cook on high pressure for 12 minutes.
  • You can serve whole or shred with a fork or hand mixer for shredded chicken dishes.

Check out our favourite chicken breast recipes for the Instant Pot.

Thigh meat

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Chicken thighs are less expensive and arguably tastier than chicken breasts. With the skin or without the skin, a little extra fat brings a lot of extra flavour while saving you money to spend elsewhere. Win win! They’re just as easy to prepare in the IP and use in delicious meals. They are great to mix and match with breasts in certain recipes to bring new texture and taste to the mix, too.

  • For each pound of chicken thighs you plan to cook, add one cup of liquid to the inner pot (water, broth, sauce, etc.)
  • From frozen: Set the pot to high for 20 minutes and follow up with a natural pressure release.
  • From fresh: Set the pot to high for 20 minutes and follow up with a quick release.

Check out our favourite chicken thigh recipes for the Instant Pot.

 

Drumsticks

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Drumsticks and bone-in chicken cuts can take a little longer to cook, but they are oh-so-worth-it. As one of the cheapest cuts out there, you can really get a lot of meat for your dollar! Plus, bone-in, skin-on cuts are famous for their rich flavour and awesome mouthfeel. The Instant Pot makes mastering this recipe simple, fun, and highly rewarding.

Instructions:

  • For chicken: Cook on high pressure with 1.5 cups of liquid (water, broth, tomato-based sauce, BBQ, etc.) for 15 minutes and follow up with a natural pressure release for 2-3 minutes before performing a quick release.
  • For turkey: Cook on high pressure with 1.5 cups of liquid for 15-20 minutes and follow up with a natural pressure release for 5-10 minutes before performing a quick release for best results.
  • Optional: Finish up in the oven with a broil for crispy skin or to lock in flavour from sauce or a dry-rub, as pressure cooking will sometimes make the skin quite soggy and unsavoury.

Try this recipe: Italian chicken drumsticks with garlic & thyme

Chicken wings

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Chicken wings are a summertime staple. Plus, for those of us who love bar food with our beer, they might just be the answer to an awesome game night at home! These are a fun meal for the grill, to entertain with, or to make when you just want some greasy finger food to satisfy your deepest cravings. For the best results, follow the first steps here. While they are mostly done in the oven, the two-step recipe gives you a tender, juicy inside and a crispy, saucy outside – the best!

  • Fill the inner pot of your Instant Pot with 1-1.5 cups of water and a drop of liquid smoke (liquid smoke optional).
  • You can add sauce now or later, but if you want to add a BBQ sauce or a hot sauce to the wings in addition to seasoning, do so before placing them into the pot.
  • Add 2-4 lbs. of frozen, seasoned chicken wings. For 2 lbs. or less, you can just use 1/2 cup of water.
  • Cook manually on HIGH for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken wings, baste and/or season with your favourite dry rub or sauce, and broil in the oven for 7 minutes or so on each side until crispy.
  • Alternatively: Cook manually on HIGH for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken wings, baste, and/or season with your favourite dry rub or sauce, and broil in the oven for 3-5 minutes until crispy.

Try this recipe:

We hope you enjoyed this guide to cooking meat in your Instant Pot. If you found our guide helpful, we hope you’ll share our tips and tricks. Make sure to bookmark this one for all your carnivorous cooking needs. Bon apetit!

 

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Bill Berry
    February 16, 2019 at 12:17 am

    I cooked two pork chops (1.25” thick) for five minutes after the warm up time. First I sautéed them. They were somewhat tough, certainly not very tender. I checked the internal temperature and they were around 180-185 degrees. So, should I forego the internal temp and cook them longer to tenderize them? I’m assuming the pressure and steam is what does that.

    • Reply
      instantpoteats
      February 23, 2019 at 11:16 pm

      Correct, with pork chops (like with steak) you would normally pan-fry them for 3-4 minutes each side or if you’re just doing the searing for 1-2 minutes each side, then extra pressure cooking will cook them further and help to break down the protein fibre making the pork chops more tender. You either have to cook them quickly or cook them for longer as that middle point is when they can be tough.

  • Reply
    Dee
    March 29, 2019 at 1:20 am

    I made a pot roast today. Something went wrong!
    Time said 45. It wasn’t soft. I went 30 more minutes still not soft enough. So I put it in for 80 mins..
    It was a 3 lb. Butt
    Supper was not ready to say the least!
    Any suggestions before I fail again??

  • Reply
    Temak
    July 16, 2019 at 5:30 pm

    Great Article.
    A question about steak tender.
    How do you make a tough steak tender after it’s cooked?

  • Leave a Reply

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