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Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker?

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I am having trouble using the Slow Cooker mode on the Instant Pot. I tried a recipe at low, and it was not even remotely cooked…am I doing something wrong?

I’ve been getting a lot of questions like this recently. And I don’t have an answer.

In all my years of using the Instant Pot1, I can count on one hand the times I’ve used it as a slow cooker. And, well… those times weren’t really slow cooking. I was reheating chili I pressure cooked the night before, for my annual chili potluck at work. Low heat is not enough – I need high heat to be ready by lunchtime. I start at “Slow Cook – High” for an hour or two, and then, once everything is bubbling, I turn the cooker down to “keep warm” until it is time to serve.

For all the things my Instant Pot can do – “It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, rice cooker…”2 I really only ask it to do two things. First and foremost, it is my pressure cooker. I use the “Manual” (now “Pressure Cook”) mode. I also use “Sauté” mode to saute onions and/or brown meat before turning on pressure cook mode. (And, occasionally, to simmer food after it is pressure cooked.) That’s it, I’m done. The Instant Pot is my favorite cooking tool because of how well it does those two functions. 9 modes? 11 modes? Doesn’t matter to me, all I want are those two.3

One of the first comments on my Instant Pot FAQ asked about slow cooking mode. (Like I said, I never use it, so I had to look it up in the manual.) According to the Instant Pot manual, the Slow Cooker settings are:

  • Normal mode: 90 to 96°C/194 to 205°F.
  • More mode: 93 to 99°C/199 to 210°F.
  • Less mode: 88 to 94°C/190 to 201°F.

That looked like like “Low” mode lines up with a Slow Cooker set to low, and “High” mode with a slow cooker set to high. But over the last few months, the volume of Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker questions has jumped. More and more, I’m asked: “I set my Instant Pot to Slow Cook – Low mode, came back ten hours later, and the results were not good. Am I doing something wrong?”

Turns out:

  • Slow Cook – Normal means “Low” in a traditional slow cooker
  • Slow Cook – More means “High” in a traditional slow cooker
  • Slow Cook – Less means “Keep Warm” in a traditional slow cooker

I don’t know how to answer, yet. I’m going to test out slow cooker mode on the Instant Pot, and I will follow up on this in the New Year, but testing is going to take a while. (Ten hour slow cooks aren’t a quick answer.) But, before I start testing,

Updated: Also, the Instant Pot has some limitations as a slow cooker. For more details, see my Update on Instant Pot as a Slow Cooker post. Or the comments on this post, or the Update post.

I want to throw the question to my readers:

Questions about Instant Pot Slow Cooking:

  • Are you using the Instant Pot as a slow cooker?
  • Is it working?
  • What settings do you use? (I saw a Reddit thread that said “Slow cook – medium on an IP is a slow cooker at low. Slow cook – high on the IP is a slow cooker at high. Slow cook – low is a ”keep warm” mode. Does that work for you?)

Please answer in the comments below – what are your experiences? (Or, reply by email, on Twitter, or Facebook, or whatever social media platform you can find me on. Frankly, I’d prefer blog comments – I can barely keep up with Twitter as it is, and I’ve declared Facebook bankruptcy and only check it once in a blue moon.) Thanks!

 

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Filed under: Ramblings

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Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

88 Comments

  1. Vnelson says

    I noticed that all the complaints about this began in February. I purchased the IP 8 quart a few weeks ago and tried slow cooking with no success. It never warmed up to the right temperature which was supposed to be above 200F on High.
    I tried an experiment with 1.5 cups of water on the Slow Cook High setting and checked the temperature several times in the course of one hour. Each time the water temperature was only about 160F. I did hear the heating element turn on and off several times during the hour. I believe 160F is supposed to be the “low” setting.
    I think the Slow Cook programming in newer (?) units is incorrect.
    There have also been times when the Sautee function will say On but the unit does not heat up at all and, of course, never reaches HOT.
    Something is wrong and it is not “user error”.

  2. Lisa G. says

    I have also had a problem with my new instant pot using the slow cook mode. I tried cooking a large chuck roast and it turned out terrible! Started on low, it was barely warm after 3 hours. Turned to medium, not much difference after 4 hours. Finally turned to high to get it to cook, but it turned out very tough, not tender at all. I may return mine and go back to a regular slow cooker, which always produces a very tender and tasty meal. I was so excited to get the instant pot, but now just very disappointed.

  3. Emily B. says

    I’ve got the IP Duo 60 and we tried today to use a slow cooker recipe for beef stew. Set on low, left for 6 hours “cooking”… My husband opened it up mid afternoon to check it as he said it smelled the same as when he had put it in. It was. Luckily he checked it in time to still hit the “stew” program and have it ready for dinner!

  4. Tresy says

    I came here because I was looking for some explanation of my two most recent slow cooker experiences, both bad. Tried out 2 breakfast bread recipes in 175 Best Instant Pot Recipes that used Slow Cooker on Low for up to 5 hours. Both recipes came out completely undercooked. Today’s recipe I’m trying to salvage in in the oven. Was instructed to cook it in the pot in a springform pan. No water. Put it on the steamer rack just to get it off the bottom of the pot. Total disaster. It’s been in the over now for nearly and hour and still not fully set yet. If low is really 190°F, that would explain a lot, though “More” at 210°F is hardly better.

  5. MELANIE says

    I’ve tried twice to use my IP as a slow cooker. Both times trying to cook a simple pork tenderloin covered with BBQ sauce as I had before my slow cooker died. First time on low – came home to uncooked tenderloin after being gone 10 hours. 2nd time bumped up temp to medium and after 10 hours, it was not cooked again. I’m going to try one last time on high and see what happens. I had hoped to avoid having to buy a new slow cooker but my IP hasn’t come thru for me yet.

  6. As a follow-up to my earlier post, after reading Bonnie’s post and noting that my email from InstantPot said the same thing as hers about the liquid needing to have the consistency of water, I did a test today in which I cooked only potatoes in water, and they were cooked after 7 hours on low. So it does seem to have some connection with the liquid, but I agree entirely with Bonnie that it does seem to defeat some of the recipes like some stews and other recipes that that have a thicker liquid in which the ingredients cook.

  7. I used the slow cooker function twice on low and had the same results that many people are reporting, the potatoes, carrots, celery and even onions in the stew were not cooked after eight hours. The second time I used it, the liquid was lukewarm and the meat wasn’t even cooked, let alone the vegetables. I turned the temp up to high and cooked for another hour. There was no change in the vegetables.
    I contacted InstantPot and they had me run some tests with water and said to make sure not to touch the timer function, lid on venting position, etc. I followed all their instructions, did another stew and still ended up with uncooked vegetables after eight hours. I’m very frustrated because I really liked the idea of a multi-function pot, especially with the browning feature.

  8. Claire says

    I had a similar experience when cooking beef stew on the slow cooker mode. I used “low” temp for 6 hours which used to work with my crockpot. I checked the stew and it was nowhere near done so I bumped it up to “medium” left it a couple more hours and still the potatoes were nowhere near done. I finally just transferred the stew to a dutch oven and put it on the stove and simmered it another 2 hours. Finally done enough to eat but potatoes still hard. Seems the slow cooker feature on the IP just does not get hot enough. Might try another recipe on “high” and see if I get anywhere. This is disappointing thus far because I was hoping to have one appliance to work as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, etc. and it’s not seeming to work that way.

  9. Bonnie says

    I tried the slow cooker mode on high for 6 hours and it wasn’t even warm. I contacted IP help and did a water test which did warm the water with the slow cooker. IP help said that when using the slow cooking mode that you need to have at least 1 1/2-2 cups of water. I have not tried the slow cooker with water yet but it does seem to defeat some of the recipes that don’t require that kind of liquid

  10. I’m returning my IP but wanted to report my findings in case it’s helpful to someone else. I really only cook two things in my slow cooker: kalua pork and Trader Joe’s pot roast. I’ve done this probably close to 100 times so I know what kind of results to expect after 10-24 hours (depending on size of meat). So first, I tried pressure cooking kalua pork. After 90 minutes, the meat was not shreddable, not even close. Kept adding more and more time and finally the meat was shreddable with a fork, but the meat was just not as tender as when cooked in a slow cooker. In fact, the meat felt dry and stringy, like the fibers had not broken down. So I thought fine, if it works on the slow cooker setting, then I’ll keep it. I did a side by side test, 4lbs pork butt in the IP on slow cooker mode “normal” setting and 4lbs pork butt in a crockpot low setting. I set the timer for 18 hours and went to sleep. 10 hours later, the meat in the slow cooker was absolutely tender and shreddable as expected. The meat in the IP was not even close. I left the meat in the IP for the entire 18 hours, adjusting to “high” for the last 3 hours and still struggled to shred the meat, which was just dry dry dry! So, I’m returning my IP and sticking to my crock pot!

    A couple things to note: when my crockpot is on low, it gets hot enough to boil liquid. The IP did not even come close to boiling when on normal, and I saw one or two bubbles on high. So it seems even when the IP is on high, it’s not even close temperature-wise to low on my crockpot.

    • Laurie says

      I’ve had the same experience with pork loin (chops and roast)! Tried the “low” setting for 6 hours – not shreddable and dry. I added a hour at “high” but the same outcome. So I tried it again on “normal” for 8 hours and it was shreddable but SOOOOO DRY! I’d love to figure out how to use the slow cook function to cut down on the number of kitchen appliances but I’m not willing to eat dry meat! 🙂

      • Laurie says

        Also, I’ve tried to pressure cook pork loin chops and had the same experience. Dry and not shreddable. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. 🙁

        • This has happened to me, however I have found that I just need to add more liquid. I know recipes say at least one cup, with roasts or shredded pork, I add about two cups of liquid (broth, water, whatever) and they come out perfect every time. I have even been successful using pork chops for shredded pork in a jam (I realized too late that I in fact had not purchased pork butt)–the IP shredded them just like a roast. Even from frozen!

      • I had a bad first experience with the IP as a slow cooker. Then I emailed IP people Jan. 7. Still haven’t heard from them. They assigned me some ticket that I could check the status of my question. Couldn’t access it. So, I read comments and watched videos. I cooked a 3 lb. roast for 7 hours. I added 2 cups of broth (as suggested by so many), hit slow cooker; normal (not low); for 7 hours using a favorite recipe. It turned out very well.

    • Larissa says

      This is the same problem I am having. Slow cooker white beans and ham hocks in crock pot are are silky and tender after 10 hours, same time in IP on low, raw beans.

      Yesterday I tried my kalua pork which I normally make in crock pot for 10 hours on low for tender, succulent pork. Put pork butt in IP on medium at 2pm yesterday and this morning the pork has released lots of liquid, but it’s hard as a rock, not even close to falling apart. Unfortunately I donated my crock pot and my pressure cooker thinking the r IP would replace both, but that’s not the case. I’m disappointed….

    • I have exactly the same problem in my IP. I’ve tried oxtail, beef, lentils and the slow cooker has never worked. I’ve had to pressure cook. Is there any other setting that can yield a higher temperature?

    • I wonder if it is because the pressure release valve has to be set on ‘vent’ and not ‘sealed’. In a conventional crock pot, the lid is closed and not to be opened, thus keeping all that wonderful moisture inside the pot with the food. In the IP, that moisture can escape through the vent opening and seems to me like that would contribute to lack of moisture in the food, leaving it dry, dry, dry. Maybe?

  11. Jillian Rocchio says

    My first time slow cooking a pot roast, I put it on the lowest setting because I was going to be out all day…. when I came home, it was not at all close to done. I still had to pressure cook it.

    Today, I tried a pork roast on the medium slow cook setting for 7 hours. When I came home 9 hours later, the screen said “OFF”. The manual says it should stay in a “keep warm” mode for 10 hours after the slow cooking is done, so I’m not sure why my slow cooker was off.

    For now, I am going to stick to pressure cooking with it and use my slow cooker for slow cooking…. but I wish I could trust it to be more reliable with slow cooking!

  12. Margaret says

    I have only tried the Instant Pot for slow cooking twice.
    neither times successsful.
    The first was a scalloped potato recipe, followed all the directions, after the specified time 5 hours potatoes still hard and had turned black.. Added two more hours, Nothing. Next day put them in the oven with more milk. No good. They did turnout in a potato soup very succssfully.
    Today I tried , Golabki, unstuffed cabbage roll recipe. six hours on high, meat not cooked cabbage still hard. I have put them back in for another twohours. We will see.

    What is the problem with the cooker?

  13. I tried using my 6 quart duo to slow cook some split pea soup, and the peas were still hard when I got home from work 9 hours later. I used low, and I only tried it because I was curious. Next time I’ll try it on medium.

  14. Mike –
    I have not at this point ever used my LUX60 as a “slow cooker” but I soon plan to. So this topic is of great interest to me. Am looking forward to seeing what the conclusions are.

    – augustwest

  15. Aaron Friedman says

    I use it quite often to cook tomato meat sauce for pasta. I’ve used Low and Medium and they’ve worked fine.

  16. Bev Gagnon says

    I just used my Instant Pot as a slow cooker for the first time two days ago. I made a Mississippi Pot Roast with a 3 lb. Chuck roast, used the slow cooker function on “normal” for 6 hours. The meat was soft, tender, and flavorful. The original slow cooker directions called for cooking on “low” for 6 to 8 hours, so the IP is probably a little hotter on normal than a traditional slow cooker on low? I’ll be watching for your test results!

  17. I’ve used the slow cook function many times. I always use the higher setting and the time that I’d use for my other slow cookers (I have at least 6). I’ve been happy with the slow cooker modeon the IP, although I’ll keep my others because I have various sizes for various uses.

    • Hi Jeanne, with all of your slow cooking experience, maybe you can answer my question. I have a slow cook recipe that calls for 1/2 cup of liquid. Will the IP function properly in slow cook mode with that amount of liquid? Adding more to come up to the suggested pressure cooking minimum of 1-1 1/2 cups will ruin the recipe. I’m just not sure if the IP cooks using pressure or just plain heat in the slow cooker mode.

      • BThompson says

        Hi Kate,
        You might have already found out the answer to this, but the IP on “Slow Cook” mode does not use pressure, so you should be able to use the 1/2 liquid just as your recipe describes.
        That said, the IP website does mention it’s VERY IMPORTANT to make sure your lid is set in the “vent” position when using the slow cook method. That way it’s not building up any pressure.
        hope that helps!! 🙂

  18. Susanne L says

    I tried a recipe from the Asian Slow Cooker for Sriracha Chili Chicken wings. The recipe called for 4 hrs on low but in the IP on medium slow cook it was done in 2 hours and they were just about falling apart.
    I think if you are using the IP as a slow cooker the times need to be adjusted… I’d feel uncomfortable setting it in the morning and coming back late in the day unless its a very forgiving meat.
    I regularly make congee in the IP and as I like mine very smooth. I start it manually for about a half hour and after I release the pressure I switch it to slow cook medium and let it go all night. Gets that Chinese restaurant texture that used to elude me.

  19. I’ve used the IP Duo for slow cooking quite a bit and find that the medium setting works about like low mode on a traditional crockpot. Just last week needed to make kalua pork for a crowd of students and used my older slow cooker and my IP in slow cook mode; both batches turned out excellent. Beans, etc. work great on IP’s medium setting.

    Love the blog, congratulations from another Dad who cooks for his family.

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