An Instant Pot is a fantastic, versatile cooking appliance. However, cooking your food inside an Instant Pot can sometimes cause it to lose flavour and become incredibly bland.
Bland Instant Pot food can be a result of sub-quality meats, lack of seasoning, too much liquid or the quick-release valve. Specifically designed Instant Pot recipes counteract this issue, however, adapting a recipe for an Instant Pot or cooking individual ingredients will require trial and error.
Depending on the meal or ingredients you’re cooking there are a handful of things you can do to make your Instant Pot meals taste more flavourful.
The Instant Pot Takes Practice
While the Instant Pot prides itself on making cooking easier, understanding how to use the appliance can take some time. With so many different cooking options, liquid amounts and pressure release abilities finding the right combination for each ingredient or meal can require some trial and error.
My first five or so Instant Pot meals were incredible in the sense that I couldn’t quite believe how great the appliance was, but terrible in the terms of flavour and execution. Once I’d got to grips with how the appliance works, I was able to adjust the settings and refine the recipe for better results.
So, if you’re experiencing bland Instant Pot food but have only used the appliance a handful of times, then I’d encourage you to persevere and continue adapting your recipes to find out what works for you.
Understand Your Protein
Different proteins, and subsequently different cuts from the same protein are all going to require different handling and cooking methods.
Some meats are better off being smoked or slow-cooked, while others just need a quick sear, luckily the Instant Pot can provide you with these cooking methods (and more) so it might simply be a case of adjusting the button you press rather than the meat or cooking appliance as a whole.
When looking to an Instant Pot recipe for instructions on how to cook a meal, or a single ingredient ensure that the cut of meat is the same remember, selected meat cuts are tougher and therefore can require more liquid or a longer cooking time.
It Starts With Seasoning
Depending on the meat, cut and theme of the dish you then may want to add some seasoning. This could be a single season or multiple seasons to create a combination of flavours.
When I’m cooking chicken breast in the Instant Pot I include;
- Chicken stock
- Italian seasoning, oregano, basil or thyme
- Garlic powder
- Brown sugar
- Kosher salt
You can see for just one ingredient here I’m adding six additional seasoning ingredients to enhance the flavour.
If you’re stuck for ideas of what seasonings to add to your meal then consider using Google to find some recipes, again ensuring that not only the ingredients but the cuts of meat match. Once you’ve tried the dish you can then refine the recipe based on your personal preferences. This could include adding more garlic powder or even cloves of fresh garlic instead.
Use the Sautee Feature
If you are cooking a one-pot meal it is essential to take advantage of the sautee feature for your meat and vegetables. Your veggies are going to develop all the flavor as they sautee, especially when seasoned properly.
As well, your meat is always going to turn out better when you sear the outsides, as it keeps the flavor and juice inside where it belongs.
This feature is a great way to not only make sure your meat, and the rest of your meal, is far from bland, it is also very efficient. You won’t have to turn on your stovetop or dirty any frying pans, as this machine can do all of it for you.
Liquid Can Be Your Friend
When it comes to slow cooking a piece of meat, the liquid is going to give you a two-pronged attack. Firstly it is going to make sure that your meat stays moist as it cooks, as the cooking process can really dry it out. It is also a great opportunity to add some flavor to the dish, as just about any liquid can be used.
Try doing your next batch of pulled pork with some apple juice in the mix. This is going to give the traditional apple flavor that goes great with pork and also keeps it hydrated.
Canned soups are another great way to accomplish both tasks, and go great with slow-cooked beef roasts.
Make Use of Marinades
There is a foolproof way to guarantee that your meat is not going to turn out bland, and that is to marinate it. Marinades are extremely versatile in the types of flavors you can add to them, as it is completely up to the cook.
Cheaper and tougher cuts of beef and pork can be marinated with something acidic for a day or two, and this will help with both flavour and toughness.
Chicken and other poultry can always benefit from a short marinade before cooking. A healthy dose of olive oil with your favorite tastes for a few hours will make bland poultry a thing of the past. It is a great time to get creative with your flavors and see if you can come up with a new hit recipe.
Even certain seafood can be marinated for a short time before cooking. As fish is much more delicate than other pieces of protein, you will want to marinate for shorter periods of time. Regardless, you can really infuse the seafood with other flavors to kick your dish up a notch.