Sous vide cooking has transformed the kitchen of a home cook, guaranteeing amazing, perfectly cooked food with minimal prep time. The Instant Pot has also quickly become a mainstream kitchen item, touting its ease and multitude of uses. But, can you cook Sous Vide with an Instant Pot? What is the difference between using an Instant Pot and cooking sous vide?
What is an Instant Pot?
An Instant Pot is a multi-cooker that claims to replace up to seven appliances in the kitchen. It also speeds up cook time (due to pressure cooking) and uses less energy than traditional cooking methods. There are various sizes ranging from 3 quarts all the way to 8 quarts. There are also ten different Instant Pot multicookers, not to mention a myriad of other appliances, including an airfryer, toaster oven, and now a Sous Vide machine. The machines have pre-programmed one-touch settings, and a few of them can even be adjusted for altitude.
The concept of an Instant Pot is similar to a sous vide machine, in the fact that you can “set it and forget it”, making meal prep easy and hands off. But, they are two completely different appliances.
What is the difference between cooking in an Instant Pot and using a Sous Vide machine?
An Instant Pot has heating elements at the base of the outer pot, which heat the inner pot. The machine seals shut, so the temperature inside quickly rises higher than other traditional cooking methods. The Instant Pot is basically an updated pressure cooker, and pressure cooking is the reason that food cooks so much quicker.
During cooking, the machine cycles the temperature, similar to an oven; this is a way to prevent overheating, but also means that temperatures are not consistent during cooking. The temperatures may vary as much as 15 degrees, according to one graph.1
A sous vide machine is an immersion circulator that heats water to a specific and consistent temperature, rather than heating the actual cooking vessel. It cooks gently, slowly, and for a long amount of time, which is quite opposite of the Instant Pot.
Can you sous vide in an instant pot?
Technically, cooking in certain models of the Instant Pot cannot identically recreate the environment that a sous vide circulator provides. However, there are ways around that; check out the article that we wrote all about cooking sous vide without an immersion circulator!
Because an immersion circulator gently and slowly heats the water in which food will be cooked, it heats differently than the Instant Pot, which heats from the bottom. A traditional Instant Pot can be used on a warm or low setting to gently and slowly heat water, which can mimic a sous vide environment. It would be important to be mindful that the submerged food mustn’t touch the bottom of the Instant Pot, as it might get too hot and melt the bag. A shelf could be made with some metal mason jar rings, or even a heatproof glass bowl.
But, if you’re in the market for a newer Instant Pot, there is a version that has the option to sous vide! The Instant Pot brand now also makes two versions of a sous vide circulator. So, cooking sous vide style in an Instant Pot is not completely impossible, but their sous vide machine might be the best option (please note I am not endorsed by Instant Pot).
Pressure cooking and sous vide cooking both have their place in the kitchen. I love to hear your stories; email me and share your favorite pressure cooking or sous vide recipes, successes, or challenges!
This article was written by Stephanie Searor, MS RD LDN