Can You Steam in an Instant Pot?

Instant Pots have become increasingly popular for their ability to cook food quickly using pressurized steam, but many people are unsure if this method is suitable for steaming vegetables and other foods.

Is it possible to use an Instant Pot for steaming food?

Yes, it is possible to steam food in an Instant Pot. The appliance comes with a dedicated Steam function, and you can also utilize the Sauté function to boil water and steam your food. You can use your Instant Pot to steam various foods such as vegetables, seafood, eggs, and other items that you would typically steam in a regular pot.

If you use an Instant Pot to steam food in the same manner as a stovetop steamer, it may result in overcooked delicate foods. However, if you comprehend how the Instant Pot functions, you can quickly and easily steam your food.

Using the Steam Function on Your Instant Pot

Fortunately, the majority of Instant Pots are equipped with a pre-set option for “Steam.” In order to utilize the pressure steaming feature of an Instant Pot, add at least one cup of water and insert the trivet (metal rack) that was included with your Instant Pot. Then, place a steamer basket on top of the trivet.

If a steamer basket didn’t come with your Instant Pot, there are countless options available online, like this one.

To steam your food in an Instant Pot, simply put the food in the basket and select the “Steam” option. Then, input the desired cooking time and wait for the Instant Pot to beep when it reaches full pressure and again when the timer runs out.

Key tip: When steaming in an Instant Pot, it is essential to quickly release the pressure as soon as you finish steaming to prevent your food from being overcooked.

Will Steaming in an Instant Pot Overcook Food? 

It is crucial to comprehend that the Instant Pot‘s pressure will significantly alter the steaming time compared to conventional stovetop steaming.

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Knowing the Instant Pot’s automatic time settings can be useful.

    If you press the Steam button, it will automatically cook your food with high pressure steam for 10 minutes.If you select the “More” option, the duration will increase to 15 minutes.Clicking on the “Less” button will result in steaming for only three minutes.

  • It is possible to manually modify the time and regulate the pressure using the “Pressure” button.

The steaming process in an Instant Pot can achieve the same outcome as steaming on a stovetop, but the extra pressure of the Instant Pot allows these results to be achieved much faster, similar to how its Pressure settings can complete many traditional cooking tasks in less than half the time.

When it comes to vegetables that are tougher such as potatoes, carrots, and other roots, using an Instant Pot can save a significant amount of time without any drawbacks. However, for more delicate foods like spinach and broccoli that are prone to overcooking, there is a potential risk of overdoing it with the Instant Pot.

Adding to the danger, unlike conventional stovetop steaming, it is impossible to monitor the cooking progress of food inside an Instant Pot under pressure, and you will not know how much they have cooked until the process is finished.

How Long to Steam in an Instant Pot

With careful timing, an Instant Pot can effectively steam any type of vegetable or food without the need for guesswork.

Consult the instructions that came with your Instant Pot to determine the suggested times for steaming various vegetables and other edibles, or look up online advice such as these from Taste of Home or these from Instant Pot.

Here are some of the recommendations from Instant Pot, each for steaming with 1 cup of water (please note that these cooking times are for fresh vegetables):

  • It takes only 1 minute to steam broccoli florets.
  • It takes only 1 minute to steam Brussels sprouts in an Instant Pot.
  • It takes 5-8 minutes to steam whole, large potatoes.
  • Spinach: 1 minute
  • It takes only 1-2 minutes to steam butternut squash slices in an Instant Pot.
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It is important to note that the recommended steaming times for most vegetables are much shorter than the automated steaming times in an Instant Pot. This means that for delicate green vegetables, it is advisable to manually set a low steam time after pressing the “Steam” button.

Instant Pot suggests that seafood requires short steaming times. Here are some examples of recommended steaming times for seafood:

  • It takes only 1-3 minutes to steam shrimp or prawn in an Instant Pot.
  • Whole fish: 4-5 minutes
  • Lobster: 2-3 minutes

Although the Instant Pot’s instructions only provide the time for pressure cooking eggs (5 minutes for hard-boiled), this recipe offers a few tips on steaming eggs, with 1 cup of water:

  • It takes only 3 minutes to cook soft-boiled eggs.
  • Medium eggs: 5 minutes
  • It takes 8 minutes to cook hard-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot.

Traditional Steaming in an Instant Pot

Although it is possible to steam any food perfectly in an Instant Pot by being careful with timing and precision, some people may still feel anxious about doing it correctly and prefer the conventional steaming method that allows them to monitor their food more closely as it steams. However, there is no need to worry because you can also use the traditional steaming method in your Instant Pot!

If you are having trouble getting pressure steaming just right, try purchasing Instant Pot’s glass lid (if your pot did not come with one).

How to Do It

The method of steaming using a glass lid is comparable to the process of pressure steaming:

  • Prepare your Instant Pot by placing the trivet and steaming basket inside, and adding a minimum of 1 cup of water.
  • If you want to steam in an Instant Pot, use the “Sauté” button instead of the “Steam” button; this will produce a steaming atmosphere similar to that of stovetop steaming, where the water in the pot boils, the lid traps the steam, and you can observe your food steaming inside through the transparent lid.
  • Using this technique, you have the option to occasionally uncover the lid and inspect or mix your food while steaming, but it is important to keep the lid on for most of the process to maintain steam.
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After your vegetables are cooked enough, switch off the Instant Pot and take them out, being cautious of the hot components inside the pot such as the trivet, water, basket, and walls.

Don’t Forget These Instant Pot Steaming Tips

  • It is crucial to Quick Release the pressure right away after steaming in an Instant Pot.
  • You may need some additional equipment for steaming: a steaming basket can be found here, and a glass lid for traditional steaming here. (Make sure you are ordering the right size for your Instant Pot!)
  • Pressure steaming significantly reduces steaming times compared to traditional steaming, so it is important to consult Instant Pot’s instructions or search for a recipe online to prevent overcooking.
  • Steaming times vary greatly between fresh and frozen foods, so it’s important to research the appropriate steaming time for the specific food you plan to steam.
  • It is important to note that some foods need shorter steaming periods than the Instant Pot’s preset time settings when using the “Steam” feature, so it is recommended to manually adjust the time based on the specific food being steamed.

You’re Ready to Steam in Your Instant Pot!

By gaining expertise and some experience, an Instant Pot has the capability to steam any food flawlessly, and in a significantly shorter duration than stovetop steaming. Additionally, for those who prefer stovetop steaming, it can produce a conventional steam almost instantly.

If you need to steam vegetables, eggs or seafood, feel free to use your Instant Pot.

You can also check this video about “Can You Steam in an Instant Pot?”

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