How to Cook Frozen Food in Your Instant Pot

These do’s and don’ts will get your dinner from the freezer to the table stat!

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August 02, 2021
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FNK_InstantPotFrozenChickenBreasts_V2_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Instant Pot Frozen Chicken Breasts, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

We’ve all been there: after a long day of work and other responsibilities, you race to get dinner on the table and quickly realize that you didn’t pull the meat out of the freezer. Instead of picking up the phone and ordering take-out, grab your Instant Pot! There’s a lot to love about the beloved gadget, but one of the best features is its ability to cook straight from frozen, no defrosting required, thanks to its “sauté” and “pressure cooker” functions. Talk about a weeknight win! Here are our Instant Pot Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind the next time you want to cook a well-balanced meal straight from your freezer!

Do’s:

Do Expect Cook Times to Vary: A frozen piece of meat will not only take longer to cook, but it will also take longer for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. Because of this, be prepared to add a few extra minutes to your overall cook time.

Do Use More Liquid Than You Think: When cooking from frozen, it’s beneficial to add enough liquid to just cover the frozen meat. This will ensure that the protein cooks evenly and thoroughly.

Do Sauté Meat Before Cooking: We found that utilizing the “sauté” function before pressure cooking will help to release extra liquid from a frozen piece of meat. Not to mention, nicely-browned food means extra flavor, and who can argue with that?

Do Operate the “Natural Release”: Unless specified otherwise, release the pressure naturally when cooking from frozen. Releasing the pressure — whether it’s low or high — more slowly on the natural function will prevent the meat from seizing up and becoming tough or dry.

Do Utilize a Meat Thermometer: Make sure to insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat after it’s finished cooking to make sure the internal temperature has reached safe temperatures. This is especially important for poultry and pork because of food-born illnesses.

Don’ts:

Don’t Overfill Your Instant Pot: Adding too much frozen product and liquid to an Instant Pot can become problematic because it will take a very long time to come to pressure and there’s a good chance your food won’t cook evenly.

Don’t Cook Frozen Meat that’s Stuck Together or Stacked on Top of Each Other: If you stack a number of frozen proteins in your Instant Pot, the pieces that are touching will most likely be undercooked. Just like in a standard cooking vessel, it’s best to give enough space between food items so they cook evenly.

Don’t Use Water: Other liquids, such as chicken and beef broth, will add more flavor than water alone. Other products, such as vegetable or chicken base, are also great for upping the flavor, if water is the only liquid you have on-hand.

Tips for Freezing Food:

It’s important to portion food properly before freezing for the easiest Instant Pot cooking experience. For example, wrap chicken breasts and thighs individually, cut a rack of ribs into 2- to 3-piece sections (they won’t fit in the Instant Pot otherwise!), and cut big pieces of meat into smaller portions, such as a pork and beef roast for faster and even cooking. If possible, freeze meals in a circular shape that’s the same size as the Instant Pot bowl-insert -- this let’s you go straight from the freezer to the Instant Pot with ease!

Now that you have an arsenal of tips for cooking from frozen in your Instant Pot, make sure to check out these Food Network Kitchen recipes:

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