How To Sear Food For The Instant Pot Without Creating An Oily Mess

If you're one of the many owners of an Instant Pot, you know just how handy the appliance is for cooking just about anything — enough so to justify the big piece of real estate that it takes up in the kitchen. And while certain recipes are straightforward, entailing simply adding your ingredients and turning the Instant Pot on, others require an extra step or two.

This is especially true of meat recipes where you have to sear the meat first before pressure cooking. Luckily there's a sauté function you can use to do exactly that. But this can lead to a very common problem: You add some oil to your Instant Pot, only to have it all pool to the edges. Then you add more oil, only to end up with a huge, oily mess while trying to get a good sear on your meat, especially if you have a lot of pieces of to sear, or you have an especially large piece of meat. 

Well, there's a better way. For one, instead of adding oil to the pot itself, try brushing your meat with the oil instead, as cookbook author Ivy Manning recommends to The Washington Post. That way, you avoid the oil pooling issue caused by the shape of the pot, which has a raised center that oil won't stick to.

A better way to sear to avoid a mess

Another way to avoid making an oily or steamy mess when searing meat in the Instant Pot is to work in batches. The more meat you need to sear, the more batches you need to plan for. When you're browning meats in the pot first using the sauté function, you're essentially treating the Instant Pot like a frying pan, except that it's one with a more limited surface area that's easy to overcrowd.

Overcrowding the pot with too many pieces of meat will cause the meat to steam instead of browning, which defeats the point of searing your meat first to begin with. Manning also warns against the urge to brown every side of every piece of meat as unnecessary overkill — simply searing a portion of it will be enough to kickstart the Maillard reaction and lock in that extra flavor that you want. Also, don't forget to deglaze your Instant Pot after searing your meat and before you start pressure cooking.