Think Twice Before Making A Creamy Sauce In Your Instant Pot

Instant Pots are incredible things. They can have meats or stews ready in a matter of minutes, or slow cook them for hours. They can make yogurt, cook rice, or steam vegetables. Due to this versatility, they helped revive the American pressure cooker industry.

It might seem like they can cook just about anything in an Instant Pot. Look online, and you'll find recipes for everything from pulled pork to popcorn. Don't get over-confident, though. There are still plenty of techniques and recipes that you should never attempt, like baked goods or something downright dangerous, like deep-fried foods. One thing to avoid: dairy. While cooking milk, cream, or cheese in an Instant Pot isn't dangerous, it's certainly ill-advised. Even on the stovetop, milk can burn or curdle at a moment's notice, and the hot, pressurized inside of an Instant Pot makes it all the more likely. Yes, that goes for other brands, too — your Crockpot can't handle dairy, either.

Curdling happens when the emulsion of butterfat, proteins, and water that make up dairy products break apart, causing the milk proteins to coagulate. The result is lumpy, watery, and appealing. Now, you can totally use curdled milk for other things: Substitute it for buttermilk, turn it into paneer, or use it in soda bread. Still, you probably don't want clumpy, separated lumps in what was supposed to be a smooth, creamy tomato bisque. Even yogurt should be avoided — even though making it is one of the appliance's features.

How can you add dairy to pressure cooker recipes?

Despite its drawbacks, you can still use your Instant Pot for dairy-based recipes if you go about it in the right way. Many Instant Pot recipes call for evaporated milk in lieu of your standard 2%, since the low water content keeps the milk from separating. Others recommend waiting to add dairy until the very end after everything else is done cooking.

Waiting till the end of the cooking process isn't foolproof, though. Just adding dairy to a piping hot dish can make it curdle, but there are a few preventative steps you can take. One common method is tempering: Rather than dumping an entire cup of milk in at once, warm it by slowly adding a bit of hot broth or sauce to the dairy. Once it's hot, you're free to dump the mixture in with the rest of the food. You can also make a slurry with cornstarch and water, then add it in with the dairy. The starch will help stabilize the milk and keep it from separating.

A few, select dairy recipes are perfect for the Instant Pot: You'll find dozens of recipes for homemade yogurt or cheesecake with a quick search. Just remember that you should always use recipes specifically made for instant pots.