So I finally got an Instant Pot. In case you’re not aware, the Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker and it’s all the rage right now, especially when it comes to making Instant Pot bone broth.
Seriously, people are FREAKING OUT about this thing. I’m talking Beatles-invading-America type of hysteria. I’ve never seen so many OMGs and exclamation points used to describe a kitchen appliance in my life.
OMG! I’m in love with the Instant Pot!
OMG! The Instant Pot has changed my life!
OMG! I made the best ___ (insert almost dish) EVER in 30 minutes!
OMG! I made bone broth in 30 minutes!
The main benefit of pressure cookers is that they cook things in a fraction of the time it takes to cook things on the stove top. But the crazy cool thing about the Instant Pot is that it doubles as so much more than just a pressure cooker. It’s also a rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker and slow cooker, to name just a few. The list of things you can make in it are quite remarkable.
And because it’s an electric pressure cooker, you can set it, walk away and not worry about it. The Instant Pot also has a stainless steel pot as opposed to more commonly used non-stick (and thus toxic) models.
All that said, my primary interest in the Instant Pot was for bone broth as making bone broth on the stove top can easily take 12-24 hours for chicken and even 48-72 hours for beef.
As you may know, I’m a bone broth-making maniac. I make A LOT of this stuff. I drink it as a beverage. I make a ton of soups for different meals, including broth for breakfast. I even give it to the dog as part of her dried food and make homemade dog treats from it. Heck, I’ve even written a book about broths and soups.
So when promises of 30-minute, super gelatinous bone broth started echoing through the interwebs, eventually ascending into the all out feverish pitch it’s currently at, I could no longer resist. I had to get one and see for myself.
And so it began this past Christmas morning when Santa (aka Amazon) delivered me a brand spanking new Instant Pot. Check out Santa’s top model here (the one in the pic below).
In the one month since I’ve owned the Instant Pot, I’ve made 6 batches of Instant Pot bone broth – 4 chicken, 1 beef and 1 fish. In time, I may start freaking out like this, but for now, I have to be honest.
I’m not as gaga over it as others.
In particular, there are a few limitations to it that I was not aware of. Some of these things may seem ridiculously obvious if you’ve ever owned a pressure cooker. But I never have. I don’t know a dang thing about them. And so I’m sharing these things for those of you who are in the same boat as me – fresh off it, wide-eyed and overly impressionable.
Because sooner or later, the Instant Pot craze will be clogging your Facebook news feed and sooner or later it will be hard to resist the all the OMGs and exclamation points. Sooner or later, you will own an Instant Pot. Trust me.
But before you do, when it comes to making Instant Pot bone broth, here’s 5 things you should know:
About two to two and a half quarts per batch. Which is certainly not terrible. But I felt mislead by the packaging which implied I’d get a lot more.
I bought the 6-quart model, the largest one available. So I figured I’d have six quarts of space to work with and I figured I’d get a good three to four quarts of broth from that, similar to a 6-quart stock pot.
Well you can’t fill the Instant Pot beyond 5 quarts full. There’s a MAX fill line that you should not exceed. And when you’re cooking liquids, you really should only fill the pot two-thirds full. This is a safety precaution that has to do with the way pressure cookers work.
Meaning you’re only able to use 4 quarts of the 6 quart capacity for bone broth. Meaning by the time you fill the pot with bones, parts and veggies, you’re only getting two to two and a half quarts of broth.
And that’s not bad! But between me and the dog, we go through 2 quarts pretty fast. I was a little disappointed.
Now if you’re like most people, you’ll probably be fine with 2 quarts of broth. But if you’re a bone broth making maniac like myself, just know you’ll still have a use for those larger stock pots in your kitchen. In particular, I have a 20-quart stock pot that I use primarily for making beef broth.
Speaking of beef broth….
Google “Instant Pot bone broth” or even just “pressure cooker bone broth” and 99% of all recipes are for chicken broth.
I get it. Chicken broth is the easiest most convenient bone broth to make be it in a pressure cooker or on the stove top. All you need is a whole chicken. And the Instant Pot is great for it. A whole chicken easily fits inside as well as other types of chicken parts.
But I actually make a lot more fish and beef broth than I do chicken broth. And the Instant Pot is not ideal for them, especially fish broth (explained in #3).
When it comes to beef broth, you could certainly make a good beef broth in an Instant Pot with a collection of smaller beef bones. But I’m pretty lucky where I live. I get these big beautiful beef knuckle bones from a local farmer for only $1 each (a seriously insane deal!). And beef knuckle bones are AWESOME for making a good beef broth as they’re just loaded with collagen.
They’re also pretty huge.
Well the Instant Pot will only fit one knuckle bone. And not much else.
When I made a beef broth I did manage to squeeze in a few other smaller bones around the knuckle bone.
And it came out quite good.
But again, it only made a few quarts. And I just LOVE making 10-12 quarts at once in my 20 quart stock pot. Yes, you could do multiple batches from the same beef bones in the Instant Pot and get more than a few quarts, but you’re also talking about multiple strainings and washing of dishes too (my least favorite part of making bone broth). It certainly takes longer on the stove top but when it’s done, I have enough beef broth for at least several weeks, if not months.
Let’s just say I’m not giving up my stove top beef broth anytime soon.
Now when it comes to fish broth, there’s really no point to using an Instant Pot. And the primary reason is…
Again, call me naive but when I started seeing all these Instant Pot fanatics posting about great bone broth ready in 30 minutes but I wasn’t aware that they were only talking about the actual cooking time and not the total time it takes from start to finish.
You see, pressure cookers take time to come up to the proper pressure for cooking, more so if the pot is filled with a liquid. And then it takes time for the pressure to come down at the end of the actual cooking time.
In particular, it takes about 20-30 minutes for the pressure to build in the pot before it starts cooking. And then it takes another 20-30 minutes for the pressure to release. Now there is a quick release method that can do this instantly but it’s not advisable to use it with broths and soups as they can splatter through the steam release handle. Sure enough, this happened the one time I tried it.
All told, you’re talking a total time of an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half at the 30 minute bone broth setting. So when you start seeing Facebook posts claiming, “OMG! I made bone broth in 30 minutes!” add on 45-60 minutes to that.
And that’s why there’s really no point in making a fish broth in the Instant Pot. You’re not saving any time compared to the stove top. Because fish broth should never be cooked more than an hour. Here’s why.
Of course, I tried it anyway out of curiosity. I may have been the first person in the history of the Instant Pot to do this (because hardly anyone makes fish broth anymore). In fact, I couldn’t find a single mention anywhere online of making fish broth in the Instant Pot. I even asked on the Instant Pot Community Facebook forum (which is now over 100,000 members and growing fast) if anyone had experience making a fish broth. Not a single response.
The only mention I could find anywhere was in the Instant Pot recipe book that came in the packaging. It recommended 7 minutes for a seafood stock. A few online recipes in non-Instant Pot pressure cookers suggested 30 minutes. So I guessed at 15 minutes.
And you know what? It came out great. But again, start to finish it took an hour. And that doesn’t save any time compared to the stove top.
Now as far as making chicken broth goes you still might be saying that an hour and fifteen minutes total at the 30 minute chicken bone broth setting is still pretty awesome. And it is but…
I tried it. Usable? Yes. But it tasted flat. When I posted on Facebook about this, some of the more experienced Instant Pot users highly recommended I go for the maximum pressure cooking time of 120 minutes. So I did the very next day.
It didn’t just taste better it tasted NIGHT AND DAY better.
Of course, with the extra time it takes for the pressure to come up and then down, you’re now talking about 3 hours from start to finish.
In comparison to 12-24 hours on the stove top that’s still great.
BUT, here’s the thing, you don’t HAVE to simmer broths that long!
Chicken, in particular, makes a wonderful broth when you simmer it on the stove top for 2-4 hours. It may not be as nutrient-rich as a longer cooked broth (often called “bone stocks” in the culinary world), as more nutrients leach out over time, but not everyone wants or even needs a super long-cooked broth.
In particular, some people with chronic digestive issues can be sensitive to longer cooked broths as they’re higher in things like glutamates (which can cause neurological symptoms) and histamines. Many on the GAPS protocol have to start out with shorter cooked broths due to these severe sensitivities.
Bottom line: Just be aware that there’s really no such thing as 30 minute bone broth in the Instant Pot.
Now, regarding the flavor of the 120 minute Instant Pot chicken broth…
Surely, Instant Pot fanatics will disagree. But I’m not 100% sure this is just a matter of personal taste.
Let me explain.
Pressure cooker bone broth makes a clear bone broth. On the surface, that may seem good and appearance-wise, it does look nice. Chefs makes clear broths, called consommes, for certain types of soups. But it’s purely for aesthetics.
Clear broth doesn’t mean the broth is better.
In fact, I think a cloudy broth, made on the stove top, may be more desirable.
Now as I’ve said, my 120 minute Instant Pot chicken broth did taste very good. So much better than 30 minutes. But something was still missing. It just didn’t taste quite as rich and full as I’m used to. So I tried a third time and added more gelatinous chicken parts and meaty parts than the previous two attempts. It didn’t matter that much. It tasted the same. Very good but not heart-stopping phenomenal. So in my fourth attempt at chicken broth in the Instant Pot I did an experiment.
I compared a chicken broth in the Instant Pot vs. the stock pot. I used a 6-quart stock pot and used identical parts of chicken and vegetables.
I set the Instant Pot to the 120 minute setting at the same time as I started the stove top chicken broth, making sure to keep it at a gentle simmer throughout and I set them side by side.
After 3 hours total, I strained them and compared the taste.
The stove top chicken broth clearly had a more rounded, fuller chicken flavor.
It was also cloudy.
I’m sure you can tell from this picture which is which. Certainly the Instant Pot bone broth looks more visually appealing.
The broth on the left became cloudy because the simmering action on the stove top releases more particulate matter – fats, minerals and gelatin in particular. And I suspect that’s why it tasted better.
Interestingly, this post from Serious Eats did the same experiment as I did, but came out with different results and conclusions. But I’m not entirely convinced with their explanation.
This popular Instant Pot blog suggests that the simmering action is in fact necessary for the flavor (and shows how you can actually do that in the Bluetooth-enabled version).
Scouring message boards on this issue reveals all sort of conflicting opinions. But I did uncover one interesting tidbit.
My experience confirms this. The difference in flavor was clearly superior on the stove top.
All I can say is try it for yourself and see. In the end though, it’s not that big of a deal. Cloudy or clear, they’re both perfectly usable.
If you have some additional insights into this, please share in the comments. I always learn so much when other people share their experiences.
Finally, please understand that I realize my issues with Instant Pot bone broth are relatively minor things in the big picture! Even though I don’t love it for making bone broth, there are certainly some other things I do love about it.
I LOVE that it’s also a yogurt maker. And it can make a lot of yogurt at once! Most electric yogurt makers only make a fraction of what the Instant Pot can make.
I LOVE that it’s also a slow cooker. I’ve already given my old slow cooker away to a friend.
I LOVE the way it cooks a whole chicken – fall-off-the-bone tender.
And I LOVE that whatever you make in it, you’re not left with boatload of dishes that have to be washed. That may be thing I love about it most!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so many benefits and ways you can use it to cook almost anything. You may even find that you do love it for making bone broth. Most people do.
So let me cut to the chase and end this long, rambling post of mine.
Just get the Instant Pot. It’s a pretty cool thing. It might not be perfect for bone broth but if you have those two time consuming things called a “job” and “kids” the Instant Pot will be a very welcome addition to your home.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.