8 Things You Should Know Before Cooking Instant Pot Chicken

updated May 1, 2019
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On a cutting board, left to right: whole chicken breast, shredded chicken breast, and breast cut into bite-sized pieces

Use an appliance regularly for three years and you will learn a lot about it. I’ve taken my Instant Pot for a spin with a lot of different foods, but come dinnertime there’s nothing I’ve used it for more than chicken.

Whether you just started using this multi-cooker or you’ve been at it for a while, these tips will help you with your next Instant Pot chicken dinner.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

1. Chicken thighs are much more forgiving than breasts.

While all cuts of chicken are fair game for the Instant Pot, thighs are the most forgiving. Because chicken breast is so lean, just a couple of extra minutes of cook time turns them from juicy to overcooked and dry. Thighs, on the other hand, are a fattier cut, and not prone to dry out as quickly even after an extra minute or two of cooking.

2. Keeping chicken breasts whole will help prevent overcooking.

Even if a recipe uses chunks or cubes of chicken breast, it’s best to cook the meat whole and then cut it up after cooking since small chunks of meat cook through much faster than the whole breast. We do this with our butter chicken recipe, and consider it added insurance that the chicken breast won’t be overcooked or dry.

3. For whole chicken, choose one no larger than four pounds.

When buying a whole chicken that will be cooked in the Instant Pot, remember that size matters. To be sure the bird will easily fit in the pot without being smushed or pressed tightly against the edges, and that it will cook evenly, stick with a chicken that’s no heavier than four pounds.

4. Don’t expect crispy skin on your chicken.

The Instant Pot makes one killer whole chicken — it is juicy, irresistibly succulent, and downright delicious — but don’t expect it to have the crispy, crackly skin you get from roasting in the oven. Like the slow cooker, the Instant Pot (and other pressure cookers) creates a moist cooking environment that does not dry out the skin.

Don’t fear, though — this doesn’t mean you can’t get crispy skin after cooking in the Instant Pot. Our recipe for chicken adobo finishes under the broiler for ultra-crispy skin.

Get the recipe: Instant Pot Chicken Adobo

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Aways pair like cuts together.

My motto for cooking chicken in the Instant Pot is to pair like things (in this case, cuts of chicken) together. For the best results and evenly cooked chicken, avoid mixing white and dark meat, or bone-in and boneless cuts. Meaty thighs and drumsticks, as well as bone-in cuts, require a little more cook time than their lean and boneless counterparts.

6. Expect it to take 10 to 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.

In addition to the cook time, don’t forget to factor the time it takes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure. The exact time will vary depending on the several factors, including the volume of food in the pot and whether it was frozen. On average, though, most chicken recipes will take 10 to 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.

7. You can totally cook chicken straight from the freezer.

If you’ve ever started to prep dinner and realized you forgot to thaw the chicken, you will appreciate this feature. The Instant Pot has the ability to cook chicken pieces straight from the freezer. Unlike other cooking methods, it’s safe because the high temperature quickly takes frozen meat past the danger zone (temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, where bacteria are apt to grow).

8. Allot more time and use extra cooking liquid when starting with frozen chicken.

Cooking chicken from frozen is not all that different than cooking fresh chicken. The most important things to remember are that it will require some more time and cooking liquid. It will take a few extra minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure as well as about a 50 percent increase in cook time. You should also use enough cooking liquid to fully submerge the chicken, which ensures quick transfer of heat into the meat and, most importantly, even cooking.

Our Favorite Chicken Recipes in the Instant Pot