When (and Why) to Use the Steamer Basket in Your Instant Pot

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

In addition to the handy (albeit slightly flimsy) steamer rack that came with my Instant Pot, you’ll frequently find me using a more traditional steamer basket. It turns out, a metal or silicone steamer basket is good for more than just steaming veggies on the stovetop. In fact, it’s also one of the most helpful tools to use with an Instant Pot. Here’s why.

Why Use a Steamer Basket in an Instant Pot

If you use your Instant Pot regularly, you’ll want to keep the steaming rack or your metal or silicone steamer basket nearby. When used with this appliance, the basket elevates food from sitting directly on the surface of the insert bowl.

This is important for two reasons. For starters, it makes for a less turbulent cooking environment when cooking delicate foods, like eggs. Also, since liquid must always be added when using the pressure cooker function, the steamer basket is helpful in elevating certain foods that are best cooked without resting in the liquid, like meatloaf and certain desserts.

When to Use a Steamer Basket in an Instant Pot

Any good recipe will tell you exactly when to use a steamer basket (or in some cases, a rack or trivet like we do in the potato recipe shown above). But just in case you’re making a meal on the fly and wanted to double check, here are a few foods and dishes that always benefit from a lift.

  • Eggs: Because they’re so delicate, eggs benefit from being placed in a steamer basket in the Instant Pot. Since the eggs aren’t resting directly against the insert, they’re less likely to be jostled or damaged during cooking.
  • Tough or firm vegetables: The pressure cooker function on your Instant Pot is also a smart solution for cooking tough or firm vegetables in a flash. Use a steamer basket to prevent the vegetables from soaking up too much of the water in the bottom of the pot. This is especially important when making potatoes.
  • Meatloaf, whole chicken, and other meats: Using a steamer basket or rack to elevate meatloaf and whole chicken is a smart solution to prevent the food from getting soggy.
  • Bread and cakes: Yes, you can even make things like bread and cheesecake in your Instant Pot, but do cook them on a steamer basket or rack so they’re not resting in the water at the bottom of the insert.

Instant Pot Recipes That Use a Steamer Basket