Using an Instant Pot to cook your freezer meal recipe is akin to popping a TV dinner into the microwave – without the weird texture or smorgasbord of chemicals. You’ve got a home-cooked dinner ready in minutes. Everyone’s well fed and well nourished. #win.
Because a freezer meal is either raw, prepped ingredients or even partially cooked, getting food on the table is a snap.
But, the planning and organization that goes into building a robust supply of ready-to-go eats can be, well…intimidating. Even though freezer meal recipes may seem like they’re for the meal prep elite, I promise – it’s easier than it looks.
A few hours spent wisely in the kitchen cooking, prepping, and cleaning up (just once, instead of several times over) means you save time in the long run. Think about it – the ease of popping your freezer meal in your Instant Pot. While you scroll through your social media feeds or pin new recipes, pressure builds, your food cooks, and something that would have taken hours is ready in under 30 minutes.
And who doesn’t want to save time? Exactly. Below, you’ll find a roundup of tips to make sure your freezer meal recipes do the work for you.
Freeze your meal in round containers
One of the best things about a pressure cooker is that you don’t need to defrost your freezer meal before cooking. That’s right, just toss a frozen block of food into your Instant Pot and let it do its thing. Within minutes, dinner is ready to go.
But before you begin, there’s one extremely important detail to remember: Your pressure cooker uses a round pot. So if you freeze your meal flat in a gallon ziplock bag, you’re left with a solid slab of food. Which will not fit in your pressure cooker.
To get around this, store your freezer meal in a round container, like this one. Half a gallon, or 64 ounces, is generally enough for four servings. You can also use a gallon ziplock freezer bag to line the container, making it easier to remove frozen food. And if you prefer glass instead of plastic, try these 56-ounce freezer safe glass containers. When you’re ready to eat, run the bottom of your container under cool or warm water to loosen it. Then drop your frozen meal into the inner cooking pot.
Use your Instant Pot for the prep work
Some foods – like meat – will taste better when browned before cooking. Other foods need to be cooked separately and ahead of time. Instead of doing this step before you eat, take care of it before you freeze.
And when you can, speed up prep work by using your Instant Pot. For example, use the sauté function for browning meat. Or pressure cook – then store – foods like rice, beans, or bone broth. Leave other foods that you can easily add at the time of cooking – like a can of tomatoes – in the cupboard.
With this in mind, it helps to see all your prep steps in one place when putting together a massive freezer meal haul. To get a customizable snapshot of what you need, take a peek the Real Plans app – where we do the heavy lifting for you.
Break up large cuts of meat
When storing large cuts of meat for your freezer meals, divide the meat up into smaller portions. And make sure these portions are around the same size. This one step will help meat to cook evenly and faster.
You can get an idea for the general cook time of meat here. Thicker cuts or bone-in meat will take longer to cook.
Let your Instant Pot “come to pressure”
As frozen food comes to pressure in the Instant Pot, it thaws. This means that your meal may take longer to cook because it needs to come to pressure. It also means that you don’t need to do anything differently when cooking frozen meals, other than account for added pressure time.
If your freezer meal is already cooked and you only need to reheat it, use the steam function for five to ten minutes with the lid locked and sealed. And if there’s dairy in your cooked freezer meal, reheat using the pot-in-pot method: Inside a covered glass or heat-safe bowl, on a trivet, and with at least 1 cup of water in the insert pot.
Check your liquid
The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, which means it relies on pressure – generated by steam – to get the job done. For this reason, it’s important to have at least one cup of liquid in your meal. This liquid doesn’t have to be water. Try broth, a marinade, or a sauce.
When using the Instant Pot to cook a freezer meal, sauté your frozen block of food for a few minutes to release the liquid in your meal. If you know there’s not enough liquid, add it or use the pot-in-pot method. Note: When cooking frozen meat, you generally want to boil it – rather than steam or braise it. This ensures your meat is cooked all the way through.
The Instant Pot cooks food quickly and keeps all of the moisture inside the pot. Because of this, you’re not left with grainy meat or mushy veggies. This also means you can use fresh herbs and capture their flavor.