How do I give my Instant Pot pot roast new flavors?
February 16, 2018 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I love my new Instant Pot, but no matter what I do to my pot roast, it tastes the same. Delicious roast and tasty gravy, but seasonings and veggies make no difference at all.

My first instantpotroast was made with a Trader Joes cabernet marinated roast and lots of potatoes and carrots. The beef tasted like beef and the gravy tasted like gravy. I tried a brisket with a bunch of onions - the beef tasted like beef, and the gravy was gravy. Next time, I punched a bunch of holes in the roast and stuffed them with garlic and rosemary. The result: beef and gravy. My latest was goulash-inspired, with a ton of sweet peppers and paprika. Yummy, but - totally indistinguishable from the previous roasts. Where is all the flavor going?

These are all slow-cooked on high over 5-8 hours, then making gravy by reducing and blending the remaining liquid and veggies.
posted by moonmilk to Food & Drink (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Use the pressure cooking ‘manual’ function on your instant pot (and cook 60-90 mins, tops) instead of slow cooking for hours. Any and all beef cooked for 8 hours will taste the same, IMHO...flavorings will just disappear over that long of a cooking time.

Another idea is to use citrusy flavors like a lime & achiote marinade...but honestly after 8 hours, that’ll just taste like generic beef, too. You’re basically making bone broth with your roast.
posted by The Toad at 5:23 PM on February 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

That long of a cooking time is going to destroy a lot of the more delicate, floral flavours you get from spices and aromatics. The solution is to add them back at the end --- you could do a gremoulata (traditional with osso bucco, another extremely long-cooked beef dish). Or you can liven up the gravy by adding in some wine, maybe some fresh herbs, before blending. If you're using wine you might want to give it a minute or two with the other gravy veg in the pot, sans meat, to cook out a bit of the alcohol.
posted by Diablevert at 5:33 PM on February 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oh totally pressure cook it, don't slow cook it. I made a pot roast using the idea of italian drip beef (italian seasoning, half a jar of pepperoncinis, juice & all) that's amazing but slow cooking it would make it taste like beef and gravy, i bet.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 6:00 PM on February 16, 2018 [7 favorites]

I cook first and flavor after, aside from broad strokes (onion/salt/carrot etc) because the heat will wreck any delicate flavors. I usually pull the roast (after NR until pressure drops naturally - QR will toughen your roast) and tent it under foil to rest while I do whatever I'm going to do with the cooking juices.

You can even drop in chunks of traditional veg and do another short pressure cycle - you only need a couple minutes for chunks of potato/carrot/rutabaga, then you can drop in green beans or similar to cook quickly in the hot liquid - and then do your flavoring. Sliced or quartered mushrooms, too, will cook pretty quickly boiling on saute for a few minutes.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:17 PM on February 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's a good instant pot roast recipe in a recent Cook's Illustrated - they were less concerned with flavor than getting that dark rich fond-y gravy (baking soda of all things!), but I thought some of the tips around the aromatics were spot on. Don't expect anything you put in there with the meat will be favorful after pressure cooking. Instead, add the vegetables to the gravy after the meat is fully cooked, just remove the meat and use "saute" setting for another 10-15 minutes. That can be a good time to add the fresh herbs like thyme or oregano.

I'm not saying you won't get satisfactory answers on AskMefi, but the Instant Pot FaceBook group is universe-sized hive mind. You'll get quality answers to your Qs in less than 5 five minutes, and basic search-fu will probably find answers to a similar questions asked within the last week.
posted by SoundInhabitant at 7:50 PM on February 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Thanks for reminding me I need to donate my giant slow cooker now that I own an INSTANT POT.

When I Pressure Cook anything, but especially a roast, the spices and flavoring penetrate the meat in a way that does not happen Marinating, Sous Vide, or Slow Cooking. And it's so fast.

I did Short Ribs tonight from frozen, and they are divine. I have stopped cooking the majority of my meals (including soups) any other way now that I have an Instant Pot. I have a culinary degree and always cook from scratch. I.. Uh.. I'm a better chef now. It's not me. It's the Instant Pot.

Try steaming Vegetables for 2 min under high pressure, it will change your life.

Instant Pots are not great for poultry unless you want it rubbery whole, or tender shredded. Everything else cooks a dream in an Instant Pot.

Beans are a revelation. I could go on...
posted by jbenben at 9:35 PM on February 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

/r/slowcooking on reddit has been agog lately with Mississippi pot roast, to the point of saturation and backlash. I tried it last week and it's effing delicious. The recipes online are all the same: hunk of beef (the usual pot roast cuts), stick of butter, packets of ranch dressing powder and Mccormick Au Jus gravy powder, and pepperoncinis, 6 or 8 (I had the sliced ones in a jar, so I estimated). After that, some add carrots or whatnot, but my goal was sandwiches (with mozzarella or provolone). No additional liquid; the roast releases plenty of liquid fat.

The result was really rich gravy, maybe too rich, at least per the recipe, but pepperocinis is a tasty and uncommon addition I'd recommend (or second, as I see it mentioned above). Cut the butter down; I found 1 stick to be too much and in future I'll add less than half a stick.

I don't have an IP, so I don't know the changes for that cooker. I will also be examining the label on the ranch packet to use my slice rack instead, but Italian [dressing] spices, again mentioned above, sound like a winner as well. Next sandwich will also get a layer of pepperoncinis straight from the jar, for brighter flavor.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:03 AM on February 17, 2018

I've got a couple of stew recipes that hold flavor, but they do tend to need some additional flavoring at the end. The one that doesn't is a Provencal stew that includes a good bit of Rosemary, a cup of white wine and and two tablespoons of Dijon mustard, for two pounds of cubed beef. But that's a stew so it's not all mouthfuls of beef; if you're doing a whole roast instead then I'd argue you either need to add more flavors, or try adding flavors later in the process.

Or you may also have a difference in expectation or in your own taste buds - if you can, try some that's as made by other people and see if you can taste a difference. Because I mean, they're all supposed to taste like beef - it's just that the beef is supposed to have some added flavor notes and deliciousness from the other flavors. But it won't change the essential beefiness because it's still a beef roast.
posted by Lady Li at 5:20 AM on February 17, 2018

Thanks! I like the texture of the slow-cooked roast better than pressure-cooked, but now I see how it would also mush up all the flavors. I'll try a fast pressure roast next time, and slow but with aromatics added later for the time after that!
posted by moonmilk at 6:41 AM on February 17, 2018

Do you add anything acidic? In my experience, it's the different acids that give the difference in flavor. My first Jewish pot roast recipe had a spoonful of vinegar. Then there was an Italian one with a whole bottle of red wine. For a North African taste go with lemons (maybe salted lemons) and carrots and onions. Ot for something more South Italian tomatoes and lemon and maybe nuts and raisins.
I recently saw a Korean pot roast recipe that fascinated me, and now I just can't find it. If it turns up in my feed again I'll post it here.
posted by mumimor at 6:43 AM on February 17, 2018

I'm normally one of those from scratch, slow food, locally-sourced kind of home "chefs," but I swear: searing a nice cut of chuck roast (sprinkled with salt and pepper) in the instapot on the sauté function, then dumping in a can of beef stock with (so help me) a packet of Lipton onion soup mix, then pressure cooking that sucker for 75 minutes, natural releasing for 10, and then force releasing the rest of the pressure has blown my pot roast game out of the water.

I make mashed potatoes and roasted carrots on the side, and use the leftover stock in the pot to make a gravy on the stovetop.
posted by pinkacademic at 9:02 AM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

As they say in the south, boy, I tell you what, pinkacademic's post right above me is frickin' spot on. I would never have deigned to use Lipton onion soup mix, but came across this recipe that suggested it for slow cookers (I use an instant pot and a lean-ish pork roast), and it's INSANE. Usually, the person who posted this seems a bit hyperbolic to me, but in this case, not so much.

Don't skip the polenta. It's actually a FANTASTIC polenta recipe, and is truly incredible with the puddles of delicious liquid and meat sinking in.
posted by nosila at 1:08 PM on February 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Today was my first opportunity to try out what I've learned here. I made a Trader Joe's cabernet pot roast using the pressure method in the little recipe book that came with the instant pot: sear the roast, add chicken stock, 45 minutes pressure, release, add potatoes, 10 more minutes pressure.

It was delicious, and I liked the texture of the meat better than the slow-cooked version, but - it still just tasted like beef! If marinating in wine and spices for days in the Trader Joe shrink wrap had any effect at all on the flavor, it didn't survive the cooking process.

Next time I'll try some stronger flavors, like onion soup, ranch dressing powder, or mustard, as recommended above.
posted by moonmilk at 4:09 PM on March 7, 2018

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