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Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

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DISCLAIMER:  This article may contain affiliate links and we may earn a small commission if you purchase through one of our affiliate links.  We only recommend products we love.

If you have time to cook every single night, never have kids’ activities pulling you in several directions at once in the evening, love multi-course gourmet meals every night, and love to cook and clean up, then chances are this article on Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks is not for you. (You can stop reading now. It’s ok. I won’t have hurt feelings.)

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

But, if you’re like millions of people out there, chances are you’re pretty busy most of the time. Chances are you don’t love to cook, at least not every single night, and chances are you bought an Instant Pot as a time-saver.

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

And, a time saver it is! For example, a freezer meal takes roughly 8 hours in a slow cooker from frozen. That’s a long time. It’s not really YOUR time though since it’s “inactive” time, where you don’t actually have to be there to do anything, but still. If you’re just putting your frozen dinner in the slow cooker at 5 pm, you’ll have dinner around 1am.

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

However, the Instant Pot can get a meal done, straight from the freezer, in about 2 hours. (1 hour cook time.) Sounds great right?

And it is great, and it really does work. But there are a few things you want to know if you’re new to instant pot and/or freezer meals and/or combining the two. So, we’ve compiled some great Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks for you!

Why We Need Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

First, most of our freezer meals are frozen in one gallon freezer bags. This works ok for the slow cooker…

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

… sometimes. But most of the time it just won’t fit, while it’s still frozen, into the insert of the Instant Pot, with the lid. And while you can leave the lid tilted on your slow cooker, you can’t do that with your Instant Pot. (I have the 6 quart. This might not be true of the 8 quart. Please comment if your experience is different.) So, that can be frustrating, but I do have some tricks and tips to make your freezer meal/instant pot experience the best it can be!

The Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

Freeze your meal in reusable containers that fit your pot, instead of disposable bags. I love the 64 oz extreme freeze Reditainers from Amazon. Most meals fit into the 64 oz but some require a little extra space, so I do one 64 oz and one 16 oz, which fit beautifully together in the 6 quart instant pot insert. Simply run a little hot water over the sealed container to loosen the sides, then remove the meal from the container the way you would remove ice cubes from an ice tray.

If you don’t want to buy extra containers, go ahead and bag your meal in a 1 gallon freezer bag as directed. Then, before freezing, stick the bag into your insert and put the whole thing in your freezer overnight. The next day, remove the frozen meal from the insert and return it to the freezer. The meal will be in the correct shape for the instant pot and your insert will be free to use meanwhile. This can be a little tricky when trying to remove the meal from the bag, as it tends to get wrinkly. If this happens, 1-2 minutes in the microwave
should work so that you can remove the meal from the bag.

Even though you can pressure cook a meal that is frozen solid without thawing first, the Instant Pot does need liquid to pressurize, unlike a slow cooker. So it’s a little tricky. One option IS to just add water. 1/2 cup to 1 cup will be enough to pressurize your instant pot. But that water is not going to steam off like it would in other cooking methods, so you run the risk of making your meal too liquidy or soggy.

Another option is to reserve the liquid (often broth) from your meal at the time of assembly, then add it to the Instant Pot along with the frozen meal at the time you want to cook it. There is nothing wrong with this method. It’s easy, it’s simple, and most commercial broths have a long shelf life so you can keep the broth in your pantry for as long as you keep the freezer meal frozen. You do run the risk of using the broth for something else, though, and then not having it when you need it. (A sharpie on the carton works well as a reminder what you’re saving it for!)

You can place your frozen meal in the ip, leave the lid off, and press the sauté button. In about 10-15 minutes, enough liquid (one half to one cup) will have melted and accumulated at the bottom that your instant pot can use to pressurize. Once you have enough accumulated liquid, press cancel, then proceed to locking the lid and programming your Instant Pot.

NOTE: You do not need to add water, and reserve liquid, and sauté. Choose only one method for acquiring the required amount of liquid for the Instant Pot.

Other Useful Tricks and Info

Another helpful thing to know is that if you add a frozen meal to the instant pot, it will take longer to come to pressure than if the meal were fresh. So even though the actual cook time might be 30 or 40 minutes, the time to come to pressure will be longer. Bear that in mind when you’re cooking, so you know about when it will be done and ready to eat.

Make instant pot brown rice packets ahead, and stockpile them in the freezer. If you’re making a freezer meal that you want to serve over rice, your instant pot will be busy cooking the meal, and won’t be able to also cook the rice. (There are a few exceptions to this like when you can cook the rice and the meal at the same time. See our Chicken and Brown Rice and our Pork Fried Rice.)

Make your own frozen brown rice packs

Write the name of the meal and the directions (including whether you need to add water, add broth, or sauté) on the container or bag you’re using to store the meal. That way you don’t have to go looking for the recipe when the time comes for cooking the meal. If you’re using containers, the best tool for writing these instructions, without ruining the container, is a grease pencil (also sometimes called a china marker). This stays on until you rub it off, allowing you to re-label your containers over and over. I just use a sharpie for writing on bags.

This is especially useful if you use your instant pot a lot and want to utilize the trick above about freezing your meal in the insert to preserve its shape. Having two inserts allows you to “lose” one to the freezer and still use your pot.

Our Favorite Freezer-To-Instant Pot Meals

  1. Mexican Beef Stew
  2. Instant Pot Beef and Barley Soup
  3. Vegetable Wild Rice Stew
  4. Slow Cooker Instant Pot Pork Ramen
  5. Slow Cooker Roast Beef Sandwiches
  6. Cool Ranch Chicken Tacos
  7. Black Bean Soup
  8. Balsamic Glazed Pot Roast

Also, if you like more of a book format, we’ve compiled some of our favorite freezer meals into an inexpensive eBook. Many of them work in the Instant Pot.

Instant Pot Freezer Meal Tips and Tricks

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