The Instant Pot is the most popular brand of electronically controlled multicookers that combine a pressure cooker and a slow cooker all in one. If you want meals made fast, easy, and all in one pot, then an Instant Pot is an amazing addition to your kitchen. But what do you do if the meat is tough in the Instant Pot?

Your meat is tough when cooked in your Instant Pot due to being overcooked. When meat is overcooked, it dries out and becomes tough even if it was cooked in liquid. There are multiple methods to tender meat, but one of the easiest is cooking it low and slow.

Many cooking methods using an Instant Pot will allow your cooking recipes to yield more tender meat. All you have to do is employ one or more of these methods, and you will likely see a vast improvement in the tenderness of the meat you have cooked in your Instant Pot. Most of them are quite simple and easy to execute.

What Do I Do if Meat is Tough in My Instant Pot?

It may seem counterintuitive but cooking meat in a liquid, or brazing, still tends to dry out the meat and cause it to become tough if it is not cooked to the proper temperature. Overcooking your meat, especially in an Instant Pot,  is the number one culprit of tough meat. Here are some things to do:

  1. Marinade your meat overnight
  2. Use a physical meat tenderizer
  3. Use a powdered meat tenderizer
  4. Bring your meat up to room temperature before you cook it
  5. Don’t overcook your meat
  6. Cook your meat low and slow
  7. Make sure to let your meat rest
  8. Slice your meat against the grain

Most of these methods can be combined to yield tender meat. That doesn’t mean if you try all of them, you can turn a cheap, tough piece of meat into top-of-the-line Wagyu, but you can get better results otherwise. 

If you’ve burned your meat and it’s stuck to the bottom of the Instant Pot, there are some things you can do to salvage it.

Methods for Tenderizing Meat Before Cooking in an Instant Pot

These methods can be combined with one or more methods to yield better results. However, there is a point where meat quality and diminishing returns factor in. If you follow these methods, you should end up with more tender meat more often than not.

Marinade Your Meat Overnight

If you marinate your meat in a marinade based on acid, the marinade will start to break down the connective tissue in the meat, which causes the meat to feel tough. It is also a way to impart flavor easily.

Use a Physical Meat Tenderizer

You can also purchase a meat tenderizer. A meat tenderizer is a hammer with a flat side and a side with more pointed spikes. The meat tenderizer can be used to physically hammer your meat to thin it out and break up some of the tissues that make it tough.

Use a Powdered Meat Tenderizer

Another method is a powder or seasoning-style meat tenderizer such as Adolph’s Unseasoned Tenderizer. Powdered meat tenderizer breaks down the enzymes in the meat, causing it to become more tender. It is also MSG free and unseasoned, so it won’t affect the flavor of your meat.

Bring Your Meat to Room Temperature Before You Cook It

You should also bring your meat to room temperature before cooking it in your Instant Pot. 

This will aid in the Maillard reaction and allow for a better sear on your meat and help your meat become tender by starting off closer to the final cooking temperature.

Don’t Overcook Your Meat

A very important method is don’t overcook your meat. Knowing which temperature your meat should be at for your desired doneness level is important. If you can check the meat’s temperature periodically, you can be certain that you don’t overcook your meat. Overcooked meat is the first culprit of tough meat in an Instant Pot.

Pressure cooking allows the meat to cook much faster than in a regular pot. This means that the breaking down of tissues that cause toughness happens faster, but it also means that your meat can become overcooked much faster if you aren’t watching carefully.

Does Meat Get More Tender the Longer You Pressure Cook It?

Meat does get more tender the longer you pressure cook it, but it can still be burned. 

Cooking meat low and slow, using the slow cooker option, breaks down the connective tissue in meat and allows it to become more tender. A pressure cooker speeds this process up by using pressure in addition to low and slow heat. 

Pressure cooking your meat will yield similar results as cooking the meat in a slow cooker but in a fraction of the time. However, burning your meat in a pressure cooker is still possible.

Pay attention to cook times when using a pressure cooker. You will eventually hit a point of diminishing returns and just burn your meat.

Cook Your Meat Low and Slow

The best method for cooking meat in an Instant Pot will always be low and slow. You can pressure cook and yield great results, but they will never be as consistently tender as cooking it on low for 8 hours. 

Let Your Meat Rest Before Slicing It

It’s important to let your meat rest once it is done cooking. 

Letting the meat rest allows the juices of the meat to redistribute throughout the piece of meat after cooking. If you cut immediately into your meat after cooking, all of the moisture will escape, and you will end up with a dry piece of meat. The moisture is redistributed and becomes more tender by letting your meat rest.

Slice Your Meat Against The Grain

Meat has a grain to it. Similar to wood. If you see the grain in meat and you slice your meat against that grain, you won’t have long pieces of tissue. 

The individual pieces of tissue will be cut on the bias and therefore less stringy, leading to a more tender feel even if the meat itself isn’t any more tender.


Many methods can yield more tender meat when cooking with an Instant Pot. Pressure cooking by nature speeds up the cooking process and can tenderize meats quicker than other cooking methods. Still, it also makes it easier to overcook your meat if you aren’t watching it carefully.