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The Instant Pot Craze and How it's Disrupting Kitchens Everywhere

The Canadian-designed Instant Pot (opens in new tab) is essentially a roided out slow cooker for half the price of most decent slow cookers on the market. There are several iterations of the Instant Pot, and it may just be able to replace every imaginable kitchen appliance you have.

So what's the hubbub? Is the hype real? Let's take a look!

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What does it do?

I think, in terms of kitchen capabilities, the better question is what doesn't the Instant Pot do? The lower-end versions have 6-in-1 functionality, while the Ultra, for example, can be a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, egg cooker, sauté cooker, steamer, warmer, and sterilizer. Oh, and the 6-quart Ultra model is only $150 (opens in new tab)... Somehow…

Basically, the Instant Pot could be your tool for cooker just about everything. With many programmable cooking options, for everything from soup broth to cakes, it's looking to be the appliance killer.

How many versions are there?

In terms of the technology that powers each Instant Pot model, we're on version three. As for number of models, they are as follows:

  • Lux (3-quart, 5-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart)
  • Duo (3-quart, 6-quart-8-quart)
  • Duo Plus (3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart)
  • Ultra (3-quart, 6-quart, 8-quart)
  • Smart Bluetooth (6-quart)
  • Gem (6-quart)
  • Max (forthcoming, 6-quart)
  • Accu SV800 (sous vide immersion circulator)

Each version differs slightly by its functions and programmability, but at their core, they all act as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, browner (sauté), and warmer. From there, you're just adding on program options, timers, differently powered heating elements, and other features. Prices range from around $80 (6-quart Lux) (opens in new tab) to about $180 (8-quart Ultra) (opens in new tab), depending on the size and model.

The Max model was just announced at the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. It'll be able to get up to 15 psi for the pressure cooker setting (current models can only hit 12 psi), and will even have a canning setting, an agitator for stirring food, and automatic pressure venting.

Is it worth it?

In a word, yes. In terms of convenience, the Instant Pot outdoes several traditional methods of cooking, even if it does take a little longer in some scenarios. If you hate having to stand over a frying pan or laboriously stir your oatmeal so that it doesn't burn, then you'll forgo the extra few minutes for the convenience of the Instant Pot. It isn't without its shortcomings, of course, but the Instant Pot certainly does have its place. But don't just take my word for it:

You may not want to toss away your old slow-cooker, but if you're in the market for a new one or a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot does both well (even if you don't find yourself using the bevy of alternate options that often). We wouldn't reach for it to replace our sauté pans, though. (Heather MacMullin, Chatelaine magazine)But perhaps the biggest pressure cooker joy I found was for something as simple as hard-cooked eggs. They didn't cook faster, but even fresh eggs from the farmers' market peeled effortlessly, without ending up pockmarked and riddled with craters the way they do when I boil them in a pot. (Melissa Clark, New York Times)Fans of slow cookers might be skeptical, but this pressure cooker really does make food taste like you've been cooking all day. (Megan Willett, Insider)

So yeah, you'll find that traditional methods may be a bit faster or may provide more of the textures you prefer (especially with chicken skin), but if you're looking for convenience in terms of not having to really do anything after you set it up and turn it on, then there's none better.

There are tons of recipes online, a devoted Facebook community with over 1.3 million members, and the Instant Pot app (opens in new tab), which has even more recipes (and lets you control your Smart Bluetooth model!).

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What do we think, cooks?

Are you clamoring for an easier way to cook the foods you love? Would you ever consider a pressure cooker? How 'bout one that does 7 to 10 more things? Sound off in the comments below!

Mick is a staff writer who's as frugal as they come, so he always does extensive research (much to the exhaustion of his wife) before making a purchase. If it's not worth the price, Mick ain't buying.

1 Comment
  • I guess this is the "more" in iMore? :/