Instant Pot Smart Programs Vs Functions
Instant Pots are beloved because of their ability to cook foods quickly using pressure. But theyre also wildly popular, in part, because theyre true multi-cookers that can be used to braise, sauté, steam, and so much more. But all Instant Pots are not created equaler, not every model can perform every function, and theyre billed accordingly . All Instant Pots can pressure-cook, slow-cook, sauté, and keep warm, and fancier models tack on additional cooking methods like yogurt-making, sous vide cooking, broiling, and air-frying. The functions are customizable, and while you cant air-fry or broil in a model that doesnt have an air-frying lid, people still manage to bake cake in models that dont offer mini oven functionality and make yogurt in models that arent officially marketed for yogurt-making.
The Instant Pot Smart Programs allow you to engage each cookers listed functionality with the touch of a button. Many models also have additional Smart Programs that take the guesswork out of specific items like cake, yogurt, eggs, brown rice, and more. The buying guide below details which and how many functions and Smart Programs are available with each model.
Instant Pot Vs Ninja Foodi
Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi are two of the biggest names in the multi-cooker world and are regularly compared to see which is best. Both brands create a wide number of appliances including everything from air fryers to blenders.
As you might expect, the larger and more feature-heavy appliances from Instant Pot and Ninja Foodi are more expensive, but generally speaking, Ninja models are normally more expensive.
Itâs also worth comparing how easy these machines are to clean. Ninja Foodi machines feature a cooking pot with a non-stick coating so you shouldnât need to scrub for hours to get rid of any food. Instant Pots have stainless steel pots but both of the brandsâ pots can be placed in a dishwasher.
Weâve compared these brands in detail, to find out which came out on top, read our Ninja Foodi vs Instant Pot feature.
Yes If You Love The Convenience Of One
The Instant Pot Pro Plus has all the same consistently great cooking functions that it always has. But the company clearly invested in research on how to improve their original pressure cooker. Bravo for the follow-through. Thanks to its looks , user-friendly additions like lid holders, inner pot handles and large dial, and better functionality like the Instant Pot app, quicker heating times and programmable steam-release, would I buy this Instant Pot? In an instant.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
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The Steamed Veggie Experiment
Match-up: Instant Pot vs. vegetable steamer
Test Recipe: Steamed fresh broccoli florets, from the Instant pot recipe manual
Instant potTotal time: 12 min
Assessment: The directions for steaming are simple and the broccoli had a bright green colour and was perfectly tender-crisp.
Verdict: Honestly, we could go either way.
It Heats Up Faster Than The Original
If there was a complaint about the first Instant Pot it was the overpromise/underdeliver of the instant aspect. At times, the heating time was longer than expected. Thanks to an upgraded stainless-steel inner pot with an extra-thick aluminum layer, I did notice faster heating times. The flat bottom was also great for even sautéing.
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Why Room Temperature Ingredients
If youre wondering why the dairy and eggs all specify room temperature, its because they will blend easier and smoother than cold ingredients.
You dont want to overmix the ingredients or you wont get perfect cheesecake. If you use room temperature ingredients, its a simple way to reduce how much you mix them.
Can You Freeze Cheesecake
Yes, the best way to freeze cheesecake is to slice and freeze the individual slices. Theyll last for up to a month without the texture changing too much.
I like to flash freeze them, then tightly wrap them in plastic wrap and place all of the individually wrapped slices in a freezer safe container or freezer bag. Then we can just defrost individual slices as needed.
To defrost, place the in fridge overnight or on the counter just until defrosted .
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The Critiera: What We Look For In An Instant Pot
The most useful function of an Instant Pot is its ability to pressure cook, so you want to get a model that quickly comes to pressure. Since many pressure cooker recipes start with a searing or sautéing step, it can help to have an Instant Pot with inner pot stability, so the pot doesnt spin while youre cooking. You want to know whats going on inside your machine while youre cooking, so an easy-to-read progress bar is super helpful. Some additional functions, like being able to use your Instant Pot for not-very-precise sous vide cooking, are sometimes welcome, but others, like the cake-baking function included in some models, we don’t find particularly attractive. However, if the Instant Pot model advertises it can do those functions, it should do them passably well.
What Else We Tested
We tested 11 electric pressure cookers for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut.
What else we recommend and why:
Zavor LUX LCD: Professional chef and chocolatier Anne Wolf liked this model when working at America’s Test Kitchen. It has more than 30 programmable settings, including sous vide, and an easy-to-read LCD. In our tests, it was easy to set up and use. It was quick to build pressure and made juicy, easy-to-shred pulled pork. However, we weren’t as impressed with its bean cooking and meat searing.
Ninja Foodi XL Pressure Cooker: The Ninja Foodi rose to prominence as the first multicooker to feature air frying. We almost made it our multitasking pick, but we chose the Instant Pot Duo Crisp because it also does sous vide. Yet, if you have no interest in sous vide, consider the Foodi, which did a great job searing, slow cooking, and pressure cooking delicious meals, though it took longer than most units to build pressure. Read our comparison of the Instant Pot Duo Crisp vs. the Ninja Foodi.
What we don’t recommend and why:
Crock-Pot Express Oval Max: This was the only multicooker we tested that had an oval inner pot. We only found this helpful in fitting longer cuts of meat and keeping the pot from spinning when stirring. However, it was slow to build pressure, didn’t sear well, and the included recipes weren’t accurate.
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Test : User Experience
Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik
The test: In reading reviews from Instant Pot users, a common user experience complaint is fear about the steam released when venting the pressure cooker. To find the least scary option, we added 3 cups of water to each pot, sealed the lid, and selected the pressure cook option for 5 minutes. Once the cooking ended, we released the pressure and waited for the float valve to drop before opening the lid.
Another common frustration is about how the inner pot spins uncontrollably while sautéing. We took note of this behavior while searing the meat and sautéing the onions for the chili test mentioned above.
Intuitive design is also a heavy hitter in affecting user experience. The control panels on each model vary some use buttons while others have dials for navigating options. Each model gives information about whats happening inside the pot through different status indicators.
Ease of cleaning, of course, is also important.
All of the pots spun while we was searing and sautéing except for one: the Duo Pro. We tested this pot both on the stovetop and in the machine and it was stable in both methods. It had handles that held it put in the cooker’s base.
The Duo Pro was the easiest to navigate, and the steam release felt safe and simple. The upgraded inner pot that doesnt spin when stirring and can be used on the stovetop is a true value-add.
The Best Instant Pots For 2022
With an Instant Pot, cooking meals is faster and easier. You can create quick recipes for everything from shredded chicken to dessert with less time and effort.
Our pick for the best Instant Pot is the tried-and-true Instant Pot Duo 8-quart. The model is large enough to fit a whole chicken or roast, yet versatile enough to cook everything from cheesecake to chili. If the Duo 8-quart isnt for you, weve also picked our best Instant Pot models for an individual, a family of four, a large family, and those on a budget.
If youre looking to snag a discount, you also can check out our list of the best Instant Pot deals available today.
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Average Price For An Instant Pot
The price of an Instant Pot depends mainly on the model. Since all Instant Pots come in 6-quart sizes , we’ll use this size for comparison.
A 5.7-litre Instant Pot Lux costs around $80.
A 5.7-litre Instant Pot Duo costs around $100.
A 5.7-litre Instant Pot Duo Plus costs around $120.
A 5.7-litre Instant Pot Ultra costs around $150.
A 5.7-litre Instant Pot Smart costs around $160.
Best Air Fryer: Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer 11
Capacity: 8 quarts | Dimensions : 15.3 x 14.8 x 13.6 inches | Weight: 22.7 pounds | Programs: 11
Air fryers are here to stay. If youre yearning for an air fryer, but hate the idea of packing yet another piece of kitchen equipment into your already overloaded cabinets, then a device that combines a multi-cooker and an air fryer will save valuable space. Luckily, Instant Pot designed a multi-cooker/air fryer hybrid, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp.
This model truly takes the Duo to the next level. The Duo Crisp performs 11 functions including sous vide, roasting, broiling, and dehydrating. It comes with two lids, the regular cooking lid with auto seal, and the air fryer lid. The 8-quart size provides enough space for air-fried foods to fully crisp up, and the included air-frying basket is specially designed to optimize airflow.
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Best Smart Electric Pressure Cooker
With its hundreds of preset programs and step-by-step interactive recipes, the Chef iQ Smart Cooker is outstandingly precise.
- Capacity: 6 quarts
- Inner pot material: Nonstick
- Settings: pressure cook, sear/saute, steam, slow cook, sterilize, keep warm, ferment, plus 300+ preset programs in its menu
- Number of included recipes: 1000+ in the Chef iQ App
- Extras: Extra sealing gasket, steam rack, steam basket, heat-resistant pad for the lid
Pros: WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, a helpful app with 1000+ interactive recipes, full-color screen with 300+ present programs, quickest to cook rice and beans, good at searing, easy to set up
Cons: Didn’t do well in our pulled pork tests
The Chef iQ Smart Cooker has the best screen and most precise cooking options of any of the tested units and was easy to set up. Whereas other models have a button for beans, the full-color screen of the Chef iQ cooker offers much more detail. It has specific programs based on bean type, whether they’re soaked, and how much you’re cooking. The customization worked well. The Smart Cooker cooked a pound of beans perfectly 13 minutes faster than any other model.
Here Are The Main Attributes We Looked For And How We Tested Them:
Setup: I timed how quickly I could get the cooker set up and building pressure from the moment I opened the box. I also noted whether I could do this without looking at the instructions or if the controls were confusing. Most units took five minutes or less to set up.
Pressurizing: Many pressure cooker recipes look like they won’t take long, but few recipes factor in the time it takes for the unit to build pressure. A cooker that builds pressure quickly is a real timesaver. I tested how long it took each model to get up to pressure with just four cups of water inside. I also tracked how long the pressure build took during the cooking tests. I gave more favorable scores to cookers that built pressure quickly.
Performance: I put each multicooker through five cooking tests:
Additional cooking functions: Three of the units I tested featured sous vide cooking, and two had air frying capabilities. I cooked a NY Strip at 129 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours to test the sous vide and assessed how tender and flavorful it was. All sous vide cookers performed well. For air frying, I cooked a pound of Ore-Ida Extra Crispy Fast Food French Fries at 400 degrees for eight minutes shaking the basket halfway through and judged the doneness.
I donated most of the pulled pork my family didn’t eat to a local restaurant to keep waste to a minimum. And, extra rice and beans went to feed the pigs at a local farm.
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What Instant Pot Accessories Do I Need
Since each Instant Pot model is a little different, its important to read the manual and learn about the various features and settings of your Instant Pot. Generally, every model will include an outer body with a display panel and buttons, a lid, a pressure valve, a steam release valve, a plastic collector cup to catch any condensation released during slow-cooking, a stainless-steel or nonstick inner pot, a sealing ring that surrounds the lid and helps absorb odors, and a steam rack or basket to elevate food inside the inner pot.
Any Instant Pot accessories or gadgets you may choose to buy to bulk up your cookers functionality are just a bonus. Depending on what you plan to make with your Instant Pot, extras range from practical and essential to plain old fun. Some people buy extra sealing rings so they can use one for meat and one for baked goods. Some invest in egg trivets if they cook a lot of hard-boiled eggs. Some look into springform pans to make cheesecake and quiche.
The Quickie Risotto Experiment
Match-up: Instant Pot vs. pressure cooker
Instant PotTotal time: 30 min
Assessment: With the Instant Pots pressure cooker function, it took 10 minutes longer than the pressure cooker to finish the risotto . The final taste and texture were very comparable, giving you a risotto with great al dente bite.
Verdict: If youre skipping a traditional stovetop risotto, the Instant Pot gets the job done .
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A Summary Of My Instant Pot Review
Clearly, I am still a fan. A huge fan. And a bigger one than when I reviewed it more than three years ago. I love that it really does save me time. It helps me with meal prep. And it makes a few dishes that just taste better than other methods. While I certainly dont use all the functions on this small appliance, the ones I do use make it worth the real estate it takes up in my small kitchen. If you told me three years ago that I was going to be such a huge fan, Im not sure I would have believed you. But now it makes me wonder: How much more will I love it in three more years when I have a toddler?
How long have you had your Instant Pot? Do you love it as much as I love mine?
Why Doesnt The Cheesecake Have A Smooth Top
If you pull your cheesecake out of the Instant Pot and discover the top isnt smooth, there are usually 2 things that could have gone wrong besides using cold ingredients, which we already talked about in tip #2.
First, if you didnt wrap the pan tight enough in foil, water could have gotten inside the pan from the steam. That has happened to me the first time I made it, and I was so disappointed.
The good news is that the cheesecake should still taste good even if it doesnt have a smooth top. Just load it up with toppings and people will never know .
The other thing that can cause this to happen is to overwhip the cheesecake filling. If you put too much air into it when beating the filling, it will have more air in it rather than being dense like cheesecake is supposed to be. So make sure youre blending the ingredients on low and for only as long as necessary to combine them.
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Is An Instant Pot Really Worth It
Thereâs no denying an Instant Pot is a great kitchen appliance but you may be wondering if itâs really worth it? Or will it simply end up as another kitchen gadget that languishes on your countertop gathering dust?
Itâs important to remember that while Instant Pots offer a multitude of cooking methods, many of which means you no longer need to use an oven or a hob, they canât cook everything. For example, theyâre not an option if you regularly prepare pasta, noodles, or stir frys. And while some do come with lids that can air fry, we found making fries in an Instant Pot wasnât as good as using one of the best air fryers.
At the same time, you canât just pop the lid off and check the dish youâre cooking, as you would when using the hob, the oven, or a slow cooker. Youâll need to release the pressure, effectively stop cooking, and detach the lid. Then if the dish isnât ready, youâll need to start cooking again.
Similarly, an Instant Pot can certainly shave a few hours off cooking stews, ribs and other dishes that usually take the best part of a day to cook, however with dishes like rice or steaming vegetables the time saving is minimal, which may mean an Instant Pot isnât worth the investment.