Instant Pot 7-in-1 multi-cooker is hot for the holidays

Oh Instant Pot, Oh Instant Pot

How faithful are thy functions

Perfect risotto every time

And pork roast finer than fine

Oh Instant Pot, Oh Instant Pot

How faithful are thy functions

Instant Pot, we think we love you.

No-stir creamy risotto in half the time. Dried beans that cook up plump and quick — no pre-soaking required. Pork roast with perfectly cooked potatoes and carrots in silky sauce in an hour.

Say hello to your new best friend.

The Instant Pot, which originally made its debut in late 2010, has been steadily gaining popularity in the multi-cooker home appliance category because of its speed and ease-of-use. And this holiday season, it seems that the 7-in-1 appliance — slow cooker, pressure cooker, steamer, rice cooker, yogurt maker, warmer, browner — is on everyone’s wish list.

The multi-cooker is not just hot — it’s smokin’ hot. It’s been called a game-changer for scores of busy cooks. And on Black Friday, many stores sold out of them.

Sales of multi-cookers for a 12-month period ending in September were $978 million, according to market research firm NPD Group, an increase of 29 percent. (NPD considers electric pressure cookers, food steamers, fryers, multi-cookers, other cookers, rice cookers, roaster ovens and slow cookers as multi-cookers.)

While multi-cooker sales, which includes the Instant Pot, grew 56 percent, NPD Group says the slow cooker sales declined 5 percent. So it seems that the Instant Pot may be stealing a little shine from a culinary favorite.

“Historically with multi-cookers, they’d talk about rice cooking, slow cooking and sautéing,” says Joe Derochowski, NPD’s home industry adviser.

“The Instant Pot brought the speed and pressure cooking and it hit well with consumer’s needs.”

Derochowski pegs the explosive popularity of the Instant Pot to growth in the home category overall.

“The home has become more important and the kitchen has become important,” he says. “ … .more people are trying to be healthier and entertaining more.” And the biggest thing is we are eating more at home, eating more homemade meals and healthier meals.

Instant Pot isn’t the only multi-cooker out on the market. The Crock-pot Express Cooker, Fagor LUX and NuWAve also have similar features.

The Instant Pot comes in several sizes ranging from a mini (3-quart) to 6- and 8-quart versions. The larger capacity Instant Pot’s have several models including one with Blue Tooth capability.

We tried the Instant Pot out recently, here’s some of what we learned:

Pressure cooking is one of the Instant Pot’s highlights, which is where the speed comes in. Pressure cookers cook food under a good amount of pressure in less time than the oven or stove top. For example, a pot roast using 3 pounds of beef chuck takes about 4 hours in the oven. Under pressure, it cooks in just more than an hour. But cooking with pressure cookers of old, made people wary and afraid of the pot exploding — which was common. Pressure cookers these days have better safety mechanisms, and the Instant Pot does too.

Browning meat is something a slow cooker can’t do. Our first attempt at browning a pork roast using the saute function turned out extremely well. And another try, didn’t disappoint. So there was no need to dirty another pot or skillet just to brown meat.

The rice cooking function is basically set it, and forget it. It also cooks brown rice in nearly half the time compared to cooking it on the stove top — about 30 minutes vs. 60 minutes. Our first attempt at making brown rice was a gummy flop because we used too much water; the second batch, using less water, was better. Like anything you’ll need to experiment. And make sure you read the instruction manual carefully, it’s a must.

While testing the Instant Pot, we also tried a risotto dish. Those who’ve made risotto the traditional way know it can take time and constant stirring. The risotto we made in the Instant Pot, required no stirring and in half the time.

You can set the Instant Pot for multi-grain cooking for soups and stews. These are preset functions with most rely on pressure cooking.

What the Instant Pot doesn’t do is make things crisp. You can cook a whole chicken in it, but the skin won’t get crispy. It will be brown, but not crisp.

The only downside with pressure cooking is the time it takes for the inner pot to come up to pressure. Once it does, the actual cooking time begins.

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