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Multifunction and all-in-one appliances are a great way to save space in your kitchen and eliminate the need to pull out (and clean) multiple pots, pans and gadgets while trying to throw together dinner.
The Thermomix is the holy grail of all-in-one appliances with the ability to chop, blend, knead, weigh, stir and cook in just one neat-looking machine, but it’s eye-watering $2,360 price tag makes it a serious investment.
A smaller step into the world of all-in-one appliances is a multi cooker which can slow cook, pressure cook, sauté and steam, making it quick and easy to whip up melt-in-your mouth lamb ragu or an osso buco that falls right off the bone.
Sitting at the $150-$300 price mark, multi cookers are a much more affordable alternative, and while they won’t replace your food processor or juicer, they’ll definitely make short work of dinner.
Duo Nova’s Instant Pot is one such multi cooker and it’s been so popular it’s become a best selling kitchen item on Amazon Australia.
With over 800 glowing reviews including from shoppers who call it "the best purchase of the year" and "a permanent fixture on my kitchen bench", we decided to put it through its paces.
Is an Instant Pot multi cooker worth it?
The Instant Pot can replace your rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker and yogurt maker, but in my opinion, the best thing about it is that you can create healthy and cheap meals quickly and without too much mess.
I’ve been using it to pull together meals that would normally take me four or five hours, in less than one. The fact that it pressure cooks means that all those slow-cooked winter warmers like lamb shanks, that I’m too disorganised to prep before work, can easily be thrown into the pot an hour before dinner.
It’s as simple as browning off the meat using the sauté function, then chucking in the rest of the ingredients and enough liquid to cook it, and shutting the lid. No stirring or standing over the stove to check on your meal, and only one pot (and lid) to clean at the end.
While I’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys cooking the traditional way - that is, in an oven or on a stovetop - juggling work and a toddler with reduced childcare during lockdown pushed me to try a one pot solution and I don't think I'll ever look back.
So far I’ve used it to make lamb shanks, lentils, a chicken and brown rice burrito bowl, vegetable soup, lamb ragu pasta sauce, mushroom risotto and a chicken broth, all of which I was very pleased with. The meat comes out so tender it's hard to pull it out of the pot because it literally falls apart as you pick it up, so it's a great excuse to use the cheap cuts.
I also saw Instagrammer StylingMyInterior used an Instant Pot to make choc lava cakes, while home cook Jessica Nguyen used one to steam dumplings and crab with separately sold mesh steamer baskets that I now desperately want.
Do you need to follow specific recipes?
There are loads of recipes around on the internet and in the free Instant Pot app, but I've been freestyling and using my own recipes without a problem.
The pressure cooking function significantly reduces the cooking time on your slow cooked meals so this cheat sheet helps you determine how long to set the Instant Pot for when using your own recipes.
A note to bear in mind about the cooking times is that while you set the pot for a certain number of minutes, that doesn't include the time it takes for the pressure to build which is an additional 10-15 minutes. If you want to let the steam out naturally, then you have to add another 10-15 minutes to the end of your cooking time too, otherwise, there's a quick release valve to release the steam far more quickly.
Also bear in mind that the display isn't very detailed which is a bit confusing at first. The Instant Pot is simple enough to use with a few preset buttons for soups, meat, poultry, rice etc, and then the option to vary the cooking time and intensity, however, after you select an option, nothing on the display really changes until the pressure has built up and the timer starts counting down.
While the Instant Pot comes with set up and safety instructions, you don’t get detailed cooking directions so I had to do a bit of googling to work it out, especially because I kept getting a food burn error from not putting in enough liquid.
I found it took me a few gos to get my head around how it works, but now that I understand it, it's very easy to whip up a meal.
Other multi cookers on the market
The Instant Pot comes in three different sizes, a 3L for $189 (currently on sale for $151), a 5.7L for $193, and an 8L for $299 (currently on sale for $239), depending on how much food you want to make at once. I have the 5.7L which is great for my family of three.
Of course, it isn't the only multi cooker around and the Breville Fast Slow Pro Multi Cooker is a similar machine with a 6L capacity for $289.
It also has positive reviews on Amazon Australia, with one shopper describing it as "a workhorse in my kitchen." Another said it's replaced their slow-cooker, rice-cooker and old fashioned pressure-cooker, and while it was "a little intimidating to start with" they're now using it to make all sorts of quick and easy recipes.
The Philips All-In-One Multi Cooker will also steam, sauté, pressure cook and slow cook. It has a 6L capacity and is priced at $179.
Reviewers have called it a '"game-changer" and say it's extremely easy for them to now whip up meals at home with minimal effort required.
An even cheaper option is the Russell Hobbs Express Chef Digital Multi Cooker which retails for $150 (currently on sale for $129).
Shoppers have raved about its versatility with one person saying, "I use it all the time. Has never let me down on any of the functions used. Couldn't do without it and it would be replaced if and when that time comes."
This author was provided with an Instant Pot to review.
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