Last winter, there was a surge in chatter about the Instant Pot, also known by other brands as a multi-cooker. With slow cooking as one of its many functions, it’s no surprise—tis the season. But we noticed another uptick in talk about these nifty gadgets again recently. While I’d like to think it’s because people are looking for a handy tool to make dinner while they’re out having summer fun, I feel like Amazon Prime Day might be at play too. No matter the reason, if you’ve been wondering what the heck an Instant Pot is anyway, here’s the deal.

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Related: A quick guide to the buttons on your Instant Pot.


The Instant Pot is a brand of multi-cooker, a programmable countertop kitchen appliance that has several functions including slow cooking, pressure cooking, browning, steaming, frying, and rice cooking. Yes, truly, and you can use it to replace your slow cooker, pressure cooker, and rice cooker for one gadget instead of three.


What is an Instant Pot (or multi-cooker)? Here's the deal, plus a model we love: The Fagor Lux Multi Cooker | Cool Mom Eats

There are lots of multi-cookers on the market in addition to the Instant Pot, including the one I own (and love), the Fagor Lux Muti Cooker. I know that Instant Pot is a catchy name, but if you’re serious about investing in one of these, be sure to research multi-cookers and not just the Instant Pot brand.

Related: 7 tasty dinners you can make with your Instant Pot

Instant Pot / Multi-Cooker: What does it do?

How to cook eggs in a pressure cooker, Instant Pot or multi-cooker. And bonus: They're always easy to peel! | The Kitchn

How to cook eggs in a pressure cooker | Photo by Kelli Foster for The Kitchn

There’s not much more to say about these gadgets, because, well, one appliance that acts as your slow cooker, a pressure cooker (which, if you’re not familiar with them, can cut your cooking time down to a fraction and help retain essential nutrition), rice cooker, and browns meat is pretty mind-blowing. Here are just a fraction of the things you can do with an Instant Pot or multi-cooker:

  • Make anything that you can also make in a slow cooker, including these unexpected uses for your slow cooker
  • Make anything that you can also make in a pressure cooker
  • Cook dried beans in just minutes (compared to hours!)
  • Make rice
  • Make yogurt
  • Sauté meat and/or vegetables
  • Reheat food or keep it warm over a length of time
  • Make hard cooked eggs that also peel easily (photo by Kelli Foster for the Kitchen, above)
  • Make soup or porridge
  • Steam vegetables
  • Cook meat straight from the freezer (another great one for those nights when you’ve forgotten to defrost ahead of time

Related: 10 dinner recipes you can make using your Instant Pot

With so many uses, the question is: Does it do all of these things well? Research and reviews are the way to determine this for each and every model, but I can tell you that my Fagor Lux Muti Cooker is my favorite kitchen appliance.

My multi-cooker is easy to program; can be set for a delayed start so that, for example, if I need something to slow cook for only 2 hours, but will be out all day, I can program it to wait to start cooking until 2 hours before dinner; makes great rice, which was very important to me since I was used to a top-of-the-line Japanese rice cooker; and even browns shockingly well considering it’s a non-stick insert. I used to skip the browning part when making stews in my slow cooker since dirtying a pan for this extra step seemed to defeat the dump-set-and-go purpose of using my slow cooker in the first place. I have this problem no more.

And speaking of the insert, it cleans like a dream and is dishwasher safe.


Is an Instant Pot / multi-cooker right for you?

Clearly, I’m a fan of multi-cookers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right for you. If you never, ever use your slow cooker, have no interest in a pressure cooker, prefer to make rice on the stove, find it hard to create new cooking habits (and don’t care about changing that), hate having appliances like a slow cooker out on the counter, and/or just don’t have space to store it in a place where you can easily access it, then this might not be for you. But if you think you’ll actually use one and have just been wondering if it’s real or a gimmick, I can tell you from my experience that a well-reviewed multi-cooker is, in fact, the real deal.