The Instant Pot. The Air Fryer. The All-In-One Breakfast Maker. The latest craze for home cooks in the past few years has been appliances and gadgets that claim to revolutionize the way we cook. And I don’t know how to feel about it. Years of my youth spent fawning over those Betty Crocker cake insert pan commercials that played on Cartoon Network while also listening to Alton Brown condemn “Unitaskers” have lead to a weird cognitive dissonance. Do these gadgets work, or not?
Let’s start with the hottest appliance of the past decade: the Instant Pot. Has it really lived up to the hype? The results have been a resounding, “I Guess.” It’s hard to deny that they are, in fact, really, really good pressure cookers. But most of the bonus features they brag about seem a little underwhelming. Its saute function won’t so much as brown meat as much as it will grey it. Any attempts at “roasted” vegetable recipes will basically turn to mush. And while the rice cooking function seems to work just fine, it seems like most of the things I would want to cook in an Instant Pot (braises, stews, curries, etc.) I would probably want served over rice, so I personally would stick to just having a dedicated rice cooker (but that’s just my Japanese bias).
Side note: I’ve been calling them InstaPots this whole time. Is it really not called that?!?
Despite my parents’ obsession with them (they have two), I’ve never understood the hype behind the air fryer. It’s basically a giant convection toaster oven. Air-fried foods, for better or worse, taste exactly the same as if you just baked them. And the claims that you can roast a chicken in them seem to fall flat when you realize the size of the basket, even on bigger models, just isn’t big enough.
I’m not even going to justify going in-depth on those cutesy all-in-one breakfast machines, the only thing they’re good for is Pinterest posts.
The latest flavor of this trend has been integrating Smart Home tech into the kitchen. But there’s too many uncontrollable variables in cooking- the temperature the food was being held at before cooking, its shape, its moisture content, your geographical elevation– that apps just aren’t intuitive enough (yet?) to get down to an exact science. Alexa, for example, can’t cook foods unless given such superficial instructions that they add more hastle to the cooking process. Some smart ovens have been known to randomly turn on in the middle of the night, broiling away at 400 degrees for hours until their owners wake up. Hell, KitchenAid’s smart appliance site even says you can’t remotely turn off appliances from the app, so what’s the point of having a smart kitchen if it doesn’t alleviate the age-old question: “Did I leave the stove on?”
I’m not saying that technology is the devil. If someone developed a home version of the combi oven- a restaurant industry appliance that can be set to convection bake, steam, or a hybrid of the two- that worked properly at a feasible price point, I’d snatch one up in a heartbeat. But so many of the gadgets seem to be focused less on “what niche can we fill?” and more on “what can we sucker people into buying?”
IDK, if yall have any devices you want me to do a little more of an in-depth look into, chime off in the comments.