My favorite multicooker isn’t an Instant Pot


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I’m still as in love as the day we met. 


Molly Price/CNET

In the Before Times, I was tasked with reviewing a new multicooker for CNET. I took it on with a high level of skepticism. I’d recently been gifted an Instant Pot Ultra 60 and found it to be overwhelming and unclear with a seemingly never-ending “burn” notice on the screen each time I attempted a dish that wasn’t soup. I just couldn’t see what everyone was on about when it came to this mega-trend in cooking.

Not to be defeated by my culinary failures, I jumped in with the Chef IQ Smart Cooker. Nearly two years later, I’m still as in love as the day we met. 

Molly Price/CNET

 

The Chef IQ Smart Cooker is a $200 six-quart multicooker. I’ll admit, that’s pricey. You can get a basic Instant Pot for around $70. However, the more similar Instant Pot Pro Plus comes in at $170. I’d argue that this model feels well worth its large sticker. 

This isn’t a side-by-side comparison to any particular Instant Pot model, but the screen on the Chef IQ Smart Cooker looks much more up to date than Instant Pot’s models. It’s not obnoxious (Hi, Revolution Toaster), but it feels modern and sophisticated.

The touch buttons, knobs and screen all work in harmony to easily guide you through the cooking process. You’ll even get seasonal updates to the lovely screen interface. Falling leaves adorn my smart cooker’s screen as we speak. 

My favorite thing about the Chef IQ Smart Cooker’s design is the simplest. It has a non-stick bowl. Cuisinart also produces cookers with nonstick bowls. Instant Pot models don’t come with this seemingly archaic luxury, however you can buy it from Instant Pot as an accessory for $15. 

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Every time I cook a recipe with rice, the Smart Cooker is my go to method. It frees up space on my stovetop, too.


Molly Price/CNET

I tried out the Instant Pot Smart Wi-Fi when it debuted back in 2018. We were pleased to see Wi-Fi replaced Bluetooth as the connecting technology, but the app left much to be desired. I’ll note here that I haven’t reviewed the latest Instant Pot Pro Plus, which seems to be replacing that original Wi-Fi model. 

Still, looking at even the latest smart model from Instant Pot, I get the familiar feeling of helplessness in the face of a sea of options that I’ll need to master. Perhaps the latest version of the app makes that simpler, but Chef IQ is still winning. 

Why? Because I don’t need my phone to learn and understand the Chef IQ Smart Cooker. I don’t need a forum or a recipe book that rivals the Cheesecake Factory menu binder. Sure, it’s lovely to peruse recipes and imagine the possibilities, but I don’t need the app to figure it out. 

Chef IQ’s platform includes helpful on-screen directions for anything you can cook in the pot. It’s just so simple. Choose a category and navigate through the sub-categories to your specific dish. From there, Chef IQ shows you the program it will run and displays the required amount of water or broth to add. It then uses the built-in scale to tell you when you’ve added enough. 

The Chef IQ on-screen guide offers plenty of direction for any ingredient. 


Chef IQ

That scale is also great for measuring ingredients. Not sure exactly how much chicken you have? The scale can measure it and adjust the cooking time accordingly. Need to throw in 6 ounces of cream cheese? Zero the scale and add the right amount on top of whatever is already in the bowl. 

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Pulled pork from the Chef IQ Smart Cooker is easy and delicious.


Molly Price/CNET

As I said, the app is solid. I haven’t used it as much as I’ve used the cooker itself, because the cooker can do so much on its own screen. However, the app is a great place to save recipe ideas and your favorite programs. If you cook pulled pork often, you can set up a “favorite” program and run it without having to dial in all the details on the cooker’s screen.

A helpful calculator shows you how to cook dozens of foods in several variations. You can start, pause and stop cooking from the app. You can view your cooker’s progress in the app and adjust if needed. When a recipe is finished, the cooker will beep and then automatically enter the appropriate pressure release mode. 

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The Chef IQ app is helpful and easy to navigate.


Screenshots by Molly Price/CNET

When it comes to smarts, the only big missing pieces are connectivity for Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri. You can’t ask to start a recipe with your voice. That’s less problematic than you might think. We saw voice commands on the Amazon Smart Oven, it seems silly to expect voice commands for a device that will still requires you to be physically present to put food in and take it out.

Preheating on a full-size oven makes sense. For smaller appliances that don’t need preheating time, I’m not sure voice control adds much in the way of convenience. 

The Chef IQ Smart Cooker won me over from the very beginning. It’s easy to understand, easy to clean and looks good. The app is helpful, simple and inspiring. It’s my go-to method for recipe basics like rice and chicken, and I can no longer imagine my weekly menu without it. 



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