The Instant Pot Review
The Instant Pot came out about ten years ago. And became the “it” present holiday season 2018. Now that we’ve all become accustomed to it, how does it compare to a traditional crock pot? Let’s dive in…
In short, this is not your mother’s crock-pot. Traditionally, Mom’s Crock-Pot worked slow and steady. The brilliance of putting food in a cooker, and walking away has made family dinners and kept Moms happy for generations. But in 2010, the Instant Pot arrived on the market. This versatile machine can cook beans, rice, meats, and yogurt. It is a pressure cooker, using less energy at a faster pace compared to it’s older sister, the Crock-Pot.
As a woman who rarely cooks, friends and family have encouraged me to try the Instant Pot. According to these pressure-cooker lovers, this is the best tech for your home kitchen. I questioned that sensibility, but decided to give it a try and see for myself.
Just out of it’s cardboard box, I stared at all the buttons. Eighteen (or twenty?) to be exact. At first glance it’s hard to know what are buttons and what are icons decorating the pot’s front. “Where to start…” I thought, grabbing the instruction book and glancing through. The instructions essentially re-explained what the front buttons said, “cook meat here” with an arrow pointing to a picture of the front button titled, “Meat”. “Meat”, “Porridge”, and other front labels imply that already. But the user then has to trust the Instant Pot knows how hot and for how long the cooker needs to work. The human in me doesn’t trust the technology. Back to my trial-run, and not well instructed, I compared the visual of excessive buttons to a microwave. Does anyone actually use the extra, food-specific buttons? Or are we all guessing between “30 SEC” and “1” 99% of the time? Known for decisiveness and perhaps impatience (maybe this is why I don’t cook too often), the poor instructions weren’t helping and so I moved straight to the “next step”. I finagled the hooked lid open, popped vegetables in the bowl, re-clamped the top and pushed “Pressure Cook” until the screen seemed to respond.
User feedback so far; Clearer Instructions needed. The lid is mechanically complicated. I want an “on” and an “off” button more pronounced than all the other iconography afronting this dream device.
About 10 minutes go by, and it feels time to check if anything is cooked. I’ll write that again, it “feels” right. There is no way to see what is cooking inside. This is UX challenge #4. I want to see if the food is ready. Not guess. Still, I digress. The complex child-proof-with-added-pressure-lid mechanics is stuck. I hold my breath as I push all my weight into aligning the arrows. Now worried the veggies are overcooking, I scramble more. Pushing and tugging at the lid, one hand on the top grip, the other wrapped around the outside, it seems to be loosening. After about four minutes of full-strength contorting, Iggy Azalea’s Work on-repeat in the background, and my hands and face now beat red, the lid bursts open.
User feedback: Not an easy lid to open.
Almost breaking a sweat, I scooped out soggy carrots and green beans. Concluding, “It might take a few tries.” I ate apples and peanut butter for dinner while I cleaned up.
All-in-all, just like most everything in life, the more you use it, the easier it gets. But that first attempt was not ideal. It can be better. It should be better.
I imagine on a cold winter night, a family or busy couple would love this “high tech” for their kitchen. It makes delicious, comforting food. But can’t we do better? It’s 2021. I want buttons that make sense and are immediately responsive. I want simplified instructions and lids that slide off with ease. We have cars that teach themselves in-real-time how we drive (Thank you Tesla), but still struggle with pots. Our standards should rise. I get it, we are fighting physics here. But I expect more from kitchen devices in the twenty-first century.
It wasn’t too long ago when our grandmothers were warriors with iron skillets. I applaud the kitchen tooling accessibility William Sonoma and Le Creuset have created for the masses. But now it’s time for hardtech engineers to catch up with the times. How about clear directions, simple lids, and a way to see inside? All-in-all, I give my Instant Pot an “okay”. It does the job thousands of homes have expected for years and years. But as a designer, and customer amongst today’s high-tech kitchenware, I want a better UX. It’s time to make the Instant Pot experience as smooth as the broth it boils.