Posts with «food & cooking» label

GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker review: Turning your kitchen into a BBQ joint

It sounds too good to be true. The ability to smoke meats, seafood and more inside your kitchen without risking your security deposit doesn’t seem like something that should be possible. GE Appliances begs to differ. The company debuted the final version of its GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker just before CES, quickly nabbing the attention of this wood-fired-grill reviewer. Thanks to a unique filtration system, the unit captures smoke while cooking and only expels warm air (out of the front). After getting a small taste (literally one bite) in Vegas of what the smoker could do, I’ve spent the last few weeks cooking a variety of proteins to see if the $999 device is as compelling as it seems.


The GE indoor smoker has the stature of a small mini fridge. It’s not far off from the quick-cooking ovens behind the counter at Starbucks either. Its glossy front is two-thirds door, complete with viewing window, while the remaining space is dedicated to the control panel and pellet waste bin. Up top is a small sliding door at the front left for adding food-grade wood pellets. The sides and back look plain and boring, like a countertop oven or microwave, but that’s just fine. The contraption is short enough to fit under cabinets, but you’ll want to leave space on the sides and back for radiant heat.

At the bottom of the front, there’s a vent where the GE indoor smoker expels warm air while it’s cooking. The company also provides a small drip tray that slides under the front edge to help keep your counter clean. Over to the right, a display sits up top to show you status, probe temperature, smoker temperature, cook time and smoke level. You turn a knob to navigate settings and menus and then press to confirm your choices. Back and Start buttons flank that dial on the left and right sides respectively. There’s progress and status lights that encircle the knob too, adding a visual cue during preheating, cooking and more.

Under the knob is a smattering of buttons to get to certain functions quickly. These include settings, cancel, the interior light, activating the Clear Smoke feature and toggling between probe temperature and cooking time on the display. There’s also a power switch in this group and they’re all touch-based rather than clicky physical buttons.

Inside, supports snap onto the sides to hold the three moveable racks in place. A drip pan slides into the bottom to catch grease and other debris. To keep tabs on food temps, a probe snaps into a jack at the top right of the cooking chamber and can be stored on the outside of the smoker via a magnetic holder when not in use. Lastly, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker’s prime piece of tech, the Active Smoke Filtration system, is on the back interior wall.

Setup and use

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Another benefit of the GE indoor smoker is that it’s ready to go out of the box. There’s no seasoning or burn-off required to get rid of oils or other manufacturing leftovers. Simply snap the rack supports in place, slide in the racks, put the drip pan in the bottom and that’s it for the cooking chamber. Once you add pellets in the slot up top and fill the water tank to the indicated level, the smoker is almost ready to start cooking.

One more step you’ll need to do the first time you cook, or anytime you empty the pellet chute, is to prime the auger. This ensures that the device will start producing smoke quickly and efficiently, giving your food as much time as possible to bathe in it. Afterwards, you can choose a preset or opt to go full manual mode (called Customize) and you’re off and running.

GE has dialed-in selections for brisket, pork ribs, pork butt, wings, chicken and salmon. These offer the necessary time and temperature settings for proper cooking, including a recommended smoke level. Additionally, you can determine the duration of the cook based on time or internal food temperature. Once either of those are achieved, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker can automatically go into Keep Warm mode until you’re ready to eat.

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

A word on larger cuts: you’ll need to portion them out in order to make them fit. For things like ribs and brisket, you can easily slice them in half and make use of the rack system. I did chuckle when reading the recipe book as GE says you can fit a 18-pound brisket in this smoker. That single cut of beef would take up most of the cooking area on some pellet grills, so you definitely have to cut it to fit here. And even then, the pieces will be quite large.

Pork butts fit with ease, as do whole chickens. If you prefer to spatchcock your birds to cook them, that won’t work here. However, you could easily do two chicken halves. I was also able to accommodate nearly four pounds of wings (flats and drums) across the three racks. Basically, any meat you’d smoke on an outdoor grill can be done on this unit, but some of them will take a bit of extra planning, and maybe a few cuts, to get them to fit.

How does the GE Indoor Smoker work?

After you’ve selected your preset or manually entered your cooking parameters and pressed start, the GE indoor smoker will ask you to confirm that you’ve added both pellets to the chute and water to the waste bin. From there, the device will preheat to the appropriate temperature before it begins producing any smoke. This will allow you to put your food inside without having to clear the smoke immediately. The last step is to push the start dial once more to begin the smoking process.

Before you open the door while things are cooking, you’ll need to activate the Clear Smoke function to avoid setting off any alarms in your kitchen. This takes 10 minutes, so you’ll have to plan ahead a bit – unless you don’t mind smoking up the room. I mention this because you will have to flip and rotate nearly everything you prepare in this thing to make sure it cooks evenly. I learned this lesson the hard way with a pork butt that burned on top but was undercooked near the bone. A simple flip and front-to-back rotation for everything about half-way through the process remedied the issue for everything I cooked after that, but it is an extra step that outdoor grills don’t require. You can leave a pork butt on a pellet grill unbothered until it’s done, but those have fans pushing heat around the cooking chamber. GE says it didn’t opt for a convection fan in this unit because of how it would’ve affected the flow of smoke.

Can you taste the smoke?

One of the biggest questions I had about the GE indoor smoker is if you’d actually be able to taste the smoke. The unit burns just enough wood pellets to fill the cooking chamber with smoke, which is enough to give proteins a kiss of flavor. It’s certainly not as intense as what you get on an outdoor grill, but it’s definitely there.

Since the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker does an excellent job of regulating temperature, the texture of all of those meats, and even seafood, is consistently moist and tender. Smoke flavor was most prominent in wings, chicken and salmon, but I could taste it in larger cuts of meat, too. GE allows you to adjust the smoke level from 0 to 5, so you can crank it all the way up to maximize the flavor if that’s your culinary preference. I almost always set it to level 5.

Let’s talk about smoke rings

One thing you won’t see on meat cooked low-and-slow in the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker is a smoke ring. This is the pink area along the outside of sliced meats that most people think indicates how well smoke has penetrated the food. That’s actually a misconception. A smoke ring is caused by a chemical reaction with nitric oxide gas produced by burning wood or charcoal. It isn’t by any means an indication of the level of smoke flavor, or even good barbecue.

Outdoor pellet grills, offset smokers and even a Weber kettle with charcoal will create a noticeable smoke ring on things like ribs, pork butts and briskets. The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker will not. That’s because the appliance isn’t burning wood pellets as the heat source – it’s only using them to flavor the food. That takes very little fuel, and it also requires barely any heat to smolder them.

You can actually fake a smoke ring if you really want one for the ‘gram, but overdoing it can ruin your food, so tread carefully. For that, you’ll need a small amount of something that contains sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite, like Morton’s Tender Quick. It’s the stuff that’s used to cure pastrami, where the pink color is essential.

Cleanup and maintenance

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

Unlike most outdoor grills, all of the racks and rack supports inside the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker are dishwasher safe – simply by virtue of being small enough to fit. Since you’ll have to wipe down the interior of the cooking chamber with a solution of either mild soap and water or vinegar and water, not having to hand-wash what’s sure to be the dirtiest part of the machine is a plus. The drip pan is made out of a similar material to roasting pans you’d use in an oven, so you can probably stick it in the dishwasher too. I have been doing this with no issues so far, but you can always wrap it in foil before you start smoking for easy cleaning.

You’ll also need to empty the water tank that collects and extinguishes the spent pellets after each use, though the smoker may ask you to do so midway through longer sessions. You’ll need to strain out the remaining wood particles from the water before discarding the cooled solids in the trash. Since the water container doesn’t touch any food, a quick wipe and rinse is all that’s needed here.

GE says you’ll occasionally need to clean the pellet ramp to ensure proper smoke production. The company includes a small brush that’s used to keep unwanted debris out of the cooking chamber. Simply lift the smoke inlet cover on the right side of the cooking area and use the brush to remove anything that’s accumulated there. The company also recommends that you wipe the interior light after each use. I assume that’s so you’ll be able to see well during the cooking process, but GE doesn’t elaborate on why you need to do it.

GE Profile SmartHQ app

The Smart Indoor Smoker works with GE’s SmartHQ app to allow you to monitor the small appliance over Wi-Fi. With this software, you can monitor smoker and food temperatures from anywhere, as well as activate the 10-minute Clear Smoke process from the sofa. The app also lets you turn the internal light on and off, but that’s really about it. You can’t actually adjust the smoker temperature without walking over to it.

The smoker comes with a recipe book, but it would’ve been great if those (and many more) were available inside the app. Those instructions, paired with the ability to send the appropriate cooking info to the device, would give new users a lot of ways to get started beyond the simple protein-specific presets. I would also love it if there was a way to trigger the Keep Warm function or shut down the smoker remotely. You know, for the times when I get too excited about putting pulled pork in my mouth and forget to turn the machine off before sitting down at the table.

Is it better than an outdoor grill?

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

While it’s tempting to compare the results from the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker to those of a pellet, charcoal or wood-burning grill, it would be like discussing apples and oranges. Since all of the other options have an open flame and use significantly more fuel as the primary heat source, the smoke flavor is much more intense. They also require a lot more planning. First, you’d need dedicated outdoor space where those grills and smokers will be safe to use. You’ll also need to consider the added cleaning and maintenance needed to keep them running well.

All of these outdoor grills have a wider temperature range, so they can be used for more than just smoking. You could use a pellet grill, for example, to do everything from brisket to searing steaks. Ditto for charcoal or wood-burning units. And if you factor in Wi-Fi-enabled features, outdoor grills typically allow you to adjust temperature in addition to just monitoring it. Some of them even offer advanced tools like the Super Smoke mode from Traeger or the ability to send recipes to the grill as part of step-by-step guidance.

All this considered, the GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker is still a good option for people who can’t have an outdoor smoker due to rental agreements or a lack of space. You’ll certainly need to plan ahead on how to store the appliance when you’re not using it. But, the fact that you can put it in your kitchen opens up the ability to cook barbecue, smoked wings, tasty seafood and more that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. It’s not entirely a “set it and forget it” type of device, and there are some hoops to jump through in terms of rotating things during the cook. However, you won't have to spend hours babying the meats the cooking starts.


The GE Profile Smart Indoor Smoker works just like the company describes. The only real nuisance is having to flip and rotate foods to make sure they’re cooked properly. I really wish the company was more up-front about this somewhere other than the troubleshooting table and recipe book. It’s a key action that shouldn’t be left to trial and error. Even with that caveat, the device produces noticeably smoky flavor in a range of foods, albeit in a more-subdued way than what an outdoor grill.

Presets make it easy to get started and the manual mode will provide an open playground once you gain some experience. This won’t replace your pellet or charcoal grill, but that’s not really the point. It lets people who can’t own one of those make some tasty barbecue inside their kitchens. You just have to find a place to store it, or give up previously allocated countertop space, between smoke sessions.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Recteq adds Flagship XL and built-in models to its smart pellet grill lineup

Recteq revealed five new smart pellet grills in October, including unique dual-chamber and griddle options. Now, the company is back with two more models: a larger version of the recently overhauled Flagship 1100 and a built-in design for outdoor kitchens. 

The Flagship XL 1400 has all of the updates that were announced with the Flagship 1100 last fall, including the updated Wi-Fi-enabled controller and sturdier leg design. The key difference on this new version is increased cooking capacity. The Flagship XL 1400 has 1,437 square inches of grilling space, with a second grate situated above the main cooking surface. Recteq also increased the size of the pellet hopper, which can now hold a massive 60 pounds of fuel when full. Depending on which brand you use, that's at least three bags of pellets — way more than even the longest brisket cook will require. 

Like the Flagship 1100, this XL version does more than low-and-slow smoking as it has a temperature range of 180-650 degrees Fahrenheit. And the Wi-Fi connectivity means you can adjust cooking temps and monitor internal food temperatures from your phone. The Flagship XL 1400 is available now for $1,599.

Recteq Flagship XL 1400

Permanent outdoor kitchens have become increasingly popular spaces for socializing at home. These typically include a grill that's been mounted into some type of fixed counter or cabinetry, but there aren't a lot of options if you want to do that with a pellet grill. Most people simply remove the legs or cart for a pellet model to make it work in these setups, but Recteq has a new option that's specifically designed for outdoor kitchens. 

The E-Series Built-In 1300 is a fully stainless steel smart pellet grill with 1,300 square inches of cooking space. This model also packs Recteq's recently updated Wi-FI controller with dual-band connectivity and compatibility with the company's app. Like the SmokeStone griddle, the E-Series Built-In has a front-fill hopper for easy access and removable secondary cooking grates. The company says an a-frame-shaped drip pan makes grease drainage more efficient and a cast iron deflector helps evenly distribute the heat. 

Like the company's other pellet grills, the E-Series Built-In is more than just a smoker, which means it can be the cornerstone of an outdoor kitchen without needing another grill. This model can run at 180-700 degrees Fahrenheit, which will accommodate everything from barbecue to searing. Grills like this that are permanently installed are typically quite pricey, and the E-Series Built-In 1300 is no exception. It's $3,499, which is $900 more than the company's 2,535-square inch "BFG" unit, previously the most expensive option in the Recteq arsenal. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

You’ve tried plant-based meat, but here come meat-based plants

A team of South Korean researchers at Yonsei University have developed a hybrid rice variant that’s quite literally filled with beef. The lab-grown rice grains were infused with cow muscle and fat cells, so they are one part plant and one part meat. The rice is also an appetizing shade of bright pink, which tends to happen when flesh enters the picture.

The team hopes to eventually offer a cheaper and more sustainable source of protein with a much lower carbon footprint than actual beef. It’ll also save time for those who enjoy a nice beef bowl over rice—the rice is the beef bowl.

Here’s how they achieved this culinary delight. The researchers first coated each grain of rice in fish gelatin to help the meat cells latch on. Next, they inserted cow muscle and fat stem cells into each grain, which are then left to culture in a petri dish. Rice grains feature a porous, yet organized, internal structure that actually mimics the “biological scaffolds” found in meat cells. So the rice grains offer a housing that allows the cells to grow and thrive, along with molecules to provide nourishment.

The meat cells grow both on the surface of the rice grain and inside of the grain itself. After around ten days, you get a finished product. The study, published in Matter, says the rice grains taste like beef sushi, which makes sense given the ingredients.

“Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,” primary author Sohyeon Park said in a press release. “Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.”

The team even envisions a day when livestock could be eliminated from the process entirely. They hope to develop a line of cells that continue to divide and grow over long periods of time, so they can source from that line instead of from actual cows. “After that, we can create a sustainable food system,” Park told CNN.

Obviously, this is still in the research phase, so pink beef rice won’t be showing up on restaurant menus anytime soon. The team’s refining the growth process to produce rice grains with more nutritional value. They also hope to further improve the taste, texture and color. “It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food,” Park said in the press release.

This is just one part of a global effort to do something, anything, about the ongoing ecological disaster that is meat production. Livestock intended for slaughter are responsible for 6.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year, according to a UN report. That’s nearly 12 percent of all human-caused carbon emissions.

To that end, there are various efforts underway to create palatable and economical lab-grown meat, from cultured chicken nuggets to steaks grown using a similar gelatin-based biological scaffolding system to the aforementioned beef rice. There’s also the rise of insects as a viable source of protein.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Perfecta grill uses AI to help cook a steak in 90 seconds

CES has increasingly become a grilling show, with companies constantly finding ways to bring more tech to your deck or patio. One company that's added a dash of AI to its spice rack is Seergrills, a UK-based startup comprised of engineers and product developers. Its flagship model, the Perfecta, can cook a one-inch-thick ribeye steak in 90 seconds. Overall, the company says the grill, a unit that looks more like a see-through counter-top oven, cooks foods around 10 times faster than conventional cooking methods. 

Inside, dual vertical infrared burners cook both sides simultaneously, which not only expedites the process, but it also eliminates the need to flip. Seergrills says the burners top out at 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit and the unit can even ensure edges are crisp thanks to 360-degree heating. A built-in AI chef takes the desired doneness and sear level into account, calculating the proper cooking time and temp based on the food. Sensors detect the thickness of things like steak and chicken to prevent over or undercooking and the burners automatically move toward and away from foods as needed during the process. The entire smart setup is what Seergrills calls NeuralFire, with a quad-core processor and host of sensors for gathering cooking data.

Photo by Billy Steele/Engadget

The vertical orientation nixes any flareups, according to the company, as only smoke and water vapor are exhausted out of the top, with fat and grease collected in a dishwasher-safe drip pan at the bottom. The Perfecta also has oven and rotisserie modes, so you can cook pizza and roasted chicken with ease. There's a Chef Mode too, offering full control over the unit. Plus, the company has designed a grill cart for a full outdoor setup. Due to the power of the burners, the Perfecta runs on gas, with a 12-volt electrical cord for the onboard electronics. Those include a touch screen for entering your desired cooking parameters. Since this is an outdoor grill after all, we weren't able to see it cooking at a tradeshow table. but the company says it will be available to early buyers before the end of the year. 

Seergrills is planning to ship the Perfecta in Q4 of 2024 at a price of $3,500. Early adopters can save $1,000 through the end of CES. 

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best cooking gifts for 2023

The holidays are a time to gather, drink and share your favorite dishes. And for the people who are doing the cooking, there’s no better way to show your appreciation (besides offering them a helping hand) than by giving them something to make the process faster, simpler, or just more fun. So regardless of whether they prefer baking, cooking savory dishes or making healthy juices, we’ve got a huge range of tried and tested gear that will make great gifts for foodies.

KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender

Made-in Half Sheet Pan

Silpat Baking Sheet

Breville Juice Fountain

Kan Kitchen Chef Knife

Kyocera Ceramic Chef Knife

Misen Non-stick pans

Instant Vortex Plus air fryer

Anova Precision Cooker 3.0

Microplane Classic Grater

ThermoWorks ThermoPop 2

John Boos cutting board

The Good Shears by Material

Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker

Vitamix Explorian blender

OXO Good Grips Precision scale

SodaStream Terra

ButcherBox Favorites

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Samsung debuts its own 'AI-powered' smart recipe app

As it promised last week, Samsung has launched Food, a "personalized, AI-powered food and recipe" app in eight languages and 104 countries around the world. It draws on the food database of Whisk, an app Samsung acquired a few years back — and resembles a version of Whisk the company revealed last year. Given Samsung's large presence in kitchens with its smart fridges and other appliances, the release of a food and recipe app seems a logical step for the company.

The app allows users to search for recipes around the world, save them and make weekly eating plans. The company prepared over 160,000 recipes for launch, with that number set to increase down the road. Samsung Food can also be run on mobile phones and Samsung Family Hub smart appliances like refrigerators, while allowing users to manage ingredients, shopping, etc.


Users can save recipes anytime, and the app analyzes them, standardizes the format and organizes them to create shopping lists based on the ingredients. It can also provide recipe recommendations based on available food items as managed by the user. It even has a "personalize recipe" function that uses the AI to alter recipes recipes and create vegan or vegetarian versions, for instance. "Users will even be able to create fusion recipes, such as Korean versions of Italian dishes, and adjust cook time or skill level of recipes," Samsung adds.

It uses AI to create recommendations for individualized daily meal plans based on dietary preferences and favorite cuisine types. Nutritional ingredient breakdowns can be viewed at any time, and users can add items to shopping lists and then send them straight to a retailer's e-commerce checkout. With connected cooking, it lets users preheat ovens, set timers and transfer cook settings to supported appliances via a step-by-step guided cooking mode. 

Last week, Samsung said it hoped to secure a million users for the app around the world. While there are numerous recipe apps out there (Mealtime, Paprika, Yummly etc.), Samsung may have an edge with the millions of its smart appliances sold — making it a known quantity to consumers. 

Samsung plans to add new features, like integration with Samsung Health to sync parameters like BMI and calorie consumption, while offering suggestions for diet management. The app will incorporate AI vision tech by 2024, allowing Samsung Food to recognize food items through the camera and provide details like nutrition information. Samsung Food is now available for download on Android and iOS. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Heinz Remix is the sauce dispenser of our dreams

Never mind crafting custom sodas at the restaurant — technology will soon help you customize your dips, too. Kraft Heinz has unveiled a Heinz Remix dispenser that lets you customize sauces through a touchscreen interface. You choose from base sauces and then add one or more "enhancers" at your choice of intensity. If you want 57 Sauce with a strong jalapeño accent and a hint of mango, you can make it happen.

The company plans to test Heinz Remix at unspecified restaurants in late 2023 to early 2024. There's no mention of pricing, although it's safe to presume this isn't intended for home use. Like it or not, you'll have to settle for off-the-shelf bottles at home.

The machine's existence isn't surprising. Custom drink dispensers like Coca-Cola's Freestyle have led to increased business at restaurants. Kraft Heinz could boost its profits by selling more expensive hardware to eateries on top of the usual sauces. That, in turn, could squeeze out competitors that still use one-sauce-at-a-time systems.

This could also influence the sauces you buy at the grocery store. Kraft Heinz sees the Remix as an "insights engine" that will help the firm understand customers' flavor preferences. You might see combinations that are the direct result of data from restaurant guests. This won't necessarily replace in-house inventions, but it might help the brand keep up with (or set) trends.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best cheap kitchen gadgets in 2023

The best kitchen gadgets make certain cooking tasks easier without taking over your drawers. What’s more, some of the most useful ones won’t break the bank. All the recommendations on this list are either products I use currently, or more affordable versions of something I decided to splurge on after years of cooking. Not every item is essential, but they’re all things I’ve come to appreciate when I need to get dinner on the table quickly.

Victorinox Honing Steel

There are few things worse than cooking with a dull chef’s knife. It’s unsafe and a waste of time. You need a way to maintain your blades, and a good place to start is with a honing steel. Contrary to popular belief, a honing steel won’t sharpen your knives; what it will do is realign the blade. With consistent use of one, you can get away with actually sharpening your blades once every six months to a year. Almost any model will do the job, but for an affordable option, consider the 10-inch Swiss Classic Honing Steel from Victorinox. It comes with a comfortable handle that makes mastering the motion of honing a knife easy. Best of all, it costs less than $30.

Lavatools Javelin

If you cook meat, you need to get yourself an instant-read thermometer. It will take all the guesswork out of braising, searing and roasting animal protein, making those dishes safer to eat and more delicious.

There are plenty of affordable instant-read thermometers out there, but I like the $27 Lavatools Javelin. It’s not the fastest thermometer on the market – taking about four to five seconds to deliver a temperature reading – but it’s accurate to within a single degree Fahrenheit. The Javelin is also magnetic, so you can stick it on your fridge or knife holder for easy storage. Best of all, the casing is IP65-certified against water and features an antimicrobial coating Lavatools claims will inhibit 99.9 percent of pathogen growth. Oh, and you can buy the Javelin in nine different colors, including a cheerful “Wasabi” green hue.

OXO Good Grips Food Scale

After an instant-read thermometer, one of the few items I think everyone should have in their kitchen is a food scale. I know what you’re thinking: aren’t food scales only useful for baking? The answer is no. They will streamline every aspect of your cooking by allowing you to do away with measuring cups, while also giving you more accurate measurements overall. A scale is also essential if you’re calorie counting or tracking your macros.

After trying a few different scales, I like this OXO Good Grips stainless steel model. At under $60, the OXO model is a bit pricier than other food scales but it comes with a few features that set it apart. The first is a handy pull-out display that makes it easy to read the scale even when you have a large bowl on top. Plus, it also comes with an imperial/metric toggle. It’s handsome, too, with a design that’s easy to clean.

Prepworks by Progressive Magnetic Measuring Spoons

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s not practical to use a food scale to sort out ingredients, and you need to turn to a measuring spoon. After owning a few different models over the years, I’ve come to swear by magnetic ones. They’re easier to separate and subsequently easier to clean. Prepworks by Progressive makes a thoughtfully designed set where each spoon features both a round and narrow end. The latter is perfect for measuring spices since it can fit in most jars.

Microplane Professional Series Grater

If you’re like me, you probably bought a box grater at the start of your cooking journey only to find out it’s terrible. I’m here to tell you there’s a better way to grate cheese and zest limes, and it’s called a Microplane. There are a few different variants, but they all offer the same advantages over a box grater. Being smaller, a Microplane is easier to maneuver over bowls and other dishes. As for what model to buy, I like the Professional Series line for its wide blade and clean design. For zesting, you want to go for the “Fine” model. The “Ribbon” variant is also great if you want to shave chocolate and cheese.

Zwilling Handheld Vacuum Sealer Machine

In the last few years, vacuum sealers have become affordable enough that most home cooks can add one to their kitchen. They’re a great way to reduce waste since meat and produce stored in airless bags will last longer. The right one can also help you reduce plastic waste. Zwilling makes an affordable handheld model that supports an ecosystem of reusable bags and containers that are also on the budget-friendly end of the spectrum. The bags are freezer- and dishwasher-safe, so you can easily sanitize them after storing meat in them. The only thing to complain about the Zwilling vacuum sealer is that it charges over micro-USB(!).

Zulay Silicone Utensil Rest

Before moving to Portugal, my neighbor gifted my partner and I a silicone utensil rest. Since then, this simple tool has been an indispensable part of my kitchen arsenal. Once you start cooking at the stove, it helps to have all your tools right in front of you. A utensil rest helps with that while reducing the amount of cleanup you have to do afterward. Once you’re done, you can just toss it into the dishwasher. Best of all, you can buy one for about $10.

Cuisinart Electric Kettle

While an electric kettle is nether essential for cooking or preparing tea and coffee, it can make both those tasks faster, safer and easier. You can spend a lot to buy a kettle with multiple temperature settings, but unless you’re a tea connoisseur, I don’t think that’s a feature most people need. Cuisinart’s JK-17P1 boils water faster, looks nice on a countertop, and best of all, won’t break the bank.

Crate and Barrel Salt Cellar

Shortly after reading Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, and learning the importance of salting dishes from within, I bought my first box of kosher salt. I didn’t have a good way to store it at the time, so I used a small bowl whenever I went to cook. The problem with that approach was that the salt would dry out if I left the bowl out. A salt cellar solves that by adding a lid to the bowl. Crate and Barrel makes a nifty (and attractive) acacia wood model that comes with an attached lid so that the two parts never get lost or separated.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

What we bought: The Breville Juice Fountain Plus is a surprisingly useful jet engine

My dad bought me Breville’s Juice Fountain for a very specific purpose: to recreate the horse’s neck cocktail he’d enjoyed on a snowy evening at the High West distillery saloon in Utah. The drink calls for a quarter ounce of ginger juice, and if you’ve ever seen a knotty clump of said root, it doesn’t look like it would contain much liquid. That’s where the Fountain comes in – it extracts a waterfall from seemingly parched produce like it’s squishing grapes.

I make ginger juice in bigger batches, getting about five liquid ounces from eight ounces of ginger. Weight-to-volume conversions aside, that’s a pretty great ratio. It lasts a week or two in the fridge, so I can get a lot of horse’s necks out of a juicing session. The cocktail itself is bright, warming and spicy – and possibly my favorite tipple.

But I’m not drinking as much these days, so I’ve been using the Juice Fountain for healthier stuff that doesn't have bourbon in it… like straight juice. At first, I turned to the internet for recipes, but pretty quickly learned that throwing in whatever sounds good tends to have the best results. Carrot, ginger, lemon and orange together make something sweet and zesty that tastes and looks like a sunrise. Apple, kale, celery and lemon make a vivid green drink that reminds me of spring and feels like you’re drinking a cup of vitamins — if a cup of vitamins were delicious.

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The appliance has two speeds: high for harder vegetables and low for softer fruit. Besides picking a speed, the only prep you need to do is to wash all ingredients and remove the peel and pith on citrus — no need to scrape the skin off ginger or remove the stalks from kale. Apples can even go in whole, as long as they fit down the impressively wide chute (though I usually core mine, out of an irrational cyanide paranoia).

Once the fruits and vegetables go in, the Fountain transforms them into juice in seconds, absolutely obliterating them with what I can only assume is a tiny jet-engine. Seriously, it sounds like an aircraft readying itself for takeoff; this is a daylight hours-only kind of machine. The motor is so powerful and the mesh/graters so robust that just the weight of a carrot or cucumber itself is usually enough to run it through the extractor. Even leafy kale only needs a light push from the plunger.

So yes, it does a great job of getting the most out of each piece of produce, but juicing still isn’t cheap. A big bunch of organic carrots and a few oranges quickly turn into a lovely neon drink, but there might be $6 worth of produce swimming in that cup. But hey, if it means my kid will drink eight ounces of a kelly green apple/kale concoction and ask for more, it’s worth it in my book.

When I first saw it, I was convinced the Fountain would be something I’d use once and never again after the tedium of washing its various intricate parts. And it does break down into quite a few pieces (seven to be exact), but taking it apart and putting it back together is completely intuitive. I don’t think I looked at the instructions since the first disassembly.

Cleaning the components isn’t hard either – as long as you do it immediately. If you wait until the pulp bits and juice spray have hardened, you’ll have to put in some muscle and fuss to get it sparkly again. The hardest part to wash is probably the mesh-and-grate extraction basket. Breville supplies a scrub brush for the job, but I promptly lost that. Turns out a standard dish brush and warm, soapy water do a great job of removing apple, carrot and all other remnants. A few of the parts are dishwasher safe, but others aren’t. I figure if I have to hand-wash some, I may as well do them all.

Photo by Amy Skorheim / Engadget

The only other thing that gave me pause was the pulp. Liquid health pours from one side of the machine, but a pile of fluffy plant matter kicks out the other. The first time I saw it I had to wonder what the heck I was supposed to do with all of that. I tried a few muffin recipes that call for juicer pulp, but they didn’t turn out well. (I blame my baking skills, not the directions.) I still believe I’ll find something that works, but I have to experiment more.

So far, my favorite solution is adding the fluff to my weekly batch of breakfast smoothies. My advice if you do the same: don’t include any ginger pulp – if you do, it’ll be the only thing you taste. Citrus leftovers are also pretty overbearing and bitter. Fluff from apple, celery and carrots have the most neutral flavor and go nicely in a morning shake. Of course, I still always have way more byproduct than I could possibly use, so I just compost the rest.

At $180, it’s not the cheapest kitchen appliance you can buy, but it’s far from the most expensive. Even though mine was a gift, I feel like it’s worth its price tag. Design-wise, the Fountain follows the silvery, matte aesthetic Breville tends to give its kitchen appliances, a look that’s neither too modern or overly retro. It has lovely curves and a graceful, tower-like profile. But thanks to the aforementioned jet engine, the Fountain isn’t small. My tiny kitchen has no space to store it on the countertop, so when it’s not doing its juice thing, it lives up in a cupboard. Honestly, it’s a pain to get down. But I’m happy (and healthier) every time I do.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

How to make the most of that Instant Pot you just bought

The Instant Pot is one of those rare kitchen appliances to reach not just cult status, but broad mainstream appeal. An “all-in-one” multicooker that promises to replace a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, a slow cooker and more, the Instant Pot has risen to fame in part thanks to its versatility and also the fact that it’s a good electric pressure cooker. This lets you cook food at an accelerated rate — think pulled pork in an hour, or chicken curry done in 10 minutes. And because it’s electric, you just press a few buttons and walk away without having to keep an eye on it.

It’s no wonder why the Instant Pot has become a favorite among home cooks, even those of us on the Engadget staff. Not only have a few of us bought it for ourselves, we've recommended it in past gift guides. Sure, it's not a gadget in the traditional sense (although there is a WiFi-connected version with an app), but it does have a lot of crossover appeal thanks to its promise of all-in-one efficiency.

But what do you do when you get one? With so many recipes on the internet and so many different things you can do with it, where do you even start? In this guide, I'll attempt to give you a primer on the first steps you should take when you get one, some tips and tricks on how to use it and a few favorite recipes and source links. A lot of this comes from personal experience; I've been an Instant Pot owner for a few years. I'll also note that the listed recipes reflect my own taste, but hopefully this guide will provide a good start for your own culinary adventures.

How Instant Pots work

For the uninitiated, the Instant Pot is an "all-in-one" kitchen gadget that promises to replace a rice cooker, a yogurt maker,a slow cooker and more. But the real reason the Instant Pot has risen to fame is that it's also a very good electric pressure cooker. This lets you cook food at an accelerated rate; imagine pulled pork in an hour instead of five or a chicken curry done in 10 minutes. And because it's electric, you just press a few buttons and walk away. Unlike a stovetop pressure cooker, there's no need to keep a constant eye on it.

There are several Instant Pot models to choose from. Some of the lower-end ones lack the yogurt mode, and a couple of the higher-end models have extra features like sous-vide cooking and canning, but all of them have the pressure cooker function, and indeed, much of this guide focuses on that.

Which Instant Pot model is right for you?

Best for most: Instant Pot Duo (6-quart)

There are several Instant Pot models to choose from. Some of the lower-end ones lack the yogurt mode, and a couple of the higher-end models have extra features like sous-vide cooking and canning, but all of them have the pressure cooker function.

The Instant Pot Duo strikes the right balance of features, size and power for most people. It has pretty much every function you’d want, including modes for sauté, slow cooking, yogurt making and of course pressure cooking. We find that the six quart model is perfect for a couple who likes to meal-prep or have leftovers, or for a family of four.

Best for single users: Instant Pot Duo (3-quart)

Living by yourself? Then you might want to scale down to the three quart model, which has most of the same features as the six-quart model, except in a smaller footprint.

Upgrade pick: Instant Pot Pro

The Instant Pot Pro is designed for enthusiasts, offering an assortment of upgrades over other Instant Pots. The inner bowl has an extra thick bottom that can go on the stove, plus it has handles so it’s easier to lift. It comes with 28 customizable programs for different foods, and there are five favorites buttons that you can assign to frequently used settings. The steam release switch has also been upgraded to reduce noise and splatter, and there are even steam release reminder alerts with 5- and 10-minute pre-sets. The Pro is also one of a few Instant Pots that’s compatible with an optional QuickCool lid, which helps you release pressure faster.

If you want WiFi: Instant Pot Pro Plus

The Pro Plus includes many of the same features as the regular Pro, except it has WiFi connectivity as well, which allows it to control with a mobile app. This lets you release the steam remotely, or schedule when you want to do it after the cook is done.

A brief word on other Instant Pot models: 

  • The Duo Plus is an upgraded version of the Duo Series. It has two additional functions: sous vide (for temperature-controlled cooking) and sterilizer (a steam shortcut for sterilizing items like baby bottles). There’s also a cooking progress status bar plus an anti-spin design that keeps the inner pot in place when you’re sauteing.

  • The Duo Crisp + Air Fryer is basically an Instant Pot that comes with an additional lid that adds dry-heat cooking methods like baking, broiling, dehydrating and of course air frying. There’s also a $200 Pro version that pairs the air fryer lid with the Pro model mentioned above.

  • The Instant Pot Max is best if you’re really into canning your own foods. It’s the only one that’s capable of reaching 15 PSI, which is needed for pressure-canning.

  • The Star Wars Instant Pots are a great choice for avid Star Wars fans or anyone who appreciates novelty appliances. They’re really just rebranded versions of the Duo, with the same exact functionalities and features. They come in five iterations: Little Bounty, Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, BB-8 and R2-D2.

What about sous vide?

If you’re interested in trying sous vide but don’t want to make an investment in a standalone device, then the Instant Pot Pro, the Duo Plus, the Pro Plus, the Duo Crisp or the Max are good choices.

Getting started

The Instant Pot has three parts: the housing with the cooking element at the bottom; the stainless steel inner pot; and the lid, which comes with a sealing ring plus a steam-release valve. Setup is as easy as putting the inner pot inside the housing and plugging it in. You'll also want to attach the tiny condensation collector on the back if the instructions call for it.

The first thing to do is a "water test," which not only helps familiarize you with the basic pressure cooker features, but confirms your appliance is in proper working order. To do this, put three cups of water in the pot, twist the lid on — it'll make a sound when it's locked in place — and set the pressure cooker on high for two minutes. The way to do this varies from model to model; on the Duo machines, you'll have to press Manual, select High, then dial down the time to two minutes. On something like the Ultra, you just need to go to the Pressure Cooker menu, dial it to two minutes and select High.

Then, make sure your valve is set to "Sealing" so that the Instant Pot can build pressure. On the Duo machines, this means rotating it so the arrow points up, while on the Ultra, the valve will automatically be set to Sealing. Finally, press "Start." The Instant Pot will then build up that pressure to High, maintain it for the set two minutes, and then stop. In some cases, you'll hear hissing and see steam coming out of the Instant Pot. This is totally normal. You'll know the Instant Pot is under pressure when the float valve pops up and the hissing quiets down.

The lid cannot be opened when the Instant Pot is under pressure; you must depressurize it first. Once the cooking is done, you can let the pot naturally depressurize (also known as "Natural Release"), which simply means leaving it alone for 20 or so minutes until the float valve comes down.If you don’t want to wait that long, you can do a manual release (also known as "Quick Release") by switching the valve to "Venting." To do that on the Duo models you rotate the valve; on the Ultra, press the steam release button on top. This method will release a lot of steam, so I suggest doing this under a range hood if you have one. Again, once the float valve comes back down, you'll know the Instant Pot has been depressurized.

Doing the water test teaches you the basics of sealing the Instant Pot, setting it and depressurizing it. Plus, if anything goes wrong along the way — especially if it doesn't seal the pressure — you can call the retailer or manufacturer to troubleshoot or ask about a return or exchange. It's a step that many people skip, but I recommend it for beginners.

Instant Pot accessories

The Instant Pot is ready to use right out of the box, but if you want to get even more functionality out of it, then you might want to consider some accessories. The following are just a few suggestions that we think will elevate your Instant Pot experience.

Tempered glass lid

The main reason to get an Instant Pot is to use it as a pressure cooker, but it has other functions too. If you want to use it as a slow cooker or you simply want to keep your food warm, you’ll want to invest in a tempered glass lid like our Editor-In-Chief Dana Wollman did. This lid is also a good way to keep your food covered if you want to transfer the inner pot to a table or in the fridge.


Steaming food in the Instant Pot is quick and easy, but you’ll want specific equipment to get the job done right. Instant Pot makes two styles of silicone steamers; one is a stacking model that you can use for dumplings or fish, and another is a collapsible one that is ideal for batch-cooking vegetables. If you need even more capacity, we recommend this Hatrigo mesh steamer basket.

Along your Instant Pot discovery journey, you might come across a phrase called “PIP cooking.” This stands for Pot-in-Pot and involves putting another vessel inside the Instant Pot. This method is great if you’re cooking foods that don’t contain liquid (such as cheesecake) or you simply want to cook in smaller quantities. One of our favorite accessories for this is the Aozita Stackable Steamer, which not only acts as a steamer, but also contains tiered containers so that you could cook multiple foods at once.

Sealing ring

If you use your Instant Pot for both savory and sweet applications, then we suggest getting extra sealing rings so that the odor of one doesn’t affect the other. You don’t really want your cheesecake to smell like pulled pork or vice versa.

Air fryer lid

As the name suggests, the Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid essentially turns your Instant Pot into an air fryer. It’s a good option if you don’t want two appliances taking up space on your kitchen counter, and this add-on does a decent job of “air frying” foods. Still, the Lid really only works for small batches as well as smaller pieces of food. Even a hot dog is too large to fit inside the air fryer basket.

If you’re going to use the air fryer lid to add roasting and broiling capabilities to the Instant Pot — so you can brown a roast chicken or melt the cheese on a lasagna, for example — then it’s not a bad option. But as far as air frying goes, I’d recommend saving up and investing in an actual air fryer instead.

Tips and tricks

Don't worry about all the buttons

When you first get the Instant Pot, you might be overwhelmed by all of the different buttons on the front of it. There are ones that say "Meat/Stew," "Chili/Beans," "Multigrain," "Egg" and even "Cake." With the exception of a few, most of these are simply shortcuts that Instant Pot programmed ahead of time. You might never need to use them.

The most important buttons to know are "Sauté," which (as you might expect) lets you sauté things in the pot, and the aforementioned "Manual" or "Pressure Cooker" function. The rest are pretty superfluous, with the exception of "Keep Warm," "Cancel" and non-pressure cooker functions like the "Slow Cooker" or "Yogurt" (which helps maintain the cultured milk at a specific temperature).

Add at least half a cup of liquid, and don't go over the maximum

One of the things you'll learn about pressure cooking is that you don't need to add as much liquid as you would in regular recipes. But you'll still need to add some because the pressure cooker requires moisture to build that pressure. Otherwise, the Instant Pot could overheat and show an "OvHT" or “BURN” error on the display. On the other hand, you shouldn't fill it up beyond two-thirds capacity, which is handily marked on the inside of the inner pot. The Instant Pot probably won't explode on you — it has a lot of safety features to prevent that — but you probably shouldn't test its boundaries.

Cooking times aren't always accurate

Setting the pressure cooker timer for two minutes doesn't mean the entire cooking time is two minutes. You have to take into account the amount of time the Instant Pot needs to come to pressure and the time it'll need to depressurize. The more stuff you have in the pot (and the colder it is), the longer it takes. Because of that, a "five-minute" chicken curry could really be more like 10 or 15 minutes from start to finish.

Clean it carefully and frequently

The inner pot is dishwasher safe, which is convenient, but the rest has to be cleaned by hand. Also, don't make the same mistake I did and accidentally spill something hot directly on the cooking element. The outer shell is hard to clean because you can't put it in the sink — electricity and water don't mix, after all — and you risk damaging the appliance. As for the lid, hand wash it after every use. You'll also notice after a while that the sealing ring — the rubber/silicone gasket on the inside of the lid — might develop a smell as it absorbs the scent of the food you're cooking. I recommend soaking it in a vinegar solution, or you could also put it on the top rack of your dishwasher.

You can't cook everything with it

Sure, you can cook everything from dog food to jam in the Instant Pot, but it's not a miracle worker. You can't deep fry in it. You can't bake a pie in it. Don't be ridiculous.

Recipes and guides

Now you're all ready to cook, and you're probably dying to know what to make in it. Due to the popularity of the Instant Pot, you'll find no shortage of cookbooks and recipe tutorials online. The Facebook group I mentioned is a good place to start, and there are countless YouTube tutorials as well. Here are just a few of my favorite resources:

Pressure Cook Recipes

Amy and Jacky are part of the OG Instant Pot community, and their site is great for beginners. Not only will you get the low-down on the aforementioned water test, but you'll also get great recipes for bone broth, "fail-proof" rice, yogurt, cheesecake and more.

Nom Nom Paleo

Whether or not you're into the "paleo" lifestyle, you'll like Michelle Tam's list of Instant Pot recipes. Pressure cookers are great for shortening the amount of time for cooking braised meats, and she has a lot of recipes that cater to your inner carnivore. Her Instant Pot pulled pork recipe is still my go-to, and the short ribs are great as well.

Serious Eats

My personal favorite site for pressure-cooker recipes is probably Serious Eats. All of these recipes are fantastic. I've tried the chicken stock, the mushroom risotto, the chicken pho, the chicken and chickpea masala, and they've all been outstanding.

The New York Times

Another personal favorite is The New York Times’ Cooking section, which has a list of wonderful pressure-cooker-friendly recipes. My favorites are from Melissa Clark, who has written two Instant Pot cookbooks: Dinner In an Instant and Comfort in an Instant. There's a recipe in Comfort in an Instant for spaghetti and meatballs that I was hugely skeptical of but turned out to be one of the most remarkable things I've ever made. I also love the recipes for chicken korma and shrimp biryani.

Other sources

Here are a few other guides that I found very useful in my own Instant Pot journey, and they contain links to many more recipes and sites than I have space for here:

With all of this information in your arsenal, you should have no fear in picking up an Instant Pot. Thankfully, not only is the base model pretty affordable at less than $100, Amazon frequently puts it on sale either on Prime Day or on Black Friday. So if you haven't bought one just yet, it's not a bad idea to wait until one of those times of year to get one at a deep discount. And when you do, come on back here, read through the guide once more and venture off on your own pressure-filled culinary adventures.

Images: Detroit Free Press via Getty Images (First Instapot); Portland Press Herald via Getty Images (Instapot / chopping board); Boogich via Getty Images (cooking)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at