Posts with «food & cooking» label

Snapchat’s camera can identify food and recommend recipes

Snapchat’s in-app camera is now able to recommend recipes based on the food you have laying around your kitchen. Food Scan is the latest addition to the app’s “scan” functionality, which also allows users to identify plants and dog breeds and items of clothing.

Now, scanning a food will turn up recipes containing the item, as well as a link to the Wikipedia entry for the ingredient. Snap has partnered with allrecipes.com on the feature, which it says can recognize more than 1,200 items and suggest more than 4,500 dishes.

I got the chance to preview the feature, and the app’s food scanning abilities were mostly spot-on. It was able to correctly identify a variety of produce and recommend relevant recipes (including a persimmon bar recipe that looked intriguing). Like most of these types of visual search features, though, it’s not entirely foolproof. It suggested cherry recipes when I scanned a bag of cherry tomatoes. And a hunk of ginger managed to totally stump the feature. No matter what angle I held the camera, Snapchat was unable to recognize it as food, and instead recommended reptile and human hand-themed AR lenses.

The feature is also not meant to work with packaged foods — Snapchat has a separate feature that can scan those items for nutritional info — so it won’t be able to help you figure out what to do with that random can of tomato sauce or whatever else is collecting dust in the back of your pantry. But even with those limitations, the feature is still a useful starting point for when you’re out of ideas or just want to try something new. And, even when it doesn’t quite work, you might still find an entertaining new AR lens to try out.

Impossible Meatballs are heading to Walmart

Shortly after releasing Impossible Nuggets as well as Impossible Sausage in grocery stores, the California-based company is introducing yet another faux meat product. It’s called Impossible Meatballs, and unlike the others, it’s actually debuting in retail before restaurants. Impossible Meatballs will be available at Walmart stores this month and at additional retailers later this year. They’re priced at around $6.48 per pack.

Instead of being made out of one “animal,” the Impossible Meatball was designed to be a mix of both “beef” and “pork.” According to the company, each meatball is a custom mix of Impossible Burger and Impossible Sausage along with a “homestyle meatball” seasoning blend that includes dried onions and garlic. They come in a resealable freezer bag, and each contains around 14 or so meatballs. There’s around 12 grams of protein per serving.

Engadget

I received a sample of the meatballs over the weekend. They come already cooked so all you need to do is reheat them via the oven, microwave, stovetop or air fryer. The oven method was listed as recommended so I baked them in a single layer on a baking tray in a 350-degree oven for 17 minutes. The end result is quite delicious — very savory and moist. I could still tell they weren’t really made out of meat though; they lacked a certain texture that I missed. But when I doused them in marinara sauce, that didn’t quite matter as much.

In addition to selling Impossible Meatballs, Walmart will also introduce a dedicated plant-based section of its frozen aisle that will feature various Impossible Foods products. That includes Impossible Chicken Nuggets, Impossible Sausage in spicy and savory flavors, Impossible Burger and the aforementioned Impossible Meatballs.

ErinKunkel

According to the company, Impossible Meatballs is a retail-led product aimed at grocery shoppers. That’s a slightly different strategy than the company’s previous faux meat products, which debuted at restaurants first before being rolled out to grocery stores. However, Impossible Meatballs will still be available for restaurants later this month.

The best gifts for the coffee nerd in your life

This holiday, why not encourage friends and family to expand their coffee-consuming horizons. We’ve compiled a list of the best gifts for coffee nerds you can buy this year, with options for brewing, drinking and more. And if that special someone isn’t into java, we’ve got gifts that will work just fine for tea drinkers too.

Aeropress Go

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Aeropress is a fun way to make a single cup of coffee at home with an apparatus that doesn’t take up much space in the cabinet. It’s a versatile brewer that allows you to experiment with different times and strengths as you go. I like to use it to brew a double-strength cup directly over ice whenever I forget to make cold brew. For the coffee nerd on your list that has a regular setup already, the Aeropress makes a great gift. And the Aeropress Go is even more compact. It tucks neatly inside a cup that you can brew directly into and is perfect for camping and travel. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Buy Aeropress Go at Amazon - $32

Adagio Simplicitea starter set

Adagio

Coffee isn’t everyone’s caffeinated drink of choice, and Adagio’s Simplicitea starter set is a thoughtful gift to give the tea lover in your life. It includes a 12-ounce Borosilicate glass teapot with a stainless steel lid and mesh rim, allowing them to brew loose leaf tea and pour all from one vessel. And you can choose the type of tea they like the best — black, green, herbal or a best-sellers mixture — to accompany the new pot. Serious tea aficionados probably already have their preferred brewing tools, but this set is a great option for anyone looking to step back from traditional tea bags and dip their toes into the wide world of loose leaf tea. — Valentina Palladino, Commerce Editor

Buy Simplicitea starter set at Adagio - $24

Baratza Encore

Baratza

While there are more affordable coffee grinders out there, few of them have achieved the workhorse status of the Baratza Encore. The conical burr design offers consistently even grinds with 40 size settings for a variety of brewing methods. The hopper holds eight ounces of whole beans and it’s clear so you can see exact supply levels at a glance. It’s simple, easy to use and will help the coffee geek on your list produce some truly outstanding brews. — B.S.

Buy Baratza Encore at Amazon - $170

Brumate Toddy

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

I’ve been a big fan of Brumate’s wares since I bought myself a Hopsulator Trio for a beach vacation a few years ago. I still use it all the time, during both warm and cool months. However, when the temperatures begin to dip, I tend to reach for hot beverages more often, so Brumate’s Toddy insulated mug is a better option. The cup works well to keep drinks hot or cold and the trademark feature is the spill-proof lid. That thing has saved me from massive cleanup more times than I can count. The regular Toddy can hold 16 ounces while the Toddy XL doubles the capacity to 32 ounces. Plus, it’s a gift someone on your list can use year-round. — B.S.

Buy Toddy at Brumate - $30

Cosori Gooseneck Electric Kettle

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

A good kettle is essential if you want to up your home-brewing game, and it can help make a bunch of other things too like tea, ramen and more. Cosori’s Gooseneck Electric Kettle packs most crucial features into a relatively compact kettle that’s also priced right at $70. Goosenecks can be intimidating but they give you much more control when pouring over a Chemex, and we think Cosori’s, with its matte black finish, also looks pretty nice on most countertops. It has a stainless steel interior and five temperature presets so you can easily get the perfect temperature for things like green tea, black coffee and more. Plus, the “hold temp” option lets you set and forget the water for a bit; you can turn it on before you start your morning routine and come back to perfectly heated water, ready for whatever’s picking you up that morning. — V.P.

Buy Cosori electric kettle at Amazon - $70

Ember Mug 2

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

I’ll be honest: when I first saw the original Ember travel mug, I thought it was a bit ridiculous. Most insulated tumblers are capable of keeping your brew warm long enough for you to drink it. However, my mindset changed pretty quickly when I got the Mug 2 for Father’s Day. The rechargeable cup keeps your coffee or tea warmed to a desired temperature that you set in the Ember app. Battery life could be better, but it gets the job done. And when you need to, you can dock it on the charging base to replenish the power source. — B.S.

Buy Ember Mug 2 at Amazon - $130

Fellow Carter Everywhere Mug

Fellow

For something a little less tech-heavy, the Carter Everywhere Mug from Fellow is one of my current favorites. It keeps coffee warm and cold brew cold even without the lid on. When closed, it can keep drinks warm for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours. There’s a nice lip around the top that offers an enjoyable sipping experience. Sounds weird, I know, but I’m not being dramatic when I say this mug is a joy to drink out of. The interior is also coated in ceramic, so you don’t get that metallic taste a lot of travel mugs impart. — B.S.

Buy Fellow Cart mug at Amazon - $30

Hario Mizudashi

Hario

It may seem odd to give a cold brew pitcher as a holiday gift, but trust me, when that person makes their first batch, they’ll be thanking you all over again — no matter what time of year it is. I’ve been using the Hario Mizudashi for several years now. In fact, I have two just to make sure I have enough cold brew on hand during the summer. The real key here is the removable basket. You can take that out after an overnight soak, rinse it under warm water and the rest of the pitcher is there to store your coffee until you need it. — B.S.

Buy Hario Mizudashi at Amazon - $22

Technivorm Mochamaster KBGT

Technivorm

If you’re shopping for a pour over fan who could use a few extra minutes in the morning to do something besides manual brewing, Technivorm’s Moccamaster line is worth a look. They’re pricey coffee makers, but they simulate the action of pour-over-style brewing without all of the… well, pouring. The outlet arm pulses water over the brew basket rather than a steady stream like most automatic coffee makers. The KBGT also has a thermal carafe and automatically pauses the brewing cycle when you need an early refill. — B.S.

Buy Technivorm Mochamaste at Williams-Sonoma - $340

Coffee subscriptions

yalcinsonat1 via Getty Images

What do you get the coffee nerd who has everything? Well, we’re always down to try new beans. Most coffee roasters offer a subscription of some type with varying frequency based on consumption habits. And even if they don’t, you can still send a bag or two as a one-time gift. Some of my favorites include Hatchet in Boone, North Carolina, Dark Matter in Chicago and Vesta in Las Vegas, which has been a lifesaver during CES.

Shop Hatchet Coffee RoastersShop Dark Matter CoffeeShop Vesta Coffee Roasters

The McPlant tastes just like any McDonald's burger

McDonald’s first plant-based burger (ignoring the veggie “burgers” that have come before it) finally goes on limited sale in the US later this week.

Following a brief trial in Canada in 2019, the McPlant has been on a wider tour of McDonald’s franchises in Europe. Ahead of its debut next week, I decided to try out the McPlant here in the UK, where it’s been available in selected restaurants for over a month. The TLDR review is that it tastes like... a McDonald’s burger.

I’ve had better (and worse) burgers, both plant and animal-based, but the launch itself is a major deal for the future of plant-based burgers in general. Whether you eat there or not, you can’t avoid the fact that this is the world’s biggest fast-food chain attempting a burger that tastes of meat — without using any meat.

McDonald’s is a little late to the plant-based patty party. In 2019, its rival Burger King started selling its own Impossible Whopper, recruiting Impossible Foods to help create a meat-free patty for its iconic menu item.

The launch wasn’t without issues though. Depending on location, the Impossible Whopper launched at roughly $1-2 dollars more than the beef-based original. (The chain eventually cut prices, due to slowing sales according to Bloomberg.)

Then there was the class-action lawsuit, because the Impossible Whopper, while entirely plant-based, was being cooked on the same surfaces as meat and dairy products. A vegan customer said that ads that said "100% Whopper, 0% Beef" were misleading. A Florida judge eventually dismissed the case, but not before it made headlines, and ensured that, from then on, Burger King stipulated that its plant-based Whopper was prepared on surfaces that came into contact with meat and dairy items, meaning that it was subsequently not vegan.

McDonald’s takes a similar approach on its corporate site, saying that the McPlant will be “cooked on the same grill as meat-based products and eggs“. In even more certain terms, the McPlant features American cheese and mayonnaise, which make it far from vegan-friendly.

The US McPlant comes with "real" American cheese.
McDonald's

However, McDonald’s UK and Ireland took three years to develop its own take on the McPlant, and it ticks the vegan box. Alongside the co-developed Beyond Meat patty, this particular McPlant comes in a vegan sesame bun, uses a pea-protein-based ‘cheese’ slice and a new vegan sauce that tastes somewhere between mayonnaise and the Golden Arches’ own burger sauce. (I really wish they’d given the sauce some kind of name, just to make it less... mysterious.) I think it's meant to be a mayonnaise substitute.

The new menu item has also been given the Vegetarian Society’s vegan accreditation, because on top of those recipe changes, here in the UK it is cooked and prepared separately to non-vegan products. For now, the US McPlant is neither vegan nor vegetarian and will come with a slice of American cheese and mayonnaise. The burger is also cooked on the same grill as meat - and egg-based products.

But back to my McPlant. With lettuce, tomato, pickles and that faux cheese slice, the UK version of the McPlant is more substantial than a standard McDonald’s cheeseburger.

Mat Smith/Engadget

From what I’ve been told, the composition and the Beyond Meat patty remain the same in the McDonald’s USA version. Like other high-end plant-based burgers given the mainstream treatment, it tastes meaty and the — I hate this word — mouthfeel tells my brain that I’m chewing on a McDonald’s burger.

The good thing about using plant-based meat substitutes in a burger is that the patty is just half the story. How it’s cooked, the toppings, the seasoning and the sauce add an awful lot (often more) to the flavors and textures.

Each bite is literally a cross-section of the entire burger, and so even if you think rival plant-based patties (like Impossible Foods’) are better than Beyond’s, once it’s cooked, stacked and in your hands, for most of us, a patty that’s marginally tastier is irrelevant.

Despite that, the burger itself does taste like a McDonald’s beef hamburger. So that’s a success. (I’m less sold on the fake cheese slice, but the majority of vegan cheese options taste terrible too, so not sure I can blame McDonald’s entirely here.)

The economies of scale are why the McPlant matters. Depending on how the US trial at eight restaurants fares, McDonald’s patrons might be willing to swap out their beef-based burger for a McPlant — if it tastes the part — and that could have a tangible effect on how much meat is both consumed by the public — and how much is farmed.

Halfway through eating the McPlant, I realized that it reminded me of a Burger King Whopper. (I can’t wait to read the comments after this.) 

But I’m a Big Mac man, myself. Maybe a Big MacPlant is next?

Traeger now ships full barbecue meals for you to cook on its smart grills

In addition to its WiFi-connected pellet grills, Traeger offers a range of gear and supplies to help you complete your grilling sessions. From tools to tray liners, plus a range of rubs and sauces, the company will sell you everything you need for its grills to smoke a brisket or cook a few dozen wings. Now the company is expanding further to give you literally everything you might need for a full meal, with all of the dishes cooked directly from on its grills. Trager Provisions is a HelloFresh-like meal kit that includes the meat, sides, rubs, sauces and more needed for a complete backyard feast that will feed crowds small and large.

At launch, the meat options are Wagyu beef brisket, Poulet Rouge chicken and Berkshire St. Louis pork ribs. Traeger says portion sizes for all three will accommodate 4-8 people, depending on the protein. For the brisket, the company also offers an option for 14-16 people (half brisket vs. whole brisket). With the smaller packages, you get the choice of two sides and four come with the big brisket feast. Right now, the options include three-cheese mac and cheese, bourbon baked beans with bacon, collard greens with bacon and cornbread with spiced brown sugar. All of the side dishes come in “Traeger-ready” foil pans, so they’re good to go on the grill quickly. Prices range from $150 to $180 for the smaller packages, while the larger whole brisket box is $250. Shipping is an additional $10.

Billy Steele/Engadget

Traeger is also preparing three holiday options for Thanksgiving. These Provisions boxes are more expensive at $220-$250, but the Heritage black turkey, naked turkey breast and rolled and trussed porchetta options will feed 8-10 people according to Traeger. They come with three side dishes instead of two and there are seasonal options like green bean casserole or apricot and bacon stuffing. The two turkey packages can also be upsized for 18-20 people for another $100.

As you might expect, all of this ships frozen and packed with dry ice. To start, Traeger is shipping the boxes to Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming and Utah. Since the meat and sides will be solid when they arrive, you’ll need to add a few days into your meal planning timeline, and the company offers detailed guidance on how to do exactly that as part of its cooking directions.

In addition to advice on the thawing process, Traeger includes all of the steps to prep the meat for the grill. That includes any trimming or seasoning that needs to be completed beforehand. The printed directions also guide you through the entire cook, with details on when to wrap (if necessary) and when to put the sides on the grill. It’s basically a paper-based version of Traeger’s app that offers step-by-step instructions with tons of recipes. If you need additional help, the directions have QR codes for videos and more info on tricky steps like trimming a brisket. There’s also guidance for how to prepare and cook the sides, including cooking bacon to mix in or topping a dish with bread crumbs before putting it on the grill. Lastly, supplies like rubs, sauces, pickled veggies, “pitmaster snacks,” gloves and butcher paper are all included. You literally just have to provide the grill and a bag of pellets.

Billy Steele/Engadget

I tested out Traeger Provisions with a Wagyu beef brisket Smokehouse Box. I selected the smaller size for 7-8 people, which included a six-pound Brisket, three-cheese mac and cheese, bourbon baked beans with bacon and all of the aforementioned accoutrements. Even though I have experience with barbecue and Traeger’s recipes for its grills, I followed the Provisions directions closely, and the guidance was clear and easy for cooking on the Ironwood 650. I only deviated in an attempt to brown the breadcrumbs on the mac in the oven and popped the beans in there to keep them warm. Cooking steps helped with timing too, which can be difficult when you’re trying to have meat and sides all ready at the same time.

Obviously, the brisket was the star of the show. Mine was slightly dry as I have a tendency to over trim the extra fat, but that’s a me problem and not an issue with Traeger’s culinary tips. Still, the Wagyu beef was perfectly marbled so the fatty cuts were more forgiving to my butchering mistakes. Those remained quite moist and very tasty. Consensus among my family was that the mac and cheese was also a winner, with the herby, garlicky thick sauce serving as a great complement to the brisket. The baked beans we didn’t care for, but that’s likely because they were more what I’d call “barbeque beans” with a thinner sauce than the thick, molasses-tinged dish we’re used to in the Carolinas. I also enjoyed the “pitmaster snacks,” which included a smoked nut mix and smoked beef jerky.

The directions helped me time everything perfectly so we weren’t waiting on one thing to finish while the rest got cold. I think the portions are also accurately calculated. Eight servings would’ve been stretching it, but I could have easily gotten six or seven out of the half brisket box. The ribs option also seems okay in terms of portions, but the Poulet Rouge chicken might not. Four half chickens for 6-8 people seems like a stretch unless these are massively huge birds.

Billy Steele/Engadget

So, who are these boxes for? Most backyard cooks with some experience will likely have their go-to butcher or grocery store for proteins. They probably also have tricks for easy sides so they can focus on the meats. At $150, you’re definitely paying for convenience, in addition to high-quality beef, pork or poultry.

The ability to have everything you need in one box with detailed directions on how to prepare it can take some of the stress out of party planning. There is some lead time required though, so you can’t grab one of these on Tuesday for a cookout on Saturday. At the end of the day though, I don’t think that price is astronomical based on what Traeger is offering. Is it something you’ll do a lot? No. Will it come in handy in certain circumstances? Absolutely. I can see plenty of people being interested in having most of their Thanksgiving meal planning done with a few clicks.

I can also see Traeger Provisions serving as a great gift for new grill owners. Sure, it’s a considerable amount to spend on someone, but it would definitely help a novice get their feet wet with some step-by-step oversight. Plus, they might not have all the supplies they need yet — little things like butcher paper and gloves, for example.

Traeger is now taking orders for its Provisions boxes that will be delivered between November 10th and 14th. If you’re considering one of those Thanksgiving packages, you’ll need to order by November 14th to get it in time. Just remember: Traeger Provisions is only delivering to select states at this time.

McDonald's will trial its plant-based burger in the US on November 3rd

You may soon be able to give McDonald's plant-based burgers a try. The fast-food chain will offer the McPlant at eight restaurants across the US starting on November 3rd and until supplies last. It's a limited-time trial run for the burger, and it's supposed to help the company figure out how having the item in its menu will impact its kitchen operations. 

The burger's patty is made with Beyond Meat plant-based meat. It's supposed to be different from the company's patties offered by Carl's Jr., Del Taco and other fast-food chains, though, because Beyond Meat co-developed it with McDonald's itself. Back when the McPlant was first announced, the fast-food giant said it "delivers [its] iconic taste in a sink-your-teeth-in (and wipe-your-mouth) kind of sandwich. It’s made with a juicy, plant-based patty and served on a warm, sesame seed bun with all the classic toppings."

While McDonald's didn't mention the exact locations of the stores that will sell the McPlant, it said that they can be found in Irving and Carrollton, Texas, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jennings and Lake Charles, Louisiana and El Segundo and Manhattan Beach, California. McDonald's is also trialing the burger in other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and the UK. While the McPlant is simply a burger for now, McDonald's previously said that it could represent a whole line of plant-based menu items in the future, including chicken substitutes and breakfast sandwiches. 

Burger King will sell Impossible Nuggets at select locations next week

At the start of September, Impossible’s plant-based “chicken” nuggets started appearing at select restaurants and grocery stores across the US. It was a limited debut that meant not everyone who wanted to try them could. While it’s not exactly a nationwide expansion, Burger King is about to begin carrying the nuggets.

Starting on Monday, October 11th, the fast-food chain will add an eight-piece order of Impossible Nuggets to the menu at select restaurants in Des Moines, Iowa, Boston, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida. While they’ll be only available for a limited time, you’ll have a choice of dipping sauce. The nuggets themselves are made mostly from soy protein and sunflower oil. 

According to Impossible, its nuggets have 40 percent less saturated fat and 25 percent less sodium than animal-based chicken nuggets. One thing to note is that the nuggets BK plans to sell won’t be vegan since they’ll be fried in the same oil those restaurants cook their meat and cheese products in.

Following the test, we could see Burger King start offering the food item nationwide fairly quickly. After it introduced the Impossible Whopper at select restaurants in 2019, it was only four months later before the plant-based burgers became available at BK spots across the US.

Beyond Meat's plant-based 'chicken' tenders are coming to grocery stores

Beyond Meat brought its plant-based “chicken” tenders to restaurants this summer, and soon you'll be able to enjoy them at home when Beyond starts selling them through retailers. You'll find the $5 tenders at Walmart and other major grocery chains starting in October, though only in select markets. Beyond expects to expand availability later this year.

The company says its tenders have 50 percent less saturated fat than ones made with actual chicken, and have no GMOs, antibiotics, hormones or cholesterol. Beyond uses faba beans rather than a soy-based recipe in its attempt to replicate the taste and texture of a chicken tender. It says you'll be able to heat up the pre-cooked tenders in under 10 minutes.

Along with Walmart, Beyond's tenders will be available at some Jewel-Osco, Safeway NorCal, Harris Teeter, Giant Foods and ShopRite stores at the outset. Meanwhile, Beyond says it's increasing availability of its products at Walmart. It'll bring Breakfast Sausage Patties to more than 1,300 additional stores, while more locations will offer Beyond Meatballs and Beyond Beef Crumbles.

It's been a busy month in the plant-based meat alternative ecosystem. Beyond competitor Impossible started selling its "chicken" nuggets in restaurants a few weeks ago. Impossible also announced that restaurants will offer its version of ground pork in their dishes this fall.

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

Few kitchen appliances have reached the same cult status as the Instant Pot. With 1.9 million members on the official Instant Pot Facebook group, more than 100 fan-created online groups, around 30,000 reviews on Amazon and accolades from the likes of TheNew York Times, it's no question that this kitchen marvel is a hit.

It's a winner with the Engadget staff, too; not only have a few of us bought it for ourselves, we've recommended it in past gift guides. Sure, it's not a tech gadget per se (although there is a "smart" edition with an app and Google Assistant), 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 lean toward my own taste, but hopefully this guide will provide a good start for your own culinary adventures.

How Instant Pots work

If you're reading this, you probably already know what an Instant Pot is, but just in case you don't, here's a brief introduction. The Instant Pot is an "all-in-one" kitchen gadget that promises to replace a rice cooker, a yogurt maker and a slow cooker; it also lets you sauté and steam foods. 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 a bunch of Instant Pot models to choose from. Some of the lower-end ones lack the yogurt-maker, and a couple of the higher-end models have extra features like sous-vide cooking and canning, but all have the electric pressure cooker function, so much of this guide will focus on that. The Instant Pot comes in 3-, 6- and 8-quart sizes. Unless you're only cooking for yourself or you have a large family, I think the 6-quart model should work for most people.

Buy Instant Pot Duo at Amazon - $89

A brief word on other Instant Pot models: 

  • The Duo Plus (starting at $100) 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 Pro (starting at $115) is designed for the serious cooking enthusiast, with plenty of upgrades over existing Instant Pots. The inner pot 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 cooked meals. The steam release switch has 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 compatible with an optional QuickCool lid that helps you release pressure faster.

  • The Duo Crisp + Air Fryer ($180) is basically an Instant Pot that comes with an additional Air Fryer Lid, which adds dry-heat cooking methods like baking, broiling, dehydrating and of course air-frying. There’s also a Pro version of this Instant Pot ($200) that pairs the air fryer lid with the Pro model mentioned above.

  • The Star Wars Instant Pots ($100) are a great choice for the Star Wars enthusiast or just anyone who wants a fun and unique kitchen appliance. 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.

Which Instant Pot model is right for you?

  • The 6-quart Instant Pot is ideal for most people, but if you’re a singleton or a student, then the 3-quart model is best. For large families, or simply those who like to make a lot of food, then the 8-quart model is a good choice.

  • If you’re interested in diving into sous vide but don’t want to make an investment in a separate machine just for that, then the Instant Pot Smart WiFi, Ultra, Duo Crisp or the Duo Plus are good choices.

  • If you’re really into pressure-canning and preserving foods, then the Instant Pot Max is the one for you. It’s the only one that’s capable of reaching 15 PSI, which is needed for pressure-canning.

  • Making yogurt with the Instant Pot is really easy because it can maintain the same temperature for hours. Models that have this feature include the Duo, Duo Nova, Smart WiFi, Ultra and Duo Plus.


Getting started

With any appliance, I would suggest reading the instructions to get a full idea of how to use it, but here's a brief primer.

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 a 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 will confirm your appliance is in proper working order.

To do a water test, 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.

Then press "Start." From there, the Instant Pot will 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.

Or you can do a manual release (also known as "Quick Release") by switching that aforementioned valve to "Venting." To do that on the Duo models, you rotate the valve, while on the Ultra, you'll press a steam release button on the 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, especially if you're a beginner.

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, then you’ll want to invest in a tempered glass lid. This lid will also keep your food covered if you want to transfer the inner pot to the table or the fridge. 

Buy glass lid at Amazon - $15

Steamers/PIP

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. 

Buy stackable steamer basket at Amazon - $10Buy steamer basket at Amazon - $15Buy Hatrigo steamer basket at Amazon - $18Buy Aozita stackable steamers at Amazon - $30

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. 

Buy sealing rings at Amazon - $12

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

Yet, after using it for a few months, I don’t quite recommend it if you plan on cooking a lot of meals this way. The non-stick coating on the fry basket can flake off if placed in the dishwasher, and as I’ve discovered, it accumulates a sticky film that is almost impossible to wash off. Plus, as I said in an earlier hands-on, 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 probably save up and invest in an actual convection toaster oven rather than settle for the lid.

Tips and tricks

Let's go over a few tips and tricks on how to best use the Instant Pot. This is not an exhaustive list, as different people might have different takeaways from their usage of the Instant Pot, but these insights are what I found works best for me.

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 like you would in regular recipes. But you'll still need to add some liquid because the pressure cooker requires some moisture to build that pressure. Otherwise, the Instant Pot could overheat and show an "OvHT" 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'll take. 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 great, 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 an odd 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 for a couple of cycles.

Consider a separate sealing ring

If you find yourself cooking desserts in addition to savory meals — it's great for making cheesecakes and puddings — I recommend a separate sealing ring just for that. You probably don't want your cheesecake to smell like pulled pork, unless you're into that sort of thing.

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 your newfangled machine. Due to the popularity of the Instant Pot, you'll find no shortage of cookbooks and recipe tutorials online. That aforementioned Facebook group is a good place to start, and there are numerous YouTube videos that are helpful as well. Here are just a few of my favorites:

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 amazing things I've ever made. I also love the recipes for chicken korma and shrimp biryani.

Tiller & Hatch

If you’re at a complete loss with what to do with your Instant Pot, then we recommend trying out products from Tiller & Hatch, a company that specializes in pressure cooker-ready frozen meals. Simply unload the contents of a bag into your Instant Pot, follow the instructions and you’ll have dinner in minutes. Some of the meals are better than others — I prefer the minestrone soup over the gnocchi — but on the whole I think they’re a pretty good value. Each bag costs around $16 and has four servings each. You can sign up for a subscription plan on the website, or pick up individual meals from select Wal-Mart and Target locations.

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)

Impossible's plant-based nuggets are now available in select restaurants

Though it was teased earlier this year, Impossible Foods officially launched its plant-based “chicken” nuggets today. Mostly made out of soy protein and sunflower oil, the “Impossible Chicken Nuggets” will initially be available in select restaurants across the country, and then sold in grocery stores in the frozen aisle later this month.

Some of the restaurants that will be serving the Impossible Nuggets include David Chang’s Fuku in New York City, Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster in Harlem and Miami, Sean Brock’s Joyland in Nashville, Tal Ronnen’s Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles and Traci Des Jardins’ El Alto Jr., a new pop-up at State Street Market in Los Altos, California. Regional chains such as LA-based Fatburger and Bay Area-based Gott’s Roadside will also add the nuggets to their menus this week.

I tried out the nuggets a few days ago at the Gott’s Roadside located in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. They were absolutely delicious, with a crispy well-seasoned breading and a juicy, moist interior. Fresh out of the fryer, they definitely tasted better than the “chik’n” nuggets from the likes of Gardein or Boca Burgers. They didn’t taste exactly like chicken either, but they were close enough that I didn’t mind. In fact, when dipped in various sauces (Gott’s serves them with ranch, ketchup and honey mustard), they were indistinguishable from the real deal.

Engadget

According to Impossible, the nuggets have 40 percent less saturated fat and 25 percent less sodium than animal-based chicken nuggets. “Our technology platform allows us to recreate animal products across protein categories that outperform the animal versions in every way,” said President of Impossible Foods Dennis Woodside in a statement.

An Impossible spokesperson said that the nuggets are made from a combination of protein, fats and nutrients: “We use soy protein as our base to give the nuggets the right bite and to provide high quality protein that is important for our diet. After that, we use sunflower oil to create the fatty and juicy mouthfeel, simple nutrients such as amino acids and sugars that react during cooking to create our savory chicken flavor, and vitamins for nutrition. We also use common culinary ingredients such as starch and methylcellulose to hold the product together and retain moisture, which have the added benefit of more fiber compared to animal meat.”

Impossible certainly isn’t the first company to come out with faux chicken nuggets. Its main rival, Beyond, debuted a line of “chicken” tenders a few months ago, and of course, companies like the aforementioned Gardein and Boca have been making faux nuggets for years. But seeing as chicken is a hugely popular protein source, having more companies produce plant-based alternatives for it is not a bad idea.

According to Impossible, the nuggets you get in the restaurant aren’t very different from the ones you’ll get in the grocery store. The primary difference is in the breading; the foodservice version is designed to be prepared in a commercial deep fryer, while the grocery store ones can be made in the oven, microwave or air fryer. The nuggets are already pre-cooked.

Speaking of the grocery store, the nuggets will be available in the frozen aisle of retailers such as Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger, Gelsons, Safeway, Shoprite and Giant locations across the country later this month. They’re priced at $7.99 (MSRP) for around 20 pieces (13.5 ounces), and come in a resealable freezer bag.