Pressure release on front panel
Currently only one size/model
We purchased the Chef iQ Smart Cooker so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Pressure cookers have become a popular appliance due to their ability to cook a variety of foods like tough meat, dried beans, and more in a matter of minutes. Taking a smart approach to this appliance is the Chef iQ Smart Cooker. This particular pressure cooker boasts a built-in scale and an app that helps calculate how to cook virtually any meal so you don't have to remember anything.
I’ve owned, tested, and given away a vast fleet of pressure cookers over the years, so I was curious if the Chef iQ Smart Cooker would offer anything new. I readied tough meats, beans, rice, and vegetables, and I thumbed through my favorite pressure cooker cookbooks to make sure I had everything covered. Read on for my thoughts.
Design: Sleek and a bit mysterious
There’s a lot of black on this cooker, particularly when it’s unplugged and the control panel is a rectangle of shiny blackness. That enigmatic look changes when the cooker is turned on. Then, the panel lights up, with the display changing depending on what’s happening in the cooker. There’s no Off switch, so when the cooker isn’t used for a while the display changes to, “Shhhhh … I am sleeping,” with a cute little picture, and it slowly dims but doesn’t turn off completely. The overall look is sleek, modern, enticing, and a tad quirky.
The accessories that come with this cooker are well-designed. The basket has a single handle that can stand up on its own because of the slot that holds it, so it won’t inconveniently fall down. The handle also folds down to fit neatly into the cooker. The rack has two handles that make it easy to get it in and out of the cooker, and its legs are tall enough that food can be well raised from any liquid in the bottom of the pot.
The extra sealing ring included with this cooker is a huge plus. While silicone rings don’t wear out quickly, they can acquire some food odors. Many cooks keep one ring for savory or spicy foods and another for mild-flavored foods or desserts. The fact that the two rings are different colors (one black and one white) makes it easy to keep them separate.
The silicone lid is a great extra. Not only can it be used to securely cover the inner cooking pot for food storage, but it’s also great as a trivet when the hot cooking pot is removed from the cooker.
Note: earlier packages of this cooker had a slightly different—but still useful—set of accessories.
Performance: It cooks
When it comes to basic pressure cooking functions, the Chef iQ handles cooking as well as any other electric pressure cooker I’ve used. Steaming vegetables, slow-cooking chili, and sauteing onions all worked as promised. To be honest, there are plenty of electric pressure cookers that can handle the basics. This machine really shines when the smart features are in play.
Features: Touchscreen and more
Packed with features, this cooker’s smart interface makes the features easy to access through the cooker’s front panel, as well as the downloadable app. The main screen starts with a selection of Pressure Cook, Sear/Sauté, Steam, Slow Cook, Favorites, and More. Some selections are similar to those on basic pressure cookers, but then it gets more interesting. Choosing one of the options changes the display in the center. In Pressure Cook mode, for example, the center of the screen changes to offer the options Manual, Chicken, Beef, Pork, Egg, Beans, Rice, Pasta, Grains, Seafood, and Vegetables. Choosing one of those gives even more options.
The Favorites option includes items saved from the app’s calculator recipes, so it’s completely controlled by the user’s choices.
The final and most enigmatic choice, More, offers Ferment (for making yogurt and similar foods), Keep Warm, Sanitize, and Settings.
When cooking is done, a Release option appears on the screen, so the cook can manually release pressure with a touch, or the valve can be manually turned. But those aren’t the only choices for pressure release. When setting up cooking options, the cook can choose Quick Release, pulse Release, or Natural Release, so the cook doesn’t have to lurk over to the cooker waiting for it to finish.
Smart Cooking: The smartest pressure cooker I’ve used
The smart features aren’t just the slick interface or the app, although those play their part. The app offers remote control of most of the cooker’s options and includes even more smartness than what’s available on the front panel. I had to manually press Start on the cooker to get things going, but that’s a safety feature I appreciated.
While guided recipes are great, I think the calculator function could be the game changer here.
The smart feature I tried first was one of the guided recipes in the app. First, I made the applesauce, and when that worked I moved on to apple butter, and then beef stew, exactly as the recipes prompted me. Then I got more creative: when I used the app’s recipe for tomato soup, I used the app to control the cooker’s temperature and time, but I used my favorite recipe. It worked perfectly.
Although I liked the recipes I tried, I giggled a bit at the potato pancake recipe because it would be easier to flip them in a frying pan than in a pressure cooker pot. Still, the variety of recipes was appealing, and I’ve got plenty saved to the app’s favorites.
While guided recipes are great, I think the calculator function could be the game changer here. With this option, cooks don’t have to look up time, temperature, and liquid quantity when they want to cook a particular food. I used the calculator for pinto beans to make refried beans, and I used it again when I made plain white rice. It can calculate the proper way to cook a wide variety of foods, and it’s tied to another of the smart features in this cooker: the scale.
The calculator recipes can use measurements or quantities—one cup of rice or four eggs, for example—or the user can choose the scale to weigh ingredients and let the cooker calculate the amount of water and cooking time needed. The liquid amount is a minimum, so the cook can add more if they prefer.
Any cooking instructions generated from the calculator can be saved to both the app and the cooker so there’s no need to recalculate every time that particular food is on the menu. It doesn’t sound earth-shaking, but for cooks who often cook the same foods, it means they don’t need to remember how long the chicken thighs cook or how much water to add to steam broccoli.
The app offers remote control of most of the cooker’s options and includes even more smartness than what’s available on the front panel.
Not just for calculator recipes, the scale can be used with some of the pre-set functions, and it can also be used independently. While I'm not going to pull out my pressure cooker to weigh baking ingredients, I found it handy when weighing ingredients for chili that I slow-cooked in the pot.
While this device obviously doesn’t include every possible food that can be cooked, the variety is wide enough that if a specific food isn’t listed, it’s likely there’s a similar food that can be used as a time-and-temperature template. And with updates coming regularly, the number of choices is going to increase as time goes on.
This cooker doesn’t have the robust online community that similar products have, but that’s to be expected because this is a relatively new item. There is, however, a Facebook group; it’s not very large yet, but I expect it will grow.
I was a little skittish because this cooker isn’t from a brand I’d heard of, but when I had an issue with my cooker, I emailed the company and had a reply the next day. The response was professional, courteous, and very useful.
Cleaning: Easy by hand or machine
Because the cooking pot is coated with nonstick ceramic, it’s a breeze to clean. Even better, the lid, silicone sealing ring, pot, and all the accessories are top-rack dishwasher-safe.
Price: Justifiably expensive
The Chef iQ Smart Cooker retails for around $200. There are no-name pressure cookers that are a lot less expensive than this one, but I'm not aware of any electric pressure cookers with this set of features. I think it’s worth the price.
Competition: Chef iQ Smart Cooker vs. Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1
Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1: Let’s face it, the Instant Pot made electric pressure cookers popular, and the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 is a popular model. It features lots of buttons that make it easy to choose things like poultry, rice, or yogurt, and the center display is easy to understand. I’ve used a number of Instant Pot products, and they’re reliable, so I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone from buying one.
The Chef iQ, however, offers a different level of cooking. Not only can you choose to cook poultry, but there are also guided recipes, as well as drill down options to choose the variety of poultry, the cut, and fresh or frozen. While the Instant Pot is great for cooks who want to push a single button, the Chef iQ knows that chicken breasts and turkey breasts are not the same. For cooks who want more precise control of their cooking and want to try some foolproof recipes, I love the options the Chef iQ offers.
An absolute game changer.
I love testing smart devices because it’s fun to use new technology. However, I only love the devices themselves if the smart features are improvements. When it comes to the Chef iQ Smart Cooker, it’s worth repeating: the calculator along with the scale make this cooker a game changer.
- Product Name Smart Cooker
- Product Brand Chef iQ
- UPC 816458023849
- Price $200
- Weight 10.4 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 13 x 13 x 13 in.
- Color Black
- Material Ceramic-coated nonstick cooking pot, stainless steel rack and steamer basket
- Warranty 1 year (extra warranty time is added when connecting to the app)
- What's Included Besides the required parts, this includes a steamer basket with handle, a cooking rack with handles, a silicone cover for the cooking pot, and a spare silicone sealing ring.