An adjustment for high-altitude cooking
Cooking progress indicator shows cooking stages
Adjustable temperature for sous vide cooking
Large size needs more storage space
Quick-release button not intuitive
Start button must be pressed (different than other models)
When my Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker arrived, I had to admire its heft and its size. (I ordered the 8-quart option, but this model is also available in 3-quart and 6-quart sizes.) While I could appreciate that large families and meal preppers would love the idea of vats of soup stock or double batches of chili, I wondered if it had advantages for cooks with more modest needs. After some serious time under pressure, here’s what I thought of the popular Instant Pot’s functions and features.
Setup Process: So easy
Like most appliances, the parts for the Instant Pot Ultra—the lid with removable silicone seal, the stainless steel inner cooking pot, and any of the included accessories you are using (cooking trivet with handles, rice measuring cup, rice paddle, and spoon)—should be washed before the first use.
After re-assembling the parts, the brand suggests performing a water test to confirm that the cooker is holding pressure. I found that this also gave me the opportunity to get familiar with how the controls function.
Design: Modern and sleek
The controls on this Instant Pot are different from earlier models thanks to a large display with plenty of information. Buttons around the display show the preset cooking functions, while a knob below lets you choose the function as well as all of its options. I really liked this method, and it made me feel confident that I actually did turn the warming feature on or off.
One interesting design decision on this model is the cancel button on the left of the control knob and the start button on the right. The cancel button not only cancels the cooking process, but it also backs you out of the settings you were choosing. Previous models of the Instant Pot did not have a start button—you simply chose your settings and you walked away. If you’ve used previous models, you may need to train yourself to press start. If this is your first Instant Pot, that start button might seem normal, since many other appliances have start and stop buttons.
The lid’s side handles can be inserted in the pot’s side handles to hold the lid (picture the way a trash can opens on a hinge). I liked this design, as it meant that I didn’t need to find a place on the counter to set the lid while I was working.
One interesting new design feature is that when the lid is removed and replaced, the quick-release button automatically reverts to the sealing mode. This is great for people who forget to correctly set the steam release and come back to find that they’ve been cooking without pressure.
I liked the design of the lid handles, as it meant that I didn’t need to find a place on the counter to set the lid while I was working.
Unlike cookers that require users to turn the steam release valve itself, the quick-release button just needs to be pressed to start the venting process, and it’s a slight distance from the steam vent, which should help users feel a little less concerned about the hot steam. When gently pressed, it vented steam until I lifted my finger. This is great for controlled venting. When the quick-release valve is pressed down more firmly, it stays in place for continuous venting. It took me a few tries and a second perusal of the manual to figure out that firm push.
One thing I really loved about the included cooking trivet was its handles. When I placed a soufflé dish on the trivet to cook a French toast casserole, those handles made it really easy to lift the soufflé dish out of the pot when cooking was done.
Features: Fully loaded
This product is labeled a “10-in-1” because it combines these functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, cake maker, yogurt maker, sauté/searing, steamer, warmer, sterilizer, and “ultra.” While some models treat the pressure cook feature as a separate function from the other presets, pressure cook is this Instant Pot’s first preset. Additionally, there are programs for soup/broth, meat/stew, bean/chili, steam, slow cook, sauté, warm, rice, porridge, multigrain, cake, egg, sterilize, yogurt, and ultra. While all those presets can be handy, and I certainly fiddled with all of them, I used the pressure cook option most often.
The ultra preset is one of the features that sets this cooker apart. Ultra lets you set a precise temperature for recipes that require it, and I found that it worked well enough for my purposes. I used it to sous vide some chicken thighs, and while the temperature fluctuated a bit during the 90-minute cook, it was close enough to get my food done.
One of the overall settings is an altitude adjustment, which is great for anyone who lives above sea level. This setting adjusts the cooking time to compensate for the lower cooking temperatures, which means that those in high-altitude areas won’t need to do the math when using standard recipes.
While it didn’t change the cooking function, I liked the cooking progress indicator, a digital graph that shows the heating-up and cooling-down progress in a way that’s easy to understand at a glance. And if that weren’t enough, you can make adjustments after cooking has already started, delay the start time up to 24 hours, and even repeat recipes thanks to the smart feature that recalls program customizations.
Performance: It’s a beast
There’s no doubt about it: This is a solid performer. From fluffy rice to creamy cheesecake to spicy chili to a French toast casserole, I used this cooker for every meal, aside from the occasional lettuce leaf, and I didn’t have a single failure.
Again, I ordered the 8-quart version, and I wondered if it would be a benefit for anyone but large families. After using it for a while, however, I began to appreciate the extra room. When I cooked in a springform pan or a soufflé dish, I had plenty of space around that cookware. So, for example, while making my go-to Instant Pot cheesecake recipe, the extra width of the 8-quart bowl made it easier to get the pan into and out of the pot.
Unlike cookers that require users to turn the steam release valve itself, the quick-release button just needs to be pressed to start the venting process.
The extra room was also much appreciated when making soup stock, since I had more than enough room for the bones from a roast chicken, along with onion, celery, and carrots for extra flavor. An hour at high pressure was all it took to make a flavorful stock that went on to become soup later in the week, also cooked in the pressure cooker.
When browning meat before cooking, I didn’t need to do that browning in batches. For instance, before making a stew, I seared the beef in the cooker to get more flavor. Then, I added potatoes and carrots along with seasonings and liquids and let it slow cook, just to test that function. Six hours later, and dinner was done.
Resources: Just a click away
The Instant Pot company has a lively presence on social media, including a Facebook page, a Facebook group, a Twitter handle, and an Instagram feed. There’s also an app with plenty of recipes, and Instant Pot has even authorized several cookbooks produced by trusted authors. Because the appliance is so popular, there are plenty of third-party resources, including blogs and fun accessories.
The inner stainless steel cooking pot and the silicone sealing ring are dishwasher-safe. Other cooking parts should be washed by hand. Note that this product is UL- and ULC-certified.
Price: A bit higher
At about $180, the 8-quart Instant Pot Ultra is a little more expensive than the 3-quart and 6-quart versions ($120 and $150, respectively), and it’s also a bit more expensive than some of the brand’s earlier models. But that’s to be expected. This cooker has a nicer, clearer interface, and it includes some new features that users might enjoy. The size, while adding some bulk to the overall machine, was overall a benefit.
Competition: “Smart” models available
Another of the newer-generation models is the Instant Pot Smart WiFi, which integrates the pot with your home Wi-Fi system to allow you to control it from an app or from your Alexa device. This model doesn’t have a sous vide function, though, and the controls are not quite as sophisticated as the Ultra. While Wi-Fi connectivity is cool, I’d have to give the nod to the Ultra for its sous vide capability and better user interface.
One of the latest Instant Pot releases is the Instant Pot Max, which can cook at 15psi (pounds of force per square inch), like stovetop cookers. It can also be used for pressure canning, and it has a sous vide function. If you have to have the latest gadgets or you like the idea of pressure canning a few jars at a time, the Max is for you, but you’ll be paying more for less cooking capacity. If you need—or want—the larger cooking capacity, the Ultra does almost everything the Max does and gives you more space for that giant roast in your freezer.
It’s hard not to fall right in love with the Instant Pot Ultra 10-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, even though I didn’t think I’d need the capacity of the 8-quart option I ordered. I liked the user interface, and I like the addition of the start button that just seems to make sense. I’d happily recommend this to anyone who has space for it.
- Product Name Ultra 10-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker
- Product Brand Instant Pot
- UPC 859716007205
- Price $179.95
- Weight 15.7 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14.8 x 14 x 14.49 in.
- Size Options 3-qt., 6-qt., 8-qt.
- Material Stainless steel pot
- Power Supply 120V – 60Hz
- Heating Element 1200 W
- Power Supply Cord 35 in., non-detached, 3 prong plug
- Warranty 1 year
- What’s Included Instant Pot, cooking trivet with handles, rice measuring cup, rice paddle, and spoon