High-end citrus juicer. Home seltzer machines. Under a vacuum. Each year, a trendy new culinary gadget gains a coveted spot on counters across the country, to be relegated to distant cupboards or the garage once the novelty wears off.
This holiday season, nothing in the kitchen is more appealing than the Instant Pot – a versatile electric range that cooks slowly, pressure cooks, sauté, steams, and even makes yogurt from scratch.
The gadget has achieved cult status among its devotees for its ability to reduce cooking times, dirty dishes, and waist circumference (as it is opposed to fried foods). These reasons, experts say, give the Instant Pot something that was lacking in kitchen gifts from past Christmases: resistance.
“They are a prime example of product innovation meeting consumer needs,” said Joe Derochowski, executive director and home industry analyst at research firm NPD Group. “Multicookers are not a fad. “
The inventor of the device, Robert Wang, insists that the device is just as essential as a microwave. But even he saw his company motto – “An Instant Pot in Every Kitchen” – a far-fetched goal.
Five years and millions of unit sales later, the phrase doesn’t seem so laughable to him anymore.
“I think it’s achievable now,” Wang said from his company headquarters in Ottawa.
Over 800,000 fans now belong to Instant Pot’s Facebook group, sharing recipes and photos. Food writers and chefs have embraced the device. And a cottage industry of accessories and cookbooks grew out of the success of Instant Pot, which has been supported by word of mouth since Wang gave up traditional advertising and marketing.
“People who love their Instant Pots are evangelical about it and tell their friends about it,” said Laurel Randolph, a food writer who has sold over 350,000 copies of her cookbook, “The Instant Pot Cookbook Electric Pressure Cooker: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals. “
“I understand the skepticism with so many kitchen gadgets, but it just keeps getting more and more popular,” said Randolph, who is working on a second Instant Pot cookbook that includes more recipes from around the world.
The runaway success of the Instant Pot, which typically sells for under $ 100, has propelled multicooker sales 79% to over $ 300 million in the 12 months ending in November, according to NPD.
In addition to Instant Pot, brands such as Black + Decker, Breville and Cuisinart also manufacture multicookers (NPD does not track sales data by brand and Wang has refused to share the company’s revenue and sales figures. ). None of these rivals, however, liked the kind of sales Instant Pot has had on Amazon, where it’s regularly a bestseller at promotional events like Cyber Monday.
The growth of the appliance has been bolstered by the fact that more Americans are eating at home and looking for ways to cook easier and faster, NPD said.
With an electric pressure cooker – which is a lot less intimidating for many people than a pressure cooker on a stovetop – soups and stews that took hours to prepare can be served in under 60 minutes.
“Multicookers touch all the hot spots for today’s consumers: speed and convenience in preparing healthy meals at home, multi-functionality and ease of use,” said Derochowski of NPD.
Wang said that Instant Pot’s technological ancestor was the humble electric rice cooker. Wang thought he could add pressure sensors to the device to make it more versatile for different cooking methods. He initially invested around $ 50,000 in the development of the Instant Pot, a process that took 18 months.
It’s not perfect, Wang admits. The buttons make the device seem too busy and the learning curve can be a bit steep for newbies. Anyone predisposed to fears about pressure cookers, which is not uncommon, can also agree to purchase the Instant Pot.
While his gadget may be a novelty in American kitchens, Asian households have long been used to the idea of space age rice cookers and pressure cookers – particularly in southern China and Hong Kong, where the latter are used to make bone broths sipped with every meal.
Wang, a 53-year-old former telecommunications engineer whose family is from China, said he is now considering other kitchen appliances to update – although he won’t say which ones. He did offer a clue, however. The Instant Pot is ideal for moist foods such as embers, soups and grains. But when it comes to roasts or anything that needs a crispy texture, the device falls short.
“Crispy would be a whole new area for us,” Wang said.