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Instant Pot Duo
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|Bottom Line||The features and options in this product make it much more than a slow cooker||Convenient and dependable, this slow-cooker can be left all day on the counter or easily taken with you||Excellent, reliable performance and a reasonable price will make many home cooks happy with this programmable slow cooker||This simple, easy-to-use classic Crock-Pot has all the performance and capacity you want||This small, portable slow cooker is perfect to tote along and put on display at your next picnic|
|Rating Categories||Instant Pot Duo||Hamilton Beach Temp...||Hamilton Beach 6-Qu...||Crock-Pot 6-Quart C...||Crock-Pot 2.5-Quart...|
|User Friendliness (35%)|
|Cooking Performance (30%)|
|Cooking Features (25%)|
|Ease of Cleaning (10%)|
|Specs||Instant Pot Duo||Hamilton Beach Temp...||Hamilton Beach 6-Qu...||Crock-Pot 6-Quart C...||Crock-Pot 2.5-Quart...|
|Pot Material||Stoneware||Nonstick Aluminum||Stoneware||Stoneware||Stoneware|
|Capacity||6.5 qt||6 qt||6 qt||6 qt||2.5 qt|
|Lid with Gasket?||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Steam Release Valve in Lid?||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Features||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/med/low); manual mode; probe mode; auto warm; auto shut off after 6 hours; beeps to indicate on/off/start||4 manual heat settings; cooking vessel can be used in the oven, on the stovetop, and in the fridge and freezer; cooking base can be used as a griddle; comes with a travel (nonlocking) lid and a thermal carrying case||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/med/low/keep warm); auto warm setting for 4 hrs||Programmable time (30min increments) and temp (high/low); auto warm setting||None|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Instant Pot Duo is a delight to work with. It seemed as though no matter what food we tried to cook, it came out perfectly. Its 7-in-1 functionality is unique for these cookers, and it was the only one with a stainless steel insert, making it much easier to clean and move around than the usual stoneware crocks. Bottom line: this is much more than just a slow cooker.
No slow cooker is good or useful if you get frustrated by trying to figure it out and get it to work. Because of that, this metric was given the most weight in the final score of each cooker. We then divided it into four subgroups for further testing: Temperature Settings, Timer, Ease of Programming, and Cook 'n' Carry.
The temperature settings on the Duo are very simple — Less, Normal, More, and Warm. This may not seem like much, but further choices come into play with the programming. For all its different functions, this slow cooker is easy to use even though you may feel overwhelmed at first glance. The timer shuts off automatically when it has come to the end of the cooking cycle, and it will sing — yes, sing — if you lift the lid before the cycle has finished. That's one way to catch those sneaky fingers trying to snitch an early taste.
In a slow cooker with this many features and options, you might worry that the programming will be convoluted and hard to learn. But it's not at all complicated and is actually very straightforward. The manual has some required reading, but it's helpful and easy to understand. Getting set up and cooking is a breeze.
Another great feature of this cooker is the locking lid and the long insulated handles — a huge help when carrying it to your cousin's house for the pre-game food fest.
A slow cooker can have options and features and bells and whistles, but it's useless if it doesn't cook your food well. And we've all dealt with buying something we think will be amazing only to have it end up sitting in the cabinet. In this metric, we tested the Duo, as we did all the slow cookers, with meat, grains, beans, and veggies. We then rated the outcomes based on color, texture, taste, and whether the food was cooked evenly.
We began with a traditional meat dish of pot roast and vegetables. We used the same kind of meat in the same proportions for all the slow cookers to ensure accurate comparisons. We found that the circular shape of the Instant Pot Duo seemed a little smaller than the typical oval shape, so it was tricky to stir things up without fearing some spillage. But the results were really, really good, with a delicious and moist texture to the meat.
The results of the grains and beans weren't as spectacular, however. Though they retained excellent color, this meal leaned towards a firm texture rather than soft and mushy, and some sections of the rice were slightly hard. The beans had good texture, though.
Now we come to the veggies, which frequently can come out of a slow cooker on the raw side or mushed up beyond use. But the Duo really shined here. We used a number of fresh garden veggies to make a scrumptious lunch, and they came out beautifully. Or, as one of our testers said, "crushed it." It's not too often that a slow cooker earns that kind of praise with vegetables, but it was well-deserved. The carrots were firm, the zucchini melted in our mouths, the potatoes were soft but not squishy, and everything had great flavor.
With so many functions and options, it's no surprise that there are great features for cooking on the Duo. Because this cooker offers so much more than just slow cooking, it wasn't even really a fair fight.
First of all, we looked at safety. No one wants a child (or anyone) to accidentally bump the lid and be scalded by burning hot food. The Instant Pot Duo lists ten safety features: overheat protection, a locking insulated lid, insulated handles and bottom perimeter of the cooker, among others. Those features in and of themselves are worth the price if you have children living with you or if you tend to get distracted while cooking.
But the Duo offers much more than just safety features. The indicators on the screen are many and helpful, showing "Lid" if the lid isn't on correctly or "Food Burn" if there is insufficient liquid in the pot. Other indicators include "On," "End," and "Keep Warm" for when the program is finished. But the thing that really impressed us is the 7-in-1 functionality; sauté, pressure cook, even a yogurt setting — this cooker will do anything except the laundry.
Ease of Cleaning
So we come to the job that no one really likes to do — cleaning up after dinner. And trying to get dried or burned food off of a stoneware crock is a pain in the neck. But the Instant Pot Duo is stainless steel, making it much easier to clean by either hand washing or by using the dishwasher, where both the inner lid and the pot fit into the bottom rack. But maybe best of all, the stainless steel pot is far lighter and easier to maneuver than the older, heavier stoneware ones.
Because the Duo is also a pressure cooker, the lid is much more complicated. There's a gasket and little nooks and crannies to contend with. It's still decently straightforward to clean, but it's certainly not as simple as a less involved and feature-rich option.
Should You Buy the Instant Pot Duo?
Priced a little higher than most of the other slow cookers we tested, the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 was a big hit with us. We view value as getting the most bang for your buck, and this more-than-a-slow cooker's many features, functions, and options make it a great value. Though it might not be the best for a novice, almost any other cook will love to have this sitting on the counter.
What Other Slow Cookers Should You Consider?
Likely by now it's clear why we named the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 our top slow cooker. You can't go wrong with so many outstanding features and improved safety features. On top of that, there are entire recipe books and websites dedicated to Instant Pot cooking and techniques. This cooker really can open up a world of culinary delights. If you can afford this cooker and don't feel the extra features will be lost on you, this is absolutely the one to get. That said, if you'd prefer less features that are focused more toward cooking hunks of meat, the Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Set & Forget is what we'd recommend. You'll save money and gain a programmable probe for dialing in the perfect roast.