I’ve been an early adopter of some technology like personal data assistants, to keep things organized, and a late (and begrudging) adopter of other technology like annoying cellphones.
As far as kitchen appliances, I’m a bit behind the curve because the latest innovations to grace my counters are the microwave and electric griddle, the latter of which was a wedding gift.
And my culinary tastes might not be considered eclectic, either. Minnesotans love tater tot hot dish, it seems, whereas I’d rather chew on sweaty socks after gym class than partake in the gastronomical mishmash. Likewise, I was unfamiliar with Top the Tater sour cream dip before moving to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and now can’t live without it.
But, as a reporter, I’m not oblivious to trends, fads and developments, including the culinary kind, even though I’m adamant I will never order a pizza by going online or using a smartphone app.
So when I hear of Instant Pot, the first thing that comes to my mind, simply based on what little I know, is something that allows the owner to quickly grow marijuana at home.
And when I hear of an air fryer, I just scratch my head and wonder if they’ll be appearing anytime soon at the Minnesota State Fair, where if it isn’t deep fried on a stick, it’s not the fair.
Both have been popular of late, judging by newspaper circulars and ads offering discounts on the appliances, which seem to have exploded into the American zeitgeist.
But I have to wonder how good can an Instant Pot or an air fryer be, or I have to ponder what the late, great Julia Child would think of devices that seem to circumvent cooking as we knew it.
Instant Pot is a line of electric multicookers that has become an internet sensation and inspired a legion of “Potheads” - those who swear by the appliances made by the Canadian company, according to an article by The New York Times.
“These devotees … use their Instant Pots for virtually every kitchen task imaginable: sautéing, pressure-cooking, steaming, even making yogurt and cheesecakes,” the Times story reported. “Then, they evangelize on the internet, using social media to sing the gadget’s praises to the unconverted.”
According to the 2017 story, the Instant Pot was among the Top 5 items sold by Amazon and Target, and among the Top 3 bestsellers at Kohl’s during that year’s Black Friday sales.
As the seemingly Swiss Army knife of kitchen appliances, the Instant Pot’s original and primary products are electronically controlled, combined pressure cookers and slow cookers, and were marketed as 7-in-1 appliances that would save counter space and money as well.
Culinary purists may balk at food prepared with an Instant Pot - at the promises of what the small appliance may offer its users but may not possibly deliver on - however, its converted followers are undeniably vocal on social media and their numbers continue to grow.
Likewise, more than 4 million air fryers were sold over a recent 12-month period in the U.S., which represents a tenfold increase in two years, according to the market research firm NPD Group in a recent Consumer Reports article about the small convection ovens.
“A fan circulates hot air to quickly cook food in the basket from the outside in. … Fries, certainly, but add to the list chicken wings, chicken nuggets, jalapeno poppers, cheese sticks - even pizza bites - and you get the idea. Most have small capacities, from 2 to 5.8 quarts.”
As a skeptical professional journalist, the adage, “If it sounds too good to be true then it is,” has served me well. But as with any new technology, the price points of the Instant Pot and air fryers have come down with their growing acceptance, so the purchase price shouldn’t be an obstacle.
Or hit up friends, family or neighbors and ask to try making something with their Instant Pot or air fryer. That way, you could “try before you buy” to see if either is something for you. Like many things in life - and in food in particular - it might just come down to a matter of taste.