Maybe let a multi-cooker make dinner for you, instead. Photo: ISTOCK

Perhaps you've heard: People are obsessed with their Instant Pots. Who can resist the droid-like devices, with their rounded tubs, cheerful blinking lights and pledge to do it all faster and better than we ever could? Like Roombas, they’re loyal robot pets to whom we relegate our most laborious and abhorred home tasks. Whether it’s vaccuming up the heap of dog hair from under the couch or cooking a big ol’ pot of beans in under an hour, all we have to do is press a few buttons and BB-8 (or R2-D2, depending on your loyalties) will take it from here! 

 

OK, enough with the A.I. smarm. If you aspire to do more home cooking without spending more hours slaving over the stove, investing in a multicooker will make it easier. It doesn’t have to be an Instant Pot; plenty of brands have put out well-reviewed products that offer the same set-it-and-forget-it functionality. (Although Instant Pot definitely wins for best name.) Here’s everything you need to know about your future plug-in home chef. 

 

What the heck is a multi-cooker? 

 

The multifunctional kitchen appliance does the work of about seven devices in one. It’s a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, saute pan and warming pot. Basically, you throw in what you want to cook, select the proper setting and temperature, switch on the timer and leave it be. You’re barely even cooking, you’re more delegating, while the multi-cooker does the heavy-lifting for you (which, by the way, makes the men in these Instant Pot cookbook covers completely irrelevant).

 
 

Just posted this extremely easy, throw everything into the pot chicken and lentil soup recipe! It's so filling and freezes wonderfully!

 

A post shared by Sincerely Sutton (@sincerely_sutton) on

What can you cook with it?

A better question would be, what can’t you cook? (More on that, below.) Use the slow-cooker function for your chilis, stews and soups. The pressure cooker will tenderize meat until it’s falling apart (pulled pork! Sunday pot roast!) and get your beans just right in under half and hour. The rice cooker will give those carbs the workout of their life in under 10 minutes. Cook your eggs or veggies under the steamer, or brown chicken with the saute functions. If you, uh, yearn to make yogurt, you can do that, too. Scared of your microwave? Heat up your leftovers with the “warm” setting.  

What can’t you cook? 

This wunderkind does have its limitations. It does not function as a grill, so if you want that smoke flavor and charcoal sear, you’ll have to bust out the George Foreman or the Weber. It won’t blend things for you, so if you make soup and then want to puree it, you’ll have to transfer it to your blender or food processor. And let it be known these 6-8 quart tubs are not sleight of frame; if you don't have the space for the big boy in your kitchen, it might not be for you. 

Finally, please just read the manual

We all want to believe we can skip over the manual and just figure it out hands-on. But in this case, putting your literacy to use will save you a lot of confusion and even injury — you don't want to give yourself a steam burn because you didn't turn the pressure valve to the right setting.

Here’s to easier home meals in 2018.