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I Tried the Instant Pot With Built-In Air Fryer Lid. Here's What I Thought

This first-ever Instant Pot with a built-in air fryer lid will save some space in your kitchen. But is it any good?

7.8

Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid

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Like

  • Saves space (it combines an Instant Pot and air fryer)
  • Got the job done as air fryer, pressure cooker and several other functions
  • Has a larger air frying capacity than similar models

Don't Like

  • Air frying takes 5 minutes to preheat
  • Was difficult to clean the wire tray after air frying
  • An integral piece broke off, although it might have been my fault
  • $100 more than the first-generation Duo Crisp but not worth the extra money

Air fryers and multicookers are two of the most popular small kitchen appliances of late. If you're low on kitchen space, you might be deciding if you should opt for one over the other, but the new Instant Pot Dup Crisp with Ultimate Air-Frying lid combines the best of both and could save you from having to decide. 

The Instant brand (famous for the Instant Pot) has been making air fryers for a few years now but only recently added an air-frying feature to the popular multicooker. The latest Instant Pot release, the Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, sports built-in convection and air fryer lid along with a slim pressure cooker insert so you can use it as you would a traditional multicooker: Slow cook, pressure cook, steam, sauté and more. 

Instant Pot with air fryer lid on counter
Instant Pot

As a habitual user of the multicooker and air fryer, and a bona fide lover of anything space-saving, I wrangled the new 6.5-quart Instant Pot model with Ultimate Lid to see if it could do the work of both popular small appliances. While it wasn't a total flop, the pricey $230 model proved bulkier than a standard Instant Pot and didn't quite have the pop of its air fryer lid predecessor. It was also tough to clean and needed preheat time to air fry, unlike most air fryers.

At this bloated price, I wouldn't recommend it over the first-generation Duo Crisp, which is roughly $100 cheaper. Here's what I thought of the hybrid air fryer and multicooker.

Instant Pot Duo Crisp on Table

The convection and air fryer mechanism is built into the lid. The detachable lid for pressure cooking and slow cooking (right of Instant Pot) is light, thin and easy to store. 

David Watsky/CNET

What the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid does

Unlike any Instant Pot before it, the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid has air fryer functionality built into the main lid. Because of this convection cooking element, you can air fry, broil, bake and roast -- all cooking methods that most Instant Pots don't offer. It also has most of the functionality of your basic Instant Pot multicooker including pressure cook, slow cook, steam and sauté.

While you won't have to screw on (or find storage for) a bulky conical air fryer lid attachment as you do for the original Duo Crisp, you will have to slide in the pressure cooker lid when you want to pressure or slow cook. However, that lid is very light and thin measuring no more than 2 inches high; it shouldn't be hard to find space for one. 

Instant Pot Duo Crisp on Table

I found the dials and controls simple to use, but I'm not used to air fryers that require preheat time.

David Watsky/CNET

How it performs as an air fryer

I cooked several of my favorite air fryer foods with the Duo Crisp and its Ultimate Lid. The air fryer was plenty proficient once it got heated. Speaking of which, this is one of the only air fryers I've used that needed an official preheat time. For an air frying session at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it took about five minutes to preheat plus the actual cook time. I'm used to air fryers that don't need preheating, so it took getting used to. 

I made a few air fryer favorites with the Duo Crisp

Fried chicken thighs: One air fryer recipe I've become fond of is simple fried chicken thighs. I take two or three thighs, dip them in egg and dredge them in flour. I made them with my standard recipe in both the Duo Crisp and my solo Magic Bullet air fryer. I cooked for 18 minutes and flipped them at the midway point. The results were remarkably similar, but the Instant Pot needed an extra five minutes to preheat.

Sweet potato fries: Fried potatoes are another classic air fryer food. They generally come out crispy and much less oily than with deep frying. I split a sweet potato in half and made a batch of fries in my solo air fryer and the Duo Crisp. Both batches emerged from 12 minutes of cooking with about the same amount of caramelization and browning.

split screen of fries cooked in solo air fryer and Instant Pot

The Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid turned out equally browned sweet potato fries as my solo air fryer in the same amount of time.

David Watsky/CNET

I also made basic chicken cutlets from scratch in the Duo Crisp. These took a few minutes longer than they would have in a typical solo air fryer but came out looking great with a crispy crust and juicy insides. 

Chicken cutlet cooked in Instant Pot

The Duo Crisp with Ultimate lid turned out picture-perfect chicken cutlets.

David Watsky/CNET

Roasted broccoli: I roasted broccoli florets (tossed in olive oil) in the Duo Crisp for 12 minutes at 375 degrees F. While they came out great, there was only enough capacity to cook two servings. I'd probably generally opt to use my oven for something like this. 

Larger air frying capacity than the original Duo Crisp

The biggest draw of this model over the brand's initial hybrid air fryer model is more cooking capacity. With the air fryer rack in place, you can fit three medium chicken breasts and four chicken thighs in the cooking chamber (probably five in a pinch). The original model required a separate, smaller basket insert that had enough for only three chicken thighs or two medium breasts.

chicken breasts inside instant pot with ultimate lid

The air-frying rack easily holds two large chicken breasts (shown here) or three medium ones. 

David Watsky/CNET

Harder to clean than most air fryers

One major setback of this model for me is how difficult the air frying rack was to clean. When I finished cooking the chicken thighs with dredged flour and egg coating, the fine mesh wire rack was inundated with gunk. While trying to flip them midway through cooking, much of the coating and skin also stuck to the rack. 

air fryer tray with chicken skin stuck on

The wire air frying rack was no fun to clean.

David Watsky/CNET

Most air fryer baskets have a nonstick coating and take seconds to clean after use. For the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, I had to give it a good 10-minute soak to get it clean, but it did all eventually come off with a scrubber, soap and elbow grease. I found it much more difficult to clean than the original Duo Crisp's nonstick basket and rack, which is completely flat with larger holes that don't trap as much food. 

Other foods including sweet potatoes and frozen snacks didn't stick to the wire rack. If you're planning on cooking mostly those foods versus battered foods, you may not have the same issues I did. 

diagram of original instant pot duo crisp and parts

The original Duo Crisp requires a separate basket insert for air frying which diminishes the overall capacity. On the upside, it was far easier to clean.

Instant Pot

How it performs as a pressure cooker

I also made one of my go-to pressure cooker recipes: pulled pork shoulder. I followed a recipe I've used several times in other Instant Pots: dredging the 3-pound pork shoulder in flour and spices, searing in the Instant Pot and pressure cooking for 45 minutes. The Duo Crisp turned out a near mirror image of the fork-tender pork shoulders I've made before in the same amount of time.

The first pressure cooker lid broke, rendering it unusable

During one of my first sessions using the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, an essential piece of the pressure cooker lid that helps fasten it to the main lid snapped off, rendering it unusable as a pressure cooker or slow cooker. I can't say for sure how it happened though the first few times I attached the pressure lid, I had to muscle it a bit to get it on.

shot of broken pressure cooker lid next to one that is intact

A small and seemingly unimportant plastic bit will render your Instant Pot's pressure cooker lid useless if it snaps off, as mine did. 

David Watsky/CNET

In the replacement lid that I was sent, the small plastic protuberance that snapped off didn't seem particularly shoddy. That said, I'd caution anyone with this model to be gentler than I was in trying to secure and remove the lid.

Who should buy the Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid?

The Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is a good choice for someone who uses a multicooker often but also wants to air fry on occasion. I stress often because if you tend to use an air fryer far more than an Instant Pot, pressure cooker or multicooker, this model is far bulkier and heavier than most solo air fryers. 

I personally air fry far more than I use a multicooker so I'm happy with my small and light 2.6-quart Magic Bullet air fryer and its nonstick basket. I leave it on my counter most times, whereas my multicooker is stored in a closet until I'm ready to use it. 

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is bulkier than most air fryers and it also requires more cleanup after an air frying session than I'm used to. It also takes about five minutes to preheat, while most other air fryers don't need preheat time at all. That said, once it was ready to cook, this machine air-fried, broiled and roasted with the best of 'em. 

I liked the new Duo Crisp fine, but the original Duo Crisp without the built-in air fryer lid can be had for about $130. For my money, that's the better pick if you're looking for a machine that does it all. If you already have a 6-quart Instant Pot you like, grab the air frying lid for $70 or on sale for $55 at Crate & Barrel.

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