Just when you thought the Instant Pot couldn't possibly do anything else, the Air Fry Lid appears. This specialty lid attaches to most Instant Pot models, adding the ability to air fry, bake, dehydrate, broil and roast in a special basket or roasting pan. At $80, it costs as much as some Instant Pot models and countertop air fryers. We tried it in the CNET Smart Home to find out if it's worth the dough.
Let's take a look at the stats. This Air Fry Lid can air fry, broil, bake, roast, reheat and dehydrate. It comes with an air fry basket, a broil/dehydrating tray and a storage cover. It's also powered by its own cord. Essentially, your Instant Pot is acting as a base for the air fry basket. You'll only plug in the lid, leaving the Instant Pot itself unplugged.
The main event here is, of course, air frying. We threw a batch of seasoned chicken wings into the basket and set the lid to 35 minutes at 375 degrees. A friendly "turn food" reminder lights up and beeps halfway through the cooking cycle. Remove the lid, and you've got three minutes on the clock to turn the food and put the lid back on in order for the cooking to automatically resume.
The results were great. A crispy skin and tender meat cooked to a safe, but juicy temperature. Satisfied with our chicken wing results, we moved on to a frozen food temptation -- mozzarella sticks.
Here we came up against a temperature issue. Package instructions suggested cooking for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F, but the Air Fry Lid only air fries up to 400 degrees. We opted to double the time and check it as we went. At 18 minutes, cheese had seeped out and burned and the outside looked golden, so we called it quits.
Don't get me wrong, I still chowed down on these cheese sticks, but the mozzarella wasn't gooey and stringy the way I would prefer. Adjusting from package directions is always a little unpredictable, so know that this lid won't fry beyond 400 degrees.
In addition to air frying, the lid can also dehydrate. One of the lid's more interesting features, this specialty mode means you can make jerky, banana chips or any other dried snack you like. The dehydrating tray sits halfway down the air fry basket. We tried making jerky with marinated bottom round, thinly sliced and set on the tray. The dehydrator heats up to 165 degrees.
After 4 hours the meat was dry enough to be considered jerky, but the texture was a bit uneven and tough in some spots. Dehydrating likely isn't the most common use of this lid, given that it can broil, bake and air fry. It's also worth noting that this isn't the first swing at air frying Instant Brands has made that can dehydrate. We had better results with theair fryer, a countertop air fryer we tested last year.
Finally, we testedin the Air Fry Lid with a pair of Hasselback potatoes. Again, I was disappointed that the highest temperature setting is 380 degrees, since most recipes for baking things like potatoes and fries call for 425 degrees or higher.
To put the Air Fry Lid in baking mode, set the air fry basket in the Instant Pot and top it with the broil/dehydrating plate. I set the timer for 1 hour and the temperature to 380 degrees. There aren't halfway turning notifications for settings like dehydrate and bake, so if you want to turn your food using these modes, you'll need your own timer.
The potatoes came out just right -- after adding 25 minutes to the suggested 55-minute cooking time for a 425-degree oven. If you're dedicated to cooking in the Air Fry Lid, you'll need some patience for recipes with temperatures the lid can't reach. Still, these potatoes were a close second to the crispy chicken wings we made at the start of our testing.
What's the verdict?
So, who is this for? I'd say it's clearly for the Instant Pot fandom. It's for loyal fans who already own an Instant Pot and wouldn't dream of cooking with anything else.
If you do own an Instant Pot and want to add this air frying accessory, you should know it's only compatible with certain models.The lid is designed to work with most 6-quart models, but I recommend checking the compatibility list before making a purchase. It isn't compatible with every 6-quart model, and nothing larger or smaller than 6-quart will work, either.
Overall, I'd recommend the $130 Instant Vortex Plus if you're looking for an Instant air frying experience. It's a much roomier countertop cooker that can actually reach oven temperatures above 380. It can also cook a chicken on rotisserie spits, has a nice air frying tumble basket, and dehydrates better than the Air Fry Lid.