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The Instant Pot craze is as strong ever. Many companies plan to cash in on the popularity of this countertop electronic pressure cooker with products of their own. Case in point: the $100 Black & Decker 6 Quart Pressure Cooker.
There's plenty to like about this affordable kitchen appliance. It uses high pressure to prepare tough cuts of meat and other time-intensive food quickly. It also comes with lots of preset cooking modes to tackle everything including the usual rice, stews, soups and beans. A true multicooker as well, the appliance can sear and saute like an electric skillet. It can function as a traditional slow cooker that simmers gently for hours. And the machine can steam food, too. Plus, the cooker's nonstick pot makes cleanup easy.
Still, Black & Decker's pressure cooker can't match an Instant Pot feature for feature, or even the Crock-Pot Express. You can't adjust the pressure level or its browning function. The cooker lacks preset modes for eggs, yogurt and porridge. If any of these missing features are deal breakers, avoid this model. Get the $100 Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart, which does more for the same price. Need something less expensive? Go for the capable $80 Crock-Pot Express.
From a distance, it's easy to mistake the Black & Decker 6 Quart Pressure Cooker for an Instant Pot model. It has the same squat cylindrical outline, right down to its curved, U-shaped lid handle. There's also a flat control panel on the front of the countertop appliance complete with a small LED screen. The display's indicators glow in the same signature red as the Instant Pot, as well.
To open and close the cooker, you swivel the lid clockwise to close or counterclockwise to open. A steam release valve on the lid controls whether the appliance is buttoned up tight or open and venting. There's a small float valve on top of the lid that raises or lowers to indicate whether the cooker is pressurized.
That's where the similarities to the Instant Pot end. Instead of a stainless-steel cooking pot, the Black & Decker has a nonstick bowl. It's close to what you find in traditional rice cookers and the Crock-Pot Express multicooker.
The Black & Decker pressure cooker's control panel offers fewer preset options. It has preset cooking modes for white and brown rice, meat, beans, soups and stews. There are also buttons to steam items under pressure, along with multiple non-pressure modes. They include "browning" to saute and sear, two slow-cook programs (high and low heat) and a keep-warm function. There's also a manual mode and a delayed-start option.
The Black & Decker doesn't have as many presets as its most similar rival, the Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart, which has specific modes for cooking eggs, porridge and yogurt. That's not to say that you can't cook these things in the Black & Decker; you just have to use the manual mode. But it would have been nice to have them as presets.
Another shortcoming is that it only has one pressure level (high). The Instant Pot lets you choose between high- and low-pressure cooking, as does the Crock-Pot Express. Likewise, the Black & Decker only has one saute setting, while the Instant Pot has three saute temperature settings (low, medium, high) and the Crock-Pot has two (low and high).
I also appreciate how both the Instant Pot's and the Crock-Pot Express' saute mode tells you when it's reached its target temperature. All the Black & Decker cooker does is switch on a light when you activate the browning function.
The Black & Decker 6 Quart is a competent pressure cooker. To assess what it can do, I used it to tackle a few key cooking tasks. I cooked brisket, rice, plus a full pot of chili -- meat, beans and all.
One of the toughest cuts of meat is beef brisket. It's also one of the most delicious and well worth the wait if done properly. In a smoker or conventional oven, that anticipation can last as long as 10 to 12 hours. A main selling point for pressure cookers is that they significantly shorten cook times. In this regard, the Black & Decker 6 Quart didn't disappoint.
I seared 2.7 pounds of brisket with the Black & Decker's browning mode, added 1 cup (8 ounces, 237 ml) of water, shut the lid and turned its valve to the sealed position. Then I activated the cooker's "meat" preset. By default, the mode's cook time is 30 minutes. The Black & Decker's instruction manual also suggested 30 minutes to cook a 3-pound cut of brisket. However, one cycle wasn't long enough to really get rid of the toughness of this cut, so I ran another 30-minute cycle.
Keep in mind that cook time also includes the time it takes for the appliance to reach pressure (10 to 15 minutes) plus the time needed to naturally release that pressure (another 10 to 15 minutes). The process took about 2 hours, which is still much better than 12. It's also on par with what I observed with the Instant Pot Lux and Crock-Pot Express.
Just for kicks, I grabbed a hefty 4-pound slab of pork shoulder and gave it the same treatment. I wasn't surprised that it took a while to cook: 2 hours and 56 minutes. What came out of the pot at the end was fantastic. The meat was moist, tender and absolutely delicious.
The beauty of pressure-cooked beans is there's no need to soak them overnight to soften them. I dropped 1 pound (0.45 kg) of black beans, rinsed briefly and strained, into the Black & Decker. I also made sure to cover them with enough water to submerge them. Next, I closed the lid and started its "beans" preset. This program has a default runtime of 40 minutes.
I let the preset run its course and waited an additional 31 minutes for the pot to cool with the natural pressure release. When I opened the cooker 1 hour and 20 minutes after I began (this includes a 10-minute preheat), the beans inside were soft and nicely cooked through. However, the Crock-Pot took 20 fewer minutes to cook beans with its "beans" preset.
Perhaps it's because of this pressure cooker's nonstick cooking pot. Or maybe it's due to the manual, which provides plenty of detailed instruction. Either way, the Black & Decker proved to be quite a handy rice cooker.
It only took 22 minutes to whip up two cups of long grain white rice how I prefer it -- nice and sticky. To get this texture, the manual advises to quickly release pressure in the pot when the automatic program completes. For lighter, fluffier rice, it suggests you let the cooker cool down naturally. There are clear directions for 10 other rice and grain types, including couscous, quinoa, basmati, arborio, barley and sushi rice.
When I test pressure cookers, I make a batch of chili to get a feel for how they deal with multi-ingredient recipes. I keep things simple and stick to beans, ground beef, onions and spices.
I noticed right away that the Black & Decker didn't get quite as hot or heat up as quickly as the Instant Pot Lux. It took about 30 minutes for my diced onions to soften and beef to brown. There wasn't much caramelization to speak of, either. It's a big contrast to an Instant Pot -- those stainless-steel pots conduct heat mighty fast.
After running the Black & Decker's "meat/stew" preset for the default time of 30 minutes, I had a pot of satisfying chili. With natural pressure release, the entire cook time came to 1 hour and 14 minutes. While the flavor wasn't as deep and complex as the same recipe from the Instant Pot Lux, it was tasty.
The $100 Black & Decker 6 Quart Pressure Cooker accomplishes what it's designed to do: prepare food faster than traditional methods using high pressure and an electric heater. It can also steam items, plus function as both a standalone rice cooker and slow cooker.
Still, for its asking price, the appliance disappoints. It lacks adjustable pressure settings. You can't set its browning function at different temperature levels, either, which is particularly disappointing because it sautes slowly and without much heat. The multicooker is also missing some preset cooking modes that would make it even easier to cook items like yogurt, eggs or porridge.
Unless the cost of Black & Decker's first stab at Instant Pot glory plummets, you're better off buying the $100 Instant Pot Duo 6 Quart. It tackles everything the Black & Decker can't for the same price. Likewise, you could choose the $80 Crock-Pot Express, which is more capable and less expensive.