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Instant Pot Smart WiFi review: Wi-Fi comes to the popular multicooker, but adds little extra

The 6-quart, 1,000-watt Instant Pot Smart WiFi is internet-connected, but is that something you even need? We tested the new features to find out.

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Molly Price

Former Editor

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7 min read

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Instant Pot's line of multicookers is as popular as ever, and the new $150 (£117, AU$206) Instant Pot Smart WiFi is the most high-tech model yet. While Instant Pot stayed true to its popular 6-quart, 1,000-watt design, it added Wi-Fi connectivity for remote control and integration with the Instant Pot app. Most similar to the Instant Pot Duo Plus series, the Instant Pot Smart WiFi is a little pricier and a little smarter. Wi-Fi might bring peace of mind to anyone hesitant to leave their multicooker unmonitored, but overall the smarts don't revolutionize the way you'll use your Instant Pot. If you don't have your heart set on viewing your Instant Pot's status remotely, you'll be just fine with a more affordable model. 

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7.3

Instant Pot Smart WiFi

The Good

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi sends mobile notifications when cooking is complete, and you can see the status of your food from anywhere through the Instant Pot app.

The Bad

Adding Wi-Fi doesn't give you integration with any voice assistants or other smart home products. You can't actually change a cooking mode in the app once it's started cooking and there's no numerical temperature reading.

The Bottom Line

If you're in love with the idea of a Wi-Fi-connected multicooker, the Instant Pot Smart WiFi cooks well and brings you those internet-enabled extras. Otherwise, you'll do just as well with a more affordable Instant Pot model.
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The Instant Pot Smart WiFi adds wireless connectivity through the Instant Pot app.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi keeps all the popular modes and functions customers have come to know and love. Buttons for beans, chili, meat, rice, yogurt and cake programs are all there. You'll also get saute, pressure cook, steam and slow cook functions. There isn't a program button for eggs or a button for sterilizing, but otherwise this model looks a whole lot like the Duo Plus series. Instant Pot's comparison chart gives you a good idea of what the trade-offs are between each model. The Instant Pot Smart WiFi also comes with a soup spoon, rice paddle and measuring cup.

Read more: Wi-Fi 6: Better, faster internet is coming this year -- here's everything you need to know  

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The Instant Pot app shows program time and status for your connected cooker.

Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

The big standout and the entire point of this new Instant Pot model is the addition of Wi-Fi. Adding connectivity means you can connect the Instant Pot Smart WiFi to your home's 2.4GHz wireless network and the Instant Pot app. But what does that mean? 

For starters, you can use the "Instant Start" tab to select the program you'd like to run, make custom adjustments to settings like pressure level and time and start your cooker with a tap. There are also options to cancel cooking remotely, monitor your food's progress and receive notifications on your phone when cooking is complete. Other app features include a recipes section with hundreds of ideas and inspirations for dishes ranging from cheesecake to Indian curries. Browsing those categories was my favorite part of the app experience. 

The app does have a few issues. For one, the temperature monitoring Instant Pot touts with this model is hardly temperature monitoring at all. It's a cute, little thermometer icon with some seemingly arbitrary markers. You won't get actual temperature readings here. You will see the mode of the cooker including whether it is preheating, cooking or keeping warm. The only change you can make to your cooker once you've begun a program is to cancel it. It would be nice to be able to add or subtract time. 

Let's get cookin'

Like any good appliance tester, I put the Instant Pot through its paces with several basic dishes. We cooked brisket, rice, beans, chili and even seared two steaks in the Instant Pot Smart WiFi. On the whole, all of the dishes cooked well and yielded tasty results. Some weren't quite as good as others, but functionality, everything performed to my satisfaction. Here's the rundown:

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Beans in the Instant Pot Smart WiFi were flavorful and moist, but a bit on the mushy side.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Beans

We cooked 1 pound of dry, unsoaked black beans in the Instant Pot using the beans program. That defaulted to a 30-minute cooking time. I filled the water just enough to cover the beans, a recommendation in the Instant Pot cooking time table. After the half hour of cook time, I waited 15 minutes before venting any remaining pressure. Beans came out tasty, but slightly on the mushy side. However, they held their shape and had just the right amount of liquid. I wouldn't have hesitated to serve these as a side. So far, so good.

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Rice was fluffy, well cooked and just sticky enough. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Rice

Rice is one of Instant Pot's main attractions, and for good reason. Cooking long-grain rice on a stove top takes a lot of time. Rice in the Instant Pot is faster and just feels easier. No bringing water to a boil or taking up space on your stove top with steaming rice. I used a 1:1 ratio of water to rice, and after rinsing the rice four times under cold water, I poured everything into the pot. The rice setting defaulted to 12 minutes, and after 10 minutes of natural release, I vented the remaining pressure.

The results was a pleasing 2 cups of fluffy cooked rice, with just the right amount of stickiness and chew. Of course, there was rice stuck to the bottom, since Instant Pot uses a stainless steel insert. If you're looking for a nonstick option, the Crock-Pot Express Crock Multi-Cooker includes a nonstick pot. Still, I was happy with the rice the Instant Pot Smart WiFi cooked up, just know you'll need to soak the pan a bit to remove those stuck-on grains.

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We tested Instant Pot's chili recipe. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Chili 

When it came to making a complete dish, I deviated from our standard test chili and tried one of the recipes from the Instant Pot app. Here's how that works. In the Instant Pot app, the recipes section includes categories as well as a search bar, so you can type in the ingredients you'd like to use or the recipe you want to cook. I went with Instant Pot's beef and black bean chili recipe, since I had nearly all the ingredients on hand. We used red beans instead of black and left out the green chilis. 

The app lists the directions and ingredients clearly, and after cooking a pound of ground beef, 2 cups of onions with chili powder using the saute program, I added the remaining ingredients, secured the lid, set the pot to sealing and tapped "cook now" on my iPhone. The Instant Pot went in to preheating mode, followed by 5 minutes of high pressure cooking. After 10 minutes of natural release, I let off the remaining pressure and dug in. 

The texture of the meat and beans was just right, and although I would have added a few more spices to contrast the strong flavor of the 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, it was a crowdpleaser among my colleagues. The key to a recipe like this one is doing your part in the beginning. I had to saute the beef until it was evenly cooked before letting the Instant Pot take over. 

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Steak

I seared a salt-and-pepper-rubbed New York strip and a ribeye using the Instant Pot Smart WiFi's saute setting and a tablespoon of olive oil. While neither steak achieved a perfect, solid sear, they came surprisingly close to it and had a good crust perfect for finishing off in your oven or even in your Instant Pot, like I chose to do. After adding one cup of water and cooking the ribeye for 5 minutes on high pressure, I had a medium steak that was flavorful and juicy. 

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Brisket

Of all the cooking I did with the Instant Pot Smart WiFi, the brisket was the most disappointing. It was passable, and safely cooked. Instant Pot's recommendation for a single pound of brisket is 20-25 minutes, and running two 35-minute meat programs still wasn't enough to yield that tender, mouth-watering cut of meat I wanted for my 2-pound cut. 

Brisket is best cooked for hours low and slow, and while the Instant Pot will never perfectly replicate this, I had higher hopes. Was it edible? Definitely. The slightly tough texture was nothing a good sauce couldn't overcome, but it's safe to say getting brisket right in an Instant Pot will take most people a few tries. It's not as simple as rice or beans. 

Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi everywhere

Adding Wi-Fi to kitchen appliances is happening more and more, but does it add any tangible functionality? Does it make your life easier? In the case of Instant Pot, I've got to say "no. "

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Screenshot by Molly Price/CNET

Wi-Fi hasn't brought revolutionary change to kitchen appliances yet, and it's the same story for the Instant Pot Smart WiFi. Yes, it adds app connectivity that allows you to see how much cooking time is left and receive notifications when your cooker is finished. Those are nice extras, but that's just it. They're extras. 

I'll play my own devil's advocate here in one circumstance. On that rare occasion when you forget to hit start or set a delayed start on your Instant Pot, being able to start cooking remotely is a perfect solution. Of course, you would need to remember that you forgot in the first place, and you would also need to remember soon enough that the contents of the pot were still food-safe. That's a lot of variables. 

Maybe the most useful of all the apps features is mobile notifications. If you're away from your kitchen in another part of the house, getting a ping on your phone when the Instant Pot is finished could be helpful. The appeal of cookers like these is that you can walk away and do other tasks, but that also means you might lose track of time. You're likely to forget that the cooker finished 30 minutes ago while you were folding laundry and notifications aim to keep you in the know. 

I can see, too, how being able to view the status of your multicooker might help you rest easier about leaving it unattended, but even that small satisfaction doesn't seem worth the high price.

Do I need this new-fangled multicooker? 

The Instant Pot Smart WiFi almost convinces me that smarter is better. Notifications were a welcome luxury, and being able to check the time on your cooker from another room or location is another nice novelty. 

However, those are just extras. Remote starting and canceling aren't enough to justify shelling out the additional cash for Wi-Fi connectivity. At $149, the Instant Pot Smart WiFi is a pricey model, and I wouldn't pay more for those nifty, but mostly unnecessary features if you can otherwise live with an equally well-cooking, but less expensive model like the Duo Plus.


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7.3

Instant Pot Smart WiFi

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Usability 7Performance 7