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Instant Pot’s newest model, ULTRA, not only re-designs the way we interact with a pressure cooker – but it can do all this without the requisite app that pleased and confounded an equal number of cooks using their previous model (SMART).
Instant Pot is not one to follow the rules. They tend to break them. When the pack was introducing a new pressure cooker model every two to five years, Instant Pot was introducing them every 18 months. Now, with the arrival of the ULTRA, Instant Pot introduces two new models not only in the same year but just a month apart.
Let’s get right into the good stuff, and cover the details later. Specifically, the new functionality that turns this a multi cooker into an unlimited cooker – though Instant Pot calls it a 10-in-1.
Ultracool, Ultrafast, Ultraconvenient… Ultra
The new function of the Instant Pot ULTRA is a setting on the control panel that is similar to custom and manual mode, except now you, can do more than just choose the cooking time and pressure – you can choose the cooking temperature, too! Here are all of the settings under this function.
Choose the Time
When you first select Ultra, you spin and punch our way through the menu to first choose the cooking time (from 1 minute to 6 hours).
Choose the Pressure & Temp
Then, once the cooking time is confirmed, there is the option to choose the cooking pressure: High Pressure (10.2 – 11.6 psi), Low Pressure (5.8 – 7.2 psi) or No Pressure at all.
The “no pressure” feature is neat because from there you can either choose a pre-set temperature (Low 131°F, Med 197°F, or High 208°F) or choose the specific temperature, one degree at a time, from 104-208°F. BTW, if you want to use this for Sous Vide cooking – be aware that the temperature is accurate +/- 5°F and it can vary from the base to the top without the addition of a circulator (which Instant Pot sells separately).
Delay Timer & Keep Warm
This is one of my favorite features – because it gets dinner going while I’m out of the house. The Ultra lets you choose to delay cooking anywhere from 10 minutes to 24 hours – don’t know when the latter would come in use but it’s an option. Also, this panel lets you choose whether you want “keep warm” to kick-in at the end of cooking or not.
Spin and Go
Now that we’ve seen this kind of spin dial interface on three different pressure cooker brands – we can safely call it a trend. The plastic foil-coated knobs that disappeared with hi-fis back in the 80’s have been given new life as selectors. Now the cook can easily choose a cooking program and drill down into the options.
The first spin will illuminate the main programs on the outer rim of the screen. Punch in the one you want, and the “start” button to go or keep selecting and tweaking options for that program – some options drill down three levels deep! Because… options.
Cooking Progress Indicator
In my years of teaching pressure cookery, I’ve found that those new to pressure cooking don’t immediately grasp that the water needs to come to a boil in order for the cooker to build pressure – and this takes time. Instant Pot ULTRA’s new cooking indicator will display when the cooker is Preheating (aka not quite boiling or the selected temperature), Cooking (pressure cooking, slow cooking, or whatever was chosen) or Keep[ing] Warm.
Is it just me, or does anyone else see a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant?
Functions, Programs & Settings
The Instant Pot ULTRA multi cooker features the following cooking functions:
- Pressure Cook – at high or low pressure from 1 minute to six hours.
- Steam – at high, low or no pressure from 1 minute to four hours
- Slow Cook – at high, medium, low or custom temperature from 30 minutes to 20 hours
- Saute’ – at high (sear), medium (saute’), low (simmer) or custom temperatures from 1 to 30 minutes
- Warm – at high, low medium or custom temperature for 10 minutes to 99 hours
- Sterilize – at high, low or no pressure from 1 minute to 4 hours. There are no official guidelines (time, temperature or method) on how to use an electric pressure cooker for sterilization. However, Instant Pot told me that this setting is mainly to be used to pasteurize milk (for yogurt-making) and sterilize baby bottles. It cannot be used for pressure canning.
- Yogurt – There are no instructions on how to use this setting but we think the process will be similar to that used in previous models.
- Ultra – described in detail, above.
Instant Pot Ultra also includes the following cooking programs, which are basically recommended pre-set times and pressures for cooking that particular food, with the ability to further customize and memorize the settings: Soup/Broth, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Rice, Porridge, Multigrain, Cake, and Egg.
This cooker also features an automatic elevation adjustment that you can turn on in the settings screen for up to 9,900 feet. The automatic part is that the ULTRA re-calculates the pressure cooking time for you (assuming the timing of the recipe you punch-in is timed for sea level). On the same screen, you can also choose the temperature scale (F° or C°) and turn off the sound.
Pressure Release “Button” & Trick
Another feature this pressure cooker has is pressure release “button” which acts as a lever to open the valve. It’s supposed to distance the cook from the act of actually spinning the valve open – but honestly, the button is still right next to the valve so take this new feature with a grain of salt (because we’ve seen this button much further away from the valve elsewhere).
But not all is as it appears with this awkward button. There is a little trick behind this mechanism to ensure the valve is in the correct position to pressure cook automatically just by closing the lid. Raise your hand if you set-and-forget something only to realize half an hour later that you hadn’t closed the pressure valve and nothing has even started pressure cooking, yet. Me too. The hidden mechanism ensures that this scenario never happens again.
The Instant Pot Ultra comes with an offset rice paddle (so you can put it on the counter top without a spoon rest) a mini soup ladle, a rice cooker measuring cup, and stainless steel wire rack with handles.
The insert, like all other Instant Pot models is stainless steel.
Leave a comment with any questions and I’ll do my best to answer them!