Why I quit being a gadget pusher

“You don’t have an Instant Pot?” my friend asked me, incredulous. She assumed that because I love to cook I had all of the latest and greatest gadgets. “You have to get one,” she implored, explaining all of the wonderful meals she had cooked in hers. I was skeptical of cheesecake made in a multi-cooker. I still am, even though I did eventually break down and buy a 6-in-1 Instant Pot during a weak moment. It was deeply discounted, so I thought “what the heck – it’s worth trying at this price.” I have used it maybe 10 times in 4 years, hardly getting my money’s worth out of an appliance that takes up valuable space in my tiny kitchen.

I stand with Michael Ruhlman, who has repeatedly posted on Instagram about his disappointment with the device. I do not like the way beans turn out when I use the IP as a pressure cooker, and I do not make a lot of other recipes where a pressure cooker might shine (those that include tough cuts of beef, for example). The best use I have found for it is as a slow cooker, for making steel cut oats overnight. I have not tried it for cheesecake, because I already have a tried-and-true method that earns raves from my friends (and has even created new friends). Why mess with a good thing?

I admit that I have, at times, been a kitchen gadget evangelist. Once upon a time I hawked kitchenware for a multi-level marketing company, although I was never a top seller because I never pushed anyone to buy something they would not use and enjoy. But I have urged friends to spend considerable sums on stand mixers and knives, rationalizing that buying a high quality item justified the hefty price tag. I am not certain, however, that the people who were asking my opinion use a stand mixer enough for the brand to matter all that much (I stand by my knife suggestions). Why did I feel the need to sell them on something that cost almost as much as my first car?

Scrolling through my social media feeds, I am bombarded with exhortations to buy the appliance or gadget du jour. I usually scroll past these posts, but I did click on one recently that linked to a 2020 article about the Thermomix, a wonder appliance that does everything from chopping to whisking to heating and beyond. Thinking the writer was going to urge me to buy it, I was relieved to see that while they appreciated some of the functions of the device, they preferred a more hands-on approach and were not going to get one for themselves. It was refreshing to see an honest review.

Through years of hard work, I have conquered the instinct to tell my friends to buy an expensive gadget just because I love it dearly. I use my sous vide device far more than my Instant Pot, but I realize that for most people the opposite occurs and I no longer suggest sous vide to anyone who I don’t think will really dig it (at this point, basically no one who does not already own one). I do not want my friends to feel disappointed by my recommendations, nor do I want them to waste money on something that will end up collecting dust. They are not me, and I need to remember that. I will offer my opinion of differences between brands if I think it matters, but overall I have stopped being a gadget pusher. When it comes to cookbooks, however – that’s a different story.

Post a comment


  • Larkspur  on  June 18, 2021

    My slow cooker is one of those dust collectors although I know many people who use theirs almost daily. I start work early so just don’t have the time to set up meals, and most things come out bland to me in the slow cooker (except Rick Bayless’ recipes). I have one of those assistent mixers which I use a lot for making breads and pizza dough but they have nearly doubled in price since I bought mine so I only recommend them cautiously to people who make a lot of bread.

  • jfkatz  on  June 18, 2021

    I use the IP to COOK steel cut oats. I used to stand over a pot stirring. I’ve used it for stewing like my mother used her pressure cooker, which I still have. I have two IP cookbooks, one Indian by Madhur Jaffrey and I’ve probably made one recipe out of each in two years. I still love it for those oats though and I keep it in a convenient cabinet. I’ve contemplated a small stand mixer but I don’t really bake and fear for our diets if I did.

  • SenseiHeidi  on  June 18, 2021

    My aunt has a Thermomix and loves it, but I can’t see paying top dollar for a gadget that is replaced by a blender and saucepan. I do not want every soup to be a puree.

  • goodfruit  on  June 18, 2021

    I finally caved and bought a Zavor Multi-Cooker recently and have mixed feelings about it. No matter what I cook, the bottom scorches. I’m not sure what is up with that. Even when I use double the amount of liquids!
    My expensive Bosch Mixer with many extra attachments like the blender and an ice cream maker? Yes, totally worth every penny.

  • gamulholland  on  June 18, 2021

    We had a slow cooker that I only used a few times — I specifically used recipes that were not supposed to turn out bland, but they were all bland. It WAS useful to keep soup or chili warm during a party, but you can also do that on the “low” setting on the cooktop, so we donated it to the local thrift shop. But I know friends who couldn’t live without theirs!

  • pokarekare  on  June 19, 2021

    I grew up with a pressure cooker, and have owned a Thermomix for 8 years – ditching my bread maker, food processor and blender and a couple of other appliances that never got used – I used it so much that I recently upgraded to the latest model and retired the old one to our beach house where it still gets a work out. I also use a slow cooker regularly and a thermal cooker when traveling/camping.

  • Zephyrness  on  June 19, 2021

    I love my IP. The pressure cooker function is the only reliable way for me to make hard boiled eggs and it makes a fine risotto really fast. The slow cooker portion gets a work out for soups and stews without adding heat to my kitchen. I do think that its a device with a learning curve, especially the pc part. I tend to taste, add a bit, taste again later and add something else and you just can’t do that with a PC. I do have a cabinet with pull out shelving, so the IP lives in a easy to get to place without cluttering up my counter. I don’t know that I would push it on anyone else, at least not the way I do good knives! I had a stand mixer and used it maybe 3 times (those were really fine mashed potatoes, though). The food processor has not yet paid for itself. Interesting how different things are critical for different folks.

  • eliza  on  June 19, 2021

    I did buy an IP on sale a couple of years ago, and I like it but don’t love it. I do like the hands off aspect of it for cooking chickpeas for hummus or wheat berries for salads, but I haven’t found many complete recipes that appeal to me. I joined a Facebook instant pot group, and it’s interesting to see what people are making, but it’s often just not my type of cooking. On the other hand, my food processor (a Braun from the early 80s) and my espresso machine get a daily workout. It is interesting to see what others use/don’t use.

  • hibeez  on  June 20, 2021

    I too ditched my slow cooker – I’d rather braise in a good heavy pot. I do use my food processor, vitamix and stand mixer at least once a week (each) if not more. I have been getting more and more selective about what specific kitchen tools I keep – I find a hand citrus reamer to be more effective at getting juice than a stand juice press. I love my old Zyliss garlic press and rue the day when it breaks. Got rid of the toaster oven and got a toaster.
    Interestingly, when we rent a beach cottage in Maine, we bring with us lobster shears, three knives, the aforementioned reamer, a cast iron skillet, and two Simon Pearce martini glasses. The best of home travels with us!

  • EmilyR  on  June 20, 2021

    I fully agree (and don’t own an Instant Pot)…but have you seen the Anova Precision Cooker? It’s kind of beckoning me to buy one.

  • DeborahG  on  June 21, 2021

    I use the IP for faultless stocks which I freeze. Before I used a pressure cooker on the hob but was always on hand – for 2 hours- to check the position of the valve to keep it on high pressure. The intensity of flavour and the consistent quality is outstanding (recipes are in Heston Blumenthal at Home). For that use alone the IP is worth it for me as I use stocks a lot. I use the IP for pulses too – especially when I haven’t soaked them overnight, but if I’m in the kitchen anyway and I have oresoaked then I’m with Samin Nosrat in agreeing that I get better results the traditional way. It’s handy for keeping things warm at a potluck. I’ve made other things in it occasionally, but nothing I couldn’t do at least as well by other methods.
    My dust collector is a dehydrator – bought in a sale and never used. My most used piece of kit is a Vitamix followed by the food processor.

  • itadakimasu  on  June 30, 2021

    My MIL had a 6qt IP and is scared to use it so I would use it every time I was at her house, excited that I got to try this appliance without having it in my home. In her great love for me and assumption that I wanted one, she bought me a 8qt one on a big sale. I couldn’t not receive this very nice gift but now I have this HUGE appliance that I am not totally sold on. I have discovered a few recipes that have been hits but overall I’m not sold on it… but I totally want to be because i have this huge honking appliance that I can’t get rid of!

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!