America's Test Kitchen Promises This Multi-Cooker Is Way Better Than the Instant Pot
America's Test Kitchen is one of our trusted, go-to sources for recipes like steak and oven-roasted potatoes, but lesser known is the site's reviews on kitchen gadgets like the beloved multi-cooker. We're huge fans of the Instant Pot (duh!) and the Crock-Pot Express multi-cooker, but we had to know which of all the brands on the market ATK has deemed the best after its extensive testings. Drum roll please... it's the Zavor LUX LCD 8-Quart Programmable Electric Multi-Cooker ($180). Sure, it's a lot more expensive than an Instant Pot, which starts at $80, but ATK promises it cooks way faster and more precisely — so at the end of the day those extra dollars will save you time. Here's what ATK had to say about what makes this multi-cooker its favorite.
1. Simple, Intuitive Controls: Its clean LCD interface is easy to operate and tells you very clearly what it’s doing, whether it’s preheating, cooking under pressure, warming, done, or doing something else. The LCD display also shows a bar graph when the pressure is building during pressure-cooking, which is a handy way to monitor its progress at a glance.
2. Faster Cooking Due to Pot Size and Unique Heating Element: In [most] multi-cookers, the heating element is set below the insert (like a pot sitting on a stove), while in Zavor, the heating element wraps around the perimeter of the pot like a belt. This winning multi-cooker is shallower (only 4.5 inches tall) with a broader, oval-shaped cooking surface (10.9 by 6.8 inches). In a taller, narrower multi-cooker [like the Instant Pot], the food is piled higher, so the heat has to travel farther, 6 to 7 inches upward, to get through all the food. In the Zagor, the heat has to travel only 3 inches or so to penetrate the food.
3. Removable, Plastic-Topped Lid that Stays Cool to the Touch: All pressure cookers have gaskets [the silicone ring that wraps around the inside of the lid] that help the pots seal really tightly, but they often droop, which will disrupt the seal when pressure-cooking; the lids on the Zavor have an additional metal brace that keeps the gasket in place.
4. Smart Alarm that Alerts You if the Lid Is Not Properly Sealed: Without an alarm, the multi-cooker will just forge ahead and try to build pressure. Typically you [will] notice something’s wrong when steam just keeps shooting out of the lid and the machine fails to indicate that the target pressure has been reached within the typical time frame, about 20 minutes. You have to start the cooking time over, but the food has already been heated for several minutes, so it can turn out overcooked. The Zavor’s alarm solves that problem; if the lid isn’t sealed properly, the pot tells you from the get-go.
5. Searing Function that Gets Hot Enough to Sauté and Brown Well: The broader cooking surface is better for browning and the roomy interior is easier for maneuvering food, especially since these machines can’t be filled to the top.
6. Lockable Control Panel: You also can lock the controls, so you won’t accidentally bump them and cancel or change your settings.
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