For the past few years now, I've had my eye on the Instant Pot, a multipurpose kitchen appliance that has gained a cult following on the internet. This all-in-one wonder promises to replace a rice cooker, a slow cooker, a pressure cooker and you can even use it to steam and saute foods. Some enterprising folks have even made cakes and yogurt in this thing. It is just that versatile.
But because I already had a slow cooker and a stovetop pressure cooker, I held off on getting it for a long time. Then a few months ago, Instant Pot unveiled a new model called the Instant Pot Ultra, which just looks way nicer and sleeker than previous versions. Instead of using old-fashioned buttons for controls, it has a stainless steel knob that you rotate and push. Plus, it has a new Ultra mode, which is a sous-vide-type function that promises to keep foods at a certain temperature for hours on end. The Ultra's modern design (I'm a sucker for looks) and additional sous-vide function won me over.
After owning it for a few months, I can safely say that there is really only one reason to own the Instant Pot, and that's for its pressure cooker function. I have almost no reason to use my stovetop pressure cooker anymore. That's because, with the stovetop pressure cooker, you still have to babysit it so that the pot stays at high pressure. With the Instant Pot, all of that is done automatically -- you can literally just set it and forget it.
The Instant Pot's Keep Warm function also means that I can put stuff in the pot, cook it, and it'll still be warm when I get home hours later. This latter function means that I don't really need a slow cooker anymore either. In fact, the Instant Pot has completely replaced the slow cooker for me. Who needs to cook pulled pork for 16 hours in a slow cooker when you can have the same thing in just 90 minutes?
What I love the most about the Instant Pot though, is that it makes healthy cooking so much easier. I can make hard boiled eggs in five minutes, which are great for quick breakfasts or snacks. I can make quick healthy soups in just ten minutes, or braised kale and carrots in seven minutes. Making homemade stock takes about an hour, but that's way faster than the all-day cook time it usually takes. And because I know what's going in all my foods, I can control the amount of salt, sugar and fat.
I've lost about ten or so pounds now, which of course is mostly due to cutting out sugar and eating more vegetables, but I swear having an Instant Pot really helped. It made home cooking faster and more convenient than going out to a restaurant, and it's sometimes tastier, too. Who needs to go out for fast food, when you can have "fast food" at home?
Timothy J. Seppala
I've been using Sleep Cycle for the past year or so for a few reasons. One, I have sleep apnea, which means unless I sleep on my stomach I snore a lot and routinely start and stop breathing while I'm off in dreamland. Sure, I have my eyes closed, but I don't wake up feeling rested and refreshed. The other reason is because I'm genuinely pretty bad at waking up without an alarm. The app's main conceit is that it uses your iPhone's mic to monitor your breathing to gauge where you are in a sleep cycle (hence the name) and will wake you up at the most optimal time. You can set it on your bed and use the accelerometer for tracking as well. So, if I set an alarm for 8AM, it'll wake me up between 7:30AM and 8, depending on my breathing.
For that, it works incredibly well. I switched from working an overnight shift for almost four years here at Engadget to normal-people hours back in April, and it's been instrumental in helping me rise when the sun does. What drew me to the app was that it was free (although there was a premium option for advanced features like syncing data), and that I didn't need to don (or buy) an activity tracker to get the baseline functionality. I also love that I can snooze an alarm by reaching over to my nightstand and blindly tap on my phone while half-asleep. Now, I'm awake before my alarm goes off more often than not.