Robert Wang and his wife worked long hours, and by the time they got home the prospect of cooking a family dinner seemed nearly impossible.
They did what many parents do daily. They grabbed fast food or something precooked.
“We knew we wanted to make healthier meals for our children,” he said. “But there wasn’t time once we got home to prepare a meal. I knew a solution was out there. I just had to find it.”
When the Canadian software engineer was laid off, he decided to tackle the problem, and the solution he came up with has become one of the hottest selling gadgets to hit kitchen counters.
After two years of research and design, Wang invented the Instant Pot, a hybrid of pressure cooking and steam cooking. Unlike the popular Crock Pot, which takes eight hours to cook a meal, Instant Pot takes about an hour, sometimes less.
“The first slow cooker patent was in 1936 and they became popular in the 1970s,” said Wang, who is the founder and CEO of Double Insight, the company behind the popular product. “We wanted to create a legacy appliance that would serve people better than the cookers that take all day.”
Serving as an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, sauté/browning pan, steamer and warming pot all in one small electric appliance, the Instant Pot is one of the best sellers on Amazon.com. It’s one of the hottest Christmas gifts for second consecutive year.
The device forces water into meat and vegetables, making them tender and juicy.
“I use it all the time,” said Wang. “My daughter loves eggs, but she wants them cooked a certain way. So the Instant Pot does it perfectly. Also, I like to make beans, but beans are hard to get right. With the Instant Pot, they are perfect. Ribs are also a family favorite of ours. The meat just falls off the bone.”
The popularity of Instant Pot has taken on cult-like status and people around the world are using social media to share recipes, cooking tips and spread the gospel of Instant Pot.
Most reviews of the product on Amazon are glowing.
“LOVE my Instant Pot! It is definitely one of the best kitchen purchases I have made. I use it almost daily. Soups and other meals that take more time traditionally are ready in a half hour or less, and yet they taste like they’ve been cooking all day!” wrote one user.
New York Times food trends columnist Melissa Clark tried the Instant Pot herself and wrote about it earlier this year.
“After cooking a pork shoulder in the electric pressure cooker, I could easily see why the appliance has struck a chord, with the Paleo community in particular: It cooks large hunks of meat superbly and speedily. After a mere 90 minutes, the meat was spoon tender and deeply flavored, even before I covered the soft shreds with spicy barbecue sauce. The same recipe made in my slow cooker took seven hours, and the meat wasn’t quite as uniformly juicy,” Clark wrote. “It was that pork shoulder that turned me into a believer.”
Wang said he pays attention to all the reviews and comments because it’s the customers who have made Instant Pot such a hit.
“It’s very gratifying to know you can change the world with an invention,” Wang said.
On Facebook, there are numerous pages dedicated to the appliance. The Instant Pot Community page has more than 800,000 members, including dozens of North Idaho residents who say they “love” their Instant Pot.
Instant Pots, which vary in size and features, sell for around $79 up to $159.
One version includes Bluetooth technology that wirelessly connects, allowing users to program and monitor their cooking from mobile devices via an iOS or Android app. This advancement was a first in the electric pressure cooker category and marked the beginning of a new smart-cooking era.
“We’re constantly looking to improve the Instant Pot,” said Wang. “But we’re also in the process of looking at other appliances people use in the kitchen and trying to make them better for today’s world.”