Welcome to T3’s review of the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, a one-stop, do-it-all multi cooker that steams, pressure cooks, slow cooks and air fries – though thankfully not all at the same time.
The world’s gone mad for the best air fryers single-pot table-top cookers which is hardly surprising given that both air fryers and Instant Pot-style cookers use far less electricity than an oven and induction hob combination. With leccy bills soaring to stratospheric levels, people are desperately looking for suitable alternatives that don’t cost a bomb to run.
Today we’re drilling down into the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid, a multi cooker that not only steams, pressure cooks, sauteés and slow cooks but air fries, too.
One must not confuse this model with the standard Instant Pot Duo Crisp which comes with two separate lids – one for pressure cooking and the other for air frying – which you can read about in our handy guide to the Best Multi Cookers. By contrast, the convolutedly named Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid we have here, comes with just one lid, theoretically making it much more convenient to cook with and to store away.
I reviewed a similar product earlier this year – the thoroughly excellent Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 SmartLid Multi-Cooker OL550UK – so it should be interesting to see how this one fares. After all, Instant Brands started the whole multi-cooker phenomenon in the first place.
Let’s get it on.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: price and availability
Given the current popularity of air fryers and multi cookers, the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is sold out on the Instant Brands UK website where it sells for £229.99, but the good news is that you can buy it for just £219.99 from our favourite online emporium John Lewis & Partners. Amazon and Argos are currently sold out.
The Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid doesn’t appear to be available in Australia just yet but you can buy its larger two-lidded sibling, the Duo Crisp + Air Fryer direct from Instant Brands for A$291.75.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: design
I should start with the fact that, at 10.6 kg, this thing is pretty heavy and, at 39.3 x 39 x 34cm, it’s rather large too. In other words, you’ll need plenty of cupboard space to store it and you’ll need some hefty biceps to lift it, too. If you plan to store such a thing on your worktop underneath a cupboard, be sure to pull it out way beyond into a clear space because the steam outlet points straight up and that means the steam will be in direct conflict with the cabinet’s wood. In these circumstances there is only one winner.
While build quality is generally very good, it doesn’t extend to the front stick-on interface fascia which was already peeling off at the bottom when I took it out of the box. I took a peek before pushing it back on and it quite literally is a sticky label that covers a bunch of plastic buttons underneath. It’s not a game changer, but this front fascia isn’t the most pleasing thing I’ve ever laid eyes upon.
Opening the lid involves sliding a lever over to the right with a firm follow-through to disengage it, a good safety feature in my opinion. Inside you get a substantial 6.2 litres of meal estate – 200ml more than the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1. Like all products of this nature, there’s a stainless steel bowl inside, along with a non-stick basket that sits a few centimetres above what would be the water line when steaming and pressure cooking. The weighty steel bowl itself is stupendously shiny and a good looker from any angle. It is indeed one of the finest silvery bowls I’ve seen since the Kenwood Titanium Chef KVC7300S food mixer I reviewed last year, which has an even shinier bowl.
Unlike this model’s stablemate which has two separate lids for extra inconvenience, this model has just one lid for both pressure cooking and air frying. However, it does require removing an internal all-metal lid when air frying and this lid will be incredibly hot if you’ve just used the machine for pressure cooking or steaming, so wear gloves or use a tea towel when removing it.
The Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is fairly easy to clean though some of the parts are so small you may lose them forever. In fact a large black knob fell off from the inside lid the first time I used it and it took me ages to find out where it came from. It’s the removable steam release valve, I discovered after watching a hundred YouTube videos.
Which brings me to the instruction manual – or rather leaflet – which is full of dos and don’ts and nothing about using the machine. Thankfully there is a QR code in the leaflet so I scanned it and was presented with some kind of online manual that seems to have more videos that text.
Now, I’m not normally a manual reader but since all multi-cookers are inherently confusing to use, a manual is often essential. What I do not like is having to go online to find out what the difference is between ‘pulse release’, ‘quick release’ and ‘natural release’ only to discover I have to scan through a video to find a reference to it. On an effing phone! Give us a proper paper manual please!
That rant out of the way, I will say that the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is thankfully pretty intuitive in the way it’s designed so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a handle on.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: features
People love air fryers and many people love pressure cookers, slow cookers and steamers, too. So why not have one machine that does it all? Well that’s the basis of this product. Hence, the left side of the interface is dedicated to pressure cooking, sautéing, steaming, slow cooking and even making yogurt (why would you want to do that when there’s a shop down the road?) and the right-hand side is devoted to air frying, roasting, grilling, baking and dehydrating.
Does this mean you can throw away the oven and hob and just have one of these instead? Well feasibly yes if you live on your own in a small apartment, studio or student digs. But the upshot is that, aside from air frying, I haven’t used any multi cooker that is as easy as a set of pots and pans. I also find that pots and pans produce better looking food, but, hey, that’s just me. Nevertheless, there are thousands out there who love pressure cooking for speed and slow cooking for convenience so more power to their elbows, I say.
The Instant Duo Crisp has got some good safety features, too, like a lid that won’t open if you’re in the middle of pressure cooking session and ten others that I haven’t discovered yet nor care about. However, you can lift the lid at any time during air frying – a good thing – and when you close it again, the process continues where it left off.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: slow and pressure cooking performance
All, and I mean all multi cookers behave the same way. No one at T3 has ever found much difference between one model and another when it comes to the more watery-based functions like pressure cooking and steaming and the same pretty much applies to their slow cooking features, too.
For my test I pressure cooked some broccoli and it was okay-ish but nowhere as nice as when I used the steam function. I then slow cooked a boeuf bourguignon and, as with the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1, it came out stupendously well. But then I expected that because there’s not much science involved with a slow cooker. It just cooks slowly over a preset length of time.
Thankfully there’s nothing adverse to report on the steaming, pressure cooking and slow cooking front aside from the amount of steam that leaves the top-mounted spout. If you have an induction hob, I would suggest putting this thing on top of it to take advantage of the extractor fan above or the steam it ejects will dampen the ceiling and that’s not a good thing.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: air frying performance
I’m a huge fan of air fried chicken drumsticks and wings. It’s like the air fryer was designed for them. I had huge success with the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 when it came to this discipline but I have to say I was expecting a bit more from the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid.
Since I couldn’t find reference to a steam air frying function like that on the Ninja, I followed Instant Brands’ clunky online manual and opted for the two-tier pressure cook and steam fry method. This involved pressure cooking five chicken drumsticks (I couldn’t fit more in without them touching each other) for 10 to 15 minutes and then removing the extremely hot internal pressure cooking lid so I could give them a good dose of air frying for a further 20 minutes.
The first thing of note is that they looked rather grey and unappealing after the pressure cooked sequence, but I expected them to perk up after the air frying. Wrong, they still looked grey. Granted, the skin was a bit crispy here and there but it was nothing like as crispy as the ones I did in the Ninja. So I took out the remaining three drumsticks and did it again, this time eschewing the pressure cooking part. The results were much better though the skin still wasn't quite as crispy and the flesh not as succulent as the winning Ninja Foodi 11-in-1. Its results were good, I'd say, but not sensational.
Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid review: verdict
Call me a purist, but personally I like a good frying pan or saucepan for most cooking adventures though I wholeheartedly agree that air frying is brilliant for many ingredients, especially chicken with the skin on. I can’t say I was overly enamoured of this model though it did produce some very good results in the steaming and slow cooking disciplines.
The upshot is that, if you like the idea of joining the air fryer fraternity but have never slow cooked or pressure cooked before, I’d say forgo this model and buy a bona fide Best Air Fryer instead.
Conversely, if you want to save money by using the oven and hob as little as possible or live in a studio or student digs, the Instant Duo Crisp with Ultimate Lid is a great choice. No, it’s not as well designed as the Ninja Foodi 11-in-1 but then it is about £50 cheaper.
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